Nightmares and Night Terrors

by Maxine
Posted September 5 2011 03:21pm
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Getting your child to sleep when they are young can be challenging enough, but when your child is awakened by nightmares or night terrors it can be a really scary and stressful situation for both parent and child.

"One of the major challenges for parents whose child is having nightmares or night terrors is figuring out which is which and then what to do about them," says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. "A nightmare is a scary dream that happens when the child is in a period of light sleep. They usually happen during the second half of the night and children often tell their parents that they felt they were about to be in danger. A night terror is an intense dream that happens as the child moves from deep to lighter sleep and usually happens about 1-2 hours after the child falls asleep."

Between 5-15 per cent of children will have nightmares or night terrors and they generally happen between 18 months and 15 years, but they can occur in infants too. They are most common from ages 2 to 6. Night terrors tend to run in families, so if you or your partner had night terrors your child is more likely to experience them.

What your child fears in his sleep may vary based on his age. For example, a lot of 2-year-olds seem to be afraid that Mom or Dad will leave them and a lot of 3-year-olds develop fears of monsters or animals. Real-life things can cause nightmares, too, like seeing parents argue, starting daycare or seeing a scary television show or movie. Anything a child finds upsetting could cause a nightmare. Some experts speculate that nightmares are caused by the child trying to work through the scary situation while he sleeps.

When a nightmare strikes your child will be fearful and distressed – those are the times when they call out or cry for you in the night. Your child will be aware of you and can be comforted. With a night terror your child might experience fear or anger, thrashing or screaming – he may appear to be awake, but is not. He may even become more agitated if you intervene. Both can be scary for parents and even more so for your child.

"With a nightmare, your child will likely remember some of the scary dream that he had and, if he’s old enough, he might want to talk about it," says Foster. "With a night terror the child usually doesn’t remember the dream or anything he did during it. He will likely go back to sleep quickly, whereas a child who has had a nightmare may have trouble getting back to sleep and will want your comfort and reassurance."

If nightmares occur frequently, your child may start to fear going to bed and have difficulty falling asleep. Your child also may want to sleep in your bed. He may not even want to go on a sleepover, for fear of having a nightmare in front of friends. And if your child is getting less sleep than needed, he may be irritable and moody. You, too, will probably suffer from lack of sleep, because you are being woken by your child.

If your child is losing a lot of sleep, or beginning to avoid sleeping or any other activities she used to enjoy, consult your child's physician about any possible medical reason for the nightmares. You should always consult your health care provider if your child is having night terrors.

Learn how to cope with and prevent about Nightmares and Night Terrors.

Has your child ever had a nightmare or night terror? How did you cope? Share your experience with other parents in the comments section below!

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The importance of reading to your preschooler

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 10:51pm
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Reading is one of those pleasurable activities parents can engage their children in, that provides so many developmental benefits. When done on a regular basis, reading helps young children to develop language and listening skills and prepares them for recognizing the written word. Most importantly, reading provides the opportunity for parent and child to enjoy each other's company in a quiet, fun and emotionally satisfying way.

heart Comfort

Make reading a part of your child's daily bedtime routine. From the youngest infant to the oldest preschooler, reading at bedtime provides comfort and security. The nicest way to end the day is sharing a favourite story with a parent.

Pay attention to which pages or books become your child's favourite. When you support your child's interests he gets the message that what he likes or cares about is valued.

Describe the emotions shown in pictures or in the characters, e.g., "Baby bear looks sad. Do you think he needs a hug?" Young children need to hear and learn the words for feelings as they begin to make sense of their own emotions.

star Play

Take time to talk about the story together. Say, "I wonder what will happen next" or ask, "What do you think this girl is going to do?" This simple conversation stretches your child's imagination and creative thinking.

Change the tone of your voice and use lots of animation in your face, e.g., whisper for someone who is sleeping, or use a lower tone for something that is big. This will engage your child in the story and she will also learn to watch your face and listen to your voice for different emotions.

triangle Teach

Reread stories that have become favourites and leave out key words or phrases. Your child will love to fill in the blanks, practice beloved rhymes or take the opportunity to retell the story in her own words. This will make reading an interactive experience.

Take the opportunity to talk about the colour, shape and size of objects. Your child will be into his preschool years before he’ll be able to identify and label the abstract concepts of size, shape and colour but books provide a simple vehicle to make them aware of such concepts.


Video Alert!
Watch our Reading with Your Preschooler video to learn more about Comfort, Play & Teach and reading to your child.

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Outdoor safety tips for preschoolers in the wintertime

by Maxine
Posted January 3 2012 05:22pm
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Going on an outdoor half day or full day trip with the kids? Here are some things to keep in mind.


Keep everyone warm from head to toe. There's nothing worse than you or the kids being cold. Check the weather for the area you are planning to visit – temperatures can vary significantly across relatively small distances.

Be prepared with extra layers. Even after checking the weather and dressing appropriately, you may reach your destination and realize it is chillier than expected. Keep extra layers in the car that can easily be added under your child's snowsuit.

If there is snow, make sure things are waterproof. Kids of all ages love the snow – rolling in it, playing with it, and generally covering themselves in it. Make sure that snowsuits, boots, and especially mittens are waterproof. Labels will indicate if the garment is waterproof. If this is not stated on the label, the item is likely not waterproof. For your young day tripper, mittens are best rather than gloves.

Check for wetness at lunch. It's not unusual in the winter for people, including children, to sweat if they have been physically active. This can often make clothing wet. If you are continuing in the afternoon, make sure clothes are dry – especially socks and mittens. Keep extras with you to change into.

Put some tissue into your child's pockets – it may be needed along the way.

Keep some lip balm with you in case of chapped lips.

In the Car

Weather during winter is unpredictable so better to be prepared. Keep extra snacks (including water) and blankets in the car as well as an emergency kit.

Keep some age appropriate activities your child can use to pass the time in case of traffic or other unexpected delays.

Adjust your child's clothing to meet the climate of the car. If the kids have been in snowpants and many layers during the day, reduce the number of layers for the car ride home. Hot kids soon become cranky kids and our ability to respond while driving is limited.

Take along some of the kids' favourite music/CDs. A sing song can make the ride fun for everyone.

Winter Activities for the Family

Tobogganing is a great family activity that everyone can take part in. Some things to remember:

  • Dress warmly ensuring that coats, mittens and boots are waterproof.
  • Check in with your child frequently to ensure s/he is warm and dry.
  • Have your child wear a helmet that is approved for outdoor winter activities.
  • Children 5 years old and under should not go down alone. This means you will need a toboggan that can seat two.
  • Try to pick a hill that isn't filled with skiers and others who may overwhelm a young child.
  • Toboggan away from roads and any bodies of water.
  • Ensure the hill is clear of any obstacles including large trees or rocks.
  • Also ensure there is adult supervision with young children.

Skating is another family activity that is often close to home too! Remember to:

  • Dress warmly ensuring that coats, mittens and boots are waterproof.
  • Check in with your child frequently to ensure s/he is warm and dry.
  • Have your child wear a helmet that has a mouthguard on it.
  • Make sure an adult has checked the ice if skating on lakes or ponds.
  • If you are introducing your child to skating for the first time, choose a rink that is not too crowded or overwhelming for your child.
  • Ensure there is adult supervision if you are not joining your child.

Winter activities can be loads fun so long as you are prepared and everyone is warm.

What do you do to prepare your preschooler for outdoor activities in the wintertime? Let other parents know and post a comment below!

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Encouraging your preschooler to share

by Maxine
Posted December 20 2010 11:54am
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Does your child ever have trouble sharing? If so, you’re definitely not alone. 

Our experts have come up with several suggestions for helping your preschooler learn to share:

Be a role model. If you share and take turns with your child, he will experience how nice it is to have someone share with him, and will learn to do the same thing with others.

Try to let your child have enough space to play beside another child, but make room for her own toys and activities. When children are very young, it's a good idea to have duplicate toys to make everybody happy. Allow your child to think of a toy as "mine, mine, mine!" but also acknowledge your child when she lets someone else take a turn. Describe how the other child feels when she shares, such as, "Johnny is so happy you gave him a turn with the ball."

Be a guide. If your child wants a toy another child has, help him find some other interesting toy or activity in the meantime, to help him learn to wait.

Be patient. Know that it takes time for children to be ready to share, so don't expect your child to be too generous too soon. And certainly don't punish her for not sharing or taking turns. You want sharing to be a happy experience - not something your child feels forced to do.

At about three years old, help your child sort it out with other children if an argument develops over a toy. This will give him the skills to eventually work things out himself.

And finally, until you feel your child can handle them, avoid situations with too many children. They can be overwhelming if a child is in the middle of an "all mine" stage.


How do you teach your preschooler share? What techniques have worked for you? Leave a comment below and share your experience with parents just like you!


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