Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Health

A Stimulated Child is a Clever Child

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Child Development , Tags: brain, communication, development, growth, stimulation

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The first five years of a child's life are hugely important in terms of development and sets them up for the rest of their lives.  Understandably the first five years of life sees enormous growth as a baby grows into an infant.

You can easily monitor a baby's growth in weight and size, but what is more difficult to monitor is the development of their brain.  Over this critical period the brain is forming and the neurons are evolving into a network that will power your childs thinking for the rest of their lives.  Scientific research has shown that the more a baby is stimulated, the earlier their brain develops and the more attentive and clever they will grow to be in time.

Stimulating a baby from birth will pay dividends in the long run.  This is why you should constantly talk with your little ones, even if they are nowehere near being able to communicate back.  This is why you should expose them to lots of different environments - take them on days out, take them on long walks (even if you are simply pushing them in a buggy) and show them as many different experiences as you can.  All of this will help their brain develop early on and you will be rewarded with bright children in the future.

Healthy, Balanced and Nutritious

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: food, healthy eating, meals, salt, snacks, sugar

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When childminders give children snacks and meals, the Early Years Foundation Stage statutory framework requires that they be 'healthy, balanced and nutritious'.  It's fairly easy to whip up a meal that fills the criteria because you can balance a meal with fresh vegetables and use fresh ingredients.

If you are providing processed foods such as sausages, ham, nuggets, fishfingers or burgers then check the ingredients and the nutritional breakdown of the foods you are buying.  To buy the healthiest options, compare the fat, sugar and salt content.  Processed foods are often far more laden with salt and sugar to create flavour than if you were to make the same fare at home.  When comparing fat content of products, go for ones with the least saturated fat which is more harmful than unsaturated fat. Better still, try make your own products at home and then you are aware of their contents.  You can easily make burgers, fishcakes and breaded chicken or turkey nuggets - slightly time consuming but not difficult.

Try to ration meat to two or three main meals a week, offer vegetarian options (eg. jacket potato and baked beans, mild vegetarian chilli, vegetable lasagne etc.) and fish (fishcakes, jacket potato and tuna, breaded fish etc.) on other occasions.

Processed snacks can also be much less healthy than you might imagine.  Snacks are often packaged to make them appear to be healthy but when choosing snacks, again, make sure you compare the fat, sugar and salt content.  It's very easy to give children a high salt diet without realising and some healthy looking snacks contain more saturated fat than a packet of crisps!  Better still, make snacks yourself.  Fruit and vegetables chopped into portions perhaps make the best snacks.  Buy yourself a hot air popcorn maker and make fresh popcorn but without the salt or sugar.

Providing healthy, balanced and nutritious food isn't difficult but it can be deceptive if you are offering factory processed foods.  Check the food labels and know what you are feeding your little ones.

Be Alarmed!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, gas, hazard, safety, smoke detector

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Having children at home should make you think more carefully about the safety of your home, and if you haven't previously had smoke detectors fitted, then now really is the time to do so.  Smoke detectors now cost almost nothing and could so easily save your life, and your little ones, should they be triggered in the event of a fire.

They can be a pain, going off when you burn the sausages, but don't leave them in a hazardous state with the battery hanging out after a false alarm. If you do have to disable it because it goes off when you burn your cooking, clear the air and plug it straight in again.

Check smoke detectors on a regular basis.  Manufacturers suggest checking monthly, but if they are in an accessible place, you can test them more frequently as you pass by.

A more deadly killer than smoke is carbon monoxide.  This gas is emitted by gas appliances if they do not burn their fuel properly.  Carbon monoxide is a silent and deadly killer.  Carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in air and when it fills our lungs, we cannot extract the oxygen required to breath and this will kill you.  Faulty gas appliances are generally faulty over time and there is a chance that you could be poisoned by it over a long period.  Classic symptoms are feelings of nausea and lethargy, and vomitting and feinting for no obvious reason.  All of this can be avoided by fitting a carbon monoxide alarm - they cost a little more than smoke detectors, but what price can you put on saving a life?


Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting, Health, Child Development , Tags: emotional, feelings, happy, psed, social, well-being

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Encouraging your baby to be a social baby is important - even after just 4 weeks of life babies are learning their first skills in communication. They are hearing conversations, watching people move about, listening to noises and music, feeling vibrations as you talk.

Babies watch adults eyes and faces for cues and can hear different tones of voice when they speak. If you babble with a baby, they will often pause for a reply even though they are not speaking actual words or having a conversation, they have picked up the idea of pauses in conversation and that we take turns to speak.

Smiling is a vital form of communication. If you smile at a baby more often than not they will smile back. If you frown at a baby they are likely to frown back or cry. So, before they even utter their first word they are learning the vital skills of communication through observing and listening to the parents or siblings behaviour.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

As babies get older, tactile and textured toys are a great form of entertainment. Once they can hold and touch things they can learn cause and effect. If they shake a rattle it makes a noise etc. They also get to learn about textures of things and beginning to understand that items feel different. Similarly we can feel different: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened etc.

When they get older and can use words, they can then begin to notice and describe how items feel. A wooden spoon is hard, a cotton wool ball is soft etc. Once they have mastered this, they are more able to explain how they feel inside. They might feel scared or joyful etc and with this confidence they can go on to share that information and communicate how they feel.

It is very important to try and give children the chance to develop their emotional well-being and to have the confidence to share their feelings with others. So, get all sorts of toys and items that feel and look different. Talk about the texture: are they rough, smooth, fluffy, shiny. Then talk about how we all look different and can feel different when we are afraid, excited, happy, sad, worried etc.

Making Sense of Senses

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Health, Child Development , Tags: babies, hearing, seeing, senses, smelling, tasting, touching

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During the first six months of a baby's life there are lots of games and activities you can do to help them make sense of their new world. Even when they are just born their senses are working and developing.

Here are some ideas for encouraging babies to use their senses.

  • Sight - to begin with a baby's vision is very limited. Bright or contrasting objects and faces will be of most interest so rattles, plastic mirrors and coloured items will be of most benefit. They will begin to learn where they end and the rest of the world begins. They will start to track objects as they move in front of them and will begin to focus on more and more.
  • Touch - For babies, being held and touched is vital and wonderful. They love the comfort of being held and the sense of touch can have a wonderful calming effect. Also, their own sense of touch, they they too can reach out and touch things is a key skill learned in their first six month of life. This learning happens through trial and error (and accidentally!) and can be encouraged by showing them how things rattle or move if they hold our a hand or shake a shaker etc.
  • Taste and smell - Little babies have a great sense of smell. They can recognise the taste of their mother's breast milk and her unique smell before they can properly focus on her face.
  • Sound - the sound of a mother's voice is the best thing in the world for a baby. It reassures the baby that the mother is near, it can sooth them and settle them. By four months some sounds the baby makes will be already based on the mother's own speaking voice and the rhythm of the language. So chatting to your baby, singing rhymes, reading books and talking in baby's presence is important.

Jumping Jacks!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: activities, jumping games, physical

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Jumping Games are fun and a great way of doing some exercise, here are some jumping games for you to play with your little ones...

  • Think about your landing: knees bent, arms forward, toes then flat foot.
  • Jump on the spot and them move around the room.  How does it feel different?
  • Run and jump - is it easy or hard?
  • Jump over - some cushions or a brave Teddy!
  • Jump over a moving object - how about a swirling rope or a path or a brook if you have one nearby!
  • Jump like animals that the children suggest.  If they suggest animals that not everyone knows about, look them up on line and find them!
  • What does jumping do to our bodies?  Heart beat faster, legs ache (a bit!), arms swing, feet make a noise on the floor as we land etc.
  • Hang some ribbons or balloons from a height just above the children's reach (on a washing line perhaps!) and see if they can bat the balloons. Or, hang bells or shakers that will make a noise when batted.
  • How many an the children reach?  Count the number of noises you hear for each child.
  • Follow my Jumper - one person leads and jumps in different ways as all the children behind have to follow.

Have fun!


Funny Five-A-Day Faces

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating, Kids Activities , Tags: five-a-day, fruit and vegetables, funny fruity faces

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Eating five different sorts of fruit and/or vegetables each day can be a little tricky for some parent and carers to administer but here is an idea to get the children enthusiastic about eating their five-a-day.

Slice some raw fruit and vegetables and place them in piles. Ask what colour each piece is and see if your child can name each type? Give them some help and keep practicing through the session to see if they can master the colours and names by the time they have finished.

Show them the plates and ask them to use the fruit and vegetables to make a funny face!


  • Hair: orange grated carrot
  • Nose: cherry tomatoes
  • Eyes: kiwis or halved grapes on slices of banana
  • Mouth: red pepper or sliced red apples
  • Ears: Olives or slices of green peppers

When you have made the faces, eat it all up! Tasty!

Massaging Mummies!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Kids Activities , Tags: bonding, massage, olive oil

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There is a lot to be said for a nice, relaxing massage; it soothes away worries and stress, relieves tension and can make mummies feel like new. But, don't forget the benefits of massage for babies. Infant massage can be beneficial for babies in so many ways.

You can go to scheduled classes and learn how to massage from a professional. But, if you are gentle, careful and sensitive to your baby's needs, you can do some basic massage at home.

Benefits of massage include:

  • weight gain
  • encourage peace and calm
  • bonding with baby
  • reduce pain
  • help with digestion
  • strengthen immune system
  • improve sleeping
  • plus and possibly most importantly it is a great chance to spend some quality time with baby.

How long to massage? 15 minutes is probably enough, but if baby is enjoying it you can go on longer. Similarly if they are not enjoying it, stop and try again later.

What to do?

  • Gentle strokes down each leg, from the thigh to the ankle
  • Walk your fingers over their arms and upper torso
  • Gentle circular movements with the thumb and fingers over the foot area
  • Gentle strokes down each arm and onto the hand
  • Avoid massaging the head and back

What to use?

Pure and simple extra virgin, 100% olive oil is best! It is not sticky and great for massaging. Try warming it up a bit first my rubbing your hands vigorously. This will make it more comforting and easier to use.  Enjoy!

Safety Rules for using Scissors!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Kids Art and Craft, Kids Activities , Tags: cutting, safety, scissors, skills

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Making and creating, cutting and gluing are all great fun and part of every child's creative journey - it is important to encourage them to have the confident to use the tools we have available rather than teaching them to be afraid of the tools.  Scissors are an important tool to master, but should be used with caution. So, by teaching them how to use the scissors from early on, they will be able to cut and create safely without being fearful of accidents due to misuse.

Here are a few tips!

  • Explain that scissors are useful but need to be used carefully.  If not, they will be taken away.
  • Scissors are sharp and are used for paper only (and not their hair or skirts or reading books!)
  • No one must ever run with scissors or even walk about when using them.  Cut when sitting at a table.
  • Always use children's scissors with them.
  • Store scissors downwards in a safe place out of reach.
  • Remind children of the rules each time you get the scissors out.  See if they can prompt you!
  • Don't ever play with scissors - they are a craft tool and not for playing.
  • Discourage children from walking with scissors in their hands, but when they must, make sure they hold them correctly: grasp them by the closed blades with the blades towards the floor.
  • Always supervise.
  • Always cut at a table so you can see that they are doing and they are encouraged to sit down.

Have fun - and be safe!

Low Fat Yoghurt Affects Hayfever?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: asthma, eating, hayfever, health, pregnancy

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If women eat low fat yoghurt during pregnancy they could be putting their unborn child at risk. Recent reports have suggested that babies born of women who ate low fat yoghurt during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma and hayfever (allergic rhinitis).

The findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress. They were looking at whether fatty acids found in some dairy products could protect against the development of allergic diseases in children.

70,000 Danish women and their eating habits were analysed and then they were followed and tested until the children were seven years old. The researchers assessed milk and dairy intake during pregnancy and monitored the occurance of asthma and hayfever in the children.

Results demonstrated that milk intake during pregnancy was not associated with increased risk of developing asthma. In fact, it actively protected against asthma development.

What did show up was the fact that women who ate low-fat yoghurt with fruit once a day were 1.6-times more likely to have children who developed asthma by age 7. These findings are compared to those women who reported no intake during their pregnancy.

The reasoning behind the findings suggest that non-fat related nutrients in yoghurt could in fact contribute to increasing the risk.

Children's Packed Lunches Don't Contain Enough Fruit and Vegetables!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: food, healthy eating, lunchboxes, packed lunch, school, school food

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Research has shown that parents are not providing enough fruit and vegetable in their children's packed lunches; 3,500 children had their lunches examined and the findings showed that nearly half did not contain any fruit or vegetables at all. The School Food Trust said that at least 2 portions of fruit and veg should be included in everyone's lunch box in order to get the children towards their '5 a day' requirement.

Jamie Oliver did great work improving school dinners, and now school dinners are better than ever at helping to provide children with a balanced and healthy diet. But nutritionists fear that lunch boxes have been ignored and are very not nutritionally sound. Healthy packed lunches are a great way to help children reach their five a day requirement, they claimed it was a "missed opportunity".

The trust carried out their research two years ago, in 2009, so hopefully things are better now, but still of the 135 schools researched, so many children did not have a healthy, balanced meal to eat. Only 58% had a single item that could be counted towards their five a day - many had nothing fresh at all.

The World Cancer Research Fund has pointed out the value in eating fruit and veg from an early age and that not including fresh items in a lunch box is a missed opportunity. Healthy eating at school promotes a healthy living and parents should be provided with information helping them provide a healthy lunch for their children.

Here are some ideas to add fruit and vegetable to your children's packed lunches:-

  • Put fresh salad inside sandwiches
  • Add finger fruit and veg such as grapes, cherry tomatoes, celery, carrot sticks etc.
  • Give them a little pot of processed fruit, available from supermarkets
  • Add easy to manage fruit such as satsumas and bananas
  • Prepare a pot of fork salad rather than sandwiches with grated carrot, coleslaw, potatoe salad etc.

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.

I'm Feeling Poorly!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health , Tags: poorly children, sick, tips

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When children are ill it can be so draining and sad for both you and them too, especially if its lovely sunny weather outside.   They need even more attention and support.  They need medicine and drinks delivered to their beds.  They need special, soft foods and snacks.  And other children in the family unit often start misbehaving because all the attention seems to be on the sick child - which is exactly what you don't want.

Here are a few tips to help get through the longs days of a child's illness.

  • Read books in bed or on the sofa.
  • Have lots of cuddles and rock them slightly to comfort them.
  • Look through old photos.
  • Tell stories of when you were a child.
  • Encourage short naps even if they don't want to which will give you a little time to do jobs that need doing. And, you may find they actually go to sleep!
  • Try playing dip the ball. Take some cotton wool balls, scrunched up newspaper or anything to hand and throw them into a linen basket or bin. You could even try it with small teddies if the teddies are brave enough!
  • Don't forget to eat and drink properly yourself to avoid getting ill yourself.  And, accept offers of help... even if its just someone to babysit while you do other things.
  • Take a gentle, warm bubbly bath to ease their aches. This can be done any time of day not just at night.
  • Do puzzles together. You could even try to have a tray on their bed and they could do the puzzle while sitting up in bed.
  • If you have another sibling you could dress them up in a nurses or doctor's uniform and announce they are going to help look after the patient. Give them a doctor's set and encourage them to do some tests. This may entertain the poorly child as well as the healthy one!
  • Hand over a tambourine to the sick child and say they can jingle it when they need anything... get your other sibling to answer this call to save your legs.

Good luck!

Tall and Small Children

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Child Development, Kids Activities , Tags: genes, height, small, tall

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"Line up please, tallest children at the back and shortest at the front."  Even when they are in nursery, for some extra tall or extra short children the idea of a teacher calling out these words can be daunting.  "Aren't you tiny!" or "You are so tall!" are phrases they hear again and again.

If your child is being teased about their height or have been made to feel too short or too small, then there are sme things you can say to reassure them.

  • everyone grows at different times and at different rates
  • no one can do anything about their height so there is nothing they can do
  • height has nothing to do with being fast at running (when you're small!), being clever, or good or kind or pretty so they need not worry!

How tall will your children be? It really just depends on genes.  Most children should look to their parents height for a rough idea of how tall they will be.

Remember - do make sure children are in the right car seat for their height and not just their age.  It will effect the suitability and safety of the car seat.

Normal growth - Ensure normal growth by making sure the children eat well and take physical exercise.  While this will not make them taller, it will enable their bodies to develop properly.  Plenty of sleep too will help too but basically if the child has genes which dictates they will be shorter than average there is nothing much you can do to change this.  Do not get them to eat more or give them lots of extra vitamins to get them taller.  It just won't work.

Can being short ever point to a medical problem?
If you are worried go along to your doctor or health visitor to get reassurance.

Real medical issues can be caused by:

  • chronic illness (such as liver, lung, kidney problems)
  • Malnutrition
  • Hormone problems
  • Genetic issues

Going For Walks With Little Ones

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Family, Days out, Kids Activities , Tags: adventure, exercise, healthy, outdoors, walks

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Going for walks is an ideal way to spend time with the family - it's free, it's healthy, it's outdoors, it's fun and educational and it's something you can all share together no matter your age or ability.  You can do it with other families, on your own or with other family members.  It can be a long, all day affair or just an hour trek. It can be in all sorts of different terrain: woodland, seashore, farm land or country paths.  Most of all, it's something to enjoy!

  • Getting the children out of the door: older children may have opinions on going for walks so do make sure you describe the walk as an adventure; an excursion or something exciting rather than just a walk.
  • Think of activities to do while on your adventure: collect things (feathers, pebbles, leaves) or spot things (acorns, birds, animal tracks).
  • Play "follow the arrow": take 3 sticks and arrange them in an arrow.  Send the children ahead and get them to make the arrow shape that will guide you all home.
  • Follow My Leader: get the children to decide on the route.  Ask them which paths to take or which way to turn.
  • Make a map: draw a map of the route as you go, marking on special land marks.
  • Snacks: take snacks to keep energy high and moral positive!  Offer snacks when they find things or spot something fun.
  • Play camouflage: send the children ahead and get them to hide.  When you are near get them to jump out and surprise you!
  • Do other things along the way: if you see logs, try and climb them, if you spot a brook try and cross it and any good climbing trees must be conquered!  Help the little ones to climb up - they will love it!
  • Be prepared for weather changes: take waterproofs as you don't want to be caught in a shower!
  • Take the right equipment: make sure everyone has wellies or walking shoes to avoid hearing moaning children (and adults!) if their feet get wet.
  • Listen to the children: if they get tired, try not to force them to go on... it may put them off for ever!

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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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