Viola’s Parent Question’s Corner

Viola’s Parent Question’s Corner

Dear Ms. Viola,

I heard that May 2nd-8th is Screen-Free Week. How bad can screen time really be for my preschooler? What are your thoughts on this issue?

Oh yes! The great screen time dilemma, finding the balance between young children and technology. Research shows that excessive screen time can undermine children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development. It can limit their vocabulary and their attention spans, while increasing their risk of anxiety, aggression, and sleep disturbances. Too much screen time inhibits children’s natural creativity and curiosity, thus, making it difficult for them to access their imagination. The instant gratification and excitement of the screen can make creative play seem dull and boring, which can effect future educational success. Spending too much time with electronics inhibits social skills as well. Putting the kibosh on screen time may take a little bit of doing, but what better way to start modifying the hold technology has over us, by taking a break for a week. So unplug Netflix, say “see you later” tablets, consoles, computers, and television, and plug in with your kids. Build a block tower, take a walk, share a book, and enjoy some good old fashioned face to face time.

*The American Association of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time for children under two, and one to two hours a day for children older than two.

Ms. Viola,

I have to be honest, the idea of mud and messy play freaks me out. Why should I let my preschooler participate in the upcoming Mud Day on June 29th?

Great question! It just so happens I was reading a list on the top 5 reasons why we should let children play in the mud from Let the Children Here is what it tell us:

1. Playing in the mud can make you happier.

Scientist have discovered something that children have always known- playing in the mud can lift your mood. Recent studies have revealed that dirt contains microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae which increases the levels of seratonin in our brains helping to relax, soothe and calm.

2. Playing in the mud connects you to nature.

3. Playing in the mud can make you healthier.

Research has shown that playing in the dirt- including very wet dirt- is good for a child’s immune system.

4. Playing in the mud helps develop positive dispositions.

Having an area for mud play provides a space for children to retreat to for some time alone in a soothing sensory experience or to play with peers, co-operating, communicating, negotiating and sharing.

5. Playing in the mud encourages creative thinking.

Playing with open-ended materials like mud, stimulates creativity and imagination .Sensory, hands-on play, feeds children’s brains.

Try to embrace it and trust that this will be an amazing experience for your preschooler!

My child loves books, do you have any favorites for preschoolers?

Of course. I love books, too! While as parents we intuitively know that reading is beneficial for children, more and more research is being collected proving the significance of reading for the developing brain. Reading to children exposes them to wider variety of vocabulary, increasing their word knowledge and language development, lending itself to future educational success. Plus, who doesn’t like to snuggle up with a good book?

Here is a handful of my favorite classics, sprinkled with some new and quality reads.

Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf

Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

The Magic Fish by Freya Littledale

Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin & Eric Carle

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (by various authors)

The Little Red Hen (by various authors)

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

What Pet Should I Get? By Dr. Seuss

The Fly by Petr Horacek

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold

Good Thing You’re Not An Octopus by Julie Markes & Maggie Smith

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir & Surishtha Sehgal & Jess Golden

Sick Simon by Dan Krall

The Magic Brush by Robert Goodman

What Do you Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes, The I love You Book, The Thankful Book, The Earth Book, It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr

See you at the library!

Dear Ms. Viola,

My son has recently returned to school after a long holiday and he has started biting his schoolmates over toys and territory. I’m trying my best to help him understand that biting is not correct, that he has to learn to share, and to express his frustration with his words. What can I do to help him?

Children usually bite to cope with a challenge or fulfill a need. Trying to figure out the underlying cause of the biting will often lead you to the best strategy to extinguish this normal, but undesirable behavior.

The reasons toddlers bite might be several. First of all it can be caused by a lack of language skills. Biting is often a substitute for expressing not only frustration or anger, but excitement and happiness, even when they want to interact and play with someone. Being overwhelmed by sounds, light or activity level can be a catalyst too. Experimenting to see what will happen, being overly tired, teething and a need for oral stimulation can also be a trigger.

Take into consideration what was happening right before the bite. Who was bitten? Is it always the same child or a different child each time?

Keeping with the old saying, “…an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…”. Watch your child at play so you can begin to anticipate when a biting incident might occur. Reduce tension and shift your child’s attention by distracting him with books, toys, or conversation when he seems on the edge of biting. Offer suggestions on how to use his words if the biting trigger is related to sharing space, toys, or activities. Sharing is one of the most common triggers for biting. Reading children’s books about biting can offer opportunities to problem solve, talk, and make connections how others feel about being bit.

What to do after a bite has occurred? In a firm, matter of fact voice say, “No biting. Biting hurts.” Keep it short, simple, and clear. Comment on how the other child is feeling. Shift your focus and energy to the child who was bitten. Showing concern and sympathy for the child who was hurt models empathy. Many times a lot of attention is given to the child who is biting, thus reinforcing the biting behavior and encouraging it to continue.

Learning a new behavior, or stopping one takes time. Pay close attention during your child’s interactions and stay consistent. Repeating the mantra, “No biting. Biting hurts.” If your toddler continues to bite or the biting increases over time meeting with a child development specialist might be beneficial. They can help you identify a reason, and develop strategies tailored made for your child.

Dear Ms. Viola,

Why does my child’s preschool teacher want my child to practice cutting at home? How can I help my child safely?

Learning how to use scissors is an important skill, it helps children develop the fine motor strength needed to use a pencil. Strong fine motor skills help children as they begin to learn how to write, and are the foundation for gripping and manipulating objects.

Prior to using scissors, tearing paper is an excellent activity to build fine motor skills. Moving their hands in opposite directions and practicing their tripod grasp (thumb and first two fingers) helps build the same muscle group.

Both cutting and tearing paper help develop hand eye and bilateral coordination. Hand eye coordination as the child holds the paper with one hand and cuts or tears with the other, tracking the movement with their eyes as they go. Bilateral coordination as they use both sides of their body at the same time, while each hand is performing a different task, i.e. one hand cuts the paper, the other hand holds/turns the paper.

Hole punchers, spray bottles, tweezers, tongs, and eyedroppers are other tools to help strengthen fine motor skills. Play dough, wrapping and unwrapping pool noodles/muffin tins/small toys with rubber bands, threading beads on pipe cleaners, and lacing cards are just a few examples of activities you can try too.

Additional tips for scissor success: Self-Opening Loop training scissors are very helpful check on Amazon.

Use high quality children’s scissors: cheap or plastic scissors often don’t cut as well and can lead to a frustrating cutting experience.

Build confidence and skill by snipping narrow paper strips, straws, and play dough. Fringe the edges of paper to build stamina. Remind and show your child where their fingers belong- thumb on top. Mark the top spot of scissors if need be. It takes time, and lots of practice, but soon your child will be a “cut” above!

Dear Ms. Viola,

My two-year old son has serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and doesn’t want to take naps. He takes naps at preschool but battles them at home – sometimes it takes 3+ hours to get him to sleep and then we waste our whole day.

We have a routine where we read books before nap and we don’t let him leave his bed until he naps. Do you have any other suggestions to make nap time easier and more enjoyable?

Creating and implementing an effective nap routine is sometimes easier said than done. Especially if your little one is refusing to take a nap.

Trying to solve this age-old parenting dilemma, with a one size fits all approach, often leads to frustration.

Intuitively, we know naps are important for young children. Sleep supports learning, memory growth, and happiness for everyone involved.

Understanding that between the ages of 18-24 months and again at 36 to 42 months, children experience a cognitive growth spurt, often leading to a desire for autonomy, can be a useful bit of information. Fighting naps is just one of many things that children do to flex their independence muscles.

You mention spending 3+ hours trying to wrangle him to nap. It’s possible that he no longer needs the extra sleep. Don’t force it. Difficulty falling asleep, skipping naps, while showing no negative side effects, (grouchiness, fatigue) are indicators that he might be outgrowing them.

However, if your child nods off late in the afternoon, shows increased aggression or crankiness, it’s not the time to put away the blanket yet.

Try changing strategies, and swap it out for 30 to 60 minutes of quiet alone time looking at books or cuddling with a favorite snuggle /quiet toy. Taking a break in a relaxing and calm environment is important for everyone.

Establishing simple pre-nap and naptime routines are equally important for nap time success. Stick to a sleep schedule, and that includes bedtime, wake up and naptime. Routines help trigger everyone’s natural body clock.

Altering times can throw off internal circadian rhythms, causing you to miss that sweet spot of slumber and run head on into a serious case of the grumps.

Don’t help too much. Though the path to napping is often paved with good intentions, being overly involved can create a situation that your child can’t fall asleep on his own. Who wouldn’t love lunch and show? Create a calming atmosphere conducive for sleep. Read a book together, dim the lights, turn off the T.V., and turn on meditation music. Follow your routines. Remember, routines help trigger the body clock, sending silent signals that it is time to unwind.

Childhood is a glorious time for exploring the world, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. With their new-found skill sets and growing sense of adventure, FOMO is just one of many experiences to be navigated through.

What are your suggestions to let my daughter enjoy Valentine’s Day without filling her with candy?

Mom of a sweet-tooth

Candy, candy, candy! Hearts abound this time of year, whether it’s chocolate, conversation, or marsh-mallow. Breaking, or not starting on, the sugar train can be a challenge. We’ve grown accustomed to heart shaped lollipops, or candy kisses lovingly taped to mini envelopes, with a Valentine pencil thrown in for good measure. With food allergies on the rise and growing research supporting the negative effects of sugar on the growing brain, many parents and schools are encouraging non-edible Valentine treats. Checking out the party favor isle is often a simple and cost effective way to round up 12-24 similar pint sized items. Find an army of frogs? Or a knot of toads? Here’s wishing you a “ toad-ally hoppy’ Valentine’s Day. A clowder of cats? That’s just ‘purr-fect’! Planes, trains, and automobiles? Soaring into the sugar free zone will be “wheelie” easy if you choochoo-choose it! It’s “a-mazing” ( mini maze), once you start, you can’t “bear” to stop! This newly acquired skill will surely impress the love bugs in your life (insects), making it easy to “bounce” (super ball) away from the sugary treats. Seriously, you’ll be “blown” away (bubbles) with how fun puns can be! If you “stick” with it, (gluemstick) you’ll be sure to create some “a’doh’able” (play-dough) one liners! Here’s “looking” forward (sunglasses) to a bright and healthy Valentine’s Day

Dear Ms. Viola P. Swamp,

My daughter always has a hard time adjusting to daylight savings time changes. Do you have any suggestions for making the transition easier?

Not Looking Forward to Spring Forward

Dear Not Looking Forward to Spring Forward,

Daylight savings can be hard on the whole family. Keep in mind these four easy steps to make this year a little easier on your child and yourself.

Start gradually.

About a week before the big switch, start extending your child’s bedtime by 15 minute increments until your child is going to bed as close to the new bedtime as possible. Try waking them up earlier in similar fashion if keeping them awake is too challenging.

Stick to their bedtime routine.

Maintaining normal bedtime rituals, like bath, book, cuddling, and quiet time, can help foster calming signals conducive for sleep.

Manage the light and limit technology.

Our internal biological clocks, called circadian rhythms, create an internal timing mechanism for sleep and wakefulness. Melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate our internal clocks, increases as it becomes darker, facilitating sleep. Close the blinds and dim the lights as bed time approaches. Melatonin shuts down when light is out. Open the blinds early in the morning upon waking to let the sunshine in. Using light emitting devices decreases melatonin, so limit technology close to bed time, especially during this adjustment period.

Be patient.

It takes most people, big or small, about a week to acclimate to a new sleep pattern. Cut yourself, and your little one, some slack as you spring forward.

As we get ready to Spring Forward consider adding these five household tasks to your routine.

    1. Replace smoke/carbon monoxide alarm batteries. The National Fire Protection Association suggests replacing your smoke and CO alarm batteries twice a year. While you’re at it do a quick test and double check placement.
    2. Replace the filters in your air conditioner and heater.
    3. Change out the baking soda in the freezer and the fridge.
    4. Update your emergency and earthquake kits. Add new batteries, water, canned goods, medications, and larger or additional clothing if children or family has grown. Don’t forget about your pets! They need food and water too.
    5. Take a nap! Monday March 13, 2017 is o”cially National Napping Day. Do your part and give yourself a little R & R.