Parenting Tips

Positive Parenting Tips from the Center for Disease Control 

"As a parent you give your children a good start in life—you nurture, protect and guide them. Parenting is a process that prepares your child for independence. As your child grows and develops, there are many things you can do to help your child. These links will help you learn more about your child's development, positive parenting, safety, and health at each stage of your child's life." https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/index.html




 Parenting Tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services



 Kid's Health

A wealth of information from the Nemours Children's Health System. Provides information for parents, kids, and teens on all kinds of issues. 

http://kidshealth.org/  To find help and information regarding child abuse, go directly to this page of the site:http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-abuse.html?WT.ac=p-ra# 




Motivate Kids to Be Active!

Active Kids are Healthy Kids. Here's a great resource to help parents find ways to get their kids moving.


active kids


Sleep Resources

Lack of sleep by children or parents can be really stressful for families.

Tuck Sleep Foundation is a non-profit community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck offers excellent tips on how to improve sleep for all ages. 

Sleep Picture

Go to Parent's Guide to Healthy Sleep | Tuck Sleep for information you can use with your children.

For more general information here's Tuck's Sleep Resource Guide.

Sleep well!

Parenting Tips and Activities from the Boise School District

ElementaryChild HighSchoolGirls

Here are ideas and activity calendars for all school-age kids and their parents.

Boise School District

For over 30 years, Active Parenting Publishers has provided the world's leading video-based parenting education programs. Tens of thousands of leaders have used these curriculums to teach to evidence-based parenting model to millions of parents worldwide.

The result has been children who are better able to survive and thrive in our rapidly changing world, and parents who are more satisfied with their most important job......parenting.

Go to www.ActiveParenting.com/AP4 to try their 4th edition free for 30 days! 

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Parenting Resources from A-Z

 The Channing Bete Company has a ton of amazing resources when it comes to public health, schools, military, and so much more including parenting. Visit their site to find out more.





Parent Talk, with child development specialist, Carolyn Kiefer, MS  

Read Me A Story –and more!

The summer seems to be speeding towards fall! The mornings are cooler, it gets dark a little earlier, the ads are all about “back to school”. Perhaps its time to think about your family’s routines. If you don’t already have a regular time to read to your children (or summer changed a few things) this could be a good time to start or return to “reading time”.

Dorothy S. Strickland, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Fellow National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers, has written extensively about literacy (reading and understanding words) and school achievement. “Early literacy plays a key role in enabling the kind of early learning experiences that research shows are linked with academic achievement, reduced grade retention, higher graduation rates, and enhanced productivity in adult life.” She continues with the following key points:

“Literacy learning starts early and persists throughout life. From the earliest years, everything that adults do to support children’s language and literacy really counts.”

“Oral language and literacy develop concurrently. What children learn from listening and talking contributes to their ability to read and write and vice versa.”

“Children’s experiences with the world and with print greatly influence their ability to comprehend what they read. True reading involves understanding. What children bring to a text, whether oral or written, influences the understandings they take away. There are two kinds of experiences that are highly influential to literacy development: background knowledge about the world and background knowledge about print and books.” (http://nieer.org/resources/newsletter)

To build on these research concepts and to develop happy reading times, keep in mind a few basics, including your child’s age and interests. Babies respond to color and clear pictures/photos of familiar animals or situations. Reading to babies and toddlers is more than just reading the words-- it includes handling the book (board books) and pointing as well as talking about the pictures. Two to five year olds often have favorite books and maybe memorize the words (you might be corrected) and maybe read along. This is an important step in learning to read as well as loving to read. They like to help hold the book and turn the pages as they gain understanding about stories and books.

Children who are learning to read, or are already reading often have interests that reach far beyond their reading ability. It is a great opportunity to keep the story closeness, by continuing to share interesting books aloud, way beyond the “sit in your lap” stage! There are wonderful chapter books that can be enjoyed over many reading times as children’s attention and memory expand. When my daughters were growing up, we read many non-fiction books as well as “classics” like Wind in the Willows with long sentences and the rich vocabulary of the 19th century. I know a number of families with “big kids” who read the Harry Potter books together. Sometimes the adult does the reading, other families take turns reading, or read by character. Such literature experiences give needed balance from the shortcut language of tweets and text messages.

While there is much emphasis on reading to children as a part of school readiness and early literacy, there can be so much close coziness and emotional development, while reading together. Snuggled close, with a book, can be about strengthening relationships and positive emotions as well as literacy. Perhaps you remember reading stories with your parents or grandparents: talking and listening, seeing, feeling, remembering the story and pictures encircled by a loving arm or lap. Maybe you didn’t have such experiences, and now want to experience them with your own children.

Some hints when reading to children:

Get comfortable

Follow your child’s lead when choosing books

Look for balance of story and illustration depending on children’s ages

Feel free to ask questions during a story—“what do you think happens next?” “Is this a real or pretend story?” “ Do bears really wear hats?” “ How do you think he feels?”

Try different expressive voices, a big lion voice, or a small voice

It’s ok to read a variety of books to match the ages of the children listening– a 3 year olds’ book and then the 5 year olds’—each can listen and relate on some level to the other’s story

Slow down and enjoy the story time for yourself

Choose some books about situations or feelings. Owl Babies is one of my favorite stories to read to 2 ½ to 5 year olds. It is full of feelings about separation, worry and dependable parents. It is also rich in repetitive language and the opportunity for children to predict and say Bill’s line: “I want my mommy!” It usually requires at least two readings in a row, and is perfect for times of transition or change. Children’s Librarians are very helpful resources for choosing books about an interest area or timely situations for all ages of children!

Reading together is so much more than building the skills of speaking, listening, hearing sounds, identifying rhymes and comprehending ideas. Fred Rogers (“Mister Rogers”) said, “Attitudes are caught, not taught”. Delight in reading is a contagious attitude! Reading together can also be a way of ‘re-grouping” during a difficult day or a tired “meltdown”. (Maybe try taking 5 minutes to read a story, and then fix dinner?) The tradition of bedtime stories has much to offer with soothing voices, letting go of the day and preparing for rest—the routines of going to sleep. It is about reconnecting with family and home. Story times are part of building loving relationships and healthy emotional growth. Regularly scheduled, anytime, bedtime-- read with your child everyday. Create a loving cozy time, strengthen your relationship and share the delights of a good book!



Nature, Nurture and Knowledge, June 2010

There is an old debate: is a child’s development a matter of Nature -- growth just happens like a bud opening into a flower, or Nurture -- growth happens only if we nurture or teach a child. We now know, thanks to brain research and other studies, that the answer is YES! A baby is neither a blank slate nor a pre-programmed computer, but a wonderful and complex intertwining of nature and nurture -- and growth can be enriched by knowledge about this incredible journey of childhood.

A newborn arrives “fully loaded” with genetic traits and pre-dispositions, shaped by the pre-natal environment (impacted by nutrition, alcohol, tobacco, maternal stress, good pre-natal care etc.). It is incredible what a human baby can do at birth—the ability to change from the dependent in utero state to the newborn world— to breath, move, cry, gaze, suck. The newborn brain is primed and ready to attach to parents, sensitive to experiences and faces, dependent on relationships and “tuned” for language. This tiny brain is born already building new experiences on earlier development and ready to make new connections. Early relationships and experiences are the foundational building blocks for later development!

Nature, Nurture and Knowledge is a great message and a huge responsibility for new parents and those of us who are loving participants in the life of a new baby! What we do on a daily basis “counts” in the brain development and growth of this child—it’s all of the big stuff and the little things. Dr. Ross Thompson, an expert in child development says: ”Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships in which their experience with caregivers shape cognitive, language, emotional and social development. The responsiveness and reliability of these caregivers is central.” We build and sustain relationships by responding to babies when they need us. Babies need to know they can trust the grown-ups in their lives to help when tiny stomachs are hungry and when comfort and reassurances are really needed. Babies can’t be “spoiled” by comfort and responsive care giving! Through warm relationships they learn to trust and build a foundation for exploring their world. The early months of a baby’s life are a critical time for building all parts of the brain, body and emotions—important times for nature’s growth and to nurture positive, foundational relationships.

Common sense and our own experiences as a child and family member help us learn to parent and gives us expectations/dreams about what kind of parents (and family member) we want to be. But when common sense doesn’t work and/or we are overwhelmed by our own emotions, then we need to have some knowledge and resources. An inconsolable baby who just keeps crying in spite of feeding, clean diapers and burping raises all kinds of fears and feeling of inadequacy. Knowing that such crying can be normal, just a stage, or an immature digestive tract, can help a parent feel competent, and able to offer more comfort to their baby. There are some good resources to help. Perhaps your hospital or church offers parenting /support classes. Happiest Baby on the Block classes teach parents how to firmly swaddle a baby, to do the rocking walk, make soothing sounds and other good suggestions that give a new parent confidence. The Period of Purple Crying gives information about the normal but frustrating crying that can lead some parents or caregivers to shake or hurt a baby. (www.dontshake.org). Shaking a baby causes serious injury to delicate brain tissue resulting in retardation or even death! Never shake a baby or young child --get someone to help you, or put the baby in a safe place while you regain self control.

While enduring “Purple Crying”, its fine to tell your baby (and yourself) that you know she is uncomfortable and you aren’t sure what helps as you walk, pat, rock, jiggle and try the pacifier. This is just “a fussy baby stage”. When you are too tired, call in the next team—the other parent, grandma, a helpful neighbor or friend. We all need some back up when we have small children! However, if your baby seems to be having extreme pain or the crying is unusually shrill or “doesn’t sound right”, call your doctor to rule out the rare possibility of something serious.

When your baby is calm and you have the chance, check out some good websites to get information and more parenting knowledge. Some of my favorites: www.zerotothree.org Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families www.cdc.gov Center for Disease Control has a great parent section www.aap.org The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a strong parent site www.earlychildhood.dhw.idaho.gov Idaho Early Learning Guidelines cover all areas of development from birth to five, and in some Domains to age eight. www.extension.org parenting Just in Time Parenting is a new monthly e-newsletter that is linked to your child’s age sends timely information about the particular stage of your baby’s development. You can also access the materials on their website.

Long after your child is past the infant stage, nature, nurture and knowledge will still be part of your parenting. Use your own good sense, tune into your child’s specific temperament or nature, and keep seeking reliable parenting resources to extend your understanding of what we know about human development from research and good practice.



“Relationships are the Active Ingredient of Early Experience” -Jack Shonkoff

May 6th is Children’s Mental Health Day. What a great time to think about our children’s emotional health. For young children, mental health is usually called “social and emotional development”--and its all about relationships! Trust in the caring relationships with the primary adults (mostly family) form the foundation for children’s feeling about themselves, their lives and the larger world. Some researchers suggest that emotional foundations start during the second trimester of pregnancy with the mother’s feelings about the baby. We do know that the early bonding of parent and child are very important for emotional health and the dawning of human relationships.

The best social and emotional development occurs within the context of a loving, supportive family. It allows “children to experience, regulate and express emotions; form close and secure interpersonal relationships and explore their environment and learn” (Zero to Three). As children grow, healthy social and emotional development is about:

• the ability to form relationships with close adults

• make friends with other children

• express a range of emotions

• increased ability to calm themselves and manage impulses

• learn to identify their own emotions and express them appropriately

• read the emotions of others • learn to empathize with others

• the ability to feel successful in school

A strong social and emotional foundation supports children’s overall health, learning and growth.

We know that young children are vulnerable in stressful and difficult childhoods. Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a leading brain researcher, has written about the impact of stress on children’s neurological development. He has 3 big categories of stress:

Positive Stress is short lived, normal, manageable and healthy. It helps build coping skills and resilience and occurs in everyday events like learning to say good-bye at child care, trying something new, taking an o.k. kind of risk (like learning to ride a bike).

Tolerable Stress occurs in serious situations like hospitalization, a natural disaster, death of a loved one or divorce. The situation is tolerable because it is buffered by strong supportive relationships and the reassurance that they are, and will be, cared for and loved.

Toxic Stress tends to be prolonged, uncontrollable with little or no adult support. Toxic stress impacts the architecture of the developing brain and has lifelong consequences. Child abuse, neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence and other kinds of emotional trauma are causes of emotional damage and need intensive intervention and treatment.

We want healthy and abundant lives for ourselves, families and others in our communities. Busy lives, economic necessity, and modern culture present challenges, which are hopefully in the “Positive Stress” range. However, it is important to be aware of the stresses in your own and in your child’s life. The emotional “radars” of children quickly pick up and react to our emotional tone. Are they acting frazzled and tired too? It is a part of life, but how we manage makes a big difference in our families’ lives. Remember airplane oxygen mask instructions? You are told to put your own mask on first, and then put on your child’s mask. You can’t help them (nor be reassuring) if you are gasping for air. They see you with a mask and know its ok as you care for them. Just an image, a reminder to take care of your own mental health so you can nurture happy, healthy children. Adult relationships are important too. It helps to be supportive of relatives and friends when they hit a rough patch and to be able to reach for them when we need a hand. We all like having our emotional “cup’ filled and shared. Most of all remember to laugh, hug and enjoy your children. Some of the richest memories come from the good everyday stuff of life---and children grow so fast! So share a mentally healthy day—it’s all about relationships.



Idaho Early Learning Guidelines: a new resource for parents

Where do you get good parenting advice—the “what to do’s” of raising a child? Relatives? magazines? websites? (friends who have pets rather than children? oops!) Bookstores have whole sections laden with books about raising brighter/spirited/shy/creative/girls/boys. There’s some crazy stuff out there! Our own family relationships usually shape our expectations, routines, and ideas about what is a “good” child and discipline. Our upbringing also leads to oaths about “I’ll never say that to my child!”-- and sometimes we find ourselves saying and doing those things later. As parents we are at once inundated and left wondering about what is reasonable to expect from a child, and “the stages”.

Now there is a reliable resource for parents of young children: the new Idaho Early Learning eGuidelines. The Guidelines are a web-based, foundational document about child development from birth through five (parts go to age 8). The information is about what children can be expected to know and do at a variety of age ranges. They were developed by a team of over 40 “seasoned” Idaho early childhood professionals. The information is based on research and “best practice”, and organized into 5 Domains:

Domain 1: Approaches to Learning and Cognitive Development

Domain 2: Physical Well-being, Health, and Motor Development

Domain 3: Social and Emotional Development

Domain 4: General Knowledge (math, science, social studies, etc)

Domain 5: Communication, Language and Literacy

Each Domain contains a number of Goals—64 in all. Goals are divided into a series of age ranges with the developmental growth for each age and typical child behaviors and the caregiver/parent’s responses to support the growth. Be sure to read About the Early Learning eGuidelines, which gives the background information and framework for the document, as well as helpful information about how to navigate the website.

The Early Learning eGuidelines are a web-based resource so we can continue to update them with new research, web-links and make them widely available. There is a powerful search feature, so you can find information easily. They are organized so you can read each goal across the whole age span, or can read about a specific age with all of the goals. The Guidelines are “printer friendly”, but deliberately set so a person can’t just hit”Print” for the whole document -- it is about 1000 pages!

The Early Learning eGuidelines are already in use in early childhood education classes at Idaho universities and colleges. They are part of child care professional development training and quality initiatives. The eGuidelines are also a resource for the Strengthening Families curriculum from the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund and Idaho STARS. While the level of writing is not easy for some parents and caregivers, it was designed to be a rich foundational resource. Plans are “in the works” to write some simple parent/ caregiver friendly printed materials.

So another resource, more experts, more advice-- but you, as parents, are the people who know your unique, wonderful child best! The whole point of more information is to support your efforts to nurture your child well. I’ve found in my many years as a mother, teacher and researcher that growth and development have never been a quick, tidy processes for parents or children. It takes huge amounts of love, respect, patience, thought, humor, and support. My very best wishes to you as you live this amazing, sometimes bewildering, adventure of Parenthood!



So little time…

“Please hurry”, “Quick we’ll be late!,” “Just let me do it” Sometimes life seems to be on ‘fast forward”! We live such hurried lives. Even the news has been reporting about stressed children (and stressed parents)

There are so many pressures and messages to parents and children to hurry and grow up faster, from little kids clothes which look adolescent to videos promising brilliant babies. Then there are the magazines, books and competitive parent advice on “successful” children.

However, we also know that children need time to explore, play and create. Howard Gardner, (Multiple Intelligences) wrote a book about creative minds, focusing on some outstanding writers, artists, poets and scientists. As he probed their lives he concluded that all “had mined the richness of their childhoods” in their later creative work. They had all played a lot.

Young children need slow unstructured time to really play. A rich imagination comes from fantasy and pretend play, developing plots and stories; assigning roles to friends and toys; being babies or superheroes –negotiating with the imaginary world! Such play needs to be encouraged, supported and somewhat protected by parents. This child- directed play is different than entertaining “screen time” or adult structured games with rules.

A wise teacher once told me about the “3R’s of early childhood: Real Experiences, Relationships and Raw Materials”. We know that positive relationships are the “active ingredients” of early learning along with direct hands-on experiences. Messing with stuff is also the foundation for scientific experimentation and building the logic of how the world works.

Watch a 3 year old with a mud puddle:

How many times does it take to figure out how to make it splash?
How far/high can it splash?
Where does the mud go?

What happens when the mass of mud is pushed and squeezed? Small hands grow stronger, the cold rough texture stimulates the nerves and muscles of the hand, and the nose smells the wet earth. The curious little mind watches, ponders, and then tries again. Messy, creative, scientific, it’s about exploration and elaboration, rather than acceleration and drilled answers.

One of my favorite AA Milne Winnie the Pooh stories is the last one The House at Pooh Corner. Christopher Robin is going to start school and he and Pooh have gone up the hill to the big trees.

Christopher Robin says,“…but what I like doing best is Nothing.”…
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
“This is the sort of thing that we’re doing now.”…
“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.
Then suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world…called out “Pooh!”
“Yes?”, said Pooh. “When I’m—when---Pooh!” …
“I’m not going to do Nothing anymore.”
“Never again?”
“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”

Do you have wonderful memories of playing with a big cardboard box? A beach (or sand box) with a bucket scoop and water? A towel turned into a cape, or a tent built under a table? A snow fort? An open hillside or vacant lot? Remember the richest most delightful times in your own childhood (we usually remember grade school ages). Now think about how your own children spend their time. Is there safe, rich, child-decided and child-directed time? Enough imaginative “Nothing”?


Travels with Young Children
Thanksgiving and Christmas travels can be stressful but planning makes a difference. During a recent cross country trip I had the opportunity to observe some children and families. Airports are particularly challenging to little ones and parents: crowds, hurrying/waiting, anticipation and hauling “the stuff “children require. Number of children to parents, ages, strength, calmness and distances really count! The reasons for travel, family emergency or vacation, also impact parents and children.

I saw a mom who was relaxed and skilled with her 3 kids. She was feeding the 9 month old, talking with the 2 year old who was “doing tricks” on the waiting room seats and the 4 year old who was between looking at a book and teasing the 2 year old. She had some clear limits and a quick laugh. The full evening flight between Chicago and Denver had a couple of parents near the galley, calmly doing the standing jiggle-sway with babies, close comforting, kisses and pats to coax sleep. There was also a tiny baby who cried for most of an hour with a harried young mother surrounded by unsympathetic people.

Travel is yet another time when it is important to know your child, to be “tuned-in” to how they react to newness and change. Several temperament traits (those “hard wired” personal traits) in the child and parent come into play when traveling:

-Activity level, how much need to wiggle and move
-Adaptability: how easily can s/he change schedules and routines (sleep, food newness)
-Approach/Withdrawal: reaction to new people, places, activities -Intensity of Reaction: how strong or mild are positive and negative reactions (big laughs/crying to mild fussing)

Parents who understand their child’s temperament are ready to offer the emotional supports which make traveling and newness easier to handle and more enjoyable.

Time for Change
“Time for change!”-- a common slogan, and one that often feels better if someone else has to change.  But ready or not, this time of year brings changes for families— a new school year, perhaps new child care arrangements, maybe a new schedule for meals bedtimes and all of the “daily stuff’—even the season changes.

How do you cope? How do young children cope? Transitions present an opportunity to think about how we want things to be in our families, as well as some extra ‘melt downs’.

Understanding your children, their ages and stages of growth, their degree of adaptability and temperament (regularity, persistence, sensitivity, distractibility, and activity level) can help make family transitions smoother.

Starting a new class-- be it pre-school, child care, kindergarten or school takes a lot of energy and “gumption”.  How does your child react to new situations?

-         holds back and watches?

-         is shy about new people?

-         worries before the new start ?(older kids)

-          jumps into a new situation with gusto only to suddenly stop to figure it out?

-         clings to you and cries with heart breaking looks?

-         zooms around until someone helps them stop?

Think about how your child handles newness. How do you react to new situations? A new job can be stressful for an adult through the initial learning curve, just as a new classroom is stressful for a child. Family life is a rich mixture of everyone’s feelings.

Sometimes children manage new situations well-- only to fall apart at home. It seems like they use up all of their coping skills in the larger world and in the security of home they let down, cling, are whiney- tired and negative. Others might be overjoyed with the familiarity and safety of family and home. Sometimes children regress and act younger while figuring out new situations. Home can be the safe secure place to do this emotional growth and work on resilience.

Babies and toddlers can’t tell us what they are feeling. They don’t have enough maturity or experience to know that when you leave you will come back. Without sense of time and understanding they are often upset even with the kindest child care person. Little children rely on their senses to find reassurance. The blanket or stuffed animal that smells and feels like home can give reassurance-- even to the “big kid” of five or six. Familiar objects can serve as a home connection, a “lucky charm” in the new situation.

Reassuring “goodbyes” help. Maybe you create a little routine—talk about what toy or friend they might play with first. Spend a few minutes getting your child settled in play or the arms of the caregiver. A hug and kiss, and a smiling good-bye “I’ll see you after ____ just like always”, tells your child that you have confidence in them and the people who care for them. Please don’t sneak off as soon as they are distracted. This makes children feel that they can’t trust you or this new place. A good- bye routine works better: “High- five, low- five, see-you- at- five” was a rhyme that worked for a couple of 4 year olds.

Recognizing and naming feelings help children learn about their emotions. “You look kind of worried, (upset, anxious, and happy) about school…” Give your child the words and opportunity to talk about their feelings and experiences (for those old enough to talk) or talk about feelings with reassurance and closeness for a younger child.

Try to take some extra time during this year’s changes for extra hugs, reassurances, humor and kindness toward your children, mate and self. Fill up your emotional cup so you can fill up those of your family. Investing in thoughtful words, gestures, and supports now will make this “stage” easier and promote good social and emotional growth for your child and family.

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