Your Toddler

Parents: Read to Your Young Children!

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that pediatric providers advise parents of young children to read aloud and talk about pictures and words in age-appropriate books to their kids.  The AAP says that these activities can help strengthen a child’s language skills and literacy while promoting parent-child relationships.

Pediatricians have long encouraged reading to children, but the guidelines are the first official policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics telling doctors to talk to parents about daily reading to their children, from the first year of life until kindergarten.

Reading with young children “stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime," the AAP guidelines said.

Studies have shown a wide economic divide when it comes to parents reading to their children. Only one in three children living in poverty have parents that read to them consistently.  Children who aren’t read to often have “a significant learning disadvantage” by the time they get to school age, the AAP added.

Even wealthier families do not always make reading a ritual, with 60 percent of those with incomes 400 percent of the poverty threshold saying they read to their children from birth to age five, according to a 2011-2012 survey.

Some pediatricians worry that technology – from television to smartphones- may be taking the place of reading to little ones.

The AAP has previously said babies under age two should be as screen-free as possible, and that the best kind of learning takes place through unstructured, interactive play with humans and toys.

Even babies can benefit from being read stories, said the AAP.  “We can stimulate greater brain development in these months and years," said Peter Riche, a fellow of the AAP and Chief of Pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York.

"I do see earlier word recognition, earlier phrases and sentence formation, and singing—I always recognize that in those who are exposed to daily reading."

Many families do not have the money for books so the AAP said it "supports federal and state funding for children's books to be provided at pediatric health supervision visits for children at high risk."

Another important benefit of parents reading to their young children is the blooming of a child’s self-confidence and independence.

Child development experts say that when parents read to their children not only do kids feel more secure but words and pictures also ignite creativity and imagination; two valuable components of a well-rounded life experience.

Sources: Kerry Sheridan,

Your Toddler

Sleep Loss & ADHD

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Preschoolers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be hyperactive and inattentive in kindergarten, exhibiting ADHD-like symptoms.As an adult, you already know how difficult it is to focus on even the simplest task when you haven’t had enough sleep. The same holds true for young adults, children and even kindergartners. According to a new study, preschoolers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be hyperactive and inattentive in kindergarten, exhibiting ADHD-like symptoms.

The study involved about 6,860 children with analyses controlled for gender, ethnicity and family income. "Children who were reported to sleep less in preschool were rated by their parents as more hyperactive and less attentive compared to their peers at kindergarten," said lead author Erika Gaylor, PhD, senior researcher for SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif. "These findings suggest that some children who are not getting adequate sleep may be at risk for developing behavioral problems manifested by hyperactivity, impulsivity, and problems sitting still and paying attention." According to the authors, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not generally diagnosed until the school-age years, but the onset of developmentally inappropriate inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity is often much younger. Sleep problems, particularly difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, are frequently reported in children and adolescents with ADHD. Total nighttime sleep duration was calculated using parent-reported bedtimes and wake times, which were obtained via interview at both time points. Parents also rated their children's behavior on brief measures of attention/task persistence and hyperactivity/impulsivity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is especially important for children because it directly impacts mental and physical development. Preschoolers typically need 11-13 hours of sleep each night and most do not nap after five years of age. As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night are common. Some tips to help preschoolers sleep better are: - Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule. - Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps. - Your child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, preferably in a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV. Since the preschool age group is developing active imaginations, they commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. They also may sleepwalk, and experience sleep terrors. A little extra attention from a comforting parent or caregiver can help ease some these fears. Sleeping is the primary activity of the brain during early development. An important component to a good night’s sleep is Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or "quiet" sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development. Once again, another study points out how important sleep is to being able to function and think well – no matter what your age! The study’s findings were presented at the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC in Minneapolis.

Your Toddler

Fortified Juice Boost Kids’ Omega-3 Levels

Parents looking for alternatives to fish for boosting healthy omega-3 fats in children might want to use fortified juice. A new study found that orange juice fortified with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was able to raise blood levels of DHA in 31 four- to 12-year olds who drank the juice for six weeks.

The findings indicate that souped-up juice is one effective way to deliver the fatty acid, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. What's still unclear, they say, is whether there are health benefits to doing so. DHA is one of the essential fatty acids, meaning the human body does not synthesize it and it must be consumed through food. DHA is abundant in the brain and retina, and is believed to play an important role in early brain and eye development. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. But as many parents know, with the exception of breaded fish sticks, which are not made from omega-3-rich fatty fish, children tend to shy away from eating fish. The lead researcher of the study, Keli M. Hawthorne from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says it is important to find kid-friendly alternatives. The study was funded by the Coca-Cola Company, which provided DHA-enriched orange juice for the study. "Fortifying juice with DHA is a realistic approach to helping children increase the amount of DHA in their diet," said Hawthorne. Hawthorne said parents who are concerned that their children are not getting enough DHA could try juice or other foods enriched with fatty acid. "Although we are still not certain what the direct health benefits are in children," she said, "it is clear that most children do not meet the recommended guidelines for fish intake that would provide DHA."

Your Toddler

Brain Boosting Activities

The No. 1 brain booster for preschoolers is one-on-one time with parents. Even though this is a time to learn independence, the parent-child attachment is still there at this age.Could your child become the next Einstein of Physics, or Elinor Ostrom, another Nobel Laureate in economics?  As parents, we’d all like to think so.  One way to help your child develop his or her natural creativity is by engaging them in brain boosting activities.

Up until age 2, babies’ and toddler’s brains are growing by leaps and bounds every day. They develop language and motor skills faster than they ever will.  But between 3 to 5 years, that growth slows. Instead, the brain is making countless connections within its different regions. Preschoolers focus more on absorbing the world around them. Their minds are developing problem-solving skills and using language to negotiate. They’re also learning how to coordinate their bodies to do things like aim and kick a ball. “Kids should be out there exploring and getting ready for their next important job: going to school,” says developmental pediatrician Michele Macias, MD, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and chairwoman of the AAP's section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics. The No. 1 brain booster for preschoolers is one-on-one time with parents. Even though this is a time to learn independence, the parent-child attachment is still there at this age. Some activities that are not only fun but challenging to a child’s brain are: Reading together. Books that tell a story and ones that teach counting, ABC’s, sorting and matching, and similar core concepts are perfect for developing language, vocabulary and learning skills. Pretend Play Preschool-aged children naturally have great imaginations. Though they often start pretend play at younger ages, their imagination life really starts to take hold from age 3-5. Besides being fun, imaginative play lets kids experiment with role-playing. “Much like reading, make-believe lets kids practice things they might not actually be able to experience in real life,” says child psychologist, Richard Gallagher, at New York University’s Child Study Center. Games and Puzzles From Candy Land to “Duck, Duck, Goose”, games with rules help improve social intelligence. Kids practice patience in taking turns, and learn to accept the frustration of not winning. Remembering rules, also gives those memory muscles a workout. Physical games help sharpen the brain’s motor coordination. Learn another language Research shows that younger kids can pick up multiple languages much faster than when they get older. Learning a second tongue early on also gives a double punch of stimulation to the areas of the brain responsible for storing, sequencing, and saying words, Gallagher says. A second language also helps with developing verbal and spatial abilities, and promotes better vocabulary and reading skills. An added perk: Kids get a greater sense of cultural diversity. Whatever activities you choose, make sure it’s fun for your child. Go easy on the pressure. And above all, just let your kid enjoy the sheer pleasure of being a kid.

Your Toddler

Car Seats Save Young Lives

Putting your infant or young child in an age-appropriate car safety seat significantly reduces the odds that they will die if they are in a motor vehicle accident a new study says. The study, published in the February 2009 issue of American Journal of Public Health, was done by research epidemiologists at the Traffic Safety Center in the department of environmental sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. The study shows that the odds of a your-baby dying in a car crash dropped by three-quarters if they were in a safety restraint seat. The mortality risk reduction for older children was at least 60 percent if placed in a safety seat.

"The findings from this study indicate that child restraints greatly reduce the risk of death among children three years and younger involved in severe traffic collisions," wrote the study authors. "The higher effectiveness of safety seats among infants is likely due to their overall fragility," added the authors. Car accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury and death for children older than one year. More than 500 children younger than three died as a result of motor vehicle collisions in 2005, according to statistics quoted in the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Your Toddler

Twitter Question from @MandieD79

Mandie asked:  Can prolonged use of antibiotics cause IBS in toddlers and make the lose their appetite?

Dr. Sue says prolonged antibiotic use may cause a change in “normal” GI tract (gut) bacteria.  That change may then cause some GI distress, sometimes change in stools, nausea and decreased appetite.  Not really IBS.  Wonder why they are on prolonged course of antibiotics?  Have you tried using a probiotic like Florastor to help get back normal GI flora?  It's available for kids. Thanks for the tweet!

Your Toddler

Baby Gates Responsible for Almost 2000 ER Visits

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You install baby gates to keep your little one from falling down stairs or away from areas in the house that are not baby-proofed.  But baby gates do not always prove to be safe. In fact, the number of children treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to baby gates has quadrupled since 1990.

A new study, conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has found gates can lead to injury if used incorrectly.

From 1990 through 2010, ERs treated an estimated 37,673 children under the age of seven for baby gate –related injuries.

The study used data obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The researchers found that more than 60 percent of the children injured were younger than two years old, and they were most often injured by falls down stairs after a gate collapsed or when it was left open. Injuries caused by these accidents lead to soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, and traumatic brain injuries, said the researchers.

Cuts were the main injury for 2 to 6 years-olds from climbing on the gate.

The most common injuries were bumps, bruises, cuts and lacerations. However, over 16 percent were traumatic brain injuries, Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., the senior and corresponding author and associate professor of Pediatrics, Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, told Healthline.

McKenzie offered this advice to parents, “Gates are a common, if not essential, safety device in homes to prevent young children from potentially hazardous stairways, and to limit access to restricted areas — for example, the kitchen when you are cooking. Current recommendations suggest that gates be installed in stairways and between rooms in homes with children between six months and two years of age, or until the child has learned how to open the gate or when the child is able to climb over the gate.”

Parents are not the only ones that need to be aware of these guidelines. Grandparents and caregivers should also know about the recommendations.

“When your grandkids come to visit, it is essential to have the correct types of gates in place to keep your grandkids safe in your home. You can be strategic in limiting children’s access to dangerous areas by installing gates at the top and bottom of stairs and between rooms. Also, do not use the old accordion-style gates. The sale of these gates was banned because of the risk of strangulation. Make sure any gates you use meet current safety guidelines,” said McKenzie.

The researchers offered these baby gate safety tips:

-      Use hardware-mounted baby gates at the top of stairways.

-      Gates that only press against walls, called pressure-mounted gates, are not secure enough to prevent falls.

-      Install gates in homes with children between six months and two years of age.

-      If possible, remove the gates when the child turns two, or when the child has learned to open the gate or climb over it.

-      If you can’t remove a gate because of other children in the home, use a gate without notches or gaps that could be used for climbing.

The study was published in Academic Pediatrics.

Source: Sandra Levy,

Your Toddler

Honey Relieves Kid’s Cough

1.45 to read

My grandmother used to say a little honey was the best thing to stop a cough. A new study, published in the September issue of Pediatrics confirms what mothers and grandmothers have been saying for decades… a couple of teaspoons of honey soothes the throat, stops the coughing and helps you sleep better.

It’s tough for parents to find an over-the-counter solution to treat colds and coughs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines don't work for children younger than 6 years and may pose risks. The FDA takes a similar stance.

In the new study, 270 children aged 1 to 5 with nighttime cough due to simple colds received one of three types of honey or a non-honey liquid of similar taste and consistency 30 minutes before bedtime. Parents completed questionnaires about their child's cough and sleep on the night before the study began and then again the night after their kids were treated.

Children received either 2 teaspoons of eucalyptus honey, citrus honey, Labiatae honey, or similar-tasting silan date extract 30 minutes before bed. All kids did better the second night of the study, including those given the date extract. But children who received honey coughed less frequently, less severely, and were less likely to lose sleep due to the cough when compared to those who didn't get honey. 

The study was co-funded by the Honey Board of Israel.

Not only were the children able to sleep better, parents were able to sleep through the night as well. That’s a huge relief especially for parents who have to be at the office or on the job site the next day.

Mild coughing isn’t always a bad thing: it helps clear mucus from the airway. But an acute cough can be relentless - causing vomiting and gasping for air.

Honey can be part of a supportive care regimen for children with colds, says Alan Rosenbloom, MD. He is a pediatrician in private practice in Baldwin, N.Y.

There are a few caveats, he says. Honey is not appropriate for children younger than 1 because they are at risk for infant botulism. "Never give honey to a child under the age of 1."

Skip the honey, and call your pediatrician if your child also has:

  • Fever
  • Prolonged, worsening cough
  • Wheezing
  • Cold symptoms that last longer than two weeks

If your child has a cold, Rosenbloom suggests a couple of other ways you can help them be more comfortable. Try saline drops or nasal spray, a humidifier in the bedroom to keep the air moist, and propping up the child's head during sleep to stop the postnasal drip that can trigger coughing.

If you want to give honey a try, there’s no need for a “special” kind of honey – any honey will do. It may be the best choice in the first few days of a cold – less coughing, better sleep, safer and more effective than OTC medications.

Looks like grandma was right—as always.


Your Toddler

Study: Steroids Do Not Help Wheezing Kids

Steroid drugs, one of the most common treatments for young children prone to wheezing and colds do not help and may even be harmful, according to new research. Two different studies were published in the January 2009 New England Journal of Medicine. One study, conducted in Britain looked at preschoolers who were hospitalized with a wheezing attack and treated with the steroid prednisolone. The study showed that the children stayed hospitalized just as long as other children who were given dummy pills.

The second study focused on children in Canada who had previous wheezing trouble and took the steroid fluticasone as a preventative measure. That study showed modest improvement in breathing but the side effect of possible stunted growth outweighed the benefits, researchers said. Wheezing, a high-pitched whistling noise as a person exhales, occurs when air struggles to get through narrowed airways. Parents often bring their children to emergency rooms thinking their kids can't breathe. Dr. Bradley Chipps, an allergy specialist in Sacramento, California, told the Associated Press that the research "gives us good information that what we've been doing doesn't work." "It gives us a lead to pursue a safer alternative," he said. Dr. Chipps is on the allergy and immunology executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics and had no role in the study.


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