Louise Barrett Childcare

Q what should I do when my two-and-a-half-year-old won’t share her toys with our eight-month-old?

A
Sibling rivalry usually first happens when the younger child starts to crawl and puts their eye on the older child’s toys! As difficult as this situation may be to handle, having siblings teaches children important lessons about sharing and conflict resolution. It might be a good idea for your two-year-old to have some toys that she doesn’t need to share, particularly if there are some with small pieces or parts. These could be played with up high at the kitchen table or indeed, when the baby is sleeping. Always explain to your little girl that you understand how difficult it can be to share as this can be hard to accept when the baby has knocked over blocks she’s been very busy building with. At the same time, empathise with the baby who only wants to play and be closer to the much-loved older sister. Explain to your child that the baby just wants to be involved and doesn’t yet understand how ‘bigger girls’ play. Finally, and particularly when they’ve had time playing apart, find something they can do together, which will provide lots of fun and will take them one step closer to a friendship that will last forever.

Q When my two-year-old gets really angry and has a tantrum, she will bump her head against the wall. This is really upsetting to us and we usually end up just giving in and letting her have her way because we don’t want her to hurt herself. I’m worried we’re setting a bad precedent.

A
When children become frustrated and their minds outrace their ability to concentrate they can often engage in ‘head-banging’ as the sensory input they get from the banging feels better than the sensory overload they are experiencing. While it is important to stay close and ensure your child doesn’t hurt herself, try not to give the banging too much attention as your shocked or disapproving reaction might only make matters worse. At the same time, ensure you are giving your daughter lots of positive attention when the banging has stopped. Try saying that you love when she uses her words to talk with Mummy and Daddy and explain how she feels. Try not to worry too much as ‘head-banging’ is usually a self-regulating behaviour, in other words, a toddler will more often than not pull back before they seriously hurt themselves. Children who engage in ‘head-banging’ often have a deeper appreciation of music and rhythm. Develop your child’s interest in music by engaging her in marching, drumming and clapping and always ensure she gets lots of physical exercise throughout the day, which will help her control her energy levels.

Q My six-year-old son is very kind-hearted and generous, but unfortunately it is becoming a problem. He’s seen to be a bit of a pushover amongst his peers and I’m noticing them taking advantage of his kind nature. How do I teach my kid to stand up for himself without changing his considerate disposition?

A
When you’re six, making friends is a really important process as it leads us to broaden our horizons with the larger social circle that preschool and school brings. Your son will take huge pleasure in telling you, “he’s my friend, I like him.” He’ll also most likely believe any information his friends tell him, whether it’s the truth or not! The average six-year-old learns a lot from the feedback they get from their friends and these reactions play a significant role as their self-image develops. Therefore, if he is accepted by his peers, his self-confidence will grow and accordingly, if he’s ridiculed, it might plummet. In junior school, the desire to be accepted by our peers by any means can lead to unacceptable behaviour and this is why it’s really important to teach values and the difference between right and wrong at an early age. Children who are really keen to make friends can often be very soft-hearted, so it’s important to set some boundaries at an early age. Make it a house rule where your son can’t give away or lend any of his toys without Mum or Dad agreeing to it first. Also when you’ve a free afternoon or there’s a special occasion coming up, maybe make some treats for your son to bring to school to give to his friends as presents. As his confidence grows, so will his ability to make decisions that are good for everyone involved, which in turn will strengthen his friendships even more.

Q I started giving my two-year-old a biscuit once in a while when he would help me put away his toys. Now he expects a treat every time. How do I teach him that treats are not an everyday occurrence and that tidying up and chores are a part of life?

A
When our children are allowed to eat constantly throughout the day, it robs them of the chance to ever develop a proper appetite, which can create picky eating habits throughout the teen years.If children don’t come to the table at least a little hungry, they won’t be terribly keen to try new foods. Also vitally important is the fact that the more treats your little one eats, the less space or respect he’ll have for nutritious foods, which are essential for growth. Strive to create an environment where chores and tidying up are fun, do it to music or create a little song while you put things away. Create a star chart where Fridays are treat days, and only award the treat if all the jobs are completed every day. Sure your two-year-old will complain initially, but it’s important to stand firm on these matters. Habit forming in two-year-olds takes no more than two weeks, so take comfort in the fact that their objections shouldn’t last much longer than that!

Q My child has a severe nut allergy and is starting crèche in a few weeks. I will be providing the crèche with the necessary medication in case of an emergency, but I’m terrified that they’re not taking the condition seriously. He will be the only child in the crèche with such an allergy so I’m scared that the other children’s parents may not understand the danger. What can I do to ensure my child will be ok?

A
In a food allergy, the immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it was a threat and creates histamines and antibodies to fight it. The result of eating a food type that you are allergic to can be extremely serious so you are right to be dealing with this as thoroughly as you are. As parents, managing a child with allergies can be daunting, however, the thought of handing your child over to someone else to be cared for with this condition can be terrifying.
Most crèches will have some level of experience working with food allergic children. However you will need to ensure that the service is willing to work with you and learn what needs to be done to keep your child safe.
I would advise you to set up a meeting with the Crèche Manager in advance of your child starting and discuss the whole situation. Ask lots of questions including, is the entire crèche going to be NUT FREE or will it just be your child’s room? Does the crèche provide all foods for the children? Is the chef fully aware of this new child starting? Ask to see the policy, a standard policy would include factors such as making sure there is no food sharing, making sure all children wash their hands when arriving or after food, making sure the child is easily observable by a teacher during meal and snack times.
In my experience, the main area where accidents happen is during birthday parties where cakes and party food is brought in by parents. Even with the best intentions in the world, busy working parents can forget about the child with allergies. It is imperative to ensure the crèche has a stringent policy in place to manage this.
A conversation also needs to be had around what will happen if your child does ingest the food they are allergic to. Does the team have training on dealing with emergency situations, including the medication you will be providing such as EpiPens? You will need to outline exactly what your expectations are in an emergency situation.
Lastly, remember that your main goal is to teach your child to understand his condition himself. Within a few years; he will be in primary school and exposed to situations that will not be as highly monitored, so empowering him with his own tools to cope is the best gift you can give him. Remember, you are doing a great job and parenting is never easy.

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

A
There is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.