SmartEarly Daycare Blog

Aug 30, 2016

Helping Your Child When a Grandparent Is Ill

By |August 30th, 2016|Childhood Development, Parents|0 Comments

From surgeries to outpatient cancer treatments, there are many acute or ongoing health-related issues that our family members may encounter. For many children, a grandparent’s serious illness is their first experience with a loved one being sick. Even when these illnesses aren’t life-threatening, they can be upsetting and difficult for children to understand.

Experts agree that the best way to help your children cope with a grandparent’s illness is to be honest about the situation. Even if you don’t say anything to your child about a grandparent’s illness, your child may notice changes in grandma or grandpa’s mood, activities, and/or energy level. They may notice that they haven’t been seeing their grandparent as regularly.

If you don’t provide an explanation for a grandparent’s changes and/or absences, children are likely to make up stories to explain the situation to themselves. As social workers who specialize in caring for children have noted, the stories that children make up can be more scary than their actual family situations.

The key in telling your child about a grandparent’s illness is being honest without over-sharing. Kids don’t need—or want—to know everything about a medical situation. Young children won’t be able to understand medical details, and for a child of any age, too much information at one time can result in a feeling of overwhelm.

It’s important to respect your own feelings, too, about your parent’s illness and to find a way of talking to your child that seems right to you. When your parent is ill, you’re experiencing your own stress, anxiety, and so on. Be sure to take a quiet moment to gather your thoughts and carefully plan what you want to share with your child. Choose a time that feels right, rather […]

Jun 28, 2016

Summer Activities to Encourage Learning

By |June 28th, 2016|Arts and Crafts, Childhood Development, How To|0 Comments

Summertime plans often lean toward travel and vacations, but some of the best parts of summer are the relaxed days that families spend together at home or close to home. There are lots of fun, inexpensive ways to spend time with your children and to help them develop a healthy, receptive attitude toward learning new things about the world around them as they explore their own skills too.

You can help your kids discover an interest in science by simply spending time in your own backyard or at a local park and observing nature. While eating lunch outside, see how many different animals you can notice, from butterflies to squirrels. Be sure to listen as well as look for animals.

Educational websites like have lots of ideas for nature-themed activities for the youngest children. For example, if your child is curious about bugs, try scooping the flesh out of an orange or grapefruit, turning the empty halves upside down, and leaving them outside overnight; in the morning, turn them over to see what insects have come to visit.

Plant life also catches the interest of tiny scientists-in-training. Take a nature walk around your neighborhood and collect bits and pieces like leaves, twigs, and blossoms. If you buy a pack of solar print paper at a local toy or craft store (or online), you can then arrange the pieces you collect on a piece of special photo paper to leave in the sun and make a sun print. Kids enjoy arranging their collections of treasures from nature on the photo paper and then seeing the shapes left behind when the print develops.

Gardening is another fun learning activity. You can incorporate skills like counting as you count how many […]

Apr 1, 2016

The Importance of Setting Limits for Young Children

By |April 1st, 2016|Childhood Development, How To, Parents|0 Comments

One of the surprises of parenting is learning that children actually like for their parents to set limits. Limits help children to know what to expect every day, and help them feel safe. Of course, this is hard to remember in the moment when a child is engaged in resisting even the mildest limit you’ve set, such as not going out into the rain without wearing a coat.

Children aren’t going to say thank you for setting limits—quite the opposite! On a deeper level, limits help develop young children’s sense of security. Limits will also help you feel more secure as a parent, because when you know your child is used to hearing and following guidelines from you, you will feel more comfortable in a situation where safety is an issue (such as approaching a busy street when walking together), that your child will listen rather than ignore you.

It’s important to be able to set limits and enforce consequences when limits aren’t followed. Fortunately, for young children, consequences can be simple. One technique is to give a child a “time-in” where he or she sits quietly in a chair in the same room with you for as many minutes as the child’s age—so, for example, a three-year-old would sit for just three minutes. Setting a timer to keep track of the time will work well as it helps the child connect the consequence to another cue besides the parent.

Timers can be helpful in other ways when it comes to setting limits. For example, you might tell children that there’s just ten more minutes of playtime before dinner and that when the timer goes off, they’ll need to put their toys away. This type of limit setting […]

Mar 21, 2016

Ideas to Increase a Child’s Attention Span

By |March 21st, 2016|Childhood Development, How To, Parents|0 Comments

In 1950, psychologist Gertrude Hildreth described the attention spans of six-year-old children by saying, “Children of this age seem built for action rather than sitting still.” As parents and teachers know, toddlers and preschoolers often seem to be built for nonstop action.

It’s common for adults to find themselves on the verge of losing their patience when young children resist even the most gentle encouragement to focus on a particular task. The good news is that we can help children slowly but surely increase their attention spans by modeling focused attention ourselves.

A good place to start is to practice giving a child your undivided attention. Sometimes our attention is unavoidably scattered as dinner’s in the oven, the phone rings, a sibling needs a diaper change, or all of the above. When you can find stretches of time to focus one-on-one with a child, this provides a solid model for how to pay attention. It doesn’t have to be long: aim for 10 to 20 minutes, but even five minutes of undivided attention will model focused behavior.

Another tip is to spend time in close physical proximity with your child. It’s easy to wander in and out of the room when your child is playing, but it can really help to make an effort to set aside chunks of time where you’re close together. This closeness makes it natural to pay attention to each other as you engage in a shared activity or even just talk to each other.

When your child calls out a question or starts talking to you, be sure to come into the same room, sit or stand close to your child, and make eye contact as you respond. It’s tempting to shout out a […]

Mar 6, 2016

The Benefits of Reading to Your Infant

By |March 6th, 2016|Childhood Development|1 Comment

Is it ever too early to start reading to your child? More and more experts say that there are benefits in reading to even the youngest of children. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations in 2014 which specifically asked pediatricians to suggest to parents of infants that they start reading to their babies.

Reading to your child starting in infancy helps gives him or her a boost when it comes to language learning and processing, which leads to greater literacy. Regular reading time also improves vocabulary; studies have shown that kids who were read to on a routine basis as infants have larger vocabularies as toddlers and preschoolers than those whose parents didn’t read to them.

According to the website for Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit organization that partners with doctors and clinic staff to give books to low-income children at medical appointments to help encourage parents to read to their children, “Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to language development. Among other things, reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.”

Children who are read to as infants are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to read. Not only does reading to your child help with their early childhood development, but it’s also a good predictor of school success later on because children who have positive experiences with books starting as newborns tend to have overall positive associations with books, reading, and learning.

When it comes to becoming familiar with language as a young child, there’s a big difference between hearing language read or spoken on television or digital media, and hearing the voice of a person you know reading to you as […]

Feb 23, 2016

Building Self Esteem in Young Children

By |February 23rd, 2016|Childhood Development, How To|0 Comments

When children feel good about themselves and have a healthy sense that they are valued as people, it doesn’t mean that they have an inflated idea of themselves—instead, it means they have a realistic perception of themselves and their developing strengths. It also means that they feel OK about practicing new skills and trying and trying again when something doesn’t go their way the first time.

You can start early by responding to cues from your infant in a prompt and consistent way to help your child feel connected to you and that you’re listening to his or her needs. When a baby cries and is comforted, and when a child looks at a parent and sees a loving smile, this creates a sense of well-being that lays important groundwork for your child’s entire life.

Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, parents of eight children and longtime pediatric medicine practitioners, describe the positive and negative influences on children’s self-esteem as “builders” (positive) and “breakers” (negative). In short, you want to bring more builders into your child’s life and avoid or teach techniques to deal with breakers.

Later on in childhood, breakers are harder to avoid as children encounter more influences in the world, but for toddlers and preschoolers, breakers are typically ways that children interact with their parents. For example, as a parent, you want to avoid self-esteem breakers like teasing your child, ignoring or dismissing children’s concerns, labeling or passing judgement on children (saying things like “you’re so difficult!”), pressuring your child, and expecting and/or encouraging perfection.

One of the most important things you can do to build self-esteem in your child is to demonstrate good self-esteem in yourself. Be sure not to talk down about yourself; avoid self-deprecating […]

Feb 22, 2016

Important Differences Between Adult and Child CPR

By |February 22nd, 2016|Parents|0 Comments

Important Differences Between Adult and Child CPR

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which involves assisting someone of any age when his or her heartbeat and breathing have stopped. There are two main steps to CPR: providing chest compressions to keep the blood moving when the heart isn’t pumping, and providing rescue breathing to give the lungs oxygen when someone can’t breathe on their own. You also check for a blocked airway.

The process of CPR is similar for assisting adults, young children, or infants, but there are key differences. CPR training defines an infant as a child who is less than a year old, a child as someone older than a year but who hasn’t reached puberty, and an adult as anyone who is at the age of puberty or older. Along with differences between adult and child CPR, there are also differences between child and infant CPR.

In contrast with adults, it isn’t usually cardiac arrest that causes a child to go unconscious. Typically, if the breathing and/or heartbeat in a baby or child stops, it’s the result of choking, suffocation, drowning, or another injury. In fact, infants and children are more likely than adults to survive following immediate CPR because kids’ bodies are more resilient than adults and because it’s usually an airway blockage that causes them to need CPR. It’s crucial that kids receive CPR right away to increase their likelihood of survival.

Before starting CPR, check that the infant or child is unconscious. With adult CPR, it’s generally recommended that you tap or shake the person, but be sure not to shake an infant. Methods to determine if a baby is responsive include tapping or flicking the soles of the baby’s feet or gently stroking […]

Feb 8, 2016

Ideas for a Restful Bedtime Routine

By |February 8th, 2016|How To|0 Comments

Bedtime can be challenging. Kids sometimes feel reluctant to go to bed and allow a good day to come to an end—and on a hard day, it can be even more difficult for kids to relax into sleep. Fortunately, children thrive on routine, and establishing a comforting and predictable series of bedtime activities can be a calming way to end the day and ease your child into sleep.

Start by establishing a schedule for bedtime and for wake-up time as well. It helps to stick with the same schedule on the weekend, too. Making sure that your child gets enough sleep is important when it comes to physical as well as emotional health. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers between age one and two get 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, and that preschoolers between ages three and five get 10 to 13 hours.

In the evening, try gradually shifting into your bedtime routine by encouraging quieter activities. Set aside the hour before bedtime for quiet playtime. It’s best to avoid TV or other screen time as the bright light and mental stimulation from screens can make your child more wakeful. For the first part of a bedtime routine, a warm bath can be a time for relaxing play, and it raises the body temperature slightly, also making it easier to feel sleepy.

Another good transitional activity is to give your child a light, healthy bedtime snack about an hour before bed. Young children have small stomachs and need to eat small amounts throughout the day. A bedtime snack that combines protein and carbohydrates can help your child feel sleepy as well as allow him or her to sleep more comfortably during the night and […]

Feb 1, 2016

Healthy (and Easy) Lunch Ideas for Toddlers

By |February 1st, 2016|Nutrition|0 Comments

Whether you’re fixing lunch for your toddler to eat at home or packing a lunchbox for him or her to take to school, young children need lots of healthy choices. Kids like to be able to choose from a selection of food options, and it doesn’t take much time to prepare foods that are healthy as well as easy for little hands to manage.

Pediatricians tell us that it’s normal for kids to experience day to day (or moment to moment!) fluctuations in the amount of foods they eat. Some days, kids might seem to be eating nonstop, while other days kids might seem to hardly eat more than a mouthful or two. The key for parents is to provide a variety of healthy foods for meals and snacks, giving kids a little freedom to pick and choose—but to pick and choose from lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins like yogurt, cheese, and peanut butter.

The best place to start meal-planning is with fruits and vegetables. If you’re short on time, you can find many pre-sliced fruits and vegetables, ready to go as finger foods from the moment you buy them. It’s more affordable and only takes a few more minutes to buy whole produce and slice it yourself. Popular choices for kids are sliced bananas, apples, pears, mangos, carrots, sweet peppers, and cucumbers.

Try different foods with your child at home to find new favorites, and remember that tastes can change, so try and try again. It can also help to involve your child in the grocery shopping experience, which can include activities like looking at grocery store fliers together, making shopping lists, and of course going to the store.

If you look at processed foods […]

Jan 27, 2016

Exercise for Children

By |January 27th, 2016|Childhood Development|0 Comments

As parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers know very well, young children seem to always be in motion except when they’re asleep. Still, it’s a good idea to start thinking about adult-led, structured physical fitness activities for children who are two and older, rather than just assuming that your child gets enough exercise from moving around the house. Also, the best way to encourage kids to exercise is when adults teach by example, and it’s never to early to start building a lifetime of physical fitness.

For young children, the best way to offer physical exercise is through fun, creative games and easy everyday activities. Try adding a few extra minutes of exercise to routine activities for both you and your child. For example, when you go shopping, park a little farther away and walk to the store together. Or are there any errands you can do by walking around your neighborhood rather than driving from place to place?

Be your child’s favorite playmate and lead by example, sharing fun experiences each day. In addition to walking, other fun activities to do with your child include dancing, visiting local parks or playgrounds, riding bikes or tricycles, and playing traditional games like tag and follow the leader. The best place to exercise with kids is generally in your own home or backyard. Throw or roll a ball back and forth. Toss beanbags into a basket or bucket. You don’t need to buy any special equipment to exercise with your child.

Children often like to help around the house, and they can engage in parallel play and enjoy healthy physical activity while sweeping the floor with their own small broom, gardening or digging in the sandbox with their own tools […]

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