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Baby Led Weaning

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) – When and How to Start

Baby-Led Weaning and the Child of 4-5 Months

Some children are ready to begin general weaning at 4 or 5 months. Others can wait until they’re 6 months old. Baby-led weaning (BLW) starts when the child shows interest in the food.

Your child must be at least 4 months old when he or she starts to get food in addition to breastmilk. This is primarily because the stomach and bowel system must be ready to digest the food.

If the child is thriving and growing as expected, it is best to wait for baby-led weaning until the child is close to 6 months of age.

When to Start Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

General weaning starts when the child starts taking porridge and purée, and it ends when he or she eats what the rest of the family eats. When the transition period starts depends on whether the child is thriving, how early the child shows a need for and interest in food, and whether the child is breastfed or bottle-fed:

  • It is better for the child to wait with food other than breastmilk if the child is being breastfed in whole or in part (i.e. breastfed and bottle-fed), and if he or she is otherwise content and growing as expected.
  • The child can start weaning before the 6-month mark if he or she is taking formula alone and appears ready.

Until the age of 4 months, you must feed breastmilk or formula exclusively.

Ready to Start Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)?

Your child shows a readiness to start weaning and eat food by being able to do the following:

  • The child can keep his or her head up, looks at food with curiosity, and opens his or her mouth for the spoon.
  • The child can sit with support and is starting to lean forward in the highchair.
  • The child can start picking up food from the table by hand to try to put it in his or her mouth.
  • The child can communicate being full, for instance by turning his or her head.

If your child is not gaining enough weight or seems hungry, it may be a sign that he or she is ready to start weaning. Ask your home health nurse about your child’s signals and wellbeing, if you are uncertain.

Weaning and the First Foods

If your child of 4-5 months needs to start weaning and eat food, you can start with various grains, vegetables, fruits, and fats. These foods help provide the child needed energy (calories), vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

The food should be energy-rich for the child to get his or her needs met, even when eating small amounts in a sitting. The energy in food comes from fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Vitamins and minerals do not contribute energy, but each contributes to making the body function correctly.

Your Child’s Weaning Development

Your child has become more interested in food when the family is eating, and he or she is starting to understand that food is associated with spoons, plates, and cups. During this period, the child develops his or her ability to use the tongue for things other than sucking, learning to move food to the back of the mouth with the tongue, and starting to chew the food.

The child shows a desire for food by leaning forward and opening his or her mouth when approached with the spoon. And shows satiation by closing his or her mouth or turning away from the spoon. The child discovers that different foods taste and feel different in the mouth, becomes curious about his or her surroundings, and shows enjoyment of being with others around food and mealtimes.

The first few tastes should be puréed and soft, but as the child learns to take the food from the spoon and chew with the gums, the food should have a coarser consistency. Choose between various types of purée and porridge.

d-drops for baby

Remember Vitamin D Drops

Remember to give your child vitamin D. The supplement should be 10 mcg per day and be given in form of vitamin D drops. You can give vitamin D drops on a spoon along with a little breastmilk or formula. Don’t mix it into the bottle. You may want to give it at the same time every day to make it easier to remember.  Some children also need iron drops – Your child needs iron drops if they were born prematurely or weighed less than 2500 g at birth. Ask your home health nurse if you are not sure.

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The Childs Spoon

You may want to choose a spoon made of plastic or horn, rather than metal. Metal can feel hard against the child’s gums. Don’t use the child’s spoon yourself. Not even when tasting the food to show that you like it. If you use the same spoon, there is a greater risk of transferring germs that may cause cavities in the child’s teeth. Similarly, don’t put the child’s pacifier or baby bottle into your own mouth before giving it to the child. This hygiene rule applies both now and going forward.

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) - The First Foods

Here is some advice about getting started, regardless of if the child is 4, 5, or 6 months old when they start on foods in addition to breastmilk.

If the child is about 6 months old when you start weaning, you should proceed more quickly than you would with a child of 4-5 months.

Which Time of the Day?

The time of day you offer the child food doesn’t matter. It is more important that the child is relatively well-rested and not too hungry when you are going to try something new.

If the child has become too hungry, they might prefer to be breast or bottle-fed rather than eating food from a spoon.

After eating food, the child can be breast- or bottle-fed. It is preferable if the child participates in family meals, and that they start to eat at some point. The child learns a lot from watching others eat and experiencing the meal as a fun and engaging time.

What Are Good ‘Weaning Foods’?

The first foods are porridge, puréed vegetables, and puréed fruit. In Denmark, the tradition is to start with porridge, but you can also start with mild, creamy mashed potatoes mixed with a bit of puréed vegetables.

You can use puréed fruit to sweeten the porridge and vary the taste. Or you can give puréed fruit as ‘dessert’ after a vegetable meal. The content of vitamin C in the fruit makes it easier for the body to absorb iron from other food the child eats. Do not use puréed fruit as a stand-alone meal, in part because it doesn’t always provide enough energy, but also because the sweet taste may get the child to prefer puréed fruit to porridge and puréed vegetables.

When you make porridge, you may want to switch between various cereal types – and between porridge with and without gluten. Corn, millet, and buckwheat contain no gluten, while oats, rye, and wheat do. If you switch between instant porridge types, choose products with added iron. Read the label.

Your child should not eat rice-based porridge every day, as rice contains arsenic.

Good Baby-Led 'Weaning Foods'

Porridge

Porridge made from  cornmeal, millet flour, and buckwheat flour is suitable as a very first food, because the taste is mild and the consistency fine and creamy. Once the child is used to soft porridge, you can start to use flakes and grains – e.g. millet flakes and oats – with a slightly ‘grainier’ consistency.

Puréed vegetables

Potatoes have a mild taste and are nice and soft when mashed. They are also filling and suitable for a basic mash combined with various boiled vegetables, such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, parsnips, parsley root, and peas. It is important to use a wide variety of vegetables, so the child experiences different tastes. Hold off on spinach, beets, fennel, and celery, until the child is older than 6 months, and even then in small quantities, as they contain nitrates. Also, limit salt in the mashed potatoes. From the age of 6 months, the child should also eat meat and fish.

Puréed fruit

You can feed the child a purée of raw or boiled fruit. Use apples, pears, bananas, or peaches, which have a mild taste. Fruits like melon and berries are also suitable in small quantities, as they have a stronger taste. Frozen berries can be used to boil compote. From 6 months of age, the child can eat all kinds of fruit, raw or boiled. Initially, the fruit must be puréed. You can give berries and small soft pieces of fruit once the child is able to chew the food.

Fat in the Child’s Porridge and Purée

The following recommendations will ensure that the child’s first food provides sufficient energy:

Homemade porridge and purée should have added fats and formula, which could be in the form of powder. 

Off-the-shelf porridges and baby food in jars do not need added fats, as the energy contents are already high enough.

Fats are primarily an important source of energy in the food. The fat also contributes fatty acids that are important for forming new cells in the body and for various hormones.

Instead of formula, you can obviously use pumped breastmilk for the porridge. Use breastmilk or formula rather than milk with lower fat content while a child is between 6 and 12 months.

The added fat can be butter or olive oil. You might not want to use butter all the time, since the child already gets a great deal of this type of fat from breastmilk.

Food Consistency and Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)

If the child is 4-5 months old when they start weaning, you can give the child a thin, smooth porridge and puréed potatoes with vegetables. This eases the transition from breastmilk to food. The child’s ability to chew is still not well-developed, so the food should be the consistency of cream soup. With this consistency, the child soon figures out how to suck the food off the spoon and swallow it. 

Once the child is used to taking food from a spoon, you can make the porridge thicker but still smooth, and you can make the mashed potatoes more substantial by mashing them with a fork. Once a child can chew, you can cut boiled, steamed or baked vegetables into small pieces.

 

Start baby-led weaning with a soft, creamy and fairly liquid consistency.

Then make the food coarser, firmer and more varied.

The Flavor of the Food

Vary the food so the child has many different taste experiences from the very beginning – this can contribute to developing the desire to eat different foods later on. During the baby-led weaning period (BLW), the child should get used to food tasting different from breastmilk. Remember that the child needs time to get used to new tastes and consistencies.

You can flavor the porridge with various kinds of puréed fruit, but make sure you don’t use sweet flavors only.

Normally, the child’s food should not have added salt. Avoid salty foods, including salted meat and fish products. Use very little salt when boiling potatoes, rice, pasta, and vegetables for your family, so these foods can be used for the child’s purée.

What Should the Child Drink?

At mealtime, the child can drink formula from a cup, so they will realize that milk can be served in a cup as well.

Wait until the child is a year old before you serve cow’s milk in a cup.

If the child is being breastfed, there is no need to provide bottled formula during baby-led weaning (BLW). After the meal, you can breastfeed the child, so it will still get breastmilk.

If you stop breastfeeding – or if the child takes very little breastmilk – they will need bottled formula after the meal until 9-12 months of age. How much depends on how much the child eats at mealtime and takes by cup. After turning 1, the child no longer needs the bottle.

blw and baby led weaning

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)

Let the child practice eating with his fingers. It can stimulate the interest in food. Make sure the food is mashed. Stand by with a spoon so you know they get to eat something.

If the Child Spits Out the Food

Even if your child is ready to start baby-led weaning (BLW), they may have a hard time getting the first foods into the mouth properly and swallow them. The food may be pushed back out. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your child doesn’t like it. But they need to practice, because the oral motor skills are not yet fully developed to taking food from a spoon.

Try putting another spoonful into the child’s mouth carefully, and try again, until the child doesn’t want any more. The child will indicate this by a turned head or a closed mouth. If the child likes the food, you can offer more spoon full over the next days. The appetite of the child and his or her desire to eat determines the size of the meal.

Initially, the child may make gagging sounds or look like they are choking on the food. This is because the child has yet to learn how to use the tongue to manipulate the food. Because of this, the food goes too far back into the mouth, activating the gagging reflex. Don’t worry and give the child a chance to get used to the consistency of the food. As soon as the child learns to use his or her tongue, the gagging reflex will be activated less and less.

If the Child Refuses the Food

If the child doesn’t want the food you offer, they may need more time to get used to the smell, taste, and consistency of the food. Don’t give up. Try again next time the child is up to it, perhaps with different foods.

A lack of desire to eat the food you offer may also indicate that the child is being started baby-led weaning (BLW) too early and is not quite ready to try eating porridge and purée. If the child is younger than 6 months, you may want to wait with the food and try a little later. 

If the child is older than 6 months, it is best to continue offering food next time the child is up to it, as the child needs more than breastmilk at that point. But do remember that you never want to push the child to eat.

If the Child Is Slow to Get Used to Food

Some children accept new foods readily. Other children need to taste the same food, perhaps 8-10 times and over several days, before accepting the new food. Consider it healthy skepticism on the part of the child and slowly and calmly help the child through it.

Children are also very different in terms of appetite. Some eat large helpings of food, while others want only small samples. As long as your child is healthy and happy, you don’t need to worry.

If the Child Becomes Constipated

Some children get constipated easily when they start eating food. If that happens, make sure you offer extra water and extra dietary fiber, such as in the form of oatmeal porridge and raw, shredded vegetables. You may also want to consult with a doctor or your home health nurse.

Baby Led Weaning and the Child of 6-8 Months

If you haven’t already started, your child needs to start baby-led weaning (BLW) around the age of 6 months. They need the nutrition from the food, and breastmilk is no longer enough.

It seems there is a ‘window’ for introducing food around 6 months of age. If you start much later, it may be difficult for the child to get used to food, because they is less ready to try new things and would rather continue with breastfeeding or taking a bottle.

Breastmilk

Breastmilk or formula still provides the bulk of the child’s nutrition, and the food serves as a good supplement. We recommend continuing breastfeeding as long as the child is happy with it, which could be until the age of 1 or even longer.

If the child is no longer breastfed, we recommend formula by bottle and cup until the age of 1. You will also want to offer water by cup throughout the day.

Be aware that it may ruin the child’s appetite if they is breastfed or taking a bottle during the night. The more night feeding, the less appetite for food during the day.

The Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) Development

Around 6 months: The child can sit with support. When the child can sit in a highchair, they is ready to join you at mealtime.

The child is practicing chewing the food using his or her tongue or jaws. Therefore, the food must become coarser with a thicker consistency in step with the child’s development.

Early in the transition, the child should typically eat two meals a day. Toward the end of the transition, 3-4 meals a day. Don’t be too worried about how much and how the child eats. The child’s appetite determines the amount of food. In addition, the child will need meals that are strictly breast- or bottle-feeding.

The child can start to eat independently by grasping the food and showing it into his or her mouth using the entire hand. You can supplement by feeding the child with a spoon to ensure they receives enough food.

7-8 months: The child starts to sit and eat independently. At 8 months, the child chews the food thoroughly. Most children are also able to mix dry foods with spit, enabling them to handle small, soft pieces of bread with spread, soft bites of boiled vegetables, and pieces of soft fruit, such as banana.

The child can now practice drinking from a cup. They can start picking up small things by pinching together the thumb and pointer, and they no longer uses the entire hand to push food into the mouth. At this age, the child may also try to grab the foods of others.

Baby led weaning

Baby Led Weaning - Means Fingers In

At the beginning of the baby-led weaning (BLW) period, the child should typically have 2 meals a day. Towards the end of the period 3-4 meals a day. Do not pay too much attention to how much or how the child eats. It is the baby's appetite and curiosity that regulates the amount of food. In addition, the baby is given meals that are exclusively breastfeeding or bottled. Let the baby take the lead and examine the food.

Eating Together

It is important at mealtime that you help your child out, but without pushing him or her to eat more than there is appetite for. Don’t comment when serving new foods or foods that have previously been rejected. Wait to see what happens. Too much attention may result in your child refusing to try the food.

Remember that Baby Led Weaning is very much about letting the baby’s curiosity be the guideline.

When tasting, it is also good for the child to have the option of spitting the food back out, perhaps into a napkin. Neither children nor adults like to swallow foods they don’t like. Don’t be disappointed when the child doesn’t want to eat the food. Serve the same food several times a few days apart. Some children need to see and taste the same food many times before being willing to eat an entire helping. This is normal.

Take your time with the meal. Many children need to study unfamiliar foods at length before eating them. A 30-minute delay before getting started is not unusual. Others eat right away.

Sometimes, the child may not be particularly hungry at mealtime, or they may be too tired. In that case, the child may need to take a nap instead, or go play, so they can return later with a bigger appetite.

Avoid transferring any pickiness you yourself may have to your child, by also serving things you personally don’t like. It is important that your child gets many different taste impressions during this period, even sour and bitter ones.

Although the child may instinctively grimace, still try a few more times – most children learn to eat most things, as long as they have the opportunity to become familiar with the taste. The child’s curiosity is stimulated by being served various foods, and this may help prevent pickiness.

Which Kinds of Food?

If you are starting now, at around 6 months of age, with BLW, you can give them almost any kind of food right from the start.

If the child has already started baby-led weaning, they will now be ready for more variety, both in terms of taste and in terms of consistency.

You can start with the food the family eats. You don’t have to prepare all the child’s food separately. You can prepare potatoes and vegetables with food for the family, as long as you go easy with the saltshaker.

The food must be soft enough to chew and mash between gums and teeth. Foods that are boiled or baked in the oven are softer and easier to chew for the child. Pan-fried and -seared meats, fish, and vegetables are not suitable until the child is able to chew the food thoroughly between gums and teeth. Whole, soft pieces of meat must be puréed in the beginning, but toward the end of the transition, they can simply be cut into bits the size of peas.

Hard vegetables must be boiled, shredded, or finely chopped – examples are carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. Soft vegetables can be served raw – examples are peas, corn, peeled tomatoes cut into smaller pieces, cucumber, and avocado.

From 6 months of age, the child can eat meat, fish and eggs. At this point, the mash should be coarse. Once the child is able to chew, you can cut boiled, steamed, or baked vegetables into smaller pieces.

Baby led weaning or blw

Formula - If the Child Needs More Milk Than Breastmilk

Children who are not being breastfed need formula throughout the first year of life, also during the baby-led weaning phase. Formula marked “From birth” can be used for the entire first year. There is no need to switch to formula 2 or a supplement mix. Once the child is older than 4 months, you can make formula directly with cold tap water. You don’t have to boil it first. Follow directions on the packaging when mixing water and powder. You can mix the formula as you need it, or you can mix enough for 24 hours at a time and keep it refrigerated until your child needs it. For children born prematurely and children with immunological illnesses, you always need to mix the formula immediately before the child will take it. Another option is to use readymade bottled formula. This is more expensive than mixing your own from powder and water – but practical if you are traveling. You can offer formula in a bottle or a cup. Gradually decrease the number of bottle feedings, until the child takes only one bottle a day up to the age of 1. The child must get used to drinking from a cup.

From the baby is 6 months, it can get meat, fish and eggs. The bog should now be rough. When the baby can chew, you can cut the cooked, steamed or oven-baked vegetables into smaller pieces.

Baby-Led Weaning and Food From Age 6 Months

  • Porridge: Porridge continues to be an important part of the child’s diet. Rye bread porridge, oatmeal, and whole grain porridges contribute many great nutrients and fiber and can help prevent constipation.
  • Fruit: All kinds of fruit. Initially, the fruit must be puréed. Once the child can chew, you can offer raw berries and soft fruits like bananas, ripe pears, and watermelon.
  • Potatoes and vegetables: Potatoes and vegetables are good base foods. Vary by using different kinds.
  • Meat: Starting at 6 months, the child will need meat or fish every day in order to get sufficient iron.
    Initially, you will want to add minced meat to the child’s vegetable purée.
    Switch between various types of meat, such as beef, veal, pork, mutton, and fowl. Make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly, so it is not raw in the middle. Start by using ground meats, perhaps from the food the family is eating anyway. If the meat is too tough for the child, you can blend it with a little of the broth, e.g. if you are having chicken, chops, or something similar for dinner.
    Children who eat a vegetarian diet and who continue to be breastfed during the transition should take an iron supplement in form of drops – about 8 mg a day until age 1.
  • Organ meats: You can offer liver and heart on occasion as part of a varied diet, either in form of liver paté, or you can boil and blend it.
  • Fish: From 6 months of age, the child should start to eat fish. It is a good idea to switch back and forth between fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel, and lean fish like cod, pollock, dab, ling, and plaice and cod roe. Also, offer shrimp and mussels occasionally.
    It is not too important if the fish is fresh or frozen. The fish can be prepared in a pot, the oven, or the microwave. When first introducing food, it is best to offer steamed, boiled, or baked fish, save fried fish until the child is older than 9 months.
    Always be diligent about removing any bones.
  • Eggs: From 6 months of age, you can offer the child eggs occasionally as part of a varied diet. The child can have hardboiled eggs. You can also use eggs in meatloaf, patés, omelets, and cake. Any other use of eggs is not recommended, because of the risk of salmonella poisoning from raw eggs.
    Use pasteurized eggs if you want to make scrambled eggs where the eggs are not heated all the way through.

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) Foods From 8 Months

  • Bread: Once the child chews well around the age of 8 months, the child can have pumpernickel bread and other soft breads without whole grains, such as graham bread, rye bread, and country bread. Give the child bread that weighs heavy in the hand.

    The weightier the bread, the more filling it is. Switch between various types of bread.

Unheated Food

Once the child is about 8 months of age, they can chew well and independently eat fresh, soft pumpernickel bread and wheat bread cut into quarters. In the beginning, spreads work best.

Heated Foods

Varied hot foods can include:

  • potatoes with occasional variations of rice or pasta
  • vegetables – raw or steamed
  • fish, meat, boiled dried legumes, or eggs
  • fats, e.g. in form of sauces or dressings
  • fruit for dessert – such as compote or finely chopped fruit salat.

Spreads

  • Braunschweiger or liver paté
  • Fish spread
  • Hummus
  • Broccoli spread
  • Egg salad or mashed hardboiled eggs
  • Avocado spread
  • Mashed peas
  • Mashed banana
  • Mashed strawberries
  • Cream cheese

If the spread doesn’t contain fat, you need to add a little fat to the bread under the spread, such as a little butter, oliveoil, or mayonnaise.

You may also want to incorporate leftovers from dinner the night before.

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Baby-Led Weaning and Drinks

The child now needs food 5-6 times during the day. For drink, the baby drinks breast milk substitute or water in a cup. If you are still breastfeeding, it is good to end the meal by offering the baby the breast. Be very careful with sugary drinks.

Avoid Choking

Make sure the child’s food is soft and cut into suitably small pieces, so there is no way it could get stuck in the throat and block the airway. Supervise the child during the entire meal, so you can intervene if necessary. If you follow this advice, the risk of serious choking is minimal, so you should not continue with purée after the child learns to chew. It is important to offer the child a variety of foods in order to provide the needed vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is also important for the child to use the chewing musculature. Even so, chewable vitamin D is not for children younger than 18 months. If the child is unable to cough up food, place the child as indicated in the illustration and give 5 blows with the palm of your hand between the shoulder blades. If the food still doesn’t come up, turn the child over to the back and press 5 times on the lower third of the sternum. Alternate between 5 back blows and five chest compressions, until the food is expelled.

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) and the Child of 9-12 Months

From about 9 months of age, the child can largely eat what the family eats at all meals, as long as the food is soft and cut into suitable pieces.

It is important that the entire family eats a varied diet, because different foods contain different vitamins, minerals, and other substances the body needs. Eating a varied diet means switching between meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, bread and dairy products throughout the day – as well as switching between various types of meat, fish, and vegetables throughout the week.

Milk

Give the child breastmilk and/or formula until the age of 1. Depending how much the child eats, they will need between about 5 and 7.5 dl milk and dairy a day at 9 months of age. Up until the age of 1, the quantity required decreases to between 3.5 and 5 dl or so.

If the child takes formula in a bottle, rather than breastfeeding, the number of bottles should now be decreased to a bottle a day. The child can take the rest of the formula in a cup with meals. Once the child turns 1, they no longer need a bottle.

From 9 months of age, the child can also start having small amounts of yogurt as part of a varied diet, although no more than ½ dl and up to 1 dl at age 1. Yogurt are counted in the overall amount of milk.

It must be sugar free!

The Baby-Led Weaning Development – I Can Do It!

By the time the child reaches the later stages of baby-led weaning or the BLW phase, the child becomes good at chewing and they are able to take bites off a piece of bread. The child likes to use his or her fingers to eat and is able to take the cup from the table and drink using both hands. The child also knows that the plate and spoon go together. The child can’t yet eat with a spoon but likes to practice while eating with his or her fingers.

It’s good for a child to experience eating independently like the rest of the family – it gives self-confidence and a desire to eat. Some of the food will end up on the floor, and the child may pound the plate with the spoon, making food go everywhere. But that’s all part of practicing. The child will soon get better at using the spoon.

Eating Together

Meals are good family time. The child wants to eat when they see you enjoy your food together and you are having quality time around the table.

Be aware of the child’s desire or unwillingness to eat, in other words, what they like, how much they wants, and how soon to offer it. Accept that the child sometimes eats less than at other times. It is very common at this age to see variations in appetite. It is also totally normal that the child goes through periods where they don’t like certain foods, but it can change again in short order. Don’t talk about what and how the child is eating, just talk about the experiences of the day and about how the food smells and tastes.

Food From 9 Months

Porridge: Porridge continues to be an important part of the child’s diet. Rye bread porridge, oatmeal, and whole grain porridges contribute many great nutrients and fiber and can help prevent constipation.

Potatoes and vegetables: Serve vegetables at most meals, also for snacks. They are good base foods. Vary by using different kinds. Offer raw vegetables as well, in form of finely shredded carrots, peas, corn, cucumber, and bell peppers in tiny pieces the size of peas that are easy to swallow. Offer potatoes and introduce occasional variety with rice, pasta, and bulgur.

Meat: Feel free to serve meat every day on sandwiches and at main meals. Among other things, meat contains iron and other minerals, such as zinc, which the child needs. Once the child is good at chewing, meat just needs to be cut into suitable pieces if you are having filets, chops or other whole cuts of meat. Cut off the edges of fried or baked meats, so the child is eating only the soft meat from the middle.

Fish: Make sure you serve the child fish, at least twice a week as a main dish and more frequently in sandwiches. This helps the child get enough iron and other important nutrients. Remember to give the child fish, even if you are not too keen on it yourself.

Bread: Give the child pumpernickel bread and other soft breads without whole grains, such as graham bread, rye bread, and country bread.

Fruit: You may want to offer a small piece of fruit at meals or as a ‘dessert’ after meals with meat, fish, and veggies. Among other things, fruit contains vitamin C that makes it easier to absorb iron from the rest of the food the child eats.

Sour milk products: You can give sour milk products based on whole milk as part of the varied foods, such as plain sugar free yogurt with a fat content of 3.5%. Instead of buying yogurt with fruit – and added sugar – you can add your own fruit, whether puréed, shredded or cut into small pieces.

Which Kinds of Food?

By now, the child can eat almost anything. It is important that you provide a varied diet for the child on a daily and weekly basis – both in terms of variety between meat, fish, vegetables, etc. and various types of meat, fish, vegetables, etc. The child must have many different taste experiences, and they need to get used to food having varied consistency and smell. This may help prevent pickiness later on.

You should also be aware that the child’s food should be soft, but still coarse enough that it needs to be chewed.

Unheated Foods – Lunch

As bread comes to be a larger share of the child’s food, lunch should consist of more varied food types:

  • Bread – switch between whole wheat and white, serve bread that feels heavy in the hand
  • Fruit and vegetables – steamed or raw – to munch on or in a sandwich
  • Meat, eggs, or cheese – cubed as finger food or in sandwiches
  • Fish – in small pieces or in sandwiches
  • Fat as a spread on bread or as part of other sandwich spreads

Once the child is able to take bites out of the bread and chew slightly ‘harder’ foods, you can serve the following:

  • Fish balls, fish sticks, or other cold leftover fish from dinner
  • Various seafood in sandwiches, such as herring, mackerel, cod roe, shrimp
  • Meatballs, hamburger, chicken, and other cold leftover meats cut into easy-to-eat bites
  • Braunschweiger and liver paté
  • Hardboiled eggs, homemade egg salad
  • Sliced cheese, cream cheese
  • Avocado spread, grated carrots, tomato slices on bread
  • Sliced apples, pears, and other fruits on sandwich bread
  • Sliced potato sandwich

Fats on the bread: Until the child is 1 year old, you need to add fat to the bread underneath the spread. Switch between margarine, mayonnaise (preferably homemade from egg yolk and canola- or olive oil), and butter.

Baby led weaning

The Plate

Dont mix the food together on the plate. Your child likes to see what they are eating and to be able to choose between the different things on the plate.

Hold Off On

  • Hard foods: you should not give whole, raw carrots, carrot sticks, and similar hard foods until the child is about 3 years old and chews very well. The child’s development rather than the age is the main factor for deciding when.
  • Grapes must be cut into pieces, as they can choke the child to death in a worst-case scenario. Grape seeds must be removed, as they can cause severe pneumonia in case the child aspirates them.
  • Popcorn, peanuts, etc.: Easily aspirated if they go ‘down the wrong pipe’.
  • Tuna and other predatory fish: The earliest you can give canned tuna is at age 3. Large predatory fish, such as tuna steaks, can only be given from age 14.
  • Dairy products with high protein content: soured milk, ylette, junket, fruit quark, skyr, and fromage frais should not be introduced until age 2.
  • Vitamins: Chewables can be introduced no earlier than 18 months, and if you want you can give the vitamin D in chewable form up to the age of 2.
  • Sweets: Soda, chocolate milk, juice, candy, ice cream, and cake are not recommended for small children.

Limited Amounts Of

  • Rice: Rice can be part of a varied diet. However, since rice contains arsenic, it is not recommended that children eat rice or rice-based porridge every day. Rice drinks and rice cakes are not recommended for children
  • Vegetables high in nitrates: Spinach, celery, and beets should be avoided for the first 6 months and should then be served in limited quantities until the child turns 1. This is due to the pesticides. If you want to avoid this, go organic!
  • Raisins: Raisins should be limited in quantity
  • Cinnamon: Limit the amount of cinnamon and cinnamon-sugar for small children.

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) and the Child of 12 - 24 Months

When the family gathers for the meal, the child is motivated to eat and they see how it’s done. The child practices using a spoon and a fork and drinks low fat milk from a cup. The baby bottle is completely out of the picture now.

During this phase of baby-led weaning or BLW, the child eats all kinds of food, prepared in a variety of ways. Most children are in childcare for a few hours a day, and there the food is often prepared according to official recommendations and the child’s age.

Milk

Once the child is a year old, they can start drinking low fat milk from a cup. Some children need to learn to like the taste of low fat milk gradually, after having had nothing but breastmilk or formula, while others will take to it immediately.

By now, the child should get between 3.5 and 5 dl milk a day, including sour milk products. If the child gets more milk than that, it might spoil his or her appetite, depriving the child of a variety in foods.

Once the child is about 2-years-old, it is best to served nonfat or 1% milk like you would for older children and adults, although some children may need to stay with low fat milk until the age of 3. Discuss it with your doctor or home health nurse if you are unsure about what to give your child.

The BLW Development

Once the child is close to 18 months of the BLW phase, the motor skills in his or her wrist are sufficiently developed to scoop up food with the spoon and place it correctly into the mouth without spilling. Let the child practice with a small spoon or fork, and soon enough they will learn how to eat that way.

Finger foods are still important, so feel free to allow the child to eat everything independently. Respect indications that the child is full, and never pressure your child to eat.

Eating Together

It is important that the atmosphere is relaxed at mealtime. Accept when the child doesn’t like something but do go ahead and offer it from time to time to see if the child’s preferences change again. Some children need to taste new foods as many as 8-10 times before accepting the taste.

Don’t talk about what and how the child is eating, just talk about the experiences of the day and about how the food smells and tastes. This way you will be successful at baby-led weaning for a child aged 12 months or old. 

Baby led weaning - blw 1

If the child is in childcare, a snack after arriving home is a good idea. It provides energy until dinner.

Baby led weaning - blw 2

Sweets are completely unnecessary. Small children love healthy alternatives like peas they shell themselves.

The Child’s Appetite

The child’s appetite may vary, and they will go through periods of preferring certain foods. Continue to serve many kinds of foods, but don’t pressure the child or exclude certain foods, because the child is opting out for the time being.

The child should still be presented for new taste experiences, visual impressions, and consistencies in order to get used to foods tasting different. At this age, children may have periods of eating an unvaried diet. Simply continue offering new things along with your child’s preferred foods. Starting at age 2-3 and up until the child starts school, they may refuse to try new foods, which is completely normal. Therefore, you should provide your child with as many taste experiences as possible before that time, so there are fewer new things to deal with.

How Much Food?

For small children in particular, it is important to eat many small meals throughout the day. Typically, your child needs to eat every 2 to 3 hours while awake, switching between meals and snacks. This is because the child needs more food in relation to body size than older children and adults. But there is limited capacity for how much his or her tiny stomach can hold at any one time. Therefore, the food must be distributed across many feedings throughout the day in order to cover the child’s requirements for energy, vitamins, and minerals.

A good snack must both relieve hunger and contribute varied and nutritious food. Therefore, it matters what the child eats. But the appetite is still the determining factor for how much they eat.

The amount of food required by the child depends on age, body size, and how active they are.

Lunch

You might want to prepare extra dinner, which can be used later in sack lunches or for lunch at home. Boiled potatoes, steamed vegetables, pies, omelets, hamburgers and fish balls, etc. are great for lunch. Think lunch and sack lunches when you shop for dinner and make a few extra meatballs or pieces of chicken. Set aside the portion for later and refrigerate it immediately.

Occasionally, small children who are in childcare must bring their own lunch. In this case, it is important that the sack lunches don’t become too unbalanced, as it takes a variety of foods to meet the child’s needs. Also, remember fruits and vegetables in the sack lunch. You may want to find inspiration on the homepage altomkost.dk

Snacks

A lot of children are hungry before dinner and need a snack. This is especially true if the time is prolonged between coming home from childcare until dinner is on the table.

Benefits of snacks:

  • Relieve the child’s hunger with wholesome foods
  • Ensure the child’s intake of vegetables and fruit.
  • Give you a little break before having to cook dinner.

A good snack may consist of pumpernickel bread with some kind of lunch meat or ½ roll with cheese or marmalade. Add a bit of boiled or shredded veggies and fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. It could also be a small bowl of A38 with breadcrumbs and fruit.

Eating fruit and veggies is easier when they are ready to go, such as cutting melon into bite-sized pieces immediately after purchase and keeping them in a container with lid. Put pineapple in a different container, rinse strawberries and put them in a third one, etc.

Fat in the Child’s Food

Once the child is a year old, they no longer needs more fat in the food than the rest of the family, because if the child is consuming low fat dairy products, they is in fact getting a bit of extra fat. If the rest of the family is eating diet food – e.g. food that is particularly high in protein or low in carbs or fat – the child can’t participate in the diet, because they has different needs. Ask your home health nurse.

It is no longer necessary to add fats underneath braunschweiger, avocado and other sandwich spreads. So leave off the fat and use spreads sparingly. Add fat under lean lunchmeats and other sandwich fixings that would otherwise slide off the bread easily.

Careful With Sweets

Candy, ice cream, Cool-Aid, and soda pop contain a lot of sugar and no nutrients. Juice and store-bought smoothies contain a lot of sugar as well. It is wholly unnecessary to give these to small children. It doesn’t take many sugary foods to crowd out real foods.

Getting too many sweets reduces the possibility of getting enough vitamins and minerals and other substances contained in foods. Furthermore, sugary drinks increase the risk of becoming overweight.

Sandwich cookies, chocolate wafers, crackers, certain yogurts with fruit, and fruit quark for children contain a lot of sugar when compared to other ingredients, and they should be considered cakes or candy. The same is true for very sugary breakfast cereals.

Categories
Positive parenting

Why are Consequences an Essential Part of Positive Parenting?

If you grew up in the 1900s, you might be forgiven for thinking that today’s parents have lost their minds. In our generation, discipline was synonymous with corporal punishment or what kids today call violence. That should ensure that every child walked in the straight and narrow path to success.

However, you might agree that most kids who were raised in that generation are battling some serious self-esteem issues. Including an inability to stand up for themselves, and even PTSD resulting from all the clobbering, insults, and threats that went on.

Because of such issues, numerous researchers and child development experts like Haim Ginott and Rudolf Dreikurs had to find a more child-friendly mode of disciplining and raising kids. They emphasized sparing the emotional and mental state of the child.

Introducing Positive Parenting

Positive parenting has come a long way over the last couple of decades, and there is more research supporting it. In essence, it is the opposite of a previous parenting culture and philosophy. It addresses the cause of the misbehaviour instead of punishing the person misbehaving.

Positive parenting is defined as a ‘continual relationship between a child and the parents that include caring, leading, teaching, communicating, and providing for the child’s needs unconditionally and consistently.’

The idea comes from the thought that children are intrinsically good. They want to do the right thing if given the right guidance and teachings.

Also read the article How to Introduce Positive Parenting

Misconceptions of Positive Parenting

Positive parenting seeks to raise kids who are well-adjusted and build their self-esteem as opposed to destroying it. It does this by removing violence, insults, and any harsh language or tone from parenting. However, most people think that this means letting kids do whatever they want, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact, consequences are the pillars that hold positive parenting together. They are the guidelines that govern how a child will behave at every stage of their development. Without consequences, positive parenting would not be possible because children would go haywire and lack discipline.

The Difference between Consequences and Punishment

Where maintaining discipline and guiding children are concerned, there are two ways to go about it; consequences or punishment.

What’s the difference between the two?

Consequences are the results or direct effect of any action. This can be a positive or negative result, depending on which action was taken. The goal of consequences is to teach a lesson that will lead to positive choices. More importantly, consequences encourage self-examination, accepting responsibility for one’s action, and learning from their mistakes. Consequences are directly and logically connected, so it’s easy for the child to understand and accept them.

For example, a child misuses his phone or toy, and the parents take away the said item for a while. This is different from parents taking away the child’s toy because they fought with a peer because the two are not related in any way.

Punishment, on the other hand, is inflicting emotional or physical pain, and it’s meant to cause suffering. It is characterized by violence, criticism, disapproval, domination, and sarcasm. Instead of teaching positive choices, punishment causes resentment. It teaches children to rely on the outer voice giving commands instead of their inner voice of self-control.

Punishment also teaches children that fear, intimidation, and revenge are okay. That makes them susceptible to joining negative peer groups like gangs and cults. More importantly though, punishment damages the child’s self-esteem and does not facilitate secure child-parent attachment.

How to do it right

But the one place where punishment fails completely is that it emphasizes what not to do but never what to do instead.

For example:

  • A child doesn’t pick up his toys after playing, the parent spanks him.
  • A nine-year old talks back at his parents, the mother washes his mouth with soap.

In essence, the difference between consequences and punishment is that consequences help the child look at their mistake and correct them. Punishment makes the child direct their attention to their parents with feelings of hatred and frustration, instead of the mistake.

What are Consequences in Positive Parenting?

In positive parenting, a consequence is what happens to a child after an action. This can be a natural consequence such as hurting your leg after jumping on the couch, or imposed consequences such as having your phone taken away because you used it in class.

There are two types of consequences;

Positive consequences

Positive consequences are results that occur after you do something right. In positive parenting, it is important to involve positive consequences as much as you do negative ones to reinforce good behaviour.

Positive consequences include praise, attention, and rewards. They operate under the logic that children are more likely to keep up with the good behaviour if they are appreciated and even rewarded for it.

Did the child spend less time in front of the TV to study? Show them some acknowledgment and mention it when their grades improve. Did they remember to clean their room, give them a big high five and say ‘good job’.

Negative consequences

Negative consequences are what happens when the child misbehaves or does something bad to discourage that behaviour.  The logic here is that children need to know the difference between right and wrong.

Some examples of negative consequences include losing privileges like TV, phone, and video games.

Be extremely careful with timeouts and ignoring the child. Positive parenting is not about rejecting the child as a person. It´s but directing the child´s attention to harmful behaviour and emotions that they need to correct.

Parents can also allow natural consequences to happen to their children for them to learn.

Why are Consequences Important?

Consequences are easily the most important part of positive parenting because they reinforce good behaviour and discourage bad behaviour. If a child does something good that you would like them to continue doing, you reinforce it with attention, reward, recognition, and praise. If they misbehave, you use negative consequences to stop the bad behaviour and teach them how to behave better.

Consequences also provide kids with the tools they need to make good choices in their lives. By teaching them the law of cause and effect, you give them the power to choose what they want in their lives every day.

How to Teach Consequences

When used correctly, consequences in the context of positive parenting have the power to shape a child into a responsible and well behaved human being. There are two smart parenting tricks to teach consequences effectively;

Observe and describe

The Observe and Describe method is used at the exact moment the child is misbehaving. You observe the behaviour and describe what they are doing. Then you explain what they should have done instead.

Correcting behaviour

This method is used if your child continues to misbehave even after you have done Observe and Describe. For example, if they throw something in anger after you observe and describe the misbehaviour, you would say, “I understand you are mad because I said ‘no’ but it’s not okay to throw stuff. Since you threw that toy, you won’t have ice-cream today. If you can calm down and do what mummy said, then you can get a different treat later.

By using these two methods, you calmly but firmly teach the child that there are consequences to every action they take, good or bad. Most importantly, you do this without causing any resentment or friction between the two of you.

How to Deliver Consequences

Among the most significant distinctions between consequences and punishment is how they are delivered to the child. To be effective, consequences must be delivered in a calm, matter of fact manner without any emotions. You might want to take a minute or two to compose yourself and think through the consequences before you deliver them to your child.

 Ask yourself, is what you are about to say meant to teach them something, or are you doing it because they made you mad? Will you be able to deliver the consequence in a safe way using a respectful tone? Does your body language and tone say consequences or punishment?

These six tips have been helpful to many parents when delivering consequences;

  • Plan and think through it what you want to achieve with that consequence calmly.
  • Be consistent when providing consequences and stick to it no matter what.
  • Focus on only what you can control, which is delivering the consequences but not trying to control the child.
  • Think of it as a business deal or a job that you must do and don’t take the behaviour personally.
  • Accept your limitations that you can’t change your child. It is their responsibility to choose right over wrong after you have shown them the way.
  • Use ‘I’ instead of ‘You’ when delivering consequences to show your stand on the issue instead of sounding like you are blaming or attacking them.

Last Thought

Choosing consequences over punishment when raising children who continuously push your boundaries will be one of the hardest things you have ever done. The trick is taking a minute out for yourself to get your emotions out of it. Handle the rest like you would if you were in the office, calmly and tactfully.

Categories
Positive parenting

Positive parenting: Why it works miracles

Megan is usually a calm child. She smiles a lot, hardly cries, and is always ready to share her toys with other kids. But, as a two-year-old, Megan goes from zero to one hundred pretty quickly. Like most kids her age, she throws a fit and hits her mom, sometimes throwing her toys and smashing them. Megan has to get what she wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it. Her mother can either comply or deal with the aftermath.

This is the same thing Mark is going through with his teen son. The clean, tidy, and hardworking boy suddenly want to stay in his room all day. He refuses to shower unless Mark threatens him, and this doesn’t always work. He neglects his school work and would prefer to spend more time with his friends than his family. Obviously, this isn’t sitting well with Mark and his wife.

Think back to when you were a child. You probably thought about having your own family one day and how that would be for you. Like most kids, you acted out your thoughts during play as you interacted with your toys. This isn’t a surprise because, according to research, almost 90% of adults will become parents.

Research by Pew Research Center, in 2016, the first lot of millennial women, around 1.2 million gave birth. Now, try asking any of them the kind of parent they want to be. Without a doubt, most want to be a better version of their parents: some, the complete opposite.

While most of us work towards this, parenting challenges, especially in the 21st century, still throws us off balance. There isn’t a precise manual you can follow to parent kids. And when you search the internet, you are likely to be confused by all the advice available.

But all isn’t lost. With numerous researches on parenting, there are various tools and strategies available for the modern-day parent. With a little search, you will find a sea of helpful information for common challenges such as tantrums, behavior problems, and picky eaters.

One of the widely spread strategies is positive parenting. If you are looking for a way to focus on your child’s health, happiness, and development, then you came to the right place. This article will introduce positive parenting, the psychology behind it, and explain why it works. Even on kids like Megan and the rogue teen.

What is positive parenting?

 Ever attended a kid’s sports day where all kids got trophies? This is what most people have in mind when they think of positive parenting. It’s often confused to mean that kids face no consequences. Instead, they have to be pampered and soothe with rainbows and sunshine all the time.

This isn’t what Alfred Adler, a renounced psychologist had in mind when he came up with this parenting strategy. Let’s look at a little history to understand his thoughts.

Decades ago, in the 1900s, people held a traditional view of children. In their eyes, kids were to be ‘seen and never heard.’ You could pretty much do whatever you wanted, and spanking kids wasn’t a new phenomenon or frowned upon.

If Megan, the little girl we talked about earlier, threw a fit, she would get a nice beating to straighten her up. However, Adler was strongly against this traditional view. He insisted that kids deserve respect and should be treated with dignity.

Working with his counterpart Rudolf Driekers, a psychiatrist, the two developed positive parenting to help you focus on developing strong, deep relationships with your kids.

Positive parenting is thus: “Focusing on the relationship between you and your children, which includes carrying, leading, teaching, communicating, and providing for kids unconditionally and consistently.”

According to Debbie Godfrey, a certified parent educator, kids are born with a strong desire to do good. In fact, all kids are ‘good kids’ and altruistic since birth. A parent’s job is to teach discipline, build their kid’s self-esteem, and nurture their relationship without breaking their spirit.

Positive parenting encourages a warm, loving, and thoughtful way to raise kids, but this doesn’t mean you should be lenient. Instead, you should be both compassionate and firm.

The idea of being compassionate and firm was embraced by Jane Nelson, Ed.D who used it as the foundation of the Positive Discipline Methodology. This methodology is the foundation of positive parenting as we know it today, and it involve three major principles.

The psychology of positive parenting

1.    Every child has a primary goal to achieve belonging and significance

According to Tony Robbins, everyone has six basic human needs. These are: 

  • Certainty
  • Variety or uncertainty
  • Significance
  • Love and to connect with others
  • Growth 
  • Contribution 

Robbins says the need to feel significant is so strong because we all want to feel special, needed, and to have a meaning in life. We want to have that unique thing that makes us proud of who we are.

Now, when kids are born, their immediate basic needs are clothing, housing, and food. But, once these needs are met, kids crave to feel significant and that they belong.

For a child, feeling that they belong means they feel emotionally connected to the people who are important to them. Kids also want to feel that they have a place in the family and fit in with everyone else.

To feel significant, kids want the certainty that they can offer something meaningful to the family and make a difference. They also want to feel in power and exert this power over others and their world. That’s why older kids ruffle their sibling, who undoubtedly fight back as they try to regain their power. When a teen boy will refuse to do his homework. He is simply trying to exert his power over his world.

2.    Every behavior has a goal

Let’s think of Megan for a minute. Before she threw a fit, she wanted to help her mother set the table. Now, this is a big task for a two-year-old. A serving dish is too heavy for their little hands to hold, but Megan would have none of it. She had to help. Obviously, there is no way her mother was letting that happen.

Following what we have already said, Megan might merely be trying to feel significant. She wants to fit in with the rest of the family and is actively looking for her ‘spot.’ That’s why she insists on setting the table and carrying the serving dish like her mother. 

Unfortunately, most kids can’t articulate their motivation and desires because they are too young. Sometimes, they don’t even know what’s wrong. Like Megan, they throw tantrums to show their dissatisfaction.

But, from what we have learned from Adler, your kids are simply trying to achieve significance and belonging. Most misbehaviors are only symptoms of what’s ailing them and not the real problem. Because we often don’t know better, we learn to put a band-aid on the symptom, leaving the root cause unattended. 

Positive parenting teaches us to deal with the problem, the need for significance and belonging, without affecting the kid’s spirit. So, before you take away their gadgets or whatever other technique you use, first listen to your child and understand the real problem. 

3.    A child who misbehaves is a discouraged child

When children misbehave, they aren’t trying to be defiant, mean, bad, or uncontrollable. They simply mean they are discouraged. Think of Mark’s teen son for a second. He refuses to do anything his parents ask of him.

According to Mark, he is defiant and uncontrollable, but that’s not what Adler thought. Instead, this behavior simply means the teen doesn’t feel like he belongs or significant. He feels out of place and that he doesn’t have the power to control his life. Instead of saying this, he doesn’t do his homework, shower, or spend time with his family. That’s how he shows it.

It’s easy to miss this cry for help, so be on the lookout. Your child is trying to tell you something isn’t right with them. Sadly, kids don’t simply open up and tell you what’s ailing them. Instead, they misbehave. 

Here’s the interesting thing, though. When they misbehave, kids immediately have your attention, which is what they wanted in the first place. So, when they feel discouraged for a long time, they start believing that their ill manners are the best way to get your attention.

Misbehavior also frustrates you, which shows the kid that they have some level of control. And, honestly, everyone wants to be in control, right?

Our job is to see and recognize the signs instead of seeing as if we are failing as parents for having ‘difficult’ kids. 

Positive parenting: Does it work?

There are several reasons why this parenting method works.

  • Builds the relationship between parents and kids – you are more sensitive to your kid’s needs, become responsive and consistent in your interaction. Kids are happier, optimistic, and motivated to be on their best behavior.
  • There is mutual respect – children get to understand why there are rules, so they are likely to follow them. On the other hand, you understand why kids do what they do. Thus, you become more empathetic.
  • Sets a positive example – you become a good role model for your kids. Kids learn more from what you do than from what you say. When you respond calmly in stressful situations, your kids learn to do the same, learning to build cooperative relationships.
  • Build self-confidence – children learn to make better choices since you focus on learning for the future instead of punishing their past behavior. Once your kids start to follow through, your self-confidence as a parent also increases.

For positive parenting to work, you need to set clear expectations and consequences for your child and follow through each time. Lack of consistency will only confuse your little one and make them push your buttons to see if you will ‘let it go.’ It takes hard work, commitment, and follow-through, but the results are well worth it. Since each child is unique, remember to factor in their uniqueness as you make the rules. 

If you feel like you have tried everything with your kids, and nothing is working, positive parenting may be the solution you seek. Remember, however, it’s not a wish from a genie. Give yourself and your kids time to adjust to the new norm, and soon, you will notice the results.

Categories
Learning

ECE – Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education (ECE) involves educational programs for children from birth to the age of eight. In ECE, adults other than parents and primary caregivers care for and teach children in early care centers.

ECE programs can be:

  • Center-based (like child care centers or preschools) or
  • In nonparental home-based settings

While center-based child care is more expensive and difficult to find, it also tends to be of higher quality than care in nonparental home-based arrangements.

Most children attend early care and education before starting school, so early childhood education provides great support to families with young children.

However, ECE is much more than providing care to your child while you work. High-quality early education programs can promote development and learning. Also, early childhood education improves a child’s readiness for kindergarten.

What Happens During Early Development?

During the early years, the brain is most flexible and develops quickly. Thus, early childhood is a critical stage for learning and reaching developmental milestones.

 Early experiences set the grounds for a child’s cognitive, social-emotional, and language development that come with their physical growth. 

How does the brain develop?

Research shows that brain networks grow through day-to-day experiences. More than a million neural links develop each second in the first five years of life. In other words, every new situation and interaction create new connections in a child’s brain.

The Importance of Early Relationships

What seems to matter the most in early learning and development is the interaction between a child and a friendly adult person.

A bond between a child and an adult promotes well-being. It supports healthy attachment, boosts resilience, and helps kids grow into healthy adults. 

Caring parents, caregivers, and other adults who respond to their needs, help children develop and grow. That is, speaking, reading, singing, playing, and interacting with infants and toddlers is vital for healthy growth and happy childhood. 

Early Childhood Educators: Working with Young Students

Young kids differ from older students because they have unique needs. One of the first challenges you may experience as an early childhood educator (ECE) is handling your students’ transition to daycare.

Separation from their parents often causes anxiety in kids. Hence, helping young students through this transition is one of the essential ECE’s tasks.

Furthermore, early childhood educators need to be creative and able to observe the world from the child’s perspective.

Questions to Ask Yourself

How do infants learn? What is the child’s preferred learning style? How to hold a preschooler’s attention? How to deal with toddlers fighting over toys? And maybe most importantly, how to make learning fun?

These are some of the questions that teachers need to answer to make ECE successful. 

Learning in ECE Settings

Learning in an early education setting is very hands-on. ECE lessons involve a lot of storytelling, arts and crafts, and educational games. Your class’ daily activities should also involve:

  • Sensory play
  • Rhymes
  • Unstructured play
  • Nature walks
  • Indoor and outdoor gross motor activities

You should also engage young learners in sensory play, rhymes, unstructured play, indoor and outdoor gross motor activities. 

Learning through Play

Free play is an essential part of ECE, as kids learn best through play and exploration. 

Early childhood education encourages free play and hands-on experiences, hence creating positive learning settings. 

Young children feel motivated to learn when they engage in activities such as:

  • Playing games with peers
  • Reading books
  • Singing songs and rhymes
  • Playing outside
  • Engaging in arts and crafts 
  • Exploring sensory activities
  • Going for nature walks

High-quality early childhood education recognizes and responds to individual needs and interests, providing learning opportunities in line with those interests.

Developmental Benefits of Free Play

Independent play develops imagination, language, and literacy. It helps children express feelings, practice emotional control, and build empathy. Also, free play teaches kids how to work through conflicts and develop relationships. 

Moreover, free play improves the child’s cognitive skills because it encourages them to make connections and build upon existing knowledge.

Play promotes problem-solving and helps children understand cause and effect. It teaches them to anticipate and predict outcomes and practice hand-eye coordination. 

Also, sensory play allows young children to engage their senses as they play. So, sensory play is an important educational tool at an early age since kids learn about the world by using their seeing, hearing, doing, and touching. 

What Does Sensory Play Involve?

Sensory play includes a variety of activities that stir senses and promote creativity and imagination. It relies on children’s natural learning styles, helping them focus better and remember what they learned more successfully. 

Exploring the world through sensory play is a great way to boost curiosity and teach toddlers problem-solving.

Sensory activities also help kids master fine motor skills, promote social and emotional development, and pep up self-esteem.

What is more, the sensory play has a calming effect, helping children relax when they feel upset, anxious, or frustrated.

Activities such as clay modeling or finger painting improve brain plasticity and flexibility, essential for completing more complex tasks.

How Early Childhood Care Helps Early Development?

Studies prove the link between ECE and cognitive and social-emotional development during the preschool years.

Early childhood care benefits every aspect of a child’s development. In addition, it is a great way to prepare the child for school. 

Early childhood programs offer the child the opportunity to learn through play. Besides, ECE enables the child to reach the developmental milestones in a nurturing environment. High-quality ECE involves a combination of the following positive factors:

  • Small classes
  • High adult-to-child ratios
  • Social skills promotion
  • Encouraging independence 
  • A language-rich environment
  • Opportunities for play and exploration in a safe environment
  • Cognitive stimulation 
  • A responsive interaction between early childhood educators and kids
  • Instructional scaffolding (teaching method teaching that relies on an adult’s supportive role in children’s learning)

ECE programs provide opportunities for play and rest, health and safety, nutrition, and respect for diversity. It promotes the development of cognitive, language, social, and motor skills through play. 

The Benefits of High Adult-to-Child Ratios

High adult-to-child ratios in an early childhood center setting mean that one caregiver has a meaningful relationship with a maximum of three or four children.

Some authors believe that this model is rewarding for both a teacher and a child. On the one hand, it allows teachers to have deep relationships with children in their care. On the other, it enables children to form relationships with adults who care for them.

Summary

Early childhood education offers a range of benefits to children and their families. Young children learn best when they play, engage with peers, and form caring relationships with their caregivers. 

Early childcare environments in which kids don’t feel pressured to learn can improve cognitive skills, promote social skills development, and build a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Resources

https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20190325.519221/full/

https://www.educationcorner.com/early-childhood-education.html

https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000122380

https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSDAP.pdf

https://en.unesco.org/themes/early-childhood-care-and-education

https://www.healthline.com/health/the-importance-of-play

Categories
Behaviour

A toddler tantrum or a meltdown – what´s the difference?

Is my toddler having a tantrum or a meltdown?

It can be really difficult for parents to know how to deal with a child in distress.  Emotional outbursts from kids are among parents’ biggest challenges; it can be really hard to understand, know what to do and say, or prevent it from happening. Likewise, it can be really hard for the child to be ‘in’ the tornado of an emotional outburst. Particularly if the adult around them doesn’t know how to handle the situation. 

We need to be sensitive to the fact that a tantrum and a meltdown are not the same and therefore need to be dealt with differently, and with sensitivity. 

Key advice for both a toddler tantrum and a toddler meltdown

Don’t just do something, stand there!  And by this I mean first make sure you ‘do no harm’ – it is very easy to fall into the trap of making things worse!

Do not

  1. For both a tantrum and meltdown don´t try to use reason or logic: ‘but you will be tired tomorrow’, ‘No I won’t’, ‘but you will not be able to eat your dinner’, ‘Yes I will’ …..they cannot hear you right now anyway, they are in their own world of deep emotions!
  2. Don´t try to talk your child out of the feeling: ‘Stop being so silly’, ‘you will get better soon’, ‘it is not that loud’, ‘don’t get so upset about it’. These judgements from us will not help the child learn to calm themselves.  It is not our ‘job’ to control and decide how they feel. Nor what is a right or wrong feeling for them. But rather to teach them to become aware of these feelings, and then decide what to do with them. We can’t get rid of a feeling but we can learn to control it so it doesn’t hijack the outcome.   

Try instead

  1. Be sensitive: A tantrum or a meltdown is not a nice place to be for the child. It is important to be sensitive to this and keep reminding ourselves, that the child isn’t enjoying it. It is actually not feeling good in the moment.
  2. Stay calm, be a role model:  the best thing you can do is to teach yourself calming strategies so you can help your child stay calm and get the situation under control. Our kids mirror everything we do and say. It will not help the situation to go ‘hard against hard’, where we raise our voice and yell at them with frustration and anger. It will only get worse.
  3. Try to keep your voice low and neutral. That shows that we are in control of ourselves and what we do and say, and how we do it. This will make us safe to be with. Because we send a signal to the child that, ‘we are ok, we are under control’. There is no danger that we will suddenly start screaming or shaming and blaming.
  4. Here is a little tip on how you can control yourself: before you do and say anything stop and breathe. Just pause and check in with yourself and your emotions: ‘I am so mad right now, and that is ok. This is my feeling – but I don’t want this emotion to hijack how I behave or set the scene’.
  5. Less is more: words can be a dangerous thing. Keep what you want to say at a minimum. If we lapse into verbal diarrhea, we are in danger of getting carried away and saying things we do not mean or regret later.  Plus, the more we speak the less they listen! Did you know that only 7% of our communication need to be words! The rest is tone, body language and our focus!!
  6. Stay curious, not furious: understanding the “why” is the key here. All behavior has a meaning and our kid’s behavior is their way of communicating – ‘telling us something’. They most likely don’t have the skills (yet) to say, ‘mum, dad I am feeling very upset because my little brother took my toy and I need some help here’.  Look for the trigger to their tantrum or meltdown: are they tired, sad, feeling unfairly treated, over-stimulated? Then try to avoid the triggers or simple be aware of them.

The toddler tantrum

A toddler tantrum have a purpose i.e. the child wants something they can’t have. The tantrum normally stops when the child has got what he wants. Or when we as adults have changed the strategy of how we deal with the tantrum.

A tantrum is normally milder, and a child tries to exert some level of control over his behavior. Tantrums are normally when a child struggles to deal with his own emotions, i.e. anger or disappointment. The child wants something. He can’t get it, and then gets angry as he feels he ‘deserves or has a right’ to it. I can remember my son at age 5 totally losing it when he couldn’t watch more television at bedtime. ‘I want to watch more, I don’t get it, I won’t be tired tomorrow’. 

The meltdown

A meltdown is usually a reaction to being overwhelmed or overloaded in some way. This might be due to sensory overload – too much information from their senses. Sounds, sights, texture, tastes, touch, smell etc.

The emotional part of the stressor causes the child to go into ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode. Meltdowns often happen in overly sensitive children because they can react very quickly to internal and external experiences.

Meltdown is when a child’s environment is ‘too much’. The child can’t say, ‘mum, dad I really think it is too loud in here so can we go?’ Or, ‘I am so tired and don’t want to play any more’. Or ‘I don’t like the feeling of the t-shirt, can I choose another one’, and so on.

Tantrums normally get milder or stop altogether if we ignore ‘it’, i.e. the unwanted behavior not the child. Whereas a child with a meltdown often feels that he has lost all sense of control. That’s simply due to the overload from the outside world. Then they can only calm down by getting the right support from adults around him.     

How to respond to a tantrum or a meltdown

Teach children the skills they are lacking: impulse control, problem solving, delaying, negotiating, communication of wishes, self-soothing.

Try this

When dealing with both a tantrum and a meltdown always come from a place of: 

  • Listening: I can hear you are really upset…
  • Understanding: because your brother took your toy…
  • Accepting: and I totally get that…

Listening, understanding and accepting how the child feels is not the same as agreeing.

How to deal with the toddler tantrum

With tantrums make sure that the child doesn’t get a positive result from his behavior. First acknowledge that you can hear (listen) that he is upset and that you get why (understand) and then try to leave it there. There is no need to join in with the ‘tornado’. You can ignore the unwanted behavior, but the main thing is to re-engage once the tantrum has subsided. This sends a signal that they will get your full attention once the behavior has calmed down. Kids may have learned from our reinforcement to have a tantrum since the tantrum gets a result. They get our attention or what they want! So the most important thing is not to give in to a tantrum. We can ‘teach’ them that this kind of behavior doesn’t get results.

How to deal with the meltdown

It is not advisable to ignore a meltdown, though. Your child really needs you and your help to calm down here. First check what is going on in the environment that might have triggered it. Is he really tired and just needs to go home or leave the place? Is there too much noise? Maybe he does need to put on another shirt! Stay with him. I would not advise you to hug him but you can ask, ‘do you need a hug?’ Stay close enough so the child feels supported and you can say, ‘I am here when you need me’. Give him space but in a caring environment where he knows you are there when he needs you. Where he knows that you can contain the emotions can control himself!

Don’t judge, think positive: Sensitive children quickly ‘read’ the environment and detect negative feelings, even mild ones. It can really make a meltdown spiral if they sense that you are thinking, ‘oh no here she goes again’, ‘I can’t deal with this’, ‘I am so sick of this’ etc. Instead, check in with yourself, stay calm and challenge your negative self-thoughts: ‘I can deal with this’, ‘she needs my help’, ‘she has so many great qualities’ etc. 

Afterwards

Don’t try to problem solve with your child during the tantrum or meltdown as it will not be effective; they are too absorbed in their feelings. Afterwards you can sit down and talk about what caused it and discuss how you can help the next time. For instance: ‘you got really upset there Sam, and I get it, there were too many kids there! That upset you and that is ok. What can we do next time? Or what do you need from me?’ You can talk about where and how he felt it, his triggers. Maybe you can have a ‘sign’ together that he can use to tell you that he is about to get upset and it is time to leave.

Praise your child when he does try to soothe himself during an outburst. ‘I can see you are trying really hard not to scream, that is really brave of you’. Or afterwards you can say, ‘you know what Sam, I could see that you really tried not to get so upset and that was very big of you’. 

Remember this is not about you but your child….and keep it there.

Categories
Familylife

5 ways to overcome sibling fighting

You know the feeling! Sibling fighting and rivalry can be one of the most stressful parts of life for parents (and the neighborhood).

Read also the article Sibling rivalry – Why is my older child jealous of the baby?

But when you think back to your own childhood: did you fight with your siblings? I sure did, and I’m pretty sure we drove our poor parents nuts! But it was almost like it was something we had to do. To find our feet, get it out of our system, express some jealousy issues, or simply just because we were bored, and still had unconditional love from each other afterwards!

Sibling fighting only becomes a problem if we allow it to. We don’t have to give every little fight our full attention, we can choose to ignore some of it and remove ourselves to a more peaceful place!

5 tips to overcome sibling fighting:

  1. What kind of role model do you need to be, in order to handle the rivalry? Have a think about all the skills and qualities you will need, in order to mirror what you want to see more of in your children i.e. stay calm, think before reacting, listening, problem solving, ignoring small irritating behaviors etc. Then try to act this way so your kids can learn from you.
  2. Check in with yourself before you do or say anything: Try not to jump into a fight straight away with a ‘stop it’, ‘cut it out’ or yelling and saying things you might regret later on. Before doing or saying anything, stop, take a deep breath and slowly let it out. Have a think about those role model skills and which ones you need to use right now. Just breathe, feel how you feel, ‘I am so angry’, and then don’t let your negative feelings influence how you react or cope.

STOP, BREATHE, FEEL

and then make a decision of what to say and do or not!

  1. Awareness and decision: Stay curious, ask yourself “why?” “What is going on?” Have a think about the following questions:
    1. Where do they normally fight? is there a particular place they fight i.e. in the car, in front of you, at the dinner table
    2. When do they fight? Morning, afternoon, evening, bedtime, weekend, dinnertime etc.?
    3. What do they fight over? Everything, food, toys, a game, screen time etc?
    4. Who is the ‘leader’, the ‘dominant’ (if there is one)? Before we make the decision to ignore make sure that one is not being bullied or that the ‘fight’ isn’t unfair or uneven. Observe if there is one that seems to start it and the other always loses out. Is there personal mean stuff, labelling and so on going on. Is one always hurt etc. If this is the case then action is needed immediately!

Now that you have analyzed the situation a bit more, what will you do about it? Ignore it, walk away, help them to problem solve, make some changes to prevent things happening during the time that they tend to fight i.e. if you know it is bedtime then they might need different bedtime routines etc.

  1. Lots of one2one and two2two: Kids love parenting attention and often they get lots of that when they fight. So try to give them what they crave and offer lots of one2one attention to each child regularly, where you are 100% there. It is also a good idea to create some nice, positive time together with the 2 kids that tend to fight, show them that this is what you want to see more of. Catch them being good: when they do hang out or play nicely together ‘get in there’; and show them with your attention that you like it. You don’t have to say ‘wow you are playing so nicely together’ you can say it with your body and attention and smile.
  2. In Peaceful times have a chat: Have a family chat when you are all calm and ready to talk. Explore ways that can limit the fighting and ask what you can do to help. Let them problem solve with you as the listener, ‘so what do you think we can do about this?’. When I asked my 2 boys they said ‘Mum really it is not a big deal, it is not serious, just ignore us, leave us to it, we are good, it is you who have a problem!’ So that was what I did and it all seemed to calm down!

Conclusion

It is safe to say that sibling fighting is here to stay. Its normal but can be very stressful.

But lets all understand that the atmosphere in the home first and foremost come down to us.

What example do we set in overcoming disagreements? How patient are we with our children?

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