Two Can Learn Better than One!

Tags: children

Childhood Skills

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: children, computers, skills, technology

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Children today are better at using a computer than tying their shoelaces - according to a recent poll nearly all of the children questioned could play a computer game but only a third could tie their shoe laces! Of the 1057 five to seven-year-olds questions, 97% of them could operate a computer which is staggering.

But is this surprising or shocking? Not surprising as it is a technological world in which we live. Computers are everywhere and are a vital part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Also, not all computer games are dangerous and harmful! Many are educational, entertaining and charming for children to enjoy. And, just because a child knows how to use a computer, it does not mean that same child doesn't attend football classes, climb trees and get enough fresh air and exercise.

Nearly half the children questioned have access to the internet at home, according to Kelkoo who carried out the study. Of the parents questioned, 26% suggested they were worried about the negative impact of technology on their children but and their ability to form relationships. But 87% said that being familiar with technology was vital to their child’s development.

Clearly, monitoring your child's use of the internet and computer based games is vital, but we have to understand that computers are also a vital part of our world and you don't want your child being left behind.

I suppose the question remains: how useful is using a computer (to research, to communicate and to have some fun too) compared with the life long use of tying a shoelace in an age of buckles and velcro.

What do you think? Please post your thoughts.

Bottle Drinking Babies

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: bottle drinking, children, health, obese

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According to recent research it has been discovered that babies who are still drinking from a bottle by the age of 2 are more likely to become obese. Researchers at Temple University in Pennsylvania studied the habits of nearly 7,000 children from the area and found that 22% were still using a bottle to drink at the age of two.

By the age of five, nearly a quarter of these children were obese. The researchers suggest the infants who are used to drinking a lot of high-calorie milk from bottles are more likely to grow up to eat a lot more fattening foods.

Other things that seems to contribute included:

  • mother's weight
  • child's birth weight
  • feeding practices during infancy

People who are overweight are at greater risk of developing

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • other health problems

General advice is that bottles should be given up by age one.

Avoiding Stress

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health, Child Development , Tags: anxious, children, stress, support

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When it feels like we can't cope, we begin to worry and get stressed and exactly the same is true of children. There are certain times when children might not not be calm: at times of great change such as moving house, parents separating or divorcing, when changing class or school, or making new friends.

Signs that your child might be stressed:

  • They become aggressive
  • They become withdrawn and very quiet
  • They burst into tears easily
  • They gain a reputation for being 'a worrier'.

Ways to help keep your child stress free:

  • Keep a routine: children feel secure when they are in a good routine. They know what's going to happen next and how things work. If there is going to be a change then tell them and explain to them.
  • Be organised: Help your child to be organised too by preparing for school the night before. Make sure everything is ready such as their bag, dinner money, PE kit, letters. Try and develop a system together to make sure things are ready. Hang book bags in a special place, keep shoes near the front door.
  • Be on time: It's never a good feeling to be late, so try to make yourself on time or early for school or clubs etc. even if it means getting up early or leaving the house before normal!
  • Be a role model: Try and be calm and organised yourself and show how to run a calm house and lifestyle.
  • Have a chat: Make sure you speak to your children and listen to any worries or concerns. Take their worries seriously and be positive, supportive and encourage calm discussion rather than brush it off as unimportant.
  • Try to imagine how they feel: put yourself in their shoes.
  • Tell stories: Share stories in which people overcome fears or worries and succeed. Go to the library to find some books and share your own experiences or make up stories to show how to deal with concerns.
  • Praise: Give plenty of encouragement and praise.
  • Focus on the positive and their self esteem will grow. Congratulate them when they do well and tell them how good they have been etc.
  • Bedtime: Make sure you have a calm and happy bed time. Read stories, have a bubbly bath, keep it calm and positive leaving all worries outside the bedroom.
  • Be kind: Try to remember they are only little and in order for the children to grown in confidence and learn they need to feel supported and loved.

Beauty Salons for Babies!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health, Child Development , Tags: beauty salon, childhood, children, facial, parenting

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A new beauty salon has opened in Essex that offers makeovers, spray tans and facials for girls as young as one year old! The salon, which caters only for the under-13s has been opened in Brentwood, Essex.

The new beauty shop, called Trendy Monkeys, is owned by Michelle Devine and girls of any age can come in for various glamour treatments and services normally reserved for older women. They will even do a spray tan for a child if a requested.

Brentwood is the setting for the ITV series The Only Way Is Essex which follows the lives of glamour-obsessed young people. According to the owner the shop has been very successful already.  Apparently one of the first customers to be served in the new salon was only 16 months old.

It's okay to play make-believe and pop on a pair of Mummy's shoes and do role play games about looking after baby dolls or playing schools.  However, allowing and indeed encouraging, toddlers, small children and school age children to go to salons where they can study themselves and change the way they look is distasteful. Fake tans at eight, make-up at 4, manicures at 6, surely this is encouraging an obsession with how they look.

Part of childhood is being taken away and focusing on such activities is detrimental to normal childhood ideas and experiences. Children should be out walking, feeding the ducks, flying kites, throwing stick into streams and enjoying the carefree, happy days of childhood... not stuck in a salon under the nail dryer!

Is this a step towards the sexualisation of children, an erosion of the innocence of childhood?  Should wearing of make-up be a rite of passage when our children are more mature and not something to be experimented with and taken seriously at a young age?  Or are salons like Trendy Monkey's just a harmless bit of fun?

Playground Games Are As Fun As Ever!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe , Tags: children, games, michael rosen, playground, playing, research, school

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What were the games you liked best at school: skipping, Cat's Cradle, British Bulldog, hand-clapping rhymes, marbles?  People would have us believe that all these games have completely been wiped out by the advent of the DS, television, DVDs etc.  However recent research has found, not surprisingly, that playground games are as popular and as fun as ever they were!

The Universities of London, Sheffield and East London carried out research on traditional games children play and it found that many of the traditional games we enjoyed are still played today, with some modern references thrown in.

Two years was spent studying the children at play in schools.  There were lots of imitation games such as their own version of Britian's Got Talent and chat shows, and lots of mimicking their childhood heroes such as Simon Cowell and pop stars.

The finding suggest that children are in fact better informed by their access to the digital media of today.  They are not, as many would have us believe, walking around zombiefied once starved of their Wii or DS. Instead, they use the information they have and build ideas and develop themes in an accomplished way.

The results of the study entitled 'Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age' will be presented at the British Library next week by former children's laureate Michael Rosen.

A Question of Safety

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Health , Tags: accidents, baby walkers, bunk beds, burns, children, ponds, scalds, toddlers

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We have to be so careful raising babies and toddlers in our homes - so much of what seems safe to adults can pose potential hazards to children.  A hazard isn't necessarily an accident waiting to happen, it just means that there we need to be more cautious than we might otherwise be.  If hazards are managed properly then our little ones can remain perfectly safe.  Here are a few questions of safety that you might ask yourself...

1. Should I use a Baby Walker? For many years it was advised not to bother with a baby walker.  They looked nice, but caused so many accidents its wasn't worth the risk.  There is now a standard required for baby walkers (BS EN 1273:2005), which has hopefully reduced the number of accidents.  However, do use with care.  Babies can still get around very quickly and could approach stairs or dangerous areas.  It may give them more height and therefore allow them to reach higher things on tables or work surfaces in the kitchen.  Some argue they help baby to walk: this is not necessarily true. Rolling, crawling, sitting, bouncing on you knee are far better ways of improving balance, and mobility for walking.

2.  Is there a safe age to use bunk beds? Usually not before children six.  This is because beds are designed with six year old as a minimum age.  The spaces between bars and and around the mattress is tested on six year olds and are not suitable for under six's because they could get trapped.  If you do use bunk beds, make sure windows are locked if they're next to a window and that there are no sharp corners (book shelves etc) below!  Perhaps have a night light so they can climb down in the night if they need to.

3.  When does a hot liquid get hot enough to cause a burn? Childrens' skin is thinner than an adults and will burn much more easily.  Even hot tap water can burn.  Certainly don't allow any child to turn on taps without your supervision.  Kettle water WILL scald immediately.  It's boiling at 100 degrees.  A cup of tea WILL scald.  Its about 70 degrees but still hot enough to scald.  Once tea has been left to stand for 15 minutes, its still around 55 degrees.  This WILL still be hot enough to scald in about 10 seconds.

4. Should we get rid of our pond? A toddler can drown in just 2 inches of water.  If you have a pond and don't want to get rid of it, keep it covered or better still, drain it until your child is older.  Turn it into a boggy garden area or a sand pit!

Take care!

Kids or Children?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting , Tags: american, children, english, kids

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Many people object to the informal use of the word 'kid' to denote children, claiming that kids are baby goats and not humans, but this informal usage has been with us a long time! The first record of the word 'kid' being used to refer to children dates back to 1599 and by the middle of the 19th Century, the word had entered common everyday usage.

The Internet gives us a useful barometer to compare the use of 'children' and 'kids', and we quickly find that the term 'kids' is far more widespread in the Internet age than old fashioned 'children'!  Looking at the frequency of internet searches, we discover that searches for 'kids' related terms outweigh 'children' related terms by a significant order of magnitude:-

Childrens Toys vs. Kids Toys: 1:3
Childrens Party Games vs. Kids Party Games: 1:9
Childrens Books vs. Kids Books:  2:3

We also find a strong bias towards American English which suggests that the term 'kids' is much more heavily used in the USA than in Britain.  Indeed, when we search for terms more commonly associated with traditional English, we find that searches are split equally, as opposed to American English terms where kids continue to dominate:-

Childrens Movies vs. Kids Movies: 1:16
Children Films vs. Kids Films: 1:1

Childrens Behaviour vs Kids Behaviour: 1:1
Childrens Behavior vs. Kids Behavior: 1:6

These findings aren't scientific by any means, but our straw poll does show that 'kids' are here to stay.  So if you've always been one of those pedantic people insisting that kids are animals, it looks like the world disagrees with you!

Fostering Children may be a Real Option

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Family , Tags: caring, children, foster care, fostering, home, local authority

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There has been so much press over the years about children who are let down by adults, 'Baby P' and little Shannon Matthews for example - both these children were so sadly ignored by those who should have been protecting them.

Many local authorities do so much good work with children, especially those who are the most vulnerable and in need.  However, we never hear about these good, kind people who make such a difference to so many children's lives.  In the most part, those in authority aim to keep children together with their families, siblings and parents.  However, sometimes this is not possible and those caught up in neglect or in danger are removed from the threat of harm.

All sorts of people get involved in these cases.  The police, social workers, health visitors, doctors and eventually the courts do what they have to do to support the children and do the best for them.  Some go into care.  Some live with foster families who provide them with the safety and security they need and cherish.  The foster carers go some way to repairing the damage that has been done and try to provide the children with a normal, happy environment in which to live.

There is always a great need to families to offer foster care.  It's not like providing a hotel room or just meals and a fresh bed to sleep in.  Carers need to try and maintain any routine the children have: school clubs, visits to friends, school run, and contact with the original families.  They also need to be able to do the school run to get the children to their original school and maintain links with health professionals, doctor's appointments etc.  Foster children become an integral part of your own family.

You don't need a huge house and rambling ground to offer foster care.  You don't need to be a fine chef or a pre-school teacher.  You simply need to offer a shelter, a home and a loving, caring environment for the most vulnerable little people in our communities. You will get all the training you need and plenty of advise and support.

If you think you can manage this, then it's worth contacting your local authority.  They will be delighted to hear from you and you may find it becomes the best and most rewarding job you have ever done!

Moon Walking!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development , Tags: alexander bell, buzz lightyear, celebrity, children, dalek, dr who, history, knowledge, mona lisa, moon, toy story, wallchart, world events

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It has been suggested in recent research that one in every five children in the UK thinks that the spaceman from the Toy Story films, Buzz Lightyear, was the first person to ever get to the moon and walk on it!

The study revealed in fact that twice as many knew it was a man called Mr Armstrong (Lance the Tour De France winner rather than Neil, though!) but still that leaves a significant number who didn't even know or who thought the fictional character (complete with laser beams, and a built-in force field) actually lived and breathed and went to the moon!

One third of the children asked could not name the inventor ot the telephone, who is Alexander Bell.  Noel Edmonds was even suggested as an answer.  Ten percent thought Rolf Harris painted the Mona Lisa and just over 10% considered Albert Einstein to be the brother of Frankenstein.  Apparently, 12% said that the battle of Britain happened in space (!) and one in six made out that the Daleks from Dr Who did at some point occupy Britain.

There were some 2,000 children questioned for the study, aged between 6 and 12 years old.  The questions were history based and also asked about current famous people.  The results showed that the children know much more about celebrities, television and film stars rather than important people from history.

However, we need to deal with this research carefully as it was conducted by the people launching the new Wallbook entitled What on Earth?. The wallbook features a time chart detailing all the major events that have taken place.  So, it was really a marketing ploy (with purposefully tricky questions, perhaps) rather than a scientific study.

Even so, perhaps we need to feed our children a more balanced knowledge!

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: children, dirt, eating soil, health, sanitizer

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How many times have you had to scoop out piles of mud, earth or soil from your child's mouth?  They won't eat sprouts or healthy snacks but give them a mouthful of dirt and they're happy!  It seems crazy, but true!

However, research carried out has suggested that children who eat dirt may actually benefit from cardiovascular benefits in adulthood.  It may actually protect them against heart attacks and strokes.  The authors of the study, carried out in the Philippines, suggest that early contact with microbes, may actually help protect children in future years.  Mr McDade, one of the authors of the study, claims that all our hand-sanitising, washing and disinfecting is contributing to the increase in childhood conditions such as asthma and eczema.

However, the fact remains that dirt is dirty!  Park soil can contain all or some of the following, which is a sobering thought!

  • chemicals, from chemical or home waste and contamination
  • harmful bacteria from sewage or manure
  • dead creatures, bugs or part of larger creatures
  • parasites, such as round worm from pet or wild animal faeces
  • fungus

Why do kids eat dirt?

They are exploring their world!  They touch, feel and experiment and their mouth is the most sensitive place to "try out" dirt!

How much is too much?

"Normal" soil consumption for little ones is up to about 500 mg a day of soil.  That's about the size of a 2p coin.  If it's much more than that, pop to your GP.

Just keep an eye on them and what's going in their mouth and if they eat any dirt, get it out as quickly and as safely as you can!


Turn the Telly Off!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Parenting, Child Development , Tags: children, screens, speech, television, watching

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Parents who have the  television on the whole time are affecting their children's speech, according to recent research in America.  Parents who tend to keep the television on even when not watching it are less likely to talk to their children and the children actually end up speaking less and having a worse grasp of language.

A study of babies and children aged between 2 months and 4 years found that for every hour the TV was on during the day, the parents used between 500 and 1,000 less words.

The study was published in the journal Archives of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and the researchers said that this may explain the association between watching TV and delayed speech in some children.  Over 300 children were studied on random days over a 2 year period.

Children were sometimes left alone in front of the television, or were not addressed while the television was being watched, or the parent was watching the screen and not interacting with the children.

30% of homes in America, the research said, have TV on all the time.  The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages television before the age of two.  The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK does not issue guidelines.

Popeye Cartoons Encourage Children to Eat Spinach!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: children, eating, healthy, popeye, spinach, vegetables

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Watching the cartoon character Popeye eat spinach really does encourage children to eat more of the green leafy vegetable in real life it has been reported.

In the cartoon, Popeye the Sailor man, eats cans of spinach to give himself extra strength and becomes stronger once he has eaten.  It has been found that when children watched the cartoon, and saw him eat spinach, they copied and did the same. They too wanted to eat spinach, despite historically not wanting to.

According to a study published in the medical journal Nutrition & Diet, researchers studied children aged 4 and 5 years old.  They looked at their diet of fruit and vegetables before and after the study.  All 26 children were encouraged to plant their own seeds, tave tasting parties and watch Popeye cartoons.  The Professor in charge of the study said their intake of vegetables almost doubled!  In addition, the children become more interested overall in the fruit and vegetables forming part of their diet.

Teachers were also encouraged to get involved and were asked to be role models at lunch time in shcoold.  Teachers were invited to eat fruit and vegetables at meal times with the children.  It was reported by parents that even the talking about vegetables increased after the children were involved in the study.  They also came home proud from school having eaten their vegetables at lunchtime.

Can You Tell If Your Child Is Really Happy?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: children, happiness, happy, moods, personality, sad, toddler

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A happy child plays, exhibits curiosity, shows an interest in things and other children; an unhappy child tends to need constant attention, they are withdrawn, quiet, and don't eat much.  They tend not to get involved with other children and don't ask questions or speak very much.  However, if you have a shy child who doesn't interact a great deal, that does not mean they are unhappy.  Being shy is not being sad.

P. Hollinger notes there are nine inborn signals that babies use to communicate feelings.  The following signals can also be spotted in toddlers and are good pointers to how happy the toddler is.

  • Interest - a positive feeling
  • Enjoyment - a positive feeling
  • Distress - a negative feeling
  • Anger - a negative feeling
  • Fear - a negative feeling

Dealing with  Children and making them happy

Play - Toys, expensive clothes, lashings of ice cream: do these make children happy?  Perhaps in the short term, for an hour or two, but what really makes them happy is having fun with parents, grandparents or their childminders.  When they have fun and play games and laugh with you, that play creates joy.  It also helps with their imagination, creativity and relaxation.

Talents - Help children develop their own talents. If they are good at something, they will feel happy about that.  If they like modeling, keep some cartons and lids and let them create a robot out of boxes.  If they like drawing, then let them make a picture and hang it on the wall.  Help them master a skill and see how happy they will be.

Let them do what they want - Within reason, this is an important lesson for parents to understand.  No matter how much you want them to learn piano, if they don't want to then they won't enjoy it.  Try not to push them to do things they aren't interested in.  Listen to their own ideas.  If they are talking about going to football, rather than ballet, then give it a try.  And, try not to stick to gender prejudices.  Girls can play football, boys can do ballet!

Healthy bodies - To enable the children to play and run and enjoy life to the full, give them a healthy diet.  With good food, and lots of sleep they will have the ability to really tackle tasks and situations with energy. Give them lots of time to run around.

Sad time - Being a bit sad is okay so don't try and shake them out of a mood if they are feeling a bit down.  They need to be independent people and able to gauge their own moods.  You can encourage them to explain how they feel and try and explain or get out of the mood together.

Be a Good Role Model - Children pick up on moods and are sensitive to other's feelings so try to be positive in your own mood and outlook.  They will pick up on this and it will influence their own behaviour.

2012 London Olympic Family Ticket Only £25,200!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Family, Days out , Tags: 2012, children, family, health, olympics, sport

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As 2012 approaches, we can reveal that a family ticket to the 2012 London Olympics will cost in the region of £25,200 - but the good news is that kids go free!  Well, nothing's been finalised yet, but former Labour MP and possible future London Mayoral candidate Oona King has come out with a pledge to allow London's schoolchildren free entrance to the Olympics.  Current Mayor Boris Johnson has promised 100,000 tickets to 'young people' and believes that City Hall's contribution of £625 million to the Olympic fund entitles him to 50,000 free tickets.  So assuming that an adult ticket can be secured for somewhere in the region of £100, a family of four should get in for £25,200, with two, worth £12,500 each, being provided free to the children.  That's after every family has already contributed £20 a year for 12 years (£240 in total) in their council tax.

Of course, we're all delighted that the 2012 Olympics are coming to London.  We are promised that this will rejuvenate an interest in sport in this country which can only be a good thing for national health overall.  However, we do remain slightly sceptical that the Olympic arenas hosting popular sports will be packed with executives, whilst minority interest sports will be left for the children to enjoy.  Don't complain if the much talked of Olympic legacy will be to generate a generation of minority sport fanatics!

Eating Out Should Be Fun!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Days out, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: children, dining, eating out, manners, restaurants, table

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Going out to dinner with your children needn't leave you with indigestion; before we had children, many of us used to watch in horror as parents struggled with their children, shouting at them to sit down and force-feeding them with food they refused to eat. Perhaps worse, we watched as they just let the children run riot in the restaurant and did nothing!

You don't need to turn into one of those embarrassed parents when it comes to taking your children, however little, out to dine. If you take the time to follow a few tips, you will be the proudest parent as they sit and eat nicely.

So make it easy on them (and you!) by bearing in mind these pointers:

  • Choose an appropriate restaurant especially if its your first time out.
  • Make sure there is a menufor the kids.
  • Take along any special juice cups, or small cutlery if this will make it easier and more familiar for your little one.
  • Take along plastic plates if you fear the restaurant crockery may end up on the floor!  Plastic is quieter and less likely to draw attention if it falls and it will not result in a stroppy waiter having to clear up broken china.
  • Check there is something that your child likes on the menu before you book.
  • Try not to use a restaurant as a place to experiment with new flavours - unless your child is used to this.
  • Don't eat too late or arrive at the time when your child usually eats. Bare in mind it may take some tome to get a table, settle quickly and have the food ordered and served.  Although being hungry is useful, you don't want them screaming for sustenance! So, eat early to avoid any meltdowns!
  • Take colouring books/crayons (that don't stain so no felt pens!) to amuse them. Draw your dinner, or the waiter's face! Even use paper napkins if you like.
  • Take some small toys (that sit neatly on a table) in case there is a wait.
  • Request a corner or edge table rather than one right in the middle of the room so as not to draw attention to yourselves.
  • Ask for plenty of napkins ready to mop up any spills or dribbles!
  • When you are seated, hand over any wine glasses, ornamental candles or anything that could cause your little one to reach and pull...just in case!
  • Try and visit the toilet before you start eating so you avoid interrupting your meal.
  • Don't stay too long and push them too far! If they are used to a quick meal, don't expect them to languish for hours!
  • Have a test run! If you are out for an important meal, then have a test run in a coffee shop or supermarket café before hand. Get used to the idea of waiting, of sitting and of eating in a strange place.
  • Don't be too hard on them, but make it clear you expect them to behave.


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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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