Choosing age appropriate toys for kids of all ages

Choosing age appropriate toys for kids of all ages

Before you set out to find the perfect toy for your child, you must understand that the best toy for the child is sitting right at home. That’s you! Yes, you are your child’s most interesting and nurturing toy in the whole wide world. But there are times when you can’t be with him/her full time. That’s when the other toys come in. But these should be reserved for play only when you can’t be around to play with your child.

Toys and games for newborn and babies:

You are your child’s best toy and playmate at this stage. She enjoys watching your face, movements, expressions and enjoys feeling your loving touch. Since babies at this age aren’t mobile yet, their eyes and ears are their window to the world. So make sure you talk to your baby as you move around the room. Get closer to the baby as often as possible as newborns can’t focus beyond 30 cms in the first few days of their life.

Babies at this age also love contrasting colors. So, getting colourful soft toys are a very good idea. They also love listening to sounds around them. Introduce them to music through musical mobile tunes or a baby rattle.

Once the baby learns how to reach for toys, you could get some interesting Knicks and knacks from around the house itself. Colorful paper and cloth books are a great option too!

Toys and games for preschoolers and toddlers:

Children at this age have started walking so pull-along toys are a great investment. To nurture the love of books, introduce soft cloth books with lots of images. Your child is also learning cause and effect so a wonderful game to play is peek-a-boo. Other options include a jack-in-the-box.

Provide plenty of outdoor play opportunities like a visit to the sandpit.

Your toddler will love playing with colors at this stage. Although they can’t hold a crayon yet, you could get toxin free finger paint and set them up on a play mat lined with newspapers. Sit back and watch as your toddler feels the gooey paint through her fingers and makes pretty art work on the paper.

Safe fun with water at this stage is an instant hit. If the weather is warm you could set up a paddle pool. In cold climes, stick to bath times for fun with water. Get lots of colourful squeezy toys and throw them in the bath tub with your child.

*Note: Never leave a child unattended near any water body, no matter how shallow.

Toys and games for school-age children:

Your child is completely capable of telling you which toys he/she finds interesting. You can use that as a guide while choosing toys.

Most children at this stage are keen on the latest technology toys. In today’s day and age it is not possible to completely exclude these types of games. Choose them wisely and weed out anything with violence in it. Limit screen time from early on.

Also popular at this age are construction sets, board games and art and craft toys. For outdoor play, you must invest in a safe bicycle. Other options include roller skates, skipping ropes and cricket.

Spending time playing with your children still rules the roost, even at this stage. So make sure that toys are not a substitute for quality time they could have spent with you.


What is causing your child’s cough?

What is causing your child’s cough?Cough and cold are the most common afflictions of children both young and old. Preschoolers suffer from coughs 3-8 times a year and older children up to 4 times. But there is a lot of confusion surrounding coughs and why they are caused. Here’s an article hoping to clear away some of those misconceptions and an easier (read less worrying) recovery.

Coughs are usually caused by viruses. It is what we generally refer to as a viral infection. Since viruses are microorganisms that are neither alive nor dead (seriously!), it is impossible to eradicate them. Antibiotics are of no use on them. So basically, the infection has to run its course. It may last anywhere from 5 days to 12 days. A typical infection throws up symptoms like a head cold, runny or stuffed nose, sore throat, cough and sometimes a fever as well. The paediatrician may prescribe medicine to allay the symptoms of the viral infection (cold, cough, etc), but there is no cure for the infection itself.

However, there are cases when cough can be caused by allergies. If your child is allergic to dust mites, pollen, animal dander, etc, the cough may present itself whenever there is contact with the allergen. The only recourse is to administer antihistamines prescribed by your child’s paediatrician.

In rare cases, Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs can cause a persistent cough. It is also accompanied by difficulty breathing, a cold, fever body aches and chills. If you suspect pneumonia, it is a good idea to take your child to the paediatrician.

Bronchitis is another rare cause of a persistent and hacking cough several weeks after a viral infection. Bronchitis is an infection of the tubes carrying air to the lungs. This too can be either viral or bacterial. If it is bacterial, antibiotics will work. The paediatrician should be able to tell you whether the infection is viral or bacterial.

When to call a doctor, when a child has cough:

If your child is less than 3 month old
If breathing is laboured
Is coughing mucus that is streaked with blood
Is younger than 6 months and has a fever of 101 or above
Is over 6 months and has a fever of 103 and above
Is coughing after choking on something
Coughing causes vomiting

In any case, avoid administering any medication till you have prior permission from the doctor. Over the counter cough medicines do more harm than good. Mixing 2 or more types of cough medicines can cause a fatal combination in some cases.
Till the doctor is able to give you a definite course of action, try some simple home remedies for relief. Honey works wonders on cough. Try it!


Early warning signs of a learning disability

Early Warning SignsCan I tell if my child has learning disability?

Children till the age of 5 learn skills at different rates. If a child is adept at speaking, he may be slower to comprehend numbers. Similarly, a child who is adept at physical manoeuvres and play may learn the alphabet later than others. This varying rate of learning new skills can throw parents off the correct way to diagnose if there is a problem.

Learning disability falls into 3 wide categories:

Speech and language problems

Reading writing and math problems

Coordination, motor skills and memory problems

However, sometimes the disability is quite apparent such as dyslexia (reading impairment) or dyscalculia (math solving impairment).

What exactly goes wrong in a child with learning disability?

A child with learning disability who has a normal IQ, like any regular child, cant process accurately information that gets passed on from the eyes and ears to the brain. The child knows what he/she wants to accomplish, but can

The Myth of a Super Mom!

Super Mom

When you first discovered your baby is going to arrive, you quickly calculated the maternity leave available to you and decided you will be back to work after the stipulated 6 weeks. But by the end of those amazing and crazily hectic 6 weeks, you decided to stretch it just a little. And then came a time when your family adjusted to one income while you turned into a full time mom. While this may not have played out exactly the same way for everyone, there comes a time in every mom’s life when you break away from your motherly chores and wake up to the person that is YOU! You, who did more than set up play-dates, wipe snotty noses and did truck loads of laundry everyday.  And today, you single handedly tackle tantrums, discipline, school projects, household chores, groceries and everything that life throws at you.

You are something of a supermom! I’m sure you get that a lot.

Sometimes I wonder how my own mother did it. Bringing up two children, working from home and yet be able to strike that precarious work-home balance. So one day I decided to know a little more about my mother. The kind of person she was before my brother and I were born, her ambitions, her daily struggles with two children and literally no additional support. And boy did I come back with some pearls of wisdom! So here’s a little something for all you super-moms out there for whom every single day brings in different set of challenges that never are the same!

You can’t have it all: My mother constantly had to balance her work and home so that neither suffered. Sometimes she was successful, sometimes she wasn’t. But in managing all of this, her own identity and desires suffered. She was a mom, a sister, a wife and an employee too. Being a super mom didn’t leave her with much to do for herself. The entire idea of super mom takes up all the energy and time you have. It is an urban legend much like the super man. That you are a mom, who is also working happens just by the way. It is time the concept of “super dads” take flight.

Seek joy outside family: Work provides empowerment to women that can be measured. Work also puts you in touch with people outside of your cocoon, giving you a chance to be yourself. So embrace this opportunity. Develop hobbies with like minded people. Develop your separate cocoon where there are no motherly strings holding you back. Travel, cycle, and learn the guitar. Whatever you do, try to seek pleasure only for yourself.

Ditch the guilt: Several times when my mother was not around for the important landmarks in my life, I held a grudge against her. As I grew up, I realised it was not really important for her to have been there. In an Indian household, domesticity is mainly a woman’s responsibility. So when you are not around all the time it is easy to fall into the guilt trap. But Don’t! You chose to have a life beyond your own family and those who respect you will love this about you.

Be your own person. You may not be successful a 100% of the times, but you will find a new meaning to your life that goes much beyond being just a Super Mom.

Start Your Child’s Education Early


Traditionally children started school at 3.5 years. But with ever increasing academic demands and the inevitable competitive circus they get thrown into, experts are advising that may be it is time to catch them young.  As early as 1.5 years!

There are two schools of thought and both deserve to be shared with our reader. All experts agree that education need not necessarily begin with schooling. Education for a baby begins in the womb. It starts with learning to recognize its own mother’s voice, something that can’t be taught in school. So it is important to realise that when we refer to education, we don’t mean only schooling (home schooled or otherwise)

Too much too soon? Letting children learn through play

When children play, they learn through experience and observation. They learn about important emotions like happiness, sadness, jealousy, frustration, joy and fear. Play also mimics important life situations where children develop their conflict resolution skills, arbitrations, compromise, building authority, concept of sharing and letting go.

By allowing children to learn these through play, you would be taking the most natural course of action. This will not give you immediate results, but you will see your little one master this art gradually. It is important to expose your child to situations where he gets ample opportunity to play and interact with people and children outside the home.

These interactions will form important brain patterns where the child stores this information until a similar situation arises where he/she has to use it again. Thus, it is vital to the child that he/she gets as many experiences as possible. The sponge like brain of a child absorbs everything around him/her till the age of five.

Starting school early

The definition of early is yet undefined. But children, as young as 1.5 years old are known to start school. This is especially true of children who have both parents working. With no one to take care of the child at home, a school or a day care seems to be the perfect answer.

In scenarios where the child cannot be exposed to different forms of play, it is perhaps advisable to start school early.  A child will thrive when he/she gets ample opportunity to play and interact with more people. Like we said, the importance of play cannot be more stressed.

The only problem arises when school starts interfering with play time and demands that the child sits down and learns activities that are not age appropriate. This is the crucial difference between education and compulsory schooling. Play lets a child learn at his/her own pace whereas education can make demands upon the child that may not be age appropriate.

Since every child learns differently, it is important to let the child choose his play and the way he learns it. This way he/she is able to complete the whole process of play-fail-succeed-learn in his brain pattern. Any intervention, may allay short term grief, but will not help the child in learning the whole process in the long run, more importantly, on his/her own.

Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution for Children


As a parent how did you learn to resolve conflicts? Doubtlessly, your biggest influencers were your parents. You learnt your early lessons from them and unknowingly emulated their responses and attitudes when resolving conflict. Now, these are a part of your psyche and intellect more than you would ever want to admit.

Conflict resolution is not like math. It is an art that needs to be experienced, interpreted and learnt in our own unique way. When it comes to children, it is best to let them resolve conflict in their own way, albeit, with a little support from you. Here are a few guidelines that will slowly, but surely help you and your child learn conflict resolution at every level, whether it is for a very young child or an older child.

  1. Let them resolve conflicts. Don’t do it for them

It is challenging for any parent to hold back when a child is trying to snatch a toy from another child. After all, you want to instil the spirit of sharing early on, right? Well, this may not be the right way to do it. It is easy to swoop in and demand that your child share the toy or even take sides in your attempt to dissolve undesired situations that result in crying and heartbreak.

But intervention at this stage can prevent the child from learning it to resolve it in his own way. He will always look to you for support (if you support him) and look away from you (if you take the other child’s side). Both are equally damaging.

Next time you are faced with a similar scenario, try this:

If your child cries for a toy that is with another child, express empathy. “I know you are upset that you can’t play with the teddy now”. At the same time, offer choices to resolve the conflict. “Do you want to ask Amy if she can share it the teddy with you for some time?”

  1. Provide safe environment for conflict resolution

If a conflict resolution scenario is getting out of hand and you suspect it will result in a physical battle, it is okay to physically remove your child from the scene and explain that hitting is not allowed. Children need us to set limits when it comes to emotions that lead to physical harm. A respectful discipline option may not work in this scenario.

  1. Don’t shame, lecture or use an angry/surprised tone with a child in conflict

Children are even more sensitive to others than we are. So when your child hits somebody, don’t shame him by pointing out the obvious. “Look, how you hurt Arjun! He is so sad!”

The hitting was more of an uncontrolled and impulsive reaction than the hate for Arjun. Understand that the child has a wide range of emotions running through him/her right now,

Keep a calm voice. The child is already on a emotional high and doesn’t need you to contribute to it.

There is a tremendous amount of excellent information on these techniques and teaching them to children of all ages.  Google RIE and you will find tools and articles helping you to bring up self sufficient children. Make them part of your day, and a part of your child’s life and they will grow in depth and confidence.

Caring for your baby’s dental health: Prevention is the key

Dental  Health

Your baby’s toothless smile is one of the most precious things on earth. The appearance of the first tooth is something of a milestone in your baby’s and your life. But what is disappointing is that baby teeth don’t get appropriate amount of health attention, besides the cuteness factor. Generally, a visit to the dentist is occasioned only when there is a problem. This mindset has led to a staggering number of babies facing dental issues such as decay, scarring and caries. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and make it difficult to swallow food.

New research has shown that primary teeth form the foundation of your baby’s future dental health as well as over all well-being. So we decided to put together a series of do’s and don’ts for your baby’s dental health.

Age 0 to 6 months: Wipe your baby’s gums clean and wet with a gauze or a soft cloth

Age 6 to 18 months: Try to introduce a soft baby brush. Continue to use water only for cleaning

Age 18 to 24 month: Introduce a low fluoride toothpaste

  • Remember, decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth. The only thing bacteria loves is sugars from food left in the mouth.
  • For breastfeeding infants (even without any teeth), sleeping with milk in the mouth is the quickest way to invite bacteria to gorge on un-swallowed milk.
  • The easiest way to clean baby gums is to take a clean and soft cloth and wipe your baby’s gums before she falls asleep and every morning. If the baby is going to stay awake, the saliva formation will wash down remnants of milk in the mouth.
  • If the baby uses a pacifier, don’t dip it in sugar or honey. Plain water works best in the long run.
  • If the baby has a habit of falling asleep with the milk bottle in her mouth, gradually replace milk with water.
  • Avoid adding sugar to milk and food
  • Fluoride is essential to your child’s dental health. Toothpaste containing fluoride is the best for everyone in your family. But make sure that the baby doesn’t swallow the toothpaste. Swallowing excessive fluoride can also result in staining of the teeth.
  • If your child already has tooth decay, do not delay a visit to the dentist. The primary teeth are very important for the permanent teeth to be healthy and in the right place.

However, teeth cleaning alone aren’t a guarantee against tooth decay. If despite taking appropriate steps your baby has tooth decay, it probably has something to do with the baby’s diet and warrants a visit to the paediatrician.

How to help underweight toddlers gain weight


Childhood Obesity

The travails of a parent whose toddler is underweight can only be felt, not described. Children usually follow a predictable growth pattern. They triple their weight in the first year of their life, and thereafter a kilogram every 3-4 months for the second year of their life. However, not all children follow the same pattern. Each child develops at a different pace. So when does a parent start to worry about poor or no weight gain? A month, 2 months or 6 months of no weight gain? Or more?

There is no correct answer to this because there are a lot of factors that can affect weight gain in a toddler.

  • Genetics: If the child’s parents are lean, chances are the baby will be skinny too
  • Dietary restrictions such as dairy free diet, vegetarian diet or a vegan diet can put the child at a risk of being mal nourished
  • Recent illness or medications can kill diet temporarily resulting in poor weight gain or even weight loss
  • Emotional upheaval: A change of scenery that didn’t go down too well with your toddler may directly affect hunger
  • An increase in height that precedes weight gain

However, if your gut feeling tells you to get an expert opinion, the best person to give it is the paediatrician.

Assuming your child has no underlying medical problem, you can proceed with the following to ensure that your child is getting enough calories. The rest will follow.

  • The best way to get your toddler to gain weight is to increase his calorie intake with heart healthy foods such as nuts, vegetable oils, dry fruits, dairy, carbohydrate heavy fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget the protein found in eggs, peanut butter and beans.
  • Avoid filling up the calorie count by means of ‘junk food’. These are empty calories that do nothing to help your child develop holistically.
  • If your toddler is a fussy eater, you have to ensure two things are always right. First that the meals are calorie and nutrient rich and secondly, that meal times are enjoyable and an unhurried affair.
  • If nothing else works, your doctor may prescribe a high calorie supplement drink.
  • Filling up on milk and other beverages is a common hunger killer. It leaves little room for other nutrient rich foods that are necessary for weight gain.
  • Increase the frequency of meals. Add 2-3 snack times to ensure that the child is meeting his daily quota of calories, as prescribed by the paediatrician.
  • Keep a daily diet chart of the child’s diet plan and stick as close to it as possible.

Once this checklist is in place and you have begun to follow it, do not be in a hurry to check your child’s progress daily. Let the doctor do it at a monthly interval. This will ensure that the child doesn’t become too self conscious about his/her weight.


Fostering a Love for Learning in your Child


So, your child does not sit in one place when it’s time for homework? Let us rewind back to the time when the child was a toddler. If you spend a fair bit of time with the child early on, reading, telling stories, writing or just listening as the child was trying to piece sentences together, chances are, you are not going to have to deal with this problem later. If you have been able to get the child into a routine of reading or any other form of age-appropriate learning, the love for learning has in all likelihood, already developed. The child now sees ‘studying’ to learn new things as a way of life and does not find it a chore to sit for completing homework.

The more involved a parent is in the child’s everyday efforts at learning something new, the more likely the child might be to take to learning naturally. Being appreciated for learning a new thing fosters the will and ability to learn more.

So, how does one inculcate the habit of ‘homework’ even though there is no homework when the child is in pre-school? Here are some tips for parents to experiment with:

a) Invest in Workbooks: Not all parents are internet savvy and not all might want to download worksheets from popular websites or from the school portal. If you are one of those, invest in buying some good workbooks from book shops. Sit the child down everyday, at least once a day, even if it is for 15 minutes and get the child to complete a set of chosen pages.

b) Allow the child to choose: Dictating the routine is important but dictating what a child needs to study when is not critical in pre-school. Allow the child to choose one of a few types of things to do. You might be surprised how soon a child’s talent for words or numbers is apparent. Encourage the child by awarding stars or paste stickers to acknowledge a job well done.

c) Make learning integral to everyday activities: Holidays don’t have to mean no workbooks. There are times when holidays are packed with social visits but then there are some when the child has ample time. Weekends can be fun learning time when the child is experimenting with cut vegetables or fruits or flour shapes or other such indulgences that need a lot of time and hence are tough to manage on a weekday.

d) Make every travel a learning experience: We learn a lot while traveling. It is important to make that learning process conscious for the child too. Every travel can include an opportunity to play games that are portable and fun.

e) Be excited about learning: If you catch yourself making statements like ‘No homework today! Yeah!’, you are indeed, making a child believe that getting homework is not cause of celebration but lack of it is. Who then, is, instilling the feeling in a child that homework is unwanted and is a burden?

A child learns best via role modeling. Love to learn and a child will follow suit.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Namrataa Arora Singh. After 14 years of working as a Talent Development expert in the Corporate world, Namrataa Arora Singh decided to re-invent her career. A Certified Professional Coach (CPC) from the International Coach Academy (Australia), Namrataa has been coaching women across the globe for the last 6 years. 

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Coping with Cyber Bullying: What Every Parent Needs to Know

When you and I were in school we might have experienced bullying, either personally or from a distance, in the classroom, the playground or recess time.  For our children today, bullying has taken on another dimension…the virtual dimension. This is something that you and I as adults may not even be aware of. But parents, this is out there and it is REAL for our children, especially our tweens and teens. Part of the reality is that digital technology and the internet play a huge part in the lives of our children as they use it for school assignments and their social life. This social connectivity can be online or via their mobiles, be it on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social media sites.

 So, what is Cyber Bullying?

Cyber Bullying has been defined as when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

It can include abusive texts and emails, hurtful messages, images or videos imitating others, excluding others online, nasty online gossip and chat.

The fact that cyber bullying can happen 24/7 [and not just in person], can be done in anonymity, and once out there can go viral, makes cyber bullying even more damaging than traditional face-to-face bullying.

 As a parent what should I know?

Signs that your child is being cyber-bullied and how to handle this

The first thing is for you to get acquainted with your child’s cyber world. Find out where your children surf, what are the popular social sites amongst kids and talk to your kids about the possibility of cyber bullying and safety. Do reinforce that even if they see a post that is targeted at another child, by their ‘liking/ sharing/forwarding’ it they are guilty of cyber bullying by association.

The next thing is to look for signs that might point to your child being cyber bullied. Some of these might be:

  • Changes in online behaviour– is your child suddenly spending less time online? Has he asked you about closing down his account, or about security features to block others out?
  • Distress does your child become annoyed, upset, stressed or angry after he has been online? Has his school attendance or performance reduced?
  • Secrecydoes your child act secretively when using the internet or phone? Does he close down the computer when you walk into the room?

 Also Read: Keeping your Kids Safe Online

 As a parent how can I help if my child is being cyber bullied?

If you worry that your child is being cyber bullied, talk to him. Assure him that you are on his side, that he did not do something wrong and he does not deserve to be bullied. Here are some tips you could share with him:

  • Do not respond or retaliate. Tell him to talk to you about it, rather than ‘letting off steam’ online by seeking revenge online. It could make things worse and he might be accused of cyberbullying.
  • Tell him to block the bully and change his privacy settings. With your help he can also report this to the site administrator and the school authorities.
  • Help him save these abusive messages as evidence, like phone messages, print emails or social networking conversations/photos. He can also tell their friends that might be privy to these messages to collect this too.
  • Encourage him to be involved in anti-cyber bullying campaigns. There are many such initiatives online. This will give him a sense of control and empowerment. If he knows of a friend being bullied, remind him not to join in. If he feels confident, he should also stand up for his friend online.

Bottom line, parents you have to be aware and get familiar with the virtual world that your child is a part of.  In this case, ignorance is not bliss!

Happy Parenting!

Also Read: Teens and Social Media

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Aparna Samuel Balasundaram. She is a USA- Licensed Psychotherapist and Parent and Child Expert with 10 years of experience in the USA.