How Much Screen Time is Too Much for Children?
Worried about your child’s screen time? Should they be on screens at all? Read on for our deep dive into the science of screen time, along with some handy tips to get your child experiencing the world 👇
Like it or not, computers, tablets, and smartphones are a normal part of growing up in 2023. While technology provides a world of possibilities for additional learning, too much screen time is regularly topping lists as the number one health concern among parents.
But how much screen time is too much? Should children use screens at all? In this post, we dive into the science behind screen time and provide our top tips to help your family in this increasingly techy world.
What Do the Experts Say About Screen Time?
According to AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies), screens should be introduced carefully to children:
- 0-2 years: no screen time – in the early years, screens provide too much stimulation for children’s rapidly developing brains. Therefore, health experts recommend avoiding screens entirely and to instead engage in sensory play, talking out loud, and reading.
- 2-5 years: one hour per day – at this age, children learn by imitating adults and exploring their environments. In other words, they need to experience the world around them. As screens limit children’s sensory experiences, they may develop ‘tunnel vision’.
- 5-17 years: no more than two hours per day – this will change as children enter high school and incorporate devices into their studies. However, during the primary school years, experts recommend two hours as the maximum for daily recreational screen time.
What Should Children Watch?
Although excessive screen time can be harmful, it can be beneficial in moderation. Just ensure that you’re always supervising your child during screen time and engaging in high-quality, educational content. This could be through interactive shows, animated stories, or apps.
Some of our top picks are:
- Sesame Street
- Ask the StoryBots
- ABC Mose Early Learning Academy
How Can You Limit Screen Time for Children?
We recommend taking steps as early as possible to limit screen time. This will reduce the number of tantrums as children gradually develop screen-free habits. It doesn’t always have to be a strict rule, but everyday steps play a significant role in changing your child’s screen time habits.
1. Turn off the TV in the Background
Have you ever come home and turned on the television without even realising? Nobody’s watching it, so what’s the problem? Well, this background noise can be an unnecessary distraction for children which may lead to poor focus and shortened attention spans.
Additionally, televisions encourage passive viewing. In the early years, children need to be active. Whether it’s through physical activity or exploration, active play stimulates cognitive development, along with a range of other health benefits.
Try using soothing music or an age-appropriate podcast instead. Or, better yet, play nothing at all! Learning to sit with silence is an important skill for children to learn as they progress through life, particularly school, where there won’t always be a television or speaker to entertain them.
2. Set Rules for Screen Time
Children thrive on structure and routine. Therefore, establishing a screen time schedule reduces tantrums as children have a clear and defined timeframe for when screen time is allowed.
If you have older children, get them involved in the process. Hold a family meeting to decide which times work best for screen time. Once the whole family agrees, have them all sign a family contract. This will reduce future disagreements, while also introducing children to the importance of promises and sticking to your word.
3. Introduce Screen-Free Days
You’ve heard of meat-free Fridays, but what about screen-free Fridays? Frequent screen time can overstimulate children, literally rewiring their brains and potentially leading to increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
Therefore, try allocating days of the week, or entire weekends, to screen-free activities. You can then use these screen-free days to engage in family bonding.
4. Engage in Screen-Free Activities
Screen-free activities range from a trip to the museum to reading a book with your child. Anything to get them experiencing the world is a positive step in their development:
- Take a trip to the library or museum
- Engage in sensory play
- Go on a nature walk
- Read a book together
- Solve puzzles
- Play board/card games
- Engage in arts and crafts
- Get out into the garden
- Cook or bake a meal together
5. Set a Good Example
Children love playing grown-up. Whether it’s dressing up or making pretend dinner, children love acting like Mum and Dad.
Therefore, if your child sees you watching television, scrolling through your phone, or spending hours on your laptop in your spare time, they’re going to do the same. So, if you want your child to reduce their screen time, the tough fact is you’re going to have to as well!
Additionally, be mindful when using screens. Do you really need to scroll through your phone or are you just doing it out of habit? Likewise, you can also use this as an opportunity to educate your child about the purpose of screens and devices. If you work from home, have a discussion with your child about how you use your laptop for work or study.
Try to prioritise face-to-face interactions with your child. You might be surprised how much your child learns from something as simple as watching your facial expressions.
Overall, screens are an inevitable part of living in the modern world. Whether it’s at work, out in public, lounging at home, or at school, your child will be exposed to technology. However, you don’t have to be constrained to overstimulation and the tantrums that follow.
By engaging in face-to-face activities, setting clear boundaries, and leading by example, you can limit your child’s screen time with just a few simple steps. Even better, you can take control of your child’s development, so they’ll get the best possible start for primary school, secondary school, and beyond.
Maternity Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack for Childbirth
Are you approaching your third trimester? If so, stop what you’re doing and read through our maternity bag checklist to ensure you and your family are ready for the big day!
Preparing for the arrival of a child is an exciting and sometimes daunting experience, whether it’s your first time or your fifth. Therefore, packing your maternity hospital bag well in advance will save you a lot of time and stress.
In this post, we provide a handy maternity bag checklist for everything you need to make your hospital stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
For a PDF of the following list – click here.
When Should You Have Your Maternity Bag Packed?
We suggest having a maternity bag packed and ready by the door (or in the car), around the 36 week mark, which is well into the third trimester. This will give you plenty of time to ensure everything is ready for the big day, night, or early morning (labour often strikes when you least expect it!).
However, every pregnancy is unique. Some women may prefer to have their bags packed earlier, especially if there are known risk factors or signs of preterm labour.
Why is a Hospital Maternity Bag Important?
You may be asking yourself why you need a hospital maternity bag at all. Hospitals are staffed by doctors and professional midwives, so they’ll have everything you need, right?
While the hospital will provide essentials, they won’t provide extra clothing for the baby, books, entertainment devices, snacks, personal toiletries, etc. Although hospitals are great at what they do, they aren’t supermarkets!
Therefore, we recommend sitting down with your partner, family, or doctor to run through the following list and check off any items that need to be added or removed. Once you have your personalised list, set aside an afternoon to pack your bag and prepare for the big day!
Essential Documents and Information
- Birth plan (if you have one)
- Medicare card
- ID and hospital paperwork
- Health insurance information
- List of important phone numbers (family, friends, and support network)
- Loose-fitting nightgowns or pyjamas
- Comfortable nursing bras or maternity bras
- Recovery pants
- Warm socks and slippers
- Loose-fitting outfit to wear when leaving the hospital
Personal Care Items
- Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.)
- Hairbrush and hair ties
- Lip balm
- Maternity pads
- Nursing pads and nipple balm (if planning to breastfeed)
- Disposable postpartum underwear and/or full-brief underwear
- Any personal medication if needed
- Newborn nappies
- Baby blankets
- Onesies or baby clothes
- Hat and mittens
- Burp cloths
- Nursing pillow (if desired)
- Going-home outfit for the baby
- Car seat or capsule (installed in the car prior to going to the hospital)
- Infant formula (only if planning to use a milk replacement formula to feed your baby)
Comfort and Entertainment
- Pillows (for extra comfort during labour)
- Extra blanket for partner/support person
- Snacks and drinks for labour and postpartum
- Water bottle with a straw for easy sipping during labour
- Entertainment device (phone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, etc.) and charger
- Camera or video recorder
- Books and/or magazines
- Nursing cover (if desired)
- Nursing-friendly nightwear for easy breastfeeding
- Extra clothes and toiletries for your partner/support person
- Cash or change for vending machines or parking
- Breast pump (if planning to use one)
- Any special items for support during labour such as a TENS machine
Overall, preparing your maternity bag in advance is an exciting milestone as you approach your due date. By having a well-organised and well-stocked bag, you can ensure you’ll have all the essential items you’ll need during labour, delivery, and postpartum.
Remember – every birth experience is unique, so feel free to customise the list based on your preferences and needs. With your maternity bag packed and ready, you can focus on welcoming your precious child into the world.
The Benefits of Messy and Sensory Play: Why Children Need to Make a Mess
What is messy and sensory play, and is it worth the clean-up? Read on for our full breakdown of messy play, along with some suggestions to get your child’s brain buzzing 👇
Messy and sensory play is incredibly beneficial for children as young as six months old. From finger painting to exploring sensory materials, messy play offers a world of opportunities for learning and physical development, even if the clean-up can be a hassle!
In this post, we break down the physical and cognitive benefits of messy play and explore why your child should embrace the mess.
Messy play engages (almost) all the senses. When children squish their fingers into mud or clay, they feel the sensation, hear the sounds, and smell the material. Therefore, sensory activities provide valuable cognitive input, helping children refine their tactile perception and develop a greater understanding of different textures.
And there’s so many sustainable options to choose from:
- Homemade playdough
Messy Play Activities
Although they’re mostly babbling at the 6-12 month mark, babies love messy play and sensory exploration! Just be sure to supervise and only use gentle materials:
- Crinkly paper
By age two, children are as curious as ever. Their brains develop rapidly as they near the end of the first 1000 days of life. Therefore, they want to touch, smell, and experience the world around them. This is perfect for messy play:
- Sensory bins
- Homemade playdough exploration
- Finger painting
Children between ages 2 and 3 are typically walking, talking, and full of attitude! This is where you can really start to inspire their artistic side by adding more elements to their messy play experience.
- Water-based paints
- Sensory ice play
- Clay time
By the time your child is in Kinder, you’ll probably be looking for ways to give them the best start for primary school. Therefore, this is the perfect time broaden their messy play experience to prep them for their next big steps:
- Nature exploration
- Sensory storytelling
- Painting and drawing
Messy play goes beyond engaging the senses. Rather, it aims to nurture children’s emerging cognitive skills.
When children engage in messy play, they’re presented with open-ended materials and situations which encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. For instance, when building sandcastles or clay sculptures, children think creatively and strategically to achieve their desired outcomes.
In addition, messy play provides opportunities for experimentation and exploration. Children mix colours, observe cause-and-effect relationships, and question what happens next when different materials are combined. This hands-on approach fosters curiosity and a love for discovery, promoting a growth mindset in children.
Fine Motor Skills
Messy play activities often involve actions such as squeezing, pouring, and scooping. These activities promote the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination in children. Whether they’re using a paintbrush, pouring water, or moulding clay, children flex their dexterity and refine their ability to control and coordinate their movements.
Messy play also plays a vital role in language development. During messy play, children inevitably engage in conversation and storytelling. They describe the sensory experience, use descriptive language to express how the colours make them feel, and share their observations. This rich linguistic environment expands vocabulary, improves communication skills, and nurtures creative expression.
Emotional and Social Development
Embracing messy play allows children to express themselves freely and build independence. When children are given the freedom to explore materials and engage in unstructured play, they develop a sense of ownership and pride in their creations.
Messy play also offers opportunities for collaboration and sharing as children work together on projects and exchange ideas.
Moreover, messy play provides a safe space for children to experience a range of emotions. Whether it’s the joy of squishing paint or the frustration of a sandcastle collapsing, children navigate and express their feelings through these immersive experiences. As they explore and experiment, they develop emotional resilience and adapt to different situations.
Creativity and Imagination
Messy play and creativity go hand-in-hand. When given open-ended materials and the freedom to explore, children create, transform, and invent things most adults couldn’t dream of.
Whether they’re sculpting clay, mixing colours, or creating sand masterpieces, messy play encourages divergent thinking and fosters innovation.
Why is Messy Play Important?
The focus of messy play is on process rather than the end result. Children learn that there’s no one rule to express yourself, allowing them to embrace their creativity without fear of judgment. This freedom nurtures self-discovery and fuels a lifelong love for art and curiosity.
Ultimately, messy play provides children with invaluable opportunities for growth, development, and self-expression. By embracing the mess, they unlock a world of creativity and sensory exploration. Additionally, the benefits of messy play extend beyond the temporary chaos and strengthen cognitive, emotional, and social skills in children well into primary school.
Just remember to provide a safe and supervised environment for messy play, use child-friendly (and sustainable) materials, and try to involve your child in the clean-up process. After all, the mess is temporary, but the skills they gain last a lifetime.
Age-Appropriate Chores for Toddlers: Independence from an Early Age
When can toddlers start pitching in around the house? And what are the benefits for their development? Read on for our full list of age-appropriate chores 👇
Chores may seem like just another part of growing up. However, they teach children responsibility and independence from an early age. But what are some age-appropriate chores for children? And when are they old enough to start pitching in?
In this post, we explore a range of engaging age-appropriate chores for toddlers to learn all about routine, independence, and the importance of working together to achieve a common goal.
When is the Best Age to Start Giving Chores?
Experts suggest that children as early as two years old can benefit from chores on a semi-regular basis, so long as they’re supervised. However, there’s no hard and fast rule for when you can start doling out chores to children. It’s important to consider your child’s developmental stage and maturity to determine whether they’re ready to take on the extra responsibility.
Naturally, a two year old will be limited in how much they can help around the house. Nevertheless, something as simple as packing up after play introduces children to community values. You can then build on these as they progress through early childhood, primary school, and well into adolescence.
1. Putting Away Toys
Encourage your toddler to pick up and put away their toys after playtime. This simple act will save you time cleaning up and teach your child to take responsibility of their spaces.
Additionally, you can extend this to public places and the environment. Something as simple as picking up their rubbish at the park teaches children the importance of sustainability and conservation from an early age.
2. Setting the Table
Involve your toddler in the mealtime routine by setting the table together. Teach them to place plates, cups, spoons, and forks on their proper places.
This activity enhances fine motor skills and helps children understand the importance of family meals. In fact, studies suggest that family mealtimes boost children’s motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem. You might be surprised how eager children are to lend a hand when food’s on the way!
3. Sorting Laundry
While folding clothes might be too complex for toddlers, they can certainly help sort the laundry. Ask them to help you separate clean clothes by colour or type. This age-appropriate chore teaches children about categorisation and enhances hand-eye coordination.
You can even make a game of it. Invite them to sort all the red clothes into one pile and the blues in other.
4. Watering Plants
Toddlers love playing with water, so why not focus that enthusiasm into a chore? Give your child a small watering can and show them how to water indoor plants or a small garden outside.
This activity teaches children about the life cycle of plants and caring for all living things. Better yet, you can expand this experience by planting seedlings or starting a herb garden. This small act introduces your child to the wonders of nature and the importance of empathy.
5. Wiping Surfaces
Give your toddler with a damp cloth and show them how to wipe surfaces such as tables, countertops, or windowsills. It won’t be perfect, but their efforts contribute to keeping the house clean and germ-free, while also honing their fine motor skills.
Just be careful not to assign them anything too dirty. Dust can kick up and may trigger nasty allergies or asthma. As with all items on this list, always supervise your child when engaging in these age-appropriate chores.
6. Feeding Pets
If you have pets, involving your toddler in their care is a wonderful way to teach responsibility and proper care. Help your child pour the right amount of food or water into your pet’s bowl.
This chore highlights compassion, empathy, and the importance of caring for all living things. Not to mention it makes for some great additions to the photo album!
7. Picking up Books
Encourage your child to tidy their bookshelf by picking up and organising their books. Likewise, demonstrate how to place books upright and stack them neatly. This chore nurtures children’s love for reading while also bringing a sense of orderliness to play areas.
You can also use this exercise to encourage reading, storytelling, and writing! Children love story time, so you can use this experience to combine responsibility and imagination.
8. Help Prepare Meals
Invite your toddler to help prepare meals by peeling fruits, washing veggies, or rolling out dough. If your child isn’t quite ready for these tasks, something as simple as scooping cereal into the bowl provides a tremendous sense of independence.
Ultimately, age-appropriate chores are a fantastic way for toddlers to embrace independence, responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment. By making chores engaging and fun, it won’t be long before your child is actively participating in more complex household tasks.
Remember, it’s essential to offer guidance, praise their efforts, and make chores a positive experience. So be sure to empower toddlers and as they grow into responsible individuals who’ll be helping you bring in the groceries before you know it!
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Unlocking Inner Calm: Mindfulness Activities for Children
Looking for ways for your child to stay grounded in the here and now? Look no further than our list of mindfulness activities for children and adults alike 👇
Mindfulness for children is more important than ever in the digital age. With so much for children to do and see, it’s vital to teach them how to slow down and tap into their inner calm. After all, childhood goes so fast – you don’t want them to miss it!
In this post, we’ve curated some fun and engaging activities to help your child develop lifelong mindfulness skills.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is awareness of one’s internal state and surroundings. In other words, it’s being grounded in the here and now. While this may sound obvious, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with so many forms of entertainment and technology. And children are no exception.
Therefore, it’s important to teach children how to be grounded in the present to reduce stress, anxiety, and boost overall happiness.
In fact, experts at the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) suggest that mindfulness and ‘connectedness to school and home is the #1 most protective factor for youth well-being and resiliency.’
Explore the Five Senses
We use them every day, but how often do you stop to really think about your senses? Something as simple as closing your eyes and focusing on your breath can do wonders to ground yourself in the present. So, find a cosy spot, get comfy and invite your child to engage with their senses:
- Sight: Look at around you. What colours do you see? What shapes? Where is light coming from?
- Sound: What can you hear? Are there any background noises? Where are the sounds coming from?
For smell and touch, consider a sensory board filled with natural materials like sand or pebbles. For taste, you can lay out foods of differing consistencies to broaden your child’s palette:
- Smell: What does this space smell like? Is it a nice smell?
- Touch: What do they feel like? Are they soft? Hard? Scratchy?
- Taste: Describe the taste. Is it sweet? Sour? What foods also taste like that?
Sensory Nature Walk
Step into the great outdoors and embark on a nature walk together. Take your child to a nearby park, beach, or nature trail and encourage them to connect with all their senses.
Listen to the chirping of birds, feel the grass under their feet, inhale the sweet scent of flowers. This is a wonderful opportunity to get children out of the house and into nature. With each step, guide them to be fully present. What kind of animals do you see? What sounds do they make? What do they eat?
Additionally, it’s an important reminder of the beauty of our natural spaces and the need to preserve them for generations to come.
Yoga is the perfect time to stretch, breathe, and relax. Clear some space and invite your child to join in a sensory yoga session. Pretend to be wild animals, mimicking their movements, and encourage them to focus on their breath.
If your child is more a visual learner, there are plenty of YouTube guides on how to strike the perfect pose – just make sure you do it together!
As they flow through various poses, highlight the importance of being present and tuning into their bodies. Wind down the adventure with a soothing relaxation exercise, allowing them to relax and find inner calm.
Unleash your children’s creative spirits with mindful art! Set up an art station with natural, colourful materials and let their imagination run free. Encourage them to paint or draw with mindful awareness, feeling the brush strokes and textures of the materials.
Remind them to stay present in the moment, letting go of distractions. Remember, the aim is to let their inner artists shine while also experiencing a sense of peace and relaxation through creative expression.
There are over 600 muscles in the human body, but when was the last time you stopped to think about them?
Invite your child to close their eyes and to consciously relax their muscles. Start slow and simple by asking them to gently squeeze their feet, and then their hands. As they progress, move to larger muscle groups like the calves, biceps, and abdomen.
This is also a great opportunity for continued learning. Explore the different kinds of muscles and bones in the body through research and discussion. You can even take a trip to Scienceworks or the Melbourne Museum!
Why is Mindfulness Important?
More and more studies are showing the profound benefits of mindfulness for children and adults alike. It’s easy to get lost in the rush of modern life but taking as little as 10-15 minutes a day to reflect and recharge can do wonders for overall joy. Likewise, teaching these skills to children at an early age is vital for long-term happiness and success.
With these engaging activities, you can introduce your child to the wonders of mindfulness while also having some fun along the way. So why not invite your child to take a breath, look around, and smell the roses?
9 Fun Rainy Day Activities in Melbourne
Looking for some fun rainy day activities with the children? Read on for our must-visit attractions around Melbourne this winter 👇
Rainy days in Melbourne don’t have to be dreary! Instead of letting the cold weather get you down, embrace the opportunity to get the children out of the house and exploring Melbourne’s vibrant indoor attractions. Not only do these activities get children active, but they also get them engaging with the community and learning all kinds of physical and social skills.
Whether you’re a local or just visiting Melbourne for the weekend, here are our top 9 rainy activities for those wintery days.
1. Melbourne Museum
Take a trip through history and culture at the renowned Melbourne Museum. Explore fascinating exhibits, including natural history, art, science, and Aboriginal culture. Through interactive displays and engaging programs, the Museum offers an educational and entertaining experience for all ages.
Better yet, the Museum introduces children to the vast and fascinating history of our planet. Importantly, that history is pretty cool – filled with amazing creatures and natural events.
If you’re planning on visiting the Museum, be sure to check out the Museum’s Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery. This exhibition is for babies all the way up to age 5, and features hands-on exploration, play-based learning, immersive environments, and unique exhibits the little ones are sure to love!
2. Live Theatre
Worried your child is spending too much time on screens? Take them to the live theatre instead! There are loads of age-appropriate performances for children around Melbourne, from magic shows to Disney on Ice.
Not only are live theatre shows a wonderful day out of the cold, but they also teach children valuable social skills. Unlike television shows or movies that can often overstimulate children, live theatre requires children to exercise concentration and patience, while also boosting their attention spans.
Dive into an underwater wonderland at SEA LIFE Melbourne! A trip to the Aquarium introduces your little one to a whole new world filled with breath-talking natural creatures and environments. From majestic sharks to adorable penguins, your child is sure to enjoy this aquatic day out.
Explore interactive exhibits, walk through tunnels surrounded by captivating sea creatures, and learn about the importance of ocean conservation. And who knows – you might just inspire a future marine biologist.
For Lego enthusiasts over three years of age, the Legoland Discovery Centre is a must-visit this winter. Legoland is an open-ended experience filled with creativity and imagination through an abundance of Lego-themed activities and attractions.
Together, you and your child can build and race Lego cars, explore miniature Lego cities, and construct anything their not-so-little imaginations can conjure – the possibilities are endless. Additionally, Lego boosts children’s fine motor skills and problem-solving abilities, helping them become better learners.
5. Cook Together
Rainy days provide the perfect opportunity to stay indoors and indulge in some culinary creativity. Gather the children, choose a recipe, dust off the whisk and embark on a cooking adventure as a family.
Cooking is also a great learning experience for children. They engage with all kinds of smells, textures, and chemical reactions from the boiling of the pot to the oil floating in water. You can also use this as an opportunity to explore measurements and reading instructions. Additionally, cooking helps children identify different fruits and vegetables, food storage, and general kitchen safety.
Importantly, it teaches children that food can be tasty and good for you.
6. The Library
Escape the rain by delving into the exciting world of books at one of Melbourne’s many public libraries. Whether you’re raising a little bookworm or just trying to get them away from the screens for an afternoon, libraries offer a peaceful and stimulating environment for children of all ages. Introduce them to captivating board books, discover new authors, or participate in children’s book club discussions and events.
The library is also a great way to meet local families to organise play groups so your little one can make new friends!
7. Get Crafty
A day inside is the perfect opportunity to challenge your child to get crafty. With just a few materials, you can finger paint, stamp craft, or make some clay masterpieces. Arts and crafts are always a hit with children, as it encourages them to explore their creativity and see a project through from start to finish. In other words, it teaches them the nature of cause and effect.
The best part is there’s no right or wrong way – just get your child’s imagination active!
Unleash your creativity and immerse your child (and yourself) in the mind-bending optical illusions at ArtVo Melbourne. This interactive art gallery provides a unique experience where you become part of the artwork.
Strike a pose, take amazing photos, and let your imagination run wild as your child explores the captivating 3D paintings. This is the perfect way to introduce children to the mind-bending nature of perspective, geometry, and how things aren’t always as they seem.
9. Museum of Play and Art (MOPA)
Experience a world of creativity and play at the Museum of Play and Art (MOPA). This interactive experience offers hands-on exhibits and activities designed to ignite the imagination of children and adults alike. From sensory play areas to art workshops, it’s a rainy day haven for budding creatives.
And don’t take our word for it. Visit Victoria called MOPA ‘Australia’s most acclaimed Children’s Museum.’ This is a day out you don’t want to miss – they also make a great coffee!
Overall, rainy days in Melbourne don’t have to be dull. With these 9 fun indoor activities, you can make the most of these precious moments with your child, while also staying dry. From live theatre and museums to playing with Lego, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So why not embrace everything that Melbourne has to offer and create some unforgettable memories?
Healthy (and Tasty) Easter Treats for Children
Easter is a time for family, fun, and treats! However, it’s also a time where we can get carried away with sugar-filled, highly processed chocolates. Read on for our comprehensive list of 7 creative treats for your child’s basket this Easter!
Easter is a time for family, fun, and of course, treats! A little chocolate won’t hurt, but it’s easy to get carried away and load up the little one’s baskets with sugar-filled, highly processed eggs and chocolate bunnies.
If you’re looking for a healthier option this year, there are plenty of creative options for making an Easter basket that’s still filled with fun and tasty treats. Here are seven healthy Easter treats for your child’s basket!
1. Rabbit-Shaped Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great way to get creative while also providing a healthy meal for the little ones. Simply use a bunny-shaped cookie cutter over multigrain sandwiches filled with delicious fillings like ham, turkey, cheese and plenty of veggies.
You can also incorporate the Easter theme into the fillings like egg salad, cucumbers and shredded carrot! Feel free to make them as creative as possible, as children are more likely to engage with healthy eating when it’s colourful and fun.
2. Carrots and Hummus
Carrots are a fitting snack for Easter, as they’re the Easter Bunny’s favourite treat. Experiment with veggies to make little bunnies, creative platters or baby carrot flowerpots. Additionally, hummus comes in a range of flavours and variations for even the fussiest of eaters.
Best of all, hummus is full of nutrients, fibre and protein which are essential for growing bodies. If you’re going for storebought, just avoid anything too spicy for the little ones! There’s loads of recipes online to make your own, which can be a wonderful bonding experience.
3. Fresh Fruit
Fill your child’s Easter basket with a variety of colourful fruits, such as sliced apples, bananas, oranges, berries or grapes. Fresh fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are vital to children’s physical and psychological development.
Additionally, fruits – especially grapes and berries – are naturally sweet, making them a great alternative to lollies and chocolate. Just add a small container of grapes or berries to your child’s basket, or even freeze them for a fun and refreshing treat.
Popcorn is an underrated healthy snack. It can be salty or sweet and it’s full of fibre and important antioxidants. Pop or your own or opt for store bought, just be sure to read the labels carefully. Many store-bought popcorns are filled with sugar, butter and salt.
You can then portion out the popcorn and get decorative with colourful packaging, ribbons and cards!
5. Homemade Easter Treats
Children love helping out in the kitchen – they just don’t like to clean up the mess! Get the little ones involved in the kitchen to make a whole range of healthy easter treats such as carrot cake bites, hot cross buns, muffins, biscuits, banana bread, energy balls or fruit leather.
This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen while also providing children with a healthier alternative to store-bought treats that are often filled with loads of sugar and nasty preservatives.
6. Chocolate Covered Fruit
Remember, creating a healthy Easter basket is all about balance and moderation. Therefore, coating healthier foods like strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit or watermelon is a great way to get the best of both worlds. It’s still chocolate, but not in the dense blocks or eggs you’ll find in a typical Easter basket.
This is also a great opportunity to get creative with platters, colours and designs. And remember – you don’t need to cover the entire fruit. A half-covered strawberry or the tip of a mandarin slice is a tasteful, and aesthetic, way to manage your child’s chocolate intake.
7. Sugar-free Chocolate
If pure chocolate is a must, consider a sugar-free (or low sugar) option. These are made with natural sweeteners such as stevia, without comprising the taste. The lack of sugar will result in less hyperactivity, sugar crashes, and trips to the dentist in the long term.
In recent years, sugar-free alternatives to everyday treats have exploded in popularity. Most supermarkets now stock ample sugar-free and low sugar alternatives in their health food aisles.
Just remember to always get your little one to brush after eating even these sugar-free treats. For tips on how to get your little one brushing, check out our blog post here.
Overall, Easter baskets don’t have to be a pit of sugar-filled, processed chocolate and sweets. In fact, they’re an opportunity to teach children about healthy eating and to broaden their palette. Through a mixture of homemade and storebought Easter basket treats, you can ensure your child indulges their sweet tooth.
7 Ways to Manage Separation Anxiety in Childcare
Is your little one struggling with separation anxiety? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Read on for our list of 7 strategies to help manage the transition into childcare.
Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development and can be just as stressful for parents as it is for children. It’s not uncommon for the little ones to experience separation anxiety during the transition to starting childcare.
As children develop and grow, they become more aware of their surroundings and develop a strong attachment to their primary caregiver (i.e. you). This attachment provides them with a sense of safety and security, making them feel protected and loved. Therefore, when a child is separated from their caregiver, they may feel uncertain, scared or anxious.
Rest assured, this usually doesn’t last long as children adapt to their settings quicker than you might think. However, having a structured plan in place to manage this transition can do wonders in saving you and your little one the unnecessary stress.
In this post, we list seven ways to help your child cope with separation anxiety.
1. Explain What Will Happen
It’s important that your child understands where they are, why you’re leaving and that you’ll come back. Tell them that they’ll play their favourite game with their friends, have a tasty lunch and get to play outside.
Additionally, let them know what time you’ll come to pick them up. You don’t have to give them the exact minute, but something as simple as ‘I’ll be back to pick you up after afternoon tea’ can mean the world to a child. Likewise, a settled routine can make the transition into care, primary school or just visiting friends much easier for children who thrive on structure and predictability.
2. Create a Goodbye Routine
Developing a special goodbye routine with your little one every time you drop off can do wonders in easing separation anxiety. This could include a special handshake, a hug, a kiss or anything that’s meaningful to you and your child. Establishing a consistent routine can help your child feel more secure and less anxious when you leave.
3. Speak with the Centre Team
Our Educators are knowledgeable, understanding and, most of all, caring! They understand that while many children ease into care seamlessly, others require a gentler transition process. Together with your child’s Room Leader, you can develop a plan to help your child adjust.
This could include providing extra attention and reassurance during the transition period, phone calls to your child’s room to check in with the Educators, and plenty of positive encouragement and praise throughout the day from both parents and Educators alike.
4. Establish Familiarity
Some families may choose to start with bookings of just two or three days a week to ease their child into care. However, more days early on builds consistency and fast tracks a child’s familiarity with their new environment.
When commencing at Explorers, all children attend an Orientation Session to familiarise themselves with the Educators, environment and other children. If you feel your child needs more time, you can book an extra Orientation Session to help your child further adjust to their new learning spaces.
Additionally, research has shown that familiarity is perhaps the most important factor for reducing stress during periods of separation, as ‘at around 10 months, most babies get upset if a stranger comes up to them in an unfamiliar room. Only 50% get upset if they have time to get used to the room. This means that in new situations, babies cope better when they come across new things gradually.’
Before commencing care, you can also practise time apart at home by leaving your child with a family member for increasing amounts of time, ‘I’m just going into the garden for a bit. Pop will look after you while I’m gone.’
5. Provide Comfort Items
A comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or favourite blanket, can help your child feel more secure about entering an unfamiliar environment. It’s like taking a little bit of home with them. Therefore, comfort items provide children a sense of reassurance and companionship, which can help them calm down, sleep and even join in on activities.
Be sure to provide plenty of positive attention and encouragement for your little one’s comfort item, whether it be a teddy, a blanket or even a piece of clothing.
6. Stay Calm and Be Patient
It’s important to be patient when dealing with even the most anxious child, even if their crying and tantrums are making you anxious. Reacting with frustration or being negative about their experience will only make the situation more challenging. Moreover, be relaxed and cheerful so your child knows they’re somewhere safe, as children have a remarkable ability to identify – and imitate – the actions of adults.
7. Keep Goodbyes Short and Sweet
Kiss and go. Lingering with your child will only prolong the experience and can make it worse for the both of you. If you feel your child is really struggling to adapt their new play space, try and spend a little time with them doing something they enjoy in the room or outside at pick up to help them feel more comfortable and confident.
When to Seek Help for Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety usually goes away on its own, it’s important to be aware that it can develop into Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This disorder develops when it:
- interferes with your child’s life and your family life.
- is more severe than the anxiety of other children the same age.
- has gone on for at least 4 weeks.
If you’re concerned about your child’s separation anxiety, it’s important to speak with your child’s healthcare provider or your Centre Leadership Team for guidance and support.
In conclusion, separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development. While it can be challenging, there are several things that you can do to help manage separation anxiety and make the transition smoother. By establishing a consistent routine, gradually increasing separation time and providing reassurance, you can ease your child’s anxiety and build their confidence for childcare, primary school and the world beyond.
Why is My Toddler Hitting Others?
Is your toddler going through a hitting phase? Read on for the science behind why this is normal – and how to deal with it.
Watching your toddler hitting, pushing or even biting their peers can be embarrassing and stressful for first-time and veteran parents alike. What follows is often guilt, anger and that nagging imposter syndrome – am I a bad parent?
The short answer is no. You’re not a bad parent if you catch your toddler hitting or pushing others. In fact, it’s a common phase in early childhood.
In this post, we look at the science behind why your toddler may be hitting others, and some ways to use this as a learning opportunity to teach boundaries, social skills and emotional regulation.
The development of empathy is a major factor in toddler hitting. In short, empathy is the capacity to understand the feelings of others and to put yourself into their shoes.
However, a common misconception is that empathy is genetic. This is untrue. Rather, empathy is a skill that must be taught, practised and developed over time.
Studies show that toddlers begin developing genuine empathy at around two years old. This can take many forms after a child sees another in distress, including:
- Offering to share their food.
- Giving them a toy or comfort item.
- Hugging or showing affection.
- Reacting in distress themselves.
However, developing empathy sometimes causes toddlers to lash out. For example, if another child has a sore stomach and is showing clear signs of pain (facial expressions, crying, holding their stomach), a toddler may actually hit the child in the stomach. Yet, this isn’t an act of malice or cruelty. Rather, the toddler doesn’t understand how to approach the situation that’s made them feel uncomfortable, resulting in ‘aggression’ towards the problem area.
2. Sensory Exploration
Children love to touch, see and smell the world around them. This is a result of their developing neurochemistry, as they begin to create a more three-dimensional understanding of their environment.
However, they still lack proper social skills and spatial awareness. Therefore, children may ‘squeeze, pinch, push, and kick other children’ to experience their surroundings and participate in social interactions in the only way they know how.
It’s important to understand that children aren’t pushing out of cruelty. Dr. Gwen Dewar put it best, suggesting this sort of behaviour reflects a lack of impulse control, rather than malice.
Likewise, children are essentially powerless. Beyond being physically small, they lack the financial, intellectual and social means to exert any real power over the world around them, and this continues well into childhood and adolescence. Therefore, when toddlers exert power over another and get a real reaction, it’s mind-blowing for them.
Dr Laura Markham outlines how this feeling of power is key to why your child is acting out:
They are learning how to have an impact on the world, which means they are learning how to use power. So, they experiment with physical force, to see what happens. Add to this a child who is physically larger than his peers, and you get a kid who is likely to experiment with using physical force against others.
4. Managing Toddler Hitting
Firstly, try not to punish them. This can be difficult as parents tend to react with anger or shame if their child hits or pushes another, which is understandable. Likewise, we tend to view toddler hitting from our adult point-of-view, where such acts are unthinkable in everyday social situations.
However, this intense reaction is likely to have the opposite effect, according to Dr. Markham:
Punishing him won’t help the situation because it just teaches him that bigger people can use force on smaller people, which is exactly what you’re trying to show him is not ok.
Rather, it’s more effective to have a calm – but firm – talk with your child. Dr. Markham recommends removing your child from the situation immediately and taking the opportunity to explain why hitting others is never okay. Additionally, she suggests that preparing children in advance can be helpful, as overstimulation and unpredictability are common causes for overstepping boundaries.
If you get mad, you tell me, and I will help you, ok? If you forget and push, we will need to stop having fun and leave right away. So, let’s remember to keep our hands on our own bodies and have fun with the other boys, ok?
Lastly, demonstrating empathy for the hurt child is a subtle way of implying disapproval of your child’s actions.
Oh no, poor Charlie is crying. I think that really upset him.
5. Be Patient
Overall, it’s important to understand that this is a phase that toddlers outgrow as their empathy and social awareness develop. Yet, it can still be a particularly challenging time for parents due to complicated emotions and social embarrassment (nobody wants to be that parent with the pushy child).
Rest assured – it will pass. You’re not a bad parent and your child isn’t a monster. They’re just learning how to navigate a world filled with social cues, interactions, conventions and unspoken rules that even adults sometimes forget.
They’ll learn and become better for it. Just remember to stay calm, don’t overthink it and give yourself some credit – you’re doing great!
How to Get Children Excited About Toothbrushing
Does teeth time become tantrum time in your household? Check out our blog for our top tips to get the little ones brushing.
From the moment children’s teeth erupt, they need brushing. Experts say children’s teeth need cleaning twice a day – and the same goes for adults! While this sounds fine in theory, does teeth time become tantrum time in your household?
Head shakes, crying, and firmly shut mouths are daily struggles for parents when teaching children the brushing basics. In this post, we’ve listed some fun ways to motivate your child to brush from newborns all the way to their first visit from the Tooth Fairy!
0 – 6 months
Although baby teeth don’t usually emerge until around six months, you can gently wipe their gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad. This is best done after feeding and before bed. Importantly, a toothbrush or toothpaste isn’t needed at this age. Be soothing and gentle, as babies are at a delicate stage of development.
6 – 18 months
This age is often where the trouble begins, as it’s when the toothbrush enters the picture. This can be particularly problematic for highly sensitive or autistic children. However, small changes to your brushing routine can ease the experience for any child:
- Sing songs while brushing
- Use lukewarm water – children aren’t ready for toothpaste at this age, and water’s that’s too cold can irritate sensitivity
- Use a mirror to ensure slow circular motions in all corners of the mouth
- Play music (soothing for younger children, upbeat for older)
- Be gentle, but thorough
Furthermore, children love to imitate adults. Brushing your teeth alongside them is a great way to get them to take the initiative. Additionally, children thrive on independence. Tying their shoelaces or pouring their cereal are big steps for the little ones. Therefore, framing toothbrushing as a grown up activity can be a huge motivator.
Lastly, always remember to always replace brushes every three months, only use a pea-sized amount of age-appropriate toothpaste and remind children to never swallow toothpaste.
18 months – 3 years
By now, children are fully immersed in the experience, with the toothbrush, low-fluoride toothpaste and flossing (when teeth touch at around two to three years old) all a part of the equation. Naturally, this may make children apprehensive with all the new routines and sensations.
Remember, toothbrushing is repetitive – needed twice every single day – so it’s understandable if children get bored, as they often avoid difficult tasks. They prefer what’s familiar and easy. Also, young children don’t understand long term consequences for their actions. If their teeth aren’t rotting that second, they don’t see the problem.
Some activities to get children brushing at this age include:
- Star charts – a reward system to encourage brushing for consecutive days.
- A fun toothbrush – try your child’s favourite character, colour or design.
- Bring in a stuffed toy – children feel in charge when ‘brushing’ their favourite toy’s teeth, so getting teddy involved can be the difference.
- Apps – there are loads of apps from Disney, the Wiggles and many more which offer an immersive brushing experience.
- Picture books – there are countless board books about the importance of brushing teeth which pairs perfectly with story time.
- Get the family involved – children look up to family members, so get brothers, sisters, mum, dad, grandparents or cousins into the picture – whoever it takes to get them brushing!
3 – 6 years
At this age, children are more attuned to their environment. Therefore, you can start adding more complex elements like games, educating them about why toothbrushing is important and, of course, the Tooth Fairy! Although children don’t start losing their baby teeth until around age six, you can begin introducing them to the idea. Be sure to remind them that the Tooth Fairy only accepts clean teeth!
Nevertheless, there’s no one method or life hack to get children brushing. Each child is different and responds to encouragement in their own unique way. Therefore, it’s best to experiment and borrow elements from different approaches to discover what works best for your child.
By around six, children develop the necessary responsibility and motor skills to brush independently. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll magically start brushing morning and night without issue. Rather, managing children’s healthy brushing habits continues well into adolescence. If unchecked, poor habits can bleed into adulthood and lead to a variety of physical, psychological, social, and even financial issues for your child.
Overall, getting children brushing early in life is crucial to developing long-term hygiene habits. After all, it’s more than just to maintain a good smile, although that is a nice perk.