Health & wellbeing

Introducing Allergens to Toddlers: A Parent’s Guide to Allergy Alertness

Worried your bub may have a serious allergy? What is an allergy anyway? Read on for our full breakdown of how to identify, treat, and understand allergies 👇

Food allergy rates have surged in recent decades. In Australia, 10% of infants and up to 8% of children suffer from food allergies. Likewise, allergy and anaphylaxis hospital admissions have increased by 350% over the past 20 years.

With over 170 foods known to trigger allergic reactions, it can be daunting for parents to identify and monitor these allergies for their children’s safety and wellbeing.

However, armed with a vigilant mindset and support from medical professionals, you can identify allergies early to ensure your child has a safe, happy, and healthy childhood.

What is an Allergic Reaction?

An allergic reaction is an abnormal response in the body’s immune system. For instance, if someone is allergic to peanuts and consumes peanut butter, which is considered the ‘allergen’, the immune defences mistakenly identify the peanut’s proteins as a harmful invader. Consequently, the immune system releases histamines that trigger inflammation, redness, and itching.

While most allergic reactions are mild, some are anaphylactic which can be life-threatening. Some anaphylactic symptoms include:

  • Swelling (lips, face, eyes, tongue, etc.)
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or persistent cough
  • Dizziness

If you suspect your child is having an anaphylactic reaction, call emergency services immediately.

How Many Allergens Are There?

While there are as many as 170 allergenic food and drinks, nine account for around 90% of allergic reactions:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, walnuts, etc.)
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sesame
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
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What’s Causing the Rise of Food Allergies in Australia?

While there’s ongoing debate around why allergies are rising in industrialised countries, such as Australia, a prevailing theory points to gut health. This is also referred to as the gut-allergy axis. One study argued that ‘observational findings support the notion that differential microbial exposure and colonisation in early childhood may modify risk for the development of food allergy.’

In other words, babies who are exposed to more diverse gut microbiomes through a varied diet in their early years may be less likely to develop allergies later in life.

How Can You Introduce Allergens to Toddlers?

Growing research suggests introducing common allergenic foods to babies is vital for preventing potential allergies. However, this can only be done when your child is ready for solids, which is around the six month mark.

When introducing allergenic foods, consider the following:

  • Introduce all nine common food allergens by the time your child is one year old – but only one at a time. Also, wait a few days between introducing allergenic foods to observe any delayed reactions.  
  • If your child does have an allergic reaction to a specific allergen, stop giving them that food and immediately contact a medical professional. 
  • If your child doesn’t have an allergic reaction, keep feeding them that food at least twice a week. This is vital for your child’s immune systems to recognise the food isn’t harmful. 
  • Introduce a variety of foods, including different fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. 
  • Keep texture in mind. For examples babies and very young children should not be fed whole nuts which pose a choking hazard, opt for spreads instead.
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Are Babies Born with Allergies?

While some babies develop allergies in the womb, often revealed by allergic reactions to milk-based formulas, most develop them during infancy.

Additionally, while allergies are often hereditary, this isn’t always the case. Many children often develop allergies without any family history, so be mindful when introducing allergens to your baby. 

How are Allergies Treated?

Unfortunately, there are currently no cures for any allergies. While research in this area continues, the most common treatments include vigilance and safeguarding by adjusting lifestyle and eating choices, often for the whole family.

If a family member has an allergy, keep the allergen out of the house entirely. For younger children, regularly discuss their allergy with them, including symptoms, triggers, and treatment – especially if they carry an EpiPen. Consistently educating and reminding your child of their allergies is essential for vigilance as you can’t always be there to monitor their food choices.

Additionally, inform all caregivers and food/drink providers of your child’s allergy:

  • Childcare educators
  • School teachers
  • Babysitters
  • Family members
  • Parents of your child’s friends
  • Restaurant staff
  • Event caterers
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Allergy Tests

If you’re experimenting with an allergenic food that a sibling is severely allergic to, make sure the allergic child is out of the house. Then, clean all utensils, plates, surfaces, and wipe your baby’s mouth and hands. Alternatively, seek out an allergist or immunologist to perform allergy tests:

  • Skin prick tests: A healthcare professional will apply a range of allergens to your child’s forearm and gently prick them with a needle. If your child has an allergic reaction, a red welt will appear (these fade after an hour or two).
  • Oral allergen challenge: Your child will be fed common allergens and observed by a clinical immunologist or allergy specialist in a controlled setting.
  • Patch tests: While not food related, patches are placed on your child’s forearm (similar to skin prick tests) to observe their reaction to contact dermatitis. The materials tested include:
    i) soaps and fragrances
    ii) nickel (jewellery)
    iii) chrome (leathers and certain cement)
    After a few days, a healthcare professional will remove the patches to observe the results. If the patch is welted, your child is allergic to that specific material.
  • Blood test (otherwise known as IgE testing): This is for children who can’t have skin prick tests, or if results are inconclusive. A blood sample will be drawn and sent to a lab for testing to measure the allergy specific IgE (immunoglobulin) in your child’s body.

In conclusion, the rising prevalence of food allergies in Australia calls for heightened awareness among parents. Identifying allergens, understanding causes, and introducing allergenic foods cautiously are crucial.

And while there’s no cure, vigilance – from both you and your child – remains your first line of defence against potentially harmful allergies. By consulting healthcare professionals, educating your child, and keeping caregivers in the loop, you can create a safe environment for your child without compromising their development.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website at Explorers Early Learning today!

Why Nutrition is Everything for Toddlers

Is your toddler getting all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need? And what do they need anyway? In this post, we break down why a well-balanced diet is everything for toddlers 👇

A balanced diet with all the necessary macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are the building blocks of a healthy body and mind. After all, there’s a reason you heard ‘if you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow up big and strong’ as a child on repeat.   

Therefore, it’s vital to embed healthy eating habits and proper nutrition from an early age to ensure the best chance for success later in life.

In this post, we break down why nutrition is everything for toddlers. We’ll also provide some handy tips to get your toddler eating their fruit and veg!

How Much Protein Does my Toddler Need?

Toddlers need around 13g of protein daily, or roughly 15-25% of their diet. Protein is a vital macronutrient as it contains essential amino acids. While you’re probably familiar with its muscle building effects, protein is a part of every cell in the human body! It builds and repairs skin, nails, and even hair. Additionally, protein helps maintain a healthy weight, curb hunger, and repair injuries.

Some high-protein foods for toddlers include:

  • Lean meats
  • Dairy products
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Chickpeas
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How Many Carbs Does my Toddler Need?

Paediatric experts recommend toddlers get around 45-65% of their diet from carbs. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the sources and quality of carbohydrates. Importantly, there are two types of carbs: simple and complex.

Simple carbs (or simple sugars) contain only one or two types of sugar, while complex have many. Sugary foods, fruit, and soft drinks contain simple carbohydrates which are quickly broken down into energy. This is why you might find your toddler bouncing off the walls on a sugar high.

Conversely, complex carbs, such as starches and fibre, break down slowly as they’re made up of many chains of carbs. Therefore, complex carbs release energy slowly and are less likely to spike blood sugar, hence avoiding those dreaded sugar crashes.

While some simple carbs are naturally occurring, experts recommend avoiding processed foods and drinks with added sugar entirely for children under 2, and preferably well into childhood and adolescence. Instead, reach for whole foods to boost your toddler’s energy.

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include:

  • Whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice)
  • Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans)
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas)

How Much Fat Does my Toddler Need?

According to recent studies, fats should make up around 30-40% of a toddler’s diet. However, there are different types of fat to keep in mind, both healthy and not so healthy.

Firstly, there are two kinds of healthy fats. These fats derive from natural sources and should be consumed on a regular basis for brain function, hormone balance, and energy:

  • Monosaturated fats (nuts, avocado, canola oil, olive oil, sesame oil)
  • Polyunsaturated fats (fish, sunflower seeds, flaxseed oils, soybean)

Additionally, while not necessarily healthy or unhealthy, saturated fats should be consumed in moderation:

  • Saturated fats (beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products, eggs)

Lastly, trans fats (or trans fatty-acids) should be avoided entirely. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends limiting trans fats to less than 1% of total energy intake. In several cities around the world, such as New York City, trans fats have been severely limited or outright banned and there’s a growing movement in Australia to follow suit.

Trans fats can be naturally occurring but are most often industrially made. You’ll find trans fats in highly processed foods which offer little to no nutritional value to you or your child. Additionally, a diet high in trans fat has been regularly linked to an increased likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Deep fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Commercially baked goods (cakes, biscuits, pies, muffins, etc.)
  • Frozen food (pizza, nuggets, ice cream, etc.)
  • Potato chips
  • Butter and margarine
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Micronutrients

What are the Essential Vitamins for My Toddler?

Vitamins are essential for toddlers to boost the immune system and strengthen cell function. Likewise, vitamin deficiency can lead to lower energy levels and may affect children’s development. Therefore, if you suspect your toddler may have a vitamin deficiency, consult your GP or a healthcare professional. Rest assured, these deficiencies are common and often easily treatable.

There are seven vitamins needed for healthy growth:

  • Vitamin A (eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, spinach)
  • Vitamin B (whole grains, poultry, fish)
  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes)
  • Vitamin D (fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish, sunlight)
  • Vitamin E (vegetable oils, leafy green veggies, nuts)
  • Vitamin K (eggs, milk, broccoli)
  • Folate (beans, fresh fruits, beans, sunflower seeds)

What are the Essential Minerals for my Toddler?

Minerals are key for building strong bones and teeth. While vitamins help the body’s functions, minerals help the body’s structure. Similarly, mineral deficiencies are also commonplace, especially with fussy eaters. So, be sure to contact a healthcare professional if you’re concerned and they can take the necessary steps.

Essential minerals include:

  • Calcium (dairy products, fortified cereals, leafy greens)
  • Iodine (dairy products, chicken, iodised table salt, seaweed)
  • Iron (red meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, dried fruit, leafy greens)
  • Zinc (beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds, rolled oats)
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Tips to Get Your Toddler Eating Healthy

While it’s handy to know what your toddler needs to eat, for some the battle is just getting the food into their mouths in the first place. We’ve compiled a few handy tips to get your child eating more, and some ways you can incorporate healthy foods into healthy habits:

  • Don’t serve too much – this one might sound obvious, but only serve what your toddler will eat. Forcing children to ‘clean their plate’ when they’re not hungry can impact their ability to read hunger cues, make healthy eating choices, and listen to their body. It also prevents food waste!
    a) 1-2 year olds: let them decide how much they want to eat. Importantly, think about how much your child eats over the course of a week, rather than day-by-day. This is because toddlers appetite wanes often, which is okay!
    b) 3-4 year olds: offer a wider variety of healthy foods. Likewise, give them the choice to eat or not, but be sure to include foods from the five food groups.
  • Offer variety – toddlers often refuse to eat as a way to express control. Therefore, food choices offer fussy toddlers a compromise. Something as small as choosing between mashed potatoes and mashed pumpkins can be a huge boost for a toddler’s sense of agency.
  • Get creative with consistencies – dips, dips, dips! By using hummus, yogurt, or blended veg, you can make healthy eating a more fun and interactive experience for toddlers. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to strengthen fine and gross motor skills. 
  • Make a routine – children thrive off structure, so be sure to encourage family mealtimes at the same time every day (where possible) can ease stress and anxiety around mealtime.

Overall, getting enough macro and micronutrients is essential for babies and toddlers alike. Whether it’s for brain health, bone strength, the immune system, or making sure everything is working just right, a balanced diet is a must for growing bodies. With these facts and tips in mind, you can ensure your child is getting all the building blocks they need for a healthy and fulfilling life.  

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

Reclaiming Calm: Strategies to Reduce Overstimulation in Children

Do you have a highly sensitive child? Are you having trouble calming them down? If so, read on for our full breakdown of overstimulation in children and some handy tips to boost your child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

We live in a fast-paced world full of sights, sounds, and distractions. From new technology to endless entertainment, it’s no wonder that overstimulation in children is a common concern for parents.

But what is overstimulation and how can it be reduced? In this post, we look at the science behind overstimulation and list some everyday steps to reclaim the calm in you and your child’s lives.

What is Overstimulation in Children?

Overstimulation occurs when a child’s sensory experiences become overwhelming. This may be triggered by music, flashing lights, moving images, or just one too many adults at a party wanting to hold the baby.

Even a trip to the supermarket can be sensory overload for young children. Put yourself in their shoes; it’s full of bright lights, strangers, colourful products on the shelves, music in the background, announcements over the speakers, and all the while keeping mum or dad in sight.

Young children, especially toddlers, are in a tender phase of cognitive development. Therefore, their tolerance to stimulation is much lower than adults, causing their brains to become easily overwhelmed. This may lead to:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Crying
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression (kicking or waving arms)
  • Tantrums

With these signs of overstimulation in mind, here are a few easy steps you can take to ease children back into a calm state.

1. Create a Calm Home Environment

With so much happening outside the world, it’s important to control what you can – your home. Establishing a soothing atmosphere at home can do wonders in calming children after being out at social events, childcare or school, or even a swimming lesson.

Try to reduce distractions at home to allow children to unwind by:

  • Turning off the T.V. and other entertainment devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.)
  • Dimming the lights
  • Playing soothing music
  • Creating a calm corner in your living area or child’s room complete with soft toys, cushions, and age-appropriate books
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2. Establish a Consistent Routine

While your child will inevitably attend parties, family events, doctors’ check-ups, and school or daycare where the sensory activities aren’t always in your control, try to establish a consistent routine outside of them.

A clear structure provides children a sense of security. In other words, they’ll understand that before or after these potentially stressful events, there’s a predictable and reliable routine waiting for them. Try and establish a routine by:

  • Designating set times for rest or play
  • Verbally reinforcing routines, e.g. ‘we always read a story before bedtime.’
  • Use a poster or chart to visually reinforce schedule
  • Congratulate your child when they follow their routine, even it’s as simple as setting the dinner table or getting ready for school

3. Encourage Outdoor Exploration

Nature has a remarkably calming effect on children (and adults) of all ages. In fact, studies have shown that nature walks boost focus, relieve stress, and improve heart function.   

Encourage your child to explore the great outdoors, whether it’s the beach, your garden, or just a stroll around the park. Outdoor play reduces stress, fosters a deeper connection with the environment, and highlights the importance of preserving our natural spaces for generations to come.

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4. Limit Extracurricular Activities

While extracurricular activities offer valuable learning experiences, an overloaded schedule can lead to an overstimulated mind. And this isn’t just for toddlers. Too many extracurricular activities may do more harm than good for young children and teenagers alike.

Consider the much needed rest time for children if they’re involved in sports, dancing, after school care, childcare, or any other activities outside of school. Remember that there’s also time spent in the car, unwinding afterwards, and social interactions involved in these activities which can be emotionally and physically draining.

Children need rest and may take some time to recharge their social batteries. This is especially important if you have introverted children!

5. Foster Mindful Play

Mindfulness is simply being present in the moment. For children, mindful play is vital to children’s sense of community, mental well-being, and emotional resilience. Moreover, mindful activities have a tremendous ability to calm overstimulated minds.

Encourage activities such as: 

  • Yoga
  • Sensory art
  • Exploring the five senses
  • Muscle memory exercises
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6. Listen and Communicate

Effective communication is key, particularly with school-age children as they navigate primary school and more complex social situations.

Pay close attention to your child’s emotional needs and anxieties, encouraging them to express themselves openly. Validate their feelings and unpack their concerns together. Something as simple as ‘it’s okay to feel like everything is a bit much sometimes’ as school workloads and social events pile up can make the world of difference. Remember, when children feel like they’re being heard, they’re more likely to work with you through developing healthy coping strategies.

7. Find the Right Balance

While it can be tempting to remove your child from stimulating activities altogether, it’s important to not go too far. Children need to experience the world, even when it’s uncomfortable. From learning life skills such as swimming lessons to navigating social cues at family events, children need to learn to cope with stressful and unpredictable situations.

Additionally, Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at Child Mind Institute, suggests the balance for school-aged children should be determined by how they affect their social life and everyday commitments:

Can you still do your homework? Can you still get 8+ hours of sleep each night? Can you still be a part of your family? Can you still hang out with your friends? If the answer is ‘no’ to one or more of these, then it’s too much.

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Overall, with these few simple strategies, you can help your child navigate through even the most overwhelming experience. Better yet, they’ll develop some handy coping skills along the way and come out the other side as resilient, strong, and level-headed in the face of our fast-paced, techy world!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

Returning to Work After Parental Leave: What to Expect

Are you dreading that first day back in the office? If so, read on for our full breakdown of how different kinds of leave, medical resources, and simple tips can help you navigate your return to work!

When you’re cosied up on the couch with your new bundle of joy, returning to work is probably the last thing on your mind. Likewise, the period following childbirth or adoption is a mix of emotions, milestones, and precious memories you’ll carry for life.

However, if you’ve made the decision to return to work, the first day will come around before you know it! While you might think you’ll settle back into the rhythm right away, parents often struggle to ease back into the work-life balance.

To make sure you’re ready for that first day back on the job, we’ve broken down parental leave, your entitlements, and some handy tips to keep in mind!

What is Parental Leave?

Unpaid Parental Leave

In Australia, all employees are eligible for unpaid parental leave if they have completed at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer.

This entitlement applies to an employee that gives birth, an employee whose de-facto partner gives birth, or an employee who adopts a child aged under 16.

Eligible employees are entitled to 12 months of unpaid parental leave, with the option to request an extension for a further 12 months.

For information on other types of leave (such as pre-adoption leave), click here.

Australian Government Paid Parental Leave

As of July 1 2023, the Australian Government Paid Parental Leave scheme provides the following additional support to eligible employees:

  • A combined 20 weeks government-funded paid leave that is paid at the national minimum wage and shared between you and your de-facto partner.  In summary, government funded paid parental leave:
    i) can only be claimed at a workplace where you or your partner have worked for at least 12 months.
    ii) must be shared, i.e., one partner can’t use more than 90% (18) of the 20 weeks (unless a single parent).
    iii) must be used within 12 months of birth by the primary caregiver, while the secondary caregiver can use the leave within 24 months.
    iv) doesn’t have to be taken all at once. For example, you could take one day off a week over several months.
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Employer Funded Paid Parental Leave

Some employers offer additional paid parental leave to new parents. The amount of leave and pay entitlements are at the discretion of each employer and will be detailed in enterprise agreements or contracts of employment.

Moreover, employer funded parental leave doesn’t affect an employer’s eligibility for the government funded paid parental leave scheme.

Your Rights When Returning to Work

An employee returning from unpaid parental leave is entitled to:

  • Return to their old role or one of equal pay and responsibilities upon their return.
  • Request flexible working arrangements such as working reduced hours or adjusting start and finish times.
  • Support if they’re breastfeeding. For example, your workplace must make reasonable efforts for those expressing breastmilk at work. These include providing a clean and private area (not a toilet), access to a fridge to store the milk, an area to store your manual or electric pump (if you use one), a hand washing station, and regular breaks.

For more information, click here.

Return to Work Tips

To help you mentally prepare for the coming transition, we’ve listed some everyday steps you can take to reduce the dread of that fast-approaching first day back!

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1. Keep an Open Mind

If you were working full-time before going on parental leave, don’t assume you’ll slide right back into your old routine like nothing happened. If you feel you need an extra year to care for your child, you can request this with your employer. Likewise, if you have family support or childcare organised and you want to jump back into your career earlier, that’s also okay!

Every child is unique, and their development and dependency differ greatly. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with a healthcare professional, and work with them to develop your return-to-work pathway. This may involve returning on a part-time or casual basis or taking on less responsibilities.

2. Organise Childcare in Advance

If you’re enrolling your child into childcare, don’t leave it until the last minute. Most early learning providers have waitlists, as well as orientation and induction processes. Also, you’ll want to give yourself as much time as possible to acclimatise your child into care and find the best fit.

If you’re looking for Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood education to give your child the best start, why not take a tour of one of our Explorers Centres? Explorers offers premium quality early childhood education and care from six weeks to school age!

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3. Stay in the Loop!

It’s tempting to shelve any thought of work during parental leave. After all, it’s time off right? However, it’s important to keep tabs on your workplace and stay in touch with colleagues and old work friends, particularly as you near your return date. This doesn’t have to be formal – something as simple as a catchup over coffee goes a long way!

This will help you avoid the culture shock of returning to work and seeing all the new faces or a new direction of the business. Moreover, it will give you valuable information and insights to inform your decision of when, and in what capacity, you’ll return to work.

Additionally, you can request to work up to 10 days while on parental leave through keeping in touch days. These could be for a conference, training days, or just to keep involved in the business. They don’t have to be taken all at once and can be for part of a day. The payment for these days is your normal wage and you accumulate your usual leave entitlements too!

4. Consider Working from Home

A common contributor to the returning to work nerves are feelings of guilt and anxiety when leaving your child on their own for the first time.

While this is a completely normal and natural reaction, it can be eased by working from home if this an option with your employer. Flexible work arrangements remove commute time, allow you to tend to appointments and checkups, so long as you have in-home care of a family support network.

5. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Don’t forget to prioritise self-care during the transition back to work. The demands of parenthood and work can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to carve out time for yourself.

Whether it’s taking short breaks, practicing mindfulness, leaning on family and friends, or engaging in physical activities, self-care will help you maintain your well-being and perform better both at home and in the workplace.

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6. Sit Down with Your Boss

Open and honest communication with your employer is vital before, during, and after parental leave. Discuss your expectations, responsibilities, and any potential adjustments to your workload.

Many employers are willing to accommodate new parents, offering flexible hours or remote work options. Importantly, it’s a chance to be express any points of worry or anxiety so they can be ironed out before your return to work. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with your boss, try your human resources department or union representative.

Be sure to understand your rights and entitlements under the Paid Parental Leave Act (2010) or any other applicable laws.

7. Reach Out if You’re Struggling

Building a strong support network is essential for working parents. Reach out to family, friends, colleagues, medical professionals, and other parents who can offer advice, assistance, or simply a listening ear when you need it. Consider joining local parenting groups or online communities to connect with others facing similar challenges.

Returning to work after parental leave is a significant life transition, and it’s entirely natural to feel a mixture of excitement and worry. By following these tips, you can ease the process, maintain your well-being, and ensure a smooth transition both at home and in the workplace.

Just remember that you’re not alone. With the right support and mindset, you can focus on what matters most – building memories with your newest addition to the family!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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
  • Bluey
  • Ask the StoryBots
  • Octonauts
  • Alphablocks
  • Numberblocks
  • Vooks
  • ABC Mose Early Learning Academy
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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.

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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.

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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.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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!

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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)

Comfortable Clothing

  • Loose-fitting nightgowns or pyjamas
  • Comfortable nursing bras or maternity bras
  • Recovery pants
  • Warm socks and slippers
  • Bathrobe
  • 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
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Baby Essentials

  • Newborn nappies
  • Wipes
  • Baby blankets
  • Swaddles
  • 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

Additional Items

  • 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.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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.’

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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.

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Yoga Time

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.

Mindful Art

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.

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Muscle Memory

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?

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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.  

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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.

4. Popcorn

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.

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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.

Happy Easter!

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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.

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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.

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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.

🍃 To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!

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.  

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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!
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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.

To tour one of our beautiful Centres, please click here. Otherwise, check out our website to register your interest at Explorers Early Learning today!