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The benefits of reading to your toddler

by Maxine
Posted January 4 2012 05:30pm
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Reading to children has many benefits. It is a great opportunity to bond and enjoy each other's company.

It can also increase their vocabulary, trigger their imagination and expose them to new experiences and concepts. Moreover, reading with children prepares them for learning to read by fostering their appreciation for books and by familiarizing them with print and the structure of stories.

From the first days of life and throughout childhood, you can help instill a love of reading. Start by setting an example. Show your child that reading is an enjoyable activity by reading in his presence and keeping lots of reading material in your home. Read to him often (several times a day!), a special activity that stimulates your child's senses through colourful illustrations to look at, the comforting sound of your voice, your touch and your smell as he snuggles against you.

You can further enhance your child's enjoyment of book-reading by encouraging your child to get actively involved in various ways. For example, toddlers typically enjoy pointing to the various illustrations as you name them, and you can capture your child's imagination by giving the characters their own voice (e.g. a low voice for adults, a high squeaky voice for baby animals, etc.) Older toddlers and preschoolers, for their part, will like talking with you about what they think will happen next in the story and reacting to surprising, funny or scary events in the story. Make eye contact and ask open-ended questions (that can't be answered with "yes" or "no") to initiate the discussion, such as "What do you think Arthur is feeling?" and "What is the little girl doing now?" These actions can make book-reading a more fun, positive and engaging experience for your child by allowing him to play an active rather than a passive role.

It is also important to let your child set the pace. Spend as much or as little time as he wants on each page. Also, give him the opportunity to choose books that interest him. Raid your local library or bookstore so you have a wide selection of books available to choose from and let him decide which book he wants to read, even if you've already read it three times that day! By respecting his choices and supporting his interests in these ways, you will foster his appreciation of books and help him develop a positive attitude towards reading.

Try to choose books that are appropriate for your child's age and level of development. Children's books often come with age recommendations that are based on factors such as the book's length, the level of vocabulary, the topics and concepts covered, and the amount of detail appropriate for the average child's level of development at a given age. However, some children have greater vocabulary levels and are capable of concentrating on a story for a longer period of time than other children of the same age and may master some concepts at an early age. If this is the case with your child, he may be ready for more advanced books. You can try reading books to him that are meant for children who are one or two years older, as long as you feel the topic is appropriate for him and as long as he enjoys these books – don't push him is she is not ready. You can also choose to omit or modify certain parts of the text if you feel it is too complex or too long for his attention span.

Some parents find that their child does not seem to be interested in books. They try to close the book or struggle to get away during story time. If this happens to you, don't force things as this will only frustrate both of you. However, do try again soon. Choose your timing carefully and take into account your child's mood and energy level. Pick a time when your child is relaxed, perhaps just before bedtime, and read in a quiet place where there is no other distraction such as the television or other family members who are engaged in a different activity. Also, suggest books that match your child's interest (e.g. animals, machines, rhymes, etc). He will be more likely to enjoy such books. It's also important to follow your child's lead and to give him plenty of leeway for exploration; don't assume he will understand right from the beginning that the pages have a specific order, or that he will want to read the whole book in one sitting. The important thing is that he has fun, not that he does it the "right" way.

 

For more on reading to with your toddler, check out The Importance of Reading to your Toddler

How does your child feel about reading? Is he excited at reading time or is he distracted and disengaged? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

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When Toddlers Whine

by Maxine
Posted December 17 2010 06:11pm
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You know what it’s like when your little one starts in with that whiny tone. It can drive even the calmest parent crazy!

When toddlers begin to whine, the most important thing to do is not to give in. If you do, it will teach your child that whining is a good way to get what he wants, and he will do it again, and again. Instead, let him know that you expect him to speak to you without whining.

Acknowledge your child’s efforts when she speaks without whining.  If she keeps whining, stay calm and ignore it until she speaks properly. If you think she is really overwhelmed by a situation, though, she may need a hug or a back rub to break the cycle.

Here are some suggestions from our experts to prevent whining:

  • Watch for situations where your child may get bored, and prepare for them. For example, have a bag of toys for your child to play with while you're on the phone.
  • Teach your child the difference between whining and asking properly.
  • Try to pay attention to your child when she talks to you in a normal voice. If you ignore her when she is asking for something nicely, she may start to feel that the only way to get your attention is to whine.

 

What do you do when your toddler whines? How do you handle the situation? Share your story with other parents by leaving a comment below!

 

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Living smoke-free with your toddler

by Maxine
Posted December 17 2010 04:00pm
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Breathing in second-hand smoke causes over 1,100 deaths in Canadian non-smokers from lung cancer and heart disease every year. A Health Canada Report in 2007, noted that 7% of Canadian children under 12 years old were exposed to second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Although this number is dropping, it still means that about 300,000 children under age 12 continue to be exposed regularly to second-hand smoke. 

The good news is that most Canadian families agree they should avoid exposure to second-hand smoke in their home and car. Currently, four out of five (82%) Canadian homes already restrict smoking in some way and parents report there is general agreement about these restrictions among family members. Parents also report that the primary reason they want to cut back on the amount of second-hand smoke in their home is because of their children.

Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals which are known to be linked to cancer. Second hand smoke also contains these chemicals; 2/3 of the smoke from a burning cigarette remains in the environment such as a room or a car-the other 1/3 is inhaled by the smoker.  Third hand smoke also contains the same chemicals. This is the smoke that gets trapped in hair, skin, fabric, carpets, dust and toys; which accumulates over time. Babies and young children may take in more third hand smoke because they put their hands in their mouth and they spend more time playing on the floor.

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke because:

  • They breathe faster than an adult and will breathe in more air relative to their weight and, therefore, absorb more toxins. 
  • Their immune systems are less developed than an adult and their lungs are still developing. 
  • Their airways are smaller and more sensitive to impurities in the air. 
  • Children may not be able to move to a less smoky environment (e.g. go to a different room or get out of the car). 
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke in children has been linked with health problems such as colds and upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, croup, ear infections, asthma and allergies. 

What do these statistics mean to you as a parent? Well, for one thing, they mean that you are not alone. Across Canada, hundreds of thousands of families are struggling with the issue of second-hand smoke and are looking for ways to protect their children from its harmful effects. For a guide on how to make your home and car smoke free visit Health Canada’s website or visit The Canadian Lung Association website which has tips on how to protect yourself from Second and Third Hand Smoke.

Visit Health Canada's website for a Guide for Parents: Making Home and Car Smoke-Free.

 

 

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Helping your shy toddler

by Maxine
Posted August 8 2011 02:43pm
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Some children are shy. They "hang back" in groups. They need your assistance to learn how to become comfortable talking and playing with others.

The main things to remember when trying to help a child like this to cope with new situations are:

  • Don't label a child "shy" or introduce your child as a "shy child." Sometimes children will define themselves as this and never move beyond the label.
  • Don't push your child into situations that he might find overwhelming. It's important that you accept your child's nature and help him develop ways to overcome his shyness - that may take time and patience. Instead of pushing, offer your child opportunities to be involved with others with your support.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by talking about new situations, such as what she will encounter, or who may be there, and talk with her about ways to become involved in groups.
  • Don't nag your child about being shy. Parents who get irritable or impatient with a child's shyness may find that their child reacts by being even shyer.

Remember, every child is unique. Some children will be shy, to a greater or lesser degree, all their lives. It's important for them to feel valued for who they are.

Do you have a shy toddler? Tell us about it below. Also, learn more about your child’s temperament.

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