Help Your Child Avoid Summer Weight Gain
There’s a reason they’re called the lazy days of summer! Without the structure of school, summertime is full of free time and relaxation. The result is often weight gain that outpaces growth in height. In fact, children gain weight two to three times faster during summer vacation than during the entire school year.
So during summer break, it’s important to stick with healthy habits and routines relating to nutrition, exercise and sleep.
Keep consistent mealtimes and eat together as a family whenever possible. It’s wise to try to rid your house of junk foods and sugary drinks, especially if your child will spend time home alone. Designate sections of the refrigerator and pantry as snack zones. Keep them stocked with healthy choices including fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Make water your family’s go-to drink. Keep a pitcher of enticing water that contains slices of fresh citrus or cucumber in the fridge.
Plan some family adventures that include biking, hiking, rollerblading or swimming. See what’s happening at your local Y or community center. Swim lessons are a great way for kids to stay active and socialize; more importantly, they help your child develop the water-survival skills they need. And if your child will attend camp, choose one that’s action-oriented.
Later bedtimes are natural in the summer months. Stay vigilant to ensure your child is getting to bed at a reasonable hour. (Tweens and teens tend to become nocturnal if no limits are in place!) Keep media screens out of bedrooms during sleep hours. Set summer reading goals and encourage your child to read before sleep. (If your local library is nearby, walk or bike there each week for fresh batches of books.)
Many kids seem to grow faster during the summer months, so make an activity out of tracking growth, along with minutes spent exercising and reading. Devise a fun rewards system when they meet their goals.
The summer will fly by, and your child will be back to school before you know it. Help them maintain healthy habits so that when that day comes, they’ll feel their best and be ready to learn!
Visit our Obesity Program for more tips on healthy habits.
For Parents, Self-Care is the Opposite of Selfish
As parents, we can get so focused on caring for our kids and families that we forget to fully care for ourselves. But healthy self-care is essential. It restores our energy and patience, and helps us connect to our loved ones. It makes us better parents and caregivers.
Self-care includes our physical needs, of course. Are we getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and doing enough physical exercise – including time outdoors in the fresh air? Our nonphysical needs are just as important. Are we choosing activities that make us feel happy and fulfilled? Are we taking time to challenge and sharpen our minds? Are we feeding our need for a spiritual connection?
Many of these positive activities can be done along with our kids. But it’s very important to also have some time away. So self-care often requires asking others for help. If you can join other responsible, reliable parents for childcare swapping and carpooling, that’s a great start. Just say “yes” to grandparents and other family members who are eager to spend time with the kids. And find a regular babysitter in your neighborhood who’s earned an excellent reputation.
Many new parents join parenting support groups when their children are infants. PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) is one local option and there are others. These groups provide consistent friends who can offer support through the ups and downs of parenting. Whether you join a group or not, building a support network is key.
Here’s a thought to keep in mind: sometimes, frazzled parents looking for quick comfort turn to easy ‘fixes.’ They may overdo it with food, alcohol, shopping, and screen time – including social media. If you feel worse instead of better after an activity, it’s time to rethink. Be sure your self-care is truly uplifting and fulfilling. You deserve it!
Wise self-care helps us manage daily stress and cope with life’s challenges in a positive way. Bonus: when our kids grow up seeing us take good care of ourselves, they’re apt to follow our example as they age and become adults – and parents – themselves!
Visit PEPS for more suggestions on healthy self-care.
Safe Storage for Marijuana and Liquid Nicotine
Marijuana, marijuana edibles and liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes are dangerous for children. While these products are legal for adults in Washington state, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous for kids, who are attracted to their tempting packaging and candy-like or snack-like appearance.
Emergency rooms commonly treat children for serious side-effects of ingesting these products. So adults must keep these items locked up, out of sight and out of reach of children. Consider using a locking cabinet or safe, or locking pouches or bags. For homes with older kids (who often know or will figure out where keys are kept) consider keyless locks. And if a small child does ingest marijuana or liquid nicotine, seek medical help immediately.
Learn more from the Washington Poisons Center’s toxic trends report.
Spotting the Signs of Anxiety in Kids
Just about every child has occasional periods of anxiety that don’t last long. For toddlers, separation anxiety is very common. School-age kids may feel briefly anxious before public speaking, an important test, or a music or sports performance.
But for kids with excess anxiety, everyday events can trigger anxiety: things like being away from their parents, going to school, socializing, or even going to sleep at night. These children may have frequent stomachaches, headaches, tears or temper flare-ups. And rather than outgrowing these worries as most kids do, their worries typically increase as they get older.
Children with excess anxiety need some special help to cope with their fears. If you suspect your child is suffering with anxiety, talk with their doctor, who can offer insights and specific resources. You may also want to consider Helping Your Anxious Child, a nine-session parenting group.
Learn more at Anxietybc.com.
Can we really “spoil” infants by holding them too much?
It’s a common and stubborn myth you may hear from well-meaning family and friends: can you really ‘spoil’ an infant by holding and comforting them too much, especially when they’re crying? No, you can’t. Is a crying infant trying to control or manipulate you? No way.
In fact, science confirms that thoughtful, responsive caregiving is exactly what infants need. When we respond to their crying by holding and soothing them, and perhaps offering the breast or a bottle, we’re helping them develop trust — which is a crucial part of their social and emotional development.
Crying is the only way newborns can communicate. They are often signaling that they need something basic like food, sleep or a diaper change, but their need for social interaction is just as strong. Hearing your voice and looking at your facial expressions is a critical part of their long-term social-emotional development and their brains are wired for connection from birth. By holding and soothing your baby you are helping build their brain!
So forget the myths and remember this: when you quickly respond to your crying baby, your baby learns that it can count on you. This is what bonding is all about. And infants who have a strong bond with their parents tend to be more content and less demanding as they become older babies.
Crying is normal, but if you worry that your infant cries too much and can’t be soothed, talk with your doctor right away. There may be a physical cause, like acid reflux, that requires treatment.
Learn more about infant crying.
Sleep Guidelines by Age
All children need to get enough quality sleep so their bodies and brains can grow and stay healthy. Good sleep habits have positive results on attention, behavior, learning, memory, mood and more. Not getting enough sleep is linked to injuries, obesity, depression, high blood pressure and other problems. How much sleep does a child need in a 24-hour period? Here are the current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Infants 4 months to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
- Children 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- Children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- Children and tweens 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- Teenagers 13 to 18: 8 to 10 hours
Introducing Peanut Products to Babies
To reduce the risk of peanut allergy, most but not all babies should start having soft foods that contain peanut products. This ideally happens between 4 and 6 months of age, after they’ve had a few solid foods with no signs of allergy. (Talk with your baby’s doctor if your baby has eczema or has had an immediate allergic reaction to any foods; you and the doctor can decide when and how to introduce peanut products.)
For most babies, the easiest way to start this food is to mix a small amount of smooth peanut butter in cereal or yogurt. Since whole peanuts are a choking risk, don’t give them until at least age 4.
Playground Injury Prevention
Active outdoor play is fun and healthy! But each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. Most of these injuries can be prevented. First, steer your child toward play equipment that’s designed for their age. Choose play areas that have soft material – like wood chips, sand or rubber – under the structures and swings. Teach your child key safety rules: never push others, slide feet first, look below before sliding or jumping down, keep clear of moving swings, remove bike helmets when on play equipment, and never use jump ropes on play structures or swings. And of course, children must always be supervised by an adult.