Category Archives: Infant and Toddler

Crib and Mattress Safety: What to Look for at Child Care Facilities

We hope you enjoy this guest post from the experts at the Sleep Help Institute. If you have additional questions about safe sleeping practices, please contact our Infant/Toddler specialists.

Child safety is always at the forefront of both the minds of parents and child care providers. When it comes to sleep safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) developed requirements to protect children when they’re at their most vulnerable. In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics also updated their crib and mattress recommendations. These guidelines still hold today and all child care facilities, and caregivers should abide by them.

WHAT MAKES A CRIB SAFE?

The construction, hardware, placement, and accessories of a crib all contribute to child safety. Standards to watch for include:

  • Bar Space: Sidebars should be spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. That’s about the width of a pop can. A wider space gives enough room for a child’s head to slide through the bars and potentially get injured.
  • Top Rail Height: The distance between the top of the crib rail and the mattress must be at least 26 inches. This should be the distance even when the crib mattress is at the highest position. As children get taller,  caregivers should lower the mattress so the child cannot climb or fall out of the crib.
  • Solid Head and Footboards: Solid headboard and footboards prevent a child’s body and clothing from getting caught in cutouts. Crib models that have bars at the head and foot of the crib should still maintain the 2 3/8-inch distance necessary on sidebars.
  • Remove Corner Posts: Corner posts present a strangulation hazard because clothing can get caught on them.
  • The Mattress: A safe crib mattress should be firm and should not sag under the weight of a child. The mattress should also fit snugly against the crib walls with no space between the two.

Even a crib that meets all the standards can become dangerous if not properly maintained. Child care providers should regularly check cribs for broken and missing pieces. Parents deciding on a facility should ask how often child care providers inspect the cribs.

Once in a while, an old crib that doesn’t meet the new standards may still be in use, including drop-side cribs. Today, drop-side cribs cannot be manufactured, sold, or even donated because of the danger they pose. These cribs were designed to give caregivers easy access to the baby with a side (or two) that could be lowered. However, a lowered side created a gap between the mattress and crib rail where children could get caught. The moving hardware necessary for these cribs also tended to break and warped, which led to preventable injuries.

MORE THAN A CRIB MAKES SLEEPING SAFE

Child safety requires more than the right hardware. The location and contents of the crib can also make a difference. For example:

  • Caregivers should not place cribs near windows. Drafts can make the baby uncomfortable while cords and strings pose a strangulation hazard.
  • Bumpers aren’t necessary. Bumpers were designed to prevent children from hurting themselves by running into the side of the crib. However, they pose more danger than they prevent as they can be a potential suffocation and strangulation hazard.
  • Stuffed animals and extra blankets may look cute but they aren’t necessary and can be a suffocation hazard. They also make a good step stool for older children, putting them at risk of falling out of the crib.

COMMITMENT TO SAFETY

Parents can and should discuss their safety concerns with any potential child care provider. A child care provider that’s up-to-date on the latest standards will be more than happy address any and all safety concerns.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons license.

Healthy Eating and Cooking with Children

by Molly Manley, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator

Looking for a way to learn and grow with your kids, while also promoting healthy eating? Get on your aprons, and get ready to whip up something delicious with your children or those in your care. Cooking with children can promote lifetime skills such as:

  • Basic Math – Cooking involves counting, addition, shapes, sizes, and measurements.
  • Science – Highlight growing food or changing forms, like liquids and solids.
  • Language – Conversations with children while cooking will increase their language development and ability to follow instructions. Creating simple recipe cards with instructions is also a useful tool. Obtain children’s books from the library that pertain to the type of foods they will be eating.
  • Art – Have children draw pictures of the foods they ate.  Ask them to create a picture by painting with yogurt, or glue cereal to a piece of paper.

GO ON A FOOD ADVENTURE

Cooking with children also encourages them to explore new foods and how food gets to our tables. Discuss where food comes from, plant a garden, or take a field trip to the grocery store or a farm. This will give them a better understanding of what they are eating.

It would also be a good idea to shop around for child size utensils, cups, bowls and pitchers. This will make it easier for the child to prepare and serve themselves. We are promoting self-help skills, and, if the child has a difficult time succeeding, it may prompt them to quit out of frustration.

TRY OUT A NEW AND FUN RECIPE

Below are three simple recipes to try with children.

Fruit and Yogurt Muffin

Ingredients:
1 Whole Grain English Muff
¼ cup of Yogurt- any flavor
¼ cup of fruit- bananas and berries work well

Directions:
Adult: Portion out yogurt and fruit for each child separately.
Adult: Toast English Muffin.
Child: Spread yogurt over English muffin using a spoon.
Child: Add fruit to top.

Pizza Rollups

Ingredients:
1 tube of crescent rolls
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 package of string cheese – cut into quarters (1 ounce each)
1 bag of pepperoni- cut into quarters, unless using minis

Directions:
Adult: Unroll crescent roll dough, separate into 8 triangles.
Child: Place 8 pepperoni pieces on each.
Child: Place a piece of cheese on the short side of the triangle.
Child: Roll up dough starting on the short side and pinch seams to seal.
Adult: Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Serve with ¼ cup of warm pizza sauce
Makes a 8 roll ups.

Celery Snails

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery –  washed and cut in halves
Apples –  cut into slices small enough to fit into celery
Peanut or Almond Butter

Directions:
Adult: Wash and cut celery and apples to appropriate size.
Child:  Spread peanut or almond butter on celery pieces.
Child: Insert apple into middle of celery.

Cover image by Flickr user Andrew Seaman, Creative Commons license.

Can my two-year old read?

by Ann Aull, Early Childhood Adult Educator

We have all seen advertisements of babies and young children reading words off flash cards with proud parents beaming in the background.  While there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of these programs, the truth is that very young children are beginning to gain the skills necessary to be readers.

Adults in children’s lives can be integral in helping children to work on these skills.  How many young children can recognize the golden arches of McDonalds or the cowboy hat in the Arby’s sign? Guess what?  Connecting symbols with meaning is a huge step toward reading.

HOW DO I ENCOURAGE MY CHILD TO BE A READER?

When you are in the car with your children, ask questions about familiar signs and symbols.  If you see a stop sign, you can repeat the word “stop” and spell it. That will help children associate meaning with letters.

Make a photo album with your child of his or her favorite things with the word underneath the picture so they associate the word with the item.  It is through this association that children will eventually associate letters with sounds, sounds with words, and, finally, words with meaning.

SO…WHAT’S THE ANSWER? IS MY TWO-YEAR OLD READING?

The answer to the question above is yes! Your two year old is born curious and hard wired to learn language.  So, he or she is a born reader!

Cover image by Flickr user Dan Hatton, Creative Commons license.

Supporting Breastfeeding in Child Care

by Lauren George, Infant and Toddler Specialist

You have a new baby starting and Mom hands you a bottle. She says “Charlie eats three ounces every two hours.  Here is his milk.  He is breastfed.”  You freak out.  “I’ve never had a breastfed baby before. This cannot be enough milk. What am I supposed to do with this?!”  All these things start racing through your mind.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BREASTFED AND FORMULA-FED BABIES

Yes…breastfed and formula fed infants eat differently, and that can be overwhelming when you aren’t sure what to expect.  And yes, three ounces is enough!  Unlike formula-fed babies, breastfed babies eat based on calories, not volume of milk.  They also typically each much more often than formula-fed babies.  You can expect a breastfed baby to each between 2.5 ounces to 5 ounces every 1.5 to 3 hours.  On the other hand, a formula fed baby is likely eating 6 to 8 ounces of milk every four to five hours.  That’s a huge difference when you compare them!

And what do you do with the breast milk, you may ask!? The same thing you do with formula – handle it as a food. Breast milk can be stored in the same refrigerator as formula and can be stored both fresh or frozen.  It can be heated in the same warmer or under running warm water, and you don’t need gloves to handle it.  See…it is easier than you thought!

SUPPORTING BREASTFEEDING MOMS

And lastly – Mom may need your support.  Tell her she is doing a great job providing breast milk for her baby.  Offer her a place within the classroom where she can nurse at drop off, pick up, and on her break if she chooses to.  Know what resources are available for her in your community, like local support groups or the contact information of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), in case she has any bumps along her breastfeeding journey.

Cover image by Flickr user Jeff Snodgrass, Creative Commons license.

Putting down screens and picking up a book

by Kristin Kahl, Knowledge Manager

Next week is a fantastic opportunity for families.  It’s both Screen-Free Week and Children’s Book Week! You read that right. I said fantastic opportunity, not scary-potential-for-disaster-when-my-kids-don’t-have-something-to-entertain-them-every-second.

I get it. As a working parent of 6- and 8-year-old boys, sometimes this mama just needs a minute of peace. Most of the time, the Kindle does a bang-up job of being my right-hand man to help me get a load of dishes or laundry done. The Wii (who lives in the quiet recesses of the faraway basement) is a great friend whenever the boys are snapping at each other, and I need a way to get a little quiet time.

This week is going to be different. So, I’m going to try to use entertainment other than screens for the kiddos. That’s where the books come in! The boys are old enough to be able to read on their own now. My 8-year-old is working his way through the Harry Potters and The Mysterious Benedict Society series. My 6-year-old feels like such a big kid when he reads the Magic Tree House chapter books. I think it’s also important for me to take some extra time out of my schedule to read with them. We have plenty of favorites I plan to break out, and many more waiting for us at the library.

Thankfully, I work with really wonderful experts who have some great suggestions:

 

 

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

What about you? Tell us about your favorite children’s book in the comments section below.

 

AN UPDATE FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Well, I’m proud to report that our family survived Screen-Free week. As luck has it, it rained just about every day last week. Also, my third grader reported it was the worst planning ever because it also collided with Star Wars Day (May the Fourth). That meant that all six of the original movies were on TV, and the poor kid had to wait to watch them. Yet, we managed to get in some great board game nights and family reading time.

My favorite moment was when my kindergartner decided he wanted to attempt to read The Mysterious Benedict Society like his big brother. Although he could pronounce all the words, he didn’t know what they all meant. So, my third grader sat down with him and acted as a human dictionary for a good while they read it together. It warmed this mama’s heart – thanks Screen-Free week!

Cover image by Flickr user Katie LevesqueCreative Commons license.

Going Back to Work: What does that mean for Breastfeeding?

by Lauren George, Infant/Toddler Specialist & Certified Lactation Counselor

Going back to work or school can be challenging for nursing mothers. Mothers are not sure how many ounces of milk to send in each day, getting baby to take a bottle can be difficult, and finding a provider that understands breastfeeding can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.

BREASTFED BABIES DRINK BASED ON CALORIES, NOT VOLUME.

It will be rare that a breastfed baby ever takes an 8 ounce bottle. Typically, divide 24-30 ounces by the number of feeding in a day. So if baby nurses 10 times a day, then each bottle will be roughly 2.4-3 ounces. It is best to send less milk than more milk. You don’t want all that hard work to go down the drain!

TRY TO PUMP EVERY 2-3 HOURS

Finding time to pump at work can also be challenging. I always pumped when I knew my baby would be eating, so every 2-3 hours. The more you take out, the more milk you make!

IT IS BEST TO INTRODUCE A BOTTLE AT HOME BEFORE BABY’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Try having someone other than mom introduce a bottle first (around 4 weeks old). Try daily with a few ounces each day. Don’t stress out…some babies will take it just fine and others will take it eventually.

FIND A CAREGIVER THAT SUPPORTS MOTHER-INFANT RELATIONSHIPS

As you interview prospective child care providers, you want a provider that is open to you coming in and nursing whenever you get a chance, supports feeding on demand and not on a schedule, and won’t push you to send in more milk than you know your baby needs. Trust yourself as the expert on your baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding!

Additional information, including a milk calculator, can be found on www.kellymom.com.

Cover image by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photostreamCreative Commons license.

STEM Activities for Toddlers

by Rachel Lee George, Paths To QUALITY™ Coach with Infant and Toddler Emphasis

Let’s face it –  the struggle is real. We as adults in general are scared when it comes to thinking of science/math activities to do with toddlers. The word “science” is scary. We aren’t scientists. And, math…well, I can only speak for myself, but, math was definitely not my strong suit growing up.

Over the years as my many roles in early childhood education have evolved and changed, I have strengthened my knowledge in this area and developed a much better understanding and appreciation in this connection between science and math to brain development in toddlers.

As I read my newsfeed before bed at night, I see moms and dads reaching out for advice on how to incorporate science and math into their young toddlers’ lives. I see teachers making comments about the struggle of incorporating science and math into their environments in child care and creating science/math activities.

Here’s where I hope sharing my experience can help.  Below are some activities that are fairly easy and incorporate science and math into the daily routine for toddlers.

SCIENCE

SENSORY BOTTLES OR “OCEAN IN A BOTTLE”

What you need:

  • Water
  • Cooking oil
  • Blue food coloring (or any color)
  • Large bottle. (2-liter pop bottles, mouthwash bottles with child-safe lids, or recycled water bottles work well)
  • Funnel

Instructions:

  1. Have the children assist you with placing the food coloring into the bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle one-third of the way full with water.
  3. Top it off with the oil
  4. Swoosh away
WATER ABSORPTION AND COLOR BLENDING

What you need:

  • Cotton make-up removal pads or coffee filters
  • Liquid watercolor paints (you could use food coloring and water)
  • Droppers/pipettes,
  • Small bowls
  • Vinyl tablecloth (to protect your work surface)
  • Baking rack

Instructions:

  1. Fill small bowls with water, place a few drops of food coloring into the water, you can use multiple bowls with different colors of food coloring.
  2. Then, use the droppers and place them into the bowls with colored water, and then drip the colored water onto the cotton pads and watch the colors absorb, blend and expand.
  3. Place on baking rack to dry.

MATH

SORTING ACTIVITY

What you need:

  • Cupcake tin
  • Rocks, beans (supervised if beans are small), pom pom balls, or anything that can be collected in abundance and has some color to it
  • Sand or water

Instructions:

  1. Let the child fill the cupcake holes with the materials.
  2. Talk about: How full they are, which is fuller, or which one is less full. How many colors are in each hole and compare/contrast. How many items in one hole as compared to items in the next hole
FILLING AND POURING WITH MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS

What you need:

  • Sand table or small aluminum foil bins
  • Sand or substitute such as water, rice, cornmeal, or oatmeal
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Scoops
  • Shovels

Discuss:

This activity gives you the opportunity to talk with children about numbers, weight (which is heavier, lighter), fill (empty/full), equal, greater. All of those words are easy to introduce during sand play.

You may choose to use individual bins rather than a common sand table to allow two or more children to explore at one time.  We all know that when one child is interested, they all tend to want to come over as well to see what’s happening.

Remember – there are so many things that are math and science related on daily walks through the neighborhood or park. Point out simple things like looking on the ground as you walk with your toddlers. Seeing worms or ants on the concrete might produce a long discussion about texture, size, how it feels, smooth, soft, shapes, or shadows from the sunlight.

Daily trips to and from work or home in the car can provide other great discussion topics. Firetruck sirens, airplane sounds, water fountains, stoplight colors and shapes, the wind from a cracked window, small and large school buses….there are so many simple yet dismissed conversations that we have. As parents, we often don’t realize those missed opportunities where we can extend learning by asking just a few more open-ended questions. We can always engage toddlers and young children more. Be creative to dig deeper and build that core knowledge from the beginning.

Cover image source.

How to Promote Learning with Infants

by Dawn Johnson,  former Paths to QUALITY Coach with Infant/Toddler Emphasis

A lifelong love of learning starts from the earliest moments. Babies love sharing time with their parents or primary caregivers (at home and school) and some babies love to spend time with other babies. Providing a safe, nurturing environment for babies (including positive language) will help develop a love of learning (oh, and build the brain—did you know that by age 3, 80% of an infant’s brain is wired?). When children have a strong desire to learn from the prewiring done from birth to age 3, the brain development will increase to 90% by age 5 AND, will have a stronger chance of staying wired through active learning experiences throughout life.

ACTIVITIES TO PROMOTE A LIFELONG LOVE OF LEARNING (AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT):

Please note infants learn through total sensory integration. The more senses the baby can use to learn about the object, the easier it is for the baby to retain information about the object.

CLAY

Get a large block of clay from an art store, leave whole or cut in half, put on a sheet of plastic or canvas, add a bit of water and let infants explore! You might need to show your baby it’s ok to touch the clay. While he or she is exploring the clay, you will want to talk about what is happening. “You are touching the clay, and it’s smooth. What do you think about it? Can you poke the clay?”

CLOTH STRIPS 

Cloth strips can be used to weave in and out of a laundry basket (you might do most of the weaving and the infant most of the removing!), for a game of peek-a-boo, to fill and dump from a bucket, as something to hold or chew on. You will find that some children prefer cotton over satin or fleece over Sherpa.

SINGING SONGS

Infants love to hear your voice and they develop a love of math through rhythm and rhyme. While singing with infants, move your head or body to the rhythm, hold the babies and dance with them, clap your hands, pat your legs, etc.

BALLS

Small balls, bumpy balls, squishy balls, large balls, any and all balls provide so many opportunities for learning! Even our youngest infants can watch balls roll or bounce. Infants will hold, drop, lick, throw, bounce, and crawl after balls. Balls provide opportunities for new vocabulary and multiple opportunities to talk about math and science—colors, size, what’s in the ball, why does it bounce, why does it roll, etc. Adults can describe the balls and ask inquiring questions about the balls.

YOU

Infants want to play with YOU! You have fingers, toes, shirts, pants, shoes, hair, eyes, mouths, etc. Infants want to touch you and hear you and play with you. The best thing you can do with an infant is provide the infant with unconditional love and attention, be on the babies level, talk with baby all day, sing with baby, take baby outside and let baby touch the grass, feel the breeze, hear the birds, smell the fresh scent of rain.

Cover image by Flickr user Dean WissingCreative Commons license.

October is SIDS Awareness Month!

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness month. About 3,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the U.S.* Although sometimes the cause is unknown, there are several actions that parents and caregivers can take to lessen the risk for babies.

Our Infant/Toddler Specialists, Lauren George and Katherine Coleman, are passionate about educating parents and caregivers on safe sleep. They work with providers every day to help make sure their environments are safe.  Some of the practices they often see but must be avoided are:

  • Loose sheets – Loose fitting sheets are one of the biggest violations Lauren and Katherine see.  When looking for sheets, it is always best to try one before purchasing for the entire facility. In general, avoid jersey fabric sheets.  Good-fitting full-size crib sheets are typically easy to find, but sheets that are tight fitting and don’t roll the mattress can be difficult to find for pack-and-plays and porta-cribs. . Pack-and-play sheets should be the “Pack-and-Play” brand quilted sheet. Recommended brands for porta-crib sheet include Koala (Walmart), Babies-R-Us, and American Baby (Amazon).
  • Sleeping in devices like swings, bouncers, and car seats – Infants should always placed to sleep on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress, in a safety-approved crib, porta-crib, or play yard. If the infant falls asleep in another surface (carrier, car seat, swing) immediately remove him/her and place in a safety approved crib, porta-crib, or pack-and-play.
  • Sleeping with bibs, pacifier cords, or wubanubs – These devices may cover the face or present a strangulation hazard.  Crib gyms, crib toys, mobiles, mirrors, and all objects/toys are prohibited in or attached to an infant’s crib. You should not clip or attach pacifiers to the infant or the crib.
  • Blankets in the crib – Keep all blankets, pillows, quilts, and bumpers out of the infant’s sleep area. Instead of a blanket, place the infant to sleep in sleep clothing such as a one-piece sleeper. Do not swaddle infants using blankets – swaddling is not recommended in child care.
  • Stomach sleeping – Infants under one year of age are always placed on theirbacks  to sleep, for naps and at night. Although common myths may lead people to believe stomach sleeping avoids choking, studies show that babies may actually clear secretions better when placed on their backs.
  • Medical device used without Medical Waiver Form – Unless a doctor specifies the need for a positioning device that restricts movement within the child’s crib, do not use these devices. This must be written on the Medical Waiver and completed/signed from the physician.

For more information about SIDS and safe sleep, see our Safe Sleep Handout Packet. Lauren and Katherine also offer Safe Sleep trainings throughout the year. See our Training Calendar for details. Also watch our Facebook page for SIDS awareness posts throughout October!

 

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/features/sidsawarenessmonth/

What to Look for in an Infant Room

by Dawn Johnson, former Child Care Answers QUALITY Coach

Every parent’s worst fear is leaving their child with an unsafe child care provider. Just looking around the care provider’s room can give you insight into how safe your infant is and the quality of care they will be receiving. A few things to observe and evaluate are your child’s caregivers, the quality of the room, toys and supplies in it, and the importance your child’s center places on parent communication and family engagement.

CAREGIVERS: WHERE ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Excellent infant caregivers will be constantly engaged with the infants both physically and verbally. Infant caregivers should spend the majority of their day sitting or lying on the floor with the infants, talking about the infant’s actions “You have the measuring cup in your mouth. It is metal. How does it feel/taste?” and talking about what is happening around them “Aiden is reaching for your hand.”

You should hear the caregivers announce what is coming next, “I’m going to wash my hands and get your bottle warmed up” or “You’re bottle is ready, and I’m going to pick you up so we can wash your hands”. You might also hear a caregiver respond to an infant’s cry with reassurance when involved in a caregiving moment with another infant, “I can hear you crying, you are safe. I am feeding Sam right now and will feed you next.” The caregivers should be aware of each infant and available to meet each infant’s needs by placing themselves near the infants and engaging with the infants.

SUPPLIES: ARE THEY GOOD QUALITY AND AGE APPROPRIATE?

Here’s a short list of items that compliment an infants’ explorations:

  • Shatterproof mirrors
  • Balls
  • Items to grasp such as rattles
  • Items to chew on such as teethers
  • Blocks
  • Measuring cups
  • Buckets
  • Items to fill buckets that cannot fit in baby’s mouth
  • Sturdy furniture to pull up on and cruise around
  • Books that represent the routines in their world
  • A variety of colors

These items are open ended and allow for infants to begin problem solving. None of the items should be broken or hazardous to infants.

FAMILY: IS IT WELL-REPRESENTED?

Each infant’s family should be represented in the room through photos, favorite books, songs, and culture. Photos might be found on cribs, in photo books, on the floor, on walls or shelves-anywhere that the infant might be able to see the photo. We also hope that when possible, family members will stop by the room or stay for a few minutes at drop off or pick up to show the infant that the infant room is a safe place for exploration.

Although there is an endless list of things a parent should look for, this is a good start to feeling comfortable with your infant’s care provider. If any of these things are missing in your infant’s room, talk to a teacher in the room to express your concerns. If you need help finding high-quality infant care need you, Child Care Answers can help. Their Child Care Referral Specialists can be reached at 1-800-272-2937.

Cover image by Flickr user Anthony DoudtCreative Commons license.