Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When buying a Pet for a Child

Last week I spoke about the dangers of buying a pet as a gift for someone during the holidays, and the important questions that must be answered first. When considering getting a pet for a child, there are extra considerations. Children may embrace the companionship a pet can provide, but realize that there still needs to be a parent or guardian consenting to the pet as a gift.
• Teach the child how to care for the pet — The parent or guardian must agree to teach the child how to feed, bathe and exercise the animal. Dr. Rosenberg points out that bunnies for Easter are a popular gift, but people don’t understand how to care for them.
• The adult must still be in charge — “The child may be responsible for the animal’s daily care but the parent or guardian will ultimately be responsible for ensuring the pet receives the necessary care and purchasing the animal’s food, toys, treats, bedding and veterinary care,” says Messer.
• Share responsibility — Giving a pet to a child can be a wonderful tool in teaching responsibility, but there must be a sensible adult to intervene when needed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Do’s and Don’ts of Giving Pets for the Holiday

It’s very tempting to give a loved one a pet for the holiday. You adore your pet and know how much he enhances your life, so you figure your friend will feel the same way. But before you run out and choose a precious puppy or cuddly kitty to give as a gift, there are many things to consider. Most importantly, remember that you are giving someone a lifetime commitment.

ALWAYS Ask First
Surprising someone with a new pet is never a good idea, according to Marc E. Rosenberg, Veterinarian and co-owner, County Line Veterinary Hospital in Marlton, New Jersey. Adds Angela Messer, Director of Operations, Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA), “This is something that should be discussed at length with the recipient prior to acquiring the new pet.” There are many important things a pet-owner must consider first:
• Do you have time for a pet? — Animals can’t be ignored when life gets hectic. They require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day.
• Why do you want a pet? — If it’s because the kids have been begging for one, think twice. Be sure all family members are willing to help with the responsibilities that go with pets.
• Are there any allergies in the home? — While there are certain animal species that are hypo-allergenic, many people are allergic to a variety of pets.
• Are there any living restrictions? — Some apartment complexes forbid pets or have size requirements. Some landlords require declawing of cats.
• Do the personalities of the pet and owner match? — “It’s like getting a spouse unseen,” jokes Dr. Rosenberg. “If you don’t have interaction in the beginning, how do you know this is the pet that’s right for you?”
• Is the home properly set up for a pet? — Are there appropriate gates to keep the pet in a certain space, or a fenced-in yard?
• Can you afford the pet? — The cost of the pet is minute compared to the expense of feeding, training, and providing medical care.
• Carefully consider the breed — Be sure to take into account the breed of animal you select. A very active person may enjoy the high energy of a Labrador retriever over the laid back attitude of a basset hound. Always do research and meet many animals before settling on a specific breed or type.
• Shop together. — “The best thing is to take the person shopping with you to see if they really want a pet,” suggests Edward Wagner, owner of Seaford Pet Emporium in Seaford, Delaware. Pet stores will ask a lot of questions to ensure that you are making the right choice.

More to follow next week regarding pets for children.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Practice Cutting with your Toddler

Scissor skills are important for children to practice, though some parents do not allow their toddlers to use them at home. Concerns over the child harming himself or cutting something that he shouldn’t be cutting, make parents wary of even introducing their kids to scissors. We encourage the use of scissors in school for a couple of reasons. For one, this is an important, though difficult skill, for children to master. It takes a great deal of practice for most children to even learn how to grasp a scissor correctly. Cutting is also a skill that they will need by the time they get to kindergarten, and it takes quite a bit of practice. It is also an excellent way to help develop fine motor skills.

We have three types of scissors in the classroom. For children with very weak fine motor skills, we have a pair that actually has four finger holes. The child puts his fingers into the bottom two holes while the teacher puts her fingers into the top two holes. I find them a bit awkward, but for the very beginners, it helps children learn the proper grasp and the motion of opening and closing the scissor. After that, the child can use a pair that has a spring so the scissor can open itself. The student needs to use the proper grasp, but he only needs to squeeze the scissor shut and then it will open back up automatically. Once the child is successful with this pair, he is able to move on to a regular child’s scissor.

In all cases, the scissors have rounded edges and can only cut paper. They can’t cut a child’s skin or fabric. We place a dot with a magic marker at the base of the thumb hole. This dot serves as the scissors’ ‘eye’ and must point up to the sky. That helps the child understand the way the scissor needs to be held. We then help him put his thumb into the top, smaller hole, and two or three fingers into the bottom hole. Next, we practice opening and closing, opening and closing the scissors.

Even before introducing scissors, we encourage the children to rip pieces of paper. Ripping can be a difficult task before fine motor skills are strongly developed. Some children have trouble with the ripping motion. Once they are able to rip with their hands, they have an easier time cutting with scissors.

When the children do graduate to scissors, we start by having them fringe paper as opposed to cutting it. The fringing motion is a quick opening and closing of the scissor without having to navigate moving the scissor fully across the paper. Once they can fringe, we give them straight lines to cut. Finally, they are encouraged to actually cut out shapes.

I am always amazed at how persistent children are when learning how to cut. Very few children can cut instantly. It’s a skill that takes practice. Yet, even children who have trouble cutting are willing to persevere until they find success.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Importance of Back to School Night

I just enjoyed another Back to School Night – something I will never tire of. There are many advantages for both the teacher and parents during this session. From the teacher’s perspective, I get to meet many of the parents I don’t otherwise see in the halls at school. Working moms and dads generally make an effort to visit their children’s Back to School Night to actually see the teacher in person. I find it invaluable to meet as many of my students’ parents as possible.

It also allows the teacher an opportunity to tell the parents what her priorities are. From mundane tidbits regarding the correct size of the backpack to more important toileting matters, to most important learning concepts, an open dialogue between the teacher and parents is imperative. The session gives teachers a chance to demonstrate what their kids do every day at school. It’s hard for parents to imagine how a three year old actually learns, and this is our opportunity to share the curriculum.

Finally, this night forms a bond between the teacher and parents. While it isn’t the time to talk specifically in detail about how a child is doing, it is a chance for the teacher to tell the parents how adorable, kind, special, their child is.

From the parents’ perspective, it’s an opportunity to experience what their children are doing on the other side of the classroom door. They can see the teacher’s learning style and find out what they can be doing at home to support in-class learning. For example, we urge parents to allow their children to practice cutting at home because it’s a difficult skill that requires a lot of practice. We even show them the type of scissors to buy and where they can purchase them.

The parents also get to meet their children’s peers’ parents at this meeting. Play dates are invaluable, and now that the parents know each other, they are eager to set up get-togethers among their kids.

But, the very best part of all is the incredible slide show. We had almost 100 pictures of our students in action. They painted, laughed, played, and learned and the parents got to see them uncensored.

A big thank you to my classes’ parents because they all took the time to get babysitters and come to Back to School Night. What an enjoyable night it was!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moms, Remember to Get your Mammograms

Though this blog is typically devoted to preschool and toddler issues, today I'm going to repeat a previous post because it’s so important. This one is about Mom. I am now four years cancer free, and I need to periodically share my story in hopes of reaching other moms who face a similar ordeal.

According to the most recent stats from the American Cancer Society (ACS), the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Ladies, that means that when you're in your Little Gym class and you take a look around the circle of 8 women, one of you will likely get breast cancer. Please don't think it can't happen to you.

My cancer was detected through a routine mammogram. I never felt a lump or any pain at all. In fact, after the doctors knew exactly where the lump was, they still couldn't feel it. Believe me...they tried! Because my little lump was detected so early, my oncologist dubbed it an "excellent little cancer." As cancer goes, that was a nice diagnosis to have. It was excellent because it was found early was extremely susceptible to treatment.

I went through a few surgeries and a summer of daily radiation and have been in tip top shape ever since. There is little history of breast cancer in my family - it just happened and no one knows why.

So, to be the best parent you can be, you must take care of yourself. While there is certainly conflicting data on when to get your first mammogram, I agree with the ACS, which recommends that women without a family history of breast cancer get their first mammogram at 40. If you have a history, you need to talk to your doctor about the appropriate age to begin. A mammogram is a walk in the park compared to breast cancer treatment. Take a girlfriend, build in a lunch out at a real restaurant to celebrate your health.

I'd love comments from other women, especially those who for some reason refuse to get a mammogram. I want to try to change your mind before it's too late.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Practice Fire Prevention with your Toddlers

Our school year started with fire drills the very first day. We had barely gotten the kids to begin feeling comfortable in our classroom, and we had to endure the loud noise and get them quickly outside. So muchy for preparation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC,) children ages 4 years and younger are among those at highest risk for residential fire deaths and injuries. So, it’s our job as parents and teachers to teach them what to do in case of a fire.

I heard a story recently about an older child whose clothes caught on fire. There was a swimming pool in the backyard, so he ran and jumped in the pool. While the water seemed like the best idea at the time, in fact, the time he took running to the pool, actually helped the fire burn stronger. Instead, had he stopped, dropped, and rolled, he would have ended up with less severe burns.

It is a scary thought to talk to our toddlers about fire, yet we must. In our three year old classroom, we talk about fire safety in a non-threatening way that the kids actually enjoy. First, the teachers model for the children a scenario, and then the kids take a turn. We say, “Oh, no, there is fire on my pants. What should I do? I need to stop, drop, and roll.” We act it out repeatedly. Each child gets to stand up and tell us where the fire is on their clothes, and what they will do to put it out. They stop, drop, and roll around the floor.

We also talk about the loud bell that goes off if there is a fire. Yes, it can be very loud, and scary, but it is an important bell. It tells us that we must stop whatever we are doing and get out of the building. We don’t stop to clean up toys. We don’t stop to finish our snack. We don’t worry about turning off the TV. What we have to do is line up at the door and together walk outside of the building. We practice this with the kids, encouraging them to help us make the loud noise of the fire alarm.

Our school has fire drills monthly, so we try to do this right at the beginning of the school year so the kids aren’t freaked out the first time the alarm unexpectedly goes off. Of course, this year that wasn't the case. Some kids will be afraid no matter how much you try to practice, but safety is the most important thing. Don’t assume that your toddler won’t understand. Teach him and he will know what to do in an emergency.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Teacher’s Role in Potty Training

I am re-running an earlier post about the teacher’s role as it relates to potty training.

In preschool, a teacher’s primary role is to teach. Of course she will love, nurture, serve as a role model, and even change diapers for her charges, but first and foremost her goal is to teach. At times, parents lose sight of this.

At three years old, Colleen’s parents hadn’t started potty training her yet. Every day she would move her bowels at one o’clock, and you could almost set your watch to it. The girl was very regular. Her teacher spoke with her father, and suggested that they work together to begin to toilet train Colleen.

Her father became instantly offended and told the teacher that he would train his daughter when he believed it was time and it was not her place to make that suggestion. He went on to say that changing his daughter’s diaper was the teacher’s job and she shouldn’t complain about doing her job.

This was a disheartening conversation. To begin with, changing diapers is not in the teacher’s job description for a three year old. In many schools, children who aren’t potty trained aren’t even allowed to enroll. While in our school teachers willingly change children out of love and caring, the teacher’s job is to teach, not change diapers. Potty training can be very difficult, and this teacher was willing to help Colleen’s parents with the task. Her father should have not only appreciated her desire to help out, but also her willingness to change his daughter’s soiled diapers so many times. Face it, a three year old’s bowel movement is very different than that of an infant. It is not a pleasant job for anyone.

Some parents have personal reasons for waiting to potty train their children until they are older, even four or five years old. They believe that if they wait until their child is completely ready on his own, it will be a far easier process. If that is how you feel, at least say thank you to the teacher who needs to clean and change your child while she is at school.

And please don’t lose sight of the teacher’s primary responsibility, which is teaching.