Author Archives: Insite

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Childhood stress. Is it a real thing?

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As providers and caretakers, adults tend to view the world of children as happy and carefree. After all, kids don’t have jobs to keep or bills to pay, so what could they possibly have to worry about? PLENTY! Even very young children have worries and feel stress to some degree.

Sources of Stress

Stress is a function of the demands placed on us and our ability to meet them. These demands often come from outside sources, such as family, jobs, friends, or school. But it also can come from within, often related to what we think we should be doing versus what we’re actually able to do.

So stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed – even children. In preschoolers, separation from parents can cause anxiety. As children get older, academic and social pressures (especially from trying to fit in) create stress.

Many children are too busy to have time to play creatively or relax after school. Children who complain about all their activities or who refuse to go to them might be over-scheduled. Talk with your children about how they feel about extracurricular activities. If they complain, discuss the pros and cons of stopping one activity. If stopping isn’t an option, explore ways to help manage your child’s time and responsibilities to lessen the anxiety.

Children’ stress may be intensified by more than just what’s happening in their own lives. Do your children hear you talking about troubles at work, worrying about a relative’s illness, or arguing with your spouse about financial matters? Parents should watch how they discuss such issues when their children are near because children will pick up on their parents’ anxieties and start to worry themselves.

World news can cause stress. Children who see disturbing images on TV or hear talk of natural disasters, war, and terrorism may worry about their own safety and that of the people they love. Talk to your children about what they see and hear, and monitor what they watch on TV so that you can help them understand what’s going on.

Also, be aware of complicating factors, such as an illness, death of a loved one, or a divorce. When these are added to the everyday pressures children face, the stress is magnified. Even the most amicable divorce can be tough for children because their basic security system – their family – is undergoing a big change. Separated or divorced parents should never put children in a position of having to choose sides or expose them to negative comments about the other spouse.

Also realize that some things that aren’t a big deal to adults can cause significant stress for children. Let your children know that you understand they’re stressed and don’t dismiss their feelings as inappropriate.

Signs and Symptoms

While it’s not always easy to recognize when children are stressed out, short-term behavioral changes – such as mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, or bedwetting – can be indications. Some children have physical effects, including stomachaches and headaches. Others have trouble concentrating or completing schoolwork. Still others become withdrawn or spend a lot of time alone.

Younger children may pick up new habits like thumb sucking, hair twirling, or nose picking; older children may begin to lie, bully, or defy authority. A child who is stressed also may overreact to minor problems, have nightmares, become clingy, or have drastic changes in academic performance.

Reducing Stress

How can you help children cope with stress? Proper rest and good nutrition can boost coping skills, as can good parenting. Make time for your children each day. Whether they need to talk or just be in the same room with you, make yourself available. Don’t try to make them talk, even if you know what they’re worried about. Sometimes children just feel better when you spend time with them on fun activities.

Even as children get older, quality time is important. It’s really hard for some people to come home after work, get down on the floor, and play with their children or just talk to them about their day – especially if they’ve had a stressful day themselves. But expressing interest shows your children that they’re important to you.

Help your child cope with stress by talking about what may be causing it. Together, you can come up with a few solutions like cutting back on after-school activities, spending more time talking with parents or teachers, developing an exercise regimen, or keeping a journal.

You also can help by anticipating potentially stressful situations and preparing children for them. For example, let your son or daughter know ahead of time that a doctor’s appointment is coming up and talk about what will happen there. Tailor the information to your child’s age – younger children won’t need as much advance preparation or details as older children or teens.

Remember that some level of stress is normal; let your children know that it’s OK to feel angry, scared, lonely, or anxious and that other people share those feelings. Reassurance is important, so remind them that you’re confident that they can handle the situation.

Helping your child cope

When children can’t or won’t discuss their stressful issues, try talking about your own. This shows that you’re willing to tackle tough topics and are available to talk with when they’re ready. If a child shows symptoms that concern you and is unwilling to talk, consult a therapist or other mental health specialist.

There are many books on the market that can help young children identify with characters in stressful situations and learn how they cope. Take a look at the e2epublishing blog for a list of 12 of the best books to help children with anxiety..

Most parents have the skills to deal with their child’s stress. The time to seek professional attention is when any change in behavior persists, when stress is causing serious anxiety, or when the behavior causes significant problems at school or at home.

If you need help finding resources for your child, consult your doctor or the counselors and teachers at school.

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Tips to help manage your child’s screen time

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There has been a debate raging on whether screen time or tablet and smartphone use is helpful or harmful to a child. Since these devices are new, scientific studies do not yet have a lot of data on the issue, and some of the early results are contradicting.

One finding that stands out, however, is that when parents manage a child’s screen time, iPad or Android tablets, as well as smartphones can help the child learn, communicate and socialize, while avoiding the health and emotional problems sometimes associated with device overuse.

Teach your child to use technology to make a positive effect on himself and the world, instead of using it for mindless entertainment, or worse, having a negative effect on people.

To minimize the harmful effects and maximize the benefits of screen time, it is important for parents to establish screen time guidelines early in your child’s life so that it lays a foundation for later behavior.

Guidelines for managing your child’s screen time:

The Academy of Pediatrics prescribes no screen time for children below 2 so it won’t disrupt being engaged in practicing motor skills and developing interpersonal relationships.

1. Set up some parameters

Make screen time an interaction between you and your toddler or young child. Make it a shared three-dimensional experience. The brain development and language development happens when you talk about what is happening on screen, similar to reading a book to your child. Make it a dialog, discuss important concepts, exchange ideas, and relate what your child is learning to real life. “Humans learn best when they are actively involved with the material.”

If possible, limit your child’s screen time to educational material that can still be fun (here are some suggestions for educational apps for babies and toddler). A 2014 Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York study examined infants 0-3 years old that used touch-screen devices to determine if their use was of any educational benefit to infants and toddlers. The study showed that children who played non-educational games using touch-screen devices had lower verbal scores upon testing.

Ebooks that read to your child should not give you a pass on your educational responsibility to him.

Don’t use screens as a silencer or pacifier.

Never let your toddler be occupied with screens when they are outdoors.

Too much screen time means less time for other activities like actively playing with other children or reading. As in most things, moderation and balance is the key.

2. Be smarter than the smartphone

There are 2 ways of using the screen, for consuming entertainment and for using it as a teaching tool or a way to connect. Limit the entertainment consumption to one hour, and be more flexible with social, productive (like posting a creative work or a valuable YouTube video, and educational use of screens.

Use the built-in parental controls in the device, if present. It’s a good idea to set it high, and let your child go to you to adjust the restriction. This will be an opportunity for you to talk with him about what he is doing online.

3. Make smart choices for your child

Choose media that is geared towards children. It’s not so much the length of screen time that’s important, but the nature of the screen time. See to it that what your child is watching, playing and reading is high quality and safe.

For older kids, make them play apps that are educational yet fun and even make earning a game like Duolingo (for learning a foreign language), Khan Academy (videos for learning almost anything), or King of Math (learning math). Interactive media engages the brain more than passive media like TV. So if the alternative use of interactive screen time is watching TV, encourage your child to choose playing with the smartphone or tablet instead.

Find ways to integrate screen-based content with ordinary play or use apps that provide this opportunity. Parents and children should work together to decide how much time screen time is ideal, and make good choices about what media to consume.

Consider using parental control apps that helps manage your child’s screen use, limit time spent on the device, and block inappropriate sites and apps. Examples are, ESet parental control and Norton Family Premiere.

4. Make some smart rules

Create rules for using smart phones and tablets – even if it’s generous – and make sure your child follows it. Here are some examples:

Make a trade: one hour of reading or playing sports in exchange for one hour of screen, only one hour on school days or three hours on weekends, etc.

Consider giving your kids a list of things to do before they can use their screen like doing homework, reading for an hour, and/or finishing their chores. Also, you can make consuming entertainment content as a reward for good behavior.

Set rules for times when no use of smartphones and tablets is permitted, such as dinner and family conversations, driving, or a set time when kids are only allowed to read books or do homework.

Make your child understand that he needs enough sleep to fight against the bad effects of sleep-deprivation, and your limiting his screen time is for his own good, not yours.

Tell your child to end screen time at least one hour before bedtime. A hard cutoff time prevents your child from haggling for more screen time, and allows for smoother evening routine.

Routine is a major influence on human behavior, and children, who respond well to routine, should learn good ones early.

Consider making it a rule for kids not to have any kind of screen in the bedroom to avoid sleep quantity and quality disruption and the negative effect of blue light on the eye.

5. Lead by example

Your child models your behavior. If he sees you using your iPhone or tablet too much, he will probably do the same thing.

Show that your child is your priority over screens by spending more time with her, or by talking with her when she arrives after school. When talking to your child, don’t be distracted by texting or swiping on your phone.

Create ways to make the whole family active, schedule a physical activity each day to mitigate the effect of the kids’ being sedentary when they engage in too much screen time.

Our product recommendations:

Keep your Little Dear distracted from too much screen time with these great products. To view all the products in our catalogue, click here.

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Creative children: things you need to know

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Creativity is the ability to generate or make up stuff that is unique and often has practical or artistic value. It’s also a way to look for new solutions to old, and more importantly new problems. When your child becomes an adult in the workplace, he will always encounter problems that may not be solvable through the old ways, and therefore requires thinking “outside the box”. A child who is used to thinking creatively will be a success in his profession, and will be sought after by employers. Or better yet, he may even employ people to work on his innovative creative project!

Apart from practical benefits of being creative, coming up with something new in itself is a source of pleasure.

Many artists actually create art not for money, but to express themselves and give purpose to their lives. To many, it can be an important aspect of a happy, fulfilled life.

And of course a creative child may also grow up to be able to produce something very valuable in his generation. A child whose creativity is well-nurtured, and have other traits like grit, persistence and ability to do hard work may grow up to be the next Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Coons or Frank Gehry.

The genetic root of creativity

A large part of being creative is genetic. Scientists claim that some people are born more creative than others, and creativity seems to come more naturally to some children than others. It is an innate talent, and the naturally talented person has an easier time acquiring the same level of expertise than the lesser talented person. Also the talented person tends to master quickly what exists, so he can move on to working beyond what already exists and build something new.

Highly creative people are found to exhibit personality traits such as being intelligent, non-conformist and unconventional, and open to experience.  They have strong egos, and even have a mild form of madness. They also tend to have a broad range of interests. For example, highly creative scientists are found to be highly interested and engaged in the arts.

Although there are especially gifted creative people, experts believe that all people have creative abilities and all have them differently. It is also something we all have in various degrees. Children are naturally creative. But because of societal pressure, creativity can be unlearned. And because of lack of stimulation, creativity can also be undeveloped.

How to recognise a creative child

You can tell if your child is naturally creative if you see him:

  • finding new ways of using things, especially commonplace objects – like using a box as a toy fort, a vehicle, or a cave.
  • finding new ways of solving a problem, sometimes intuitively and without using logic
  • daydreaming a lot
  • being independent, unconventional, has his own way of doing things, and does not care to conform with what other children do
  • take risks and learn from consequences
  • interpret his world by creating things like music, drawings and stories.
  • take something existing, and makes his own improvements and variation on it – he may take an existing game and create his own version, or an object such as a schoolbag and add decors to make it his own.

Genetic factors are main contributors to a person’s creative talent, but scientists do not negate that environmental factors play a big part in developing it in a person. Creativity can be developed so a person can achieve his potential. And the best time to foster creativity is from childhood.

Childhood is the time when your child is still developing his powerful brain.  It is also the time when he can freely explore and grow in the direction he wants, and not be constrained by how society wants him to think. It is the time when he picks up the habit of being creative. Indeed, nurturing his creativity is one of the most important gift you can give to your child.

Our product recommendations:

Here are just some of our great products that we recommend for your Little Dear to help stimulate creativity. To view all the products in our catalogue, click here.

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How to choose toys to make children smarter

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Your child’s eyes light up at the sight of toys. It seems that his attraction for toys is instinctive. Maybe this is because toys fulfill his needs for using his imagination and his need to explore, pretend and share. Toys are not only fun, they can also be valuable tools to make your kid smart – and they prepare him for skills needed to be an adult.

The best toy for your child is the one that he chooses – and it can be as simple as a cardboard box or pots and pans. When he enjoys a toy, it provides him the greatest learning experience. Your child is a natural earner and anything that interests him will teach him something. Also, the more variety of toys he has, the happier he is, and the more diverse his learning experience will be. He may not have access to all the toys he likes, so some you have to provide some of them yourself.

To view all the products in our educational toy category, click here.

Choose toys that are appropriate to your child’s gender.

Observe your child to determine his likes, interests, his skills level, his favorite characters, etc. to know what toy he will enjoy.

Choose toys that require imagination. These are open-ended toys that leave playing to the imagination. Avoid toys that can only be played in only one or a few ways. Toys that run on your child’s imagination are better than those that run on AA batteries. For example, a Tigger toy whose limbs your child can manipulate endless ways is better than a Tigger toy that can only somersault. Playing toys by making believe enables your child to test his idea about the world and develops his creativity. Research has also shown that this also develops language and lengthens your child’s attention span.

Choose toys that allow your child to do something to them like snapping them together or shaping them. They improve your child’s spatial intelligence and depth of perception. He also learns about shapes, colors and sizes.

Choose toys that are developmentally appropriate for your child’s age – if it is too advanced for him, he might get frustrated with how difficult it is to play, and he will abandon it. Worse, it may even injure him. If the toy is for a younger age, he will find it boring.

Give your child a variety of toys where he can learn a variety of skills.

Here are some of the benefits of particular types of toys:

  • Toys that encourage dramatic play like blocks, toy vehicles, toy animals, puppets, and props to recreate real life such as a store help your kid “work out his own ideas about the world.”
  • Toys that encourage manipulative play like construction sets, puzzles, and toys with interlocking pieces help your kid develop small muscle control and hand-eye coordination.
  • Creative arts toys like blank pieces of paper, paints, scissors, glue, and clay encourage self-expression and the use of symbols, which are vital skills for problem-solving and literacy.
  • Toys that encourage physical activity like bikes, jump ropes, balls let your child work off energy and build strength and coordination.
  • Strategy games like card games, dominoes, chess and checkers teach your child about taking turns, planning, following rules and cooperating with teammates or opponents.

When you give your chosen toy to your child, don’t just hand it to him and then shoo him off to play. Play with your child, explain how the toy works and what’s fun about it. Playing with your child makes him feel loved, and this enhances his learning. Also, observe if he really gets interested. If not, the toy may be too advanced for him. Keep it until he is ready for it.

Introduce new toys one or two at a time. Too many choices overwhelm your child, especially if he is an infant. Your child is more likely to make the most out of every toy and be comfortable with its familiarity if you slowly add new toys to his collection.

Make sure the toy is safe. This is especially true for your infant or very young child. Make sure, for example, that your baby’s rattle doesn’t have holes that trap his fingers. Children love to put toys in their mouth (as well as other holes in their body), so avoid toys that your child can swallow and choke on. For your older child, check if toys that are designed to take his weight are sturdy and have no mechanical defects.

Store toys in such a way that your child will be stimulated to play with them – like arranging them into little scenes or other creative arrangement. Don’t just dump everything into a toy box where your child doesn’t even remember what is in there.

Our product recommendations:

Here are just some of our great educational toys that we recommend for your Little Dear. To view all the products in our educational toy category, click here.

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