Swift Child Care Blog
By Amy Levin-Epstein
When Sarah Caron went to her daughter Paige's preschool's open house, she expected to see Play-Doh, building blocks, and dolls. But iPads? Although she was surprised to find the tablet was part of the school's curriculum, she knew that her daughter wouldn't have trouble using one. At home, Paige had already mastered her dad's iPad. "She quickly learned how to open apps, turn pages in books, and even navigate her way to the Dr. Seuss stories in the App Store, which she would try to convince my husband to download for her," says Caron, of Newtown, Connecticut.
These days, parents have more to monitor than just TV-watching; a recent study found that 27 percent of all screen time for kids 8 and younger is spent with digital media. Whether in school or at home, preschoolers are surrounded by new forms of technology -- and they're getting hooked. But we all know too much screen time can be unhealthy. It's been linked to obesity and sleep problems, and the more your child logs on, the less time he'll have for unstructured play, which is critical for building creativity and problem-solving skills. Here's how to introduce technology without turning him into a pint-size couch potato.
Supervise His Surfing
Experts agree that the best way to teach your child about how to use technology is to log on with him. "Just as you sit down with your child to read a story or make a craft, be present when your child is using your gadgets," says Parents advisor Ari Brown, M.D., author of Toddler 411. Get involved by asking questions about what's going on in the game; if he's flipping through pages of an e-book on your Kindle, read along with him. You'll not only encourage him to learn more, but your involvement can help avoid mindless clicking trances and make him think about what's happening on the screen.
Of course, there will be times when you can't be over his shoulder. To make sure your child doesn't open an app that his older brother downloaded or click to an in-appropriate YouTube video, set up security locking features on all of your devices, which will allow your kid to enter only child-friendly apps and sites.
By Megan Othersen Gorman
I have no fewer than 527 large-format watercolor creations, all abstract, à la Kandinsky. But they are the work of a slightly more obscure artist: my daughter, Lydia, whose preschool was equipped with a trio of easels. She never passed the paints without picking up a brush. However, by the next year, she practically went into retirement, except for an occasional creation from a 30-minute Wednesday class.
Welcome to kindergarten and first grade, where art tends to fade into the background as reading, math, and science dominate the school day. "Most school kids do art projects just once or twice a week, and thousands of elementary schools across the country are even eliminating art from the curriculum because of budget cuts," says Eileen Prince, a longtime art specialist at the Sycamore School, in Indianapolis, and the author of Art Matters. "If your child relished painting, drawing, and crafts in preschool, she's probably going to be disappointed by how little time she spends on them in elementary school." To fill in the gap for your budding Picasso, try these simple tricks for engaging her at home.
Collect and Create
Don't limit your kid to the supplies you bought at the store. Fall is the ideal season for natural and free goodies such as leaves, pinecones, acorns, petals, and sticks. Gather them up with your child after school, and then challenge her to make something with them.
By Karen Cicero
Spice up wonton wrappers with curry, dill, basil, and juice from a can of beets to create these colorful crackers. Use cookie cutters to make leaf shapes, spritz them with vegetable-oil spray, and brush on one or two flavorings. Sprinkle the leaves with sea salt and bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees F for about 4 minutes. After they've cooled, let the kids rake them in.
Kids tend to like fruit more than veggies. Cut up red and green apples (brush them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning) and serve with this yummy raspberry spread.
Blend 12 ounces reduced-fat whipped cream cheese with 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves until smooth. Serve with apple wedges.Berry-Good Apples
For a snack the kids will love, top slices of packaged polenta with tomato sauce and cheese.Polenta Pizzas
Fill stalks with a seasoned cream cheese mixture and top with walnuts. Leave a few celery stalks with plain cream cheese in case some kids are allergic to walnuts -- or just picky!
Add this dip to your crudite platter, or, if you're short on time, simply serve it along with some pita wedges.Healthy Hummus
Top these light and refreshing veggies with a dollop of our special cheese mixture!Cucumber Bites
Restaurant nachos are loaded with calories, fat, and sodium, but you can make a healthier version at home whenever you're craving chips and cheese. Just take a handful of baked tortilla chips, sprinkle on a little shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and microwave a few seconds until the cheese melts. Top with a little jarred salsa (which is generally fat-free and low in calories) and you have a delicious snack in minutes. Have a few more minutes? Make your own salsa with fresh tomatoes.
Almost all cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a simple snack that provides lots of nutrients. And if you don't like drinking milk, pouring it over cereal will help you get the calcium both you and your baby need. When buying cereal, choose one that's high in fiber and made with whole grains. Basic cereals are best since those with crunchy clusters or sweet coatings tend to be higher in fat, calories, and sugar. Top the cereal with fresh berries for additional vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie
Smoothies you buy at your local store are often high in sugar and low in fruit. Whip up your own at home using nonfat yogurt and your choice of fruit and you'll get a healthy serving of protein, calcium, and other important nutrients. Frozen fruit will give your smoothie a thicker texture, so use fresh fruit if you like a thinner consistency. And don't go overboard on the juice. The calories and sugar in juice -- even 100 percent fruit juice -- can add up quickly.Apple with Cheese
An apple a day is good for everyone, including pregnant women. Apples are a great source of both insoluble fiber, which fights constipation, and soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol. All that fiber also keeps you full. Add in a small slice of protein-rich cheese for an even more satisfying snack. When buying apples, you might want to consider organic apples since the regular ones tend to have lots of pesticide residue on the skin.Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Chips
When you crave something crunchy with a hint of sweetness, these homemade chips will do the trick. They're coated in a little cinnamon and sugar instead of salt, and then baked, which makes them much lower in sodium and fat than regular potato chips. Plus you'll reap the many health benefits of sweet potatoes, including fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and B6.
By Caren Osten Gerszberg, Photos by Annie Schlechter & Andrew McCaul
When my husband and I began searching for a larger home -- a third child and a big dog had turned our previous one from cozy to crowded -- one of our goals was to have a bedroom for each of our three kids. Our two daughters had been sharing a room for nearly three years, and despite the fact that they got along well, our 10-year-old, Nicole, had been asking for her own room.
So last August we moved to a bigger house. And for the first three months, Nicole and Emily, 8, hardly spent a night apart. When they tried, one would often awaken during the night and hop into bed with the other. Nine months later, they have finally settled into their own rooms. But on a regular basis, one sister still meanders across the hall for a sleepover.
"When children are young, they gain a feeling of security from another's presence, and a sibling can be a real comfort at bedtime," says Patricia Dalton, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and family therapist in Washington, DC. Rather than feeling guilty or regretful if their children don't have their own rooms, parents should recognize the benefits of the situation. "Children who share a room learn a lot about give-and-take and tend to work things out on their own when given the chance," Dr. Dalton says.
By Lauren Wiener
Are you counting down the days to the toilet transition? Or maybe you've already dabbled in a few less-than-successful attempts? Either way, we heard one thing again and again: Your kid has to be good and ready. And don't worry, he will be someday. "No child is going to graduate high school in diapers," says Carol Stevenson, a mom of three from Stevenson Ranch, California, who trained each one at a different age. "But it's so easy to get hung up and worried that your child's a certain age and not there yet, which adds so much pressure and turns it into a battle." Once you're convinced your kid's ready to ditch the diapers (watch for signs like showing an interest in the bathroom, telling you when she has to go, or wanting to be changed promptly after pooping), try any of these tricks to make it easier.
Two words: Mini M&M's! Promise that each
time your kid goes potty, she gets two or three, but if she wipes herself (a
huge challenge for us) then she gets four or five. This makes a big difference
since I think one of the reasons kids don't like to go is because the business
of learning to wipe is kind of yucky.
-- Donna Johnson; Charlotte, North Carolina
I wholeheartedly recommend bribery as potty training motivation: We kept a small plastic piggy bank in the bathroom and rewarded every success (one penny for pee, two for poop). Our daughter was entranced -- she would shake the piggy with a gleam in her eye and remark how heavy it was getting. When she was all done, we took her potty windfall and turned it into quarters to spend on rides at the mall.
-- Lisa Spicer; Los Angeles, California
After a couple of failed attempts, I tried a new technique
while Mom was away on a well-deserved weekend with her friends. We covered the
couch and chairs with plastic and bought "manly-man" underwear --
just like Dad's. We spent the weekend in underwear and T-shirts, making a game
every hour or so to see who could go to the restroom. There were very few
accidents and just blocking out a weekend made for very little stress. It's
still one of my favorite memories.
-- Scott Smith; Mount Washington, Kentucky
Getting my son to learn the standing-up thing was hard, so we turned it into a game. I put five Cheerios in the potty and told him to aim at them when he peed. Every time he did it right, he got to pick out a prize from a bag of goodies I picked up at the dollar store. -- Erika Cosentino; Lawrenceville, New Jersey
I've heard all the tricks -- stickers, bribing
with toys, special underpants. But you have to pick something that's consistent
with your parenting style. I didn't use rewards elsewhere, so I didn't want to
start here. What did work: Lots of undivided attention, positive reinforcement,
love, affection and pride when my kids were successful. Making a big deal about
small steps of progress is key.
-- Diane Hund; Elmhurst, Illinois
I didn't use any special stuff -- no kiddie toilets, potty rings, or even
pull-ups -- because the local YMCA where my daughters attended didn't believe
in them. We even had to sign a contract stating that we'd follow their potty
training policy at home. I was instructed to just put the kids (they were
around 2 1/2) on our regular toilet throughout the day when I thought they
had to go. After a week and lots of "Yeah! You did number two!" and
"Good for you! You made a wee-wee!" they were done, with barely any
accidents. All told, I think they were just developmentally ready.
-- Sandra Gordon; Weston, Connecticut