BANANA Bites: What Toys Are the Best for Young Children?

It’s Tuesday again and that means we’re here to answer your parenting and early learning questions! Today we’re talking all about toy shopping and how to choose toys that will stimulate a child’s development and last for longer than a few months. Happy reading!

Dear BANANA Bites, 
My niece’s birthday is coming up and I want to get her something really special. Can you offer some tips on what to choose?
-Aunt Buying Presents

Dear ABP,
When buying a new toy, there are some important factors to consider: safety, durability, price, fun factor, and developmental purpose.

Safety: Toys should be chosen with care, especially for the very young. Safety considerations don’t end with the purchase of a toy; proper maintenance and safe storage are equally important. Always discard plastic wrappings immediately and protect outdoor toys for rust. Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids and those with no ventilation holes. Be a label-reader, particularly on toys that are labeled “not recommended for children under three, due to small parts.” Some key toys to avoid are: those small enough to be swallowed, those with detachable parts, those that can be easily broken into small pieces or pieces with jagged edges, and toys that have parts that can pinch fingers or toes, or catch hair.

Durability: You can expect some toys, such as wooden blocks, an easel, or sturdy wheel toys, will last for years with the potential of being passed to another child. These have the durability to survive your child’s play over a long span of time. When you opt for a toy with longevity, you know you are making a good investment.

Price: We all want to get the most value for our money, and when it comes to choosing toys, the same holds true. Consider purchasing items that are well made and be sure to check if they come with a manufacturer’s guarantee or if the store has a return policy. As children get older, they might begin to tell you exactly what toys they want. Items such as video games and electronics can be significantly more expensive. It’s ok to be honest and tell a child if a specific toy or game is out of the question financially. (In fact, this can serve as a great way to encourage kids to start a piggy bank or add to an existing one. There’s no better incentive for learning to save money that having a desired toy in mind!)

Fun Factor: You’ll definitely want to ensure that your child has fun with their new toy, so consider what types of play your child enjoys. Some children enjoy playing alone for hours with a set of tiny plastic people. Others prefer a to share a toy with playmates. Think about what toys have been popular with your child in the past and consider choosing a new toy that will stretch this interest further. Also, many toy manufacturers classify toys by age, but these are broad generalizations, so look beyond the label.

Developmental Purpose: Play is often called children’s work, so you can think of a toy as a tool that stimulates imagination and helps a child actively learn about the world. Children enjoy imitating tasks they see adults performing, so you can consider helping to grow this process by taking a stroll through an art supply store, sporting goods store, or hardware store and looking for items that kids can play with as a way of learning about the world. Some possibilities could be: kitchen timers, mixing bowls, whisks, clothes for dress-up, envelopes and tape, stamps and stamp pads, boxes and empty food cartons, or aprons. And, don’t forget books! They are affordable and they give children knowledge, comfort, art appreciation, humor, and joy.

For additional details on choosing age-appropriate toys, see our handout: Some Thoughts on Toy Buying. You will find more information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

BANANA Bites: Help! My Child Has Lice!

We’re back with a new edition of our parenting and early learning column, where we answer YOUR questions! Today’s topic: the dreaded discovery of head lice. Answers below!

Dear BANANA Bites,

I recently discovered that my child’s day care has had an outbreak of lice and it looks like our son, who is 5, now has nits in his hair. I want to make sure we do everything possible to get rid of these pests. What is the best course of action?

– Really Bugged Dad

Dear RBD,

Great question! It can be truly upsetting to discover the signs of lice in our loved ones, but rest assured there are ways to wipe the bugs out.

Step One: There are two types of lice treatments currently on the market: nonprescription (RID, Triple X, Nix and A 200 Pyrinate) and prescription. Discuss their advantages and disadvantages with your pharmacist or physician. Most treatments will require a repeat application seven to ten days after the first application. Read and follow the directions carefully, especially when treating infants, pregnant or nursing women, or people with extensive scratches on their heads or necks. Use of mayonnaise, vaseline or kerosene is not recommended.

Step Two: After using the shampoo, cream, or lotion, the dead nits must be removed from the hair – a truly tedious job that will extend over several days. One effective method is using a metal nit comb available at pharmacies.

Step Three: After treating the people, you should treat the environment. Launder clothing, head gear and bed linens in hot water and dry in a dryer. Non-washable items can be placed in airtight plastic bags and stored for two weeks, which should kill any eggs. Consider how the infestation might be spread – a toy corner with dress-up hats and veils or a favorite storytime rug that everyone likes to lie on. See that these items are either vacuumed well or thrown in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. A treated child may return to school or child care within 24 hours if the nits have been removed. You will need to routinely reinspect the child’s head to make sure s/he has not been reinfested. A good schedule for inspecting your child’s head is to do it on Fridays after school or child care so you can treat the child on the weekend or do it on Monday morning before school or child care so you can keep your child home that day if lice are present.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this pesky problem, check out our BANANAS handout: Head Lice and visit www.HeadLice.org. If YOU have a question about parenting, running a child care, or early education, please send it to elyce@bananasinc.org.

BANANA Bites: How Do I Get My Kids to Clean Their Rooms?

Welcome to our inaugural edition of BANANA Bites! Each week we’ll feature a client question and an answer from a member of the BANANAS Bunch. This week we’ve got a question from a parent dealing with her child’s messy room. Whether you’re a child care provider or a parent yourself, you have no doubt dealt with this issue. Luckily, we’ve got some great strategies to help young ones keep things tidy.

Dear BANANA Bites,

My four-year-old daughter loves to create elaborate adventures for her stuffed animals, which often (or more like always) results in an enormous mess from one end of her bedroom to the other. Clothes, blankets, toys, books—you name it, it’s strewn all over the floor. I love that she plays with such enthusiasm and I want to encourage her creativity, but getting her to clean up afterward is nearly impossible. Even offering prizes (gold fish or peanut butter crackers) doesn’t do the trick. Do you have any tips for a mom who just wants the clean-up routine to be a breeze and not a battle?

– Mom with a Mess

Dear MWaM,

You are not alone! This is a common struggle for anyone who cares for young children. Here are five ideas that you can try.

  1. Always give a five-minute “warning” that a clean-up time is coming. Setting a timer works well with some children.
  2. Break down cleaning a room by tasks: “First pick up the toys on your bed, then the ones on the floor, then put the books back on the shelf…”
  3. Set the time for clean-up just before some favorite activity (i.e., a TV show or trip to the playground).
  4. Set a deadline. Allow your child’s room to be messy, but make clear that is needs to be cleaned by a certain time. Some older kids enjoy the freedom they get from being able to “choose” when to do the clean-up.
  5. Don’t expect a child’s clean-up job to be perfect and don’t forget to give lots of praise for a job reasonably well done.

– BANANA Bites

For more information on this subject, check out our BANANAS handout: The Uphill Struggle – Getting Young Children to Clean Up Their Rooms.

Parents and Child Care Providers, if you have other tips that work well for you, please leave a comment! If you have a child care question, we’d love to hear from you. You could be the next featured question on BANANA Bites. Please email elyce@bananasinc.org. And remember, don’t go bananas, just ask the Bunch!

 

Thanks a Bunch: Teaching Gratitude

Happy New Year! We’re so excited to be embarking on a new year here at BANANAS, and as we kick off 2015 with lots of informative workshops, including our Booties Camp parenting series and QRIS provider trainings, we can’t help but reflect on all that we are grateful for. And it just so happens that January is National Thank You Month, so we want to give a big shout out of thanks to our hard-working clients, our amazing team of instructors, our community of generous donors, and everyone who contributes to the work we do. Thanks!

We understand that teaching kids about gratitude can be a challenge. With so many other important life skills being taught every day, gratitude can easily be overlooked. But when parents and child care professionals instill this meaningful value, it benefits kids in numerous ways. Former Early Childhood Education Director and current BANANAS Resource & Referral Counselor Joan Suflita notes that teaching gratitude to young children creates a sense of connectedness. She says, “For young children, connectedness is critical for their survival as well as their development. It also increases self-worth. When we appreciate others and when others appreciate us, it makes us more aware of how much we are worth. And the more you notice or appreciate what is in your life, the more you see what there is to appreciate.” Suflita also sees benefits to those who work in the child care field. “For ECE professionals, I think gratitude is critical because it sets up a disposition of the mind. That’s important because all our work is centered around interactions and those interactions create a connectedness.”

To support parents and providers, we put together a Pinterest board of simple crafts to do with little ones as well as a variety of books to foster a growing understanding of gratitude. It can be as easy as taking a moment to appreciate how warm the sun feels, how nice a meal tastes, or how fun it is to spend time with a grandma or grandpa. Talk to your child about what you are thankful for and ask them to tell you their ideas. You may discover that your lists are longer than you realized!

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