Your kids and sleep

Sleep is very important for children’s growth and development. The amount of sleep needed generally varies with age. Here’s information on how much sleep is enough for the child and how you should respond to cries and the midnight waking.

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Up to 6 months

Newborns infants sleep for up to 18 hours per day but should be wakened every 3 or 4 hours within the first few weeks. Afterwards, they can sleep up to about 5 hours between feedings. At 3 months of age, they can sleep for 8 or 9 hours per night with a few interruptions and have 2 or 3 naps during the day.

It is common for babies this age to make sounds in light sleep or wake up and cry for a short while then fall right back to sleep. If however the crying continues, respond since he/she could be truly uncomfortable or sick. For nighttime diaper changes, you should change them as quickly as possible and avoid providing stimulation unnecessarily.

The ideal practice for this age group is to place the child in the crib before he/she sleeps. You should also develop a bedtime routine that the baby will link to sleeping.

6 to 12 months

During this period, babies still need about 14 hours of sleep with 2 or 3 daytime naps per day. Most no longer need midnight feeding. Separation anxiety also sets in.

If you don’t suspect hunger to be the cause of nighttime sleep disturbance, you should wait a while for the child to settle down. If he/she doesn’t go back to sleep, you may need to provide comfort but if the baby is not sick, provide comfort without picking him up. Try rubbing the back and talking softly but don’t turn on the lights or play with him/her. Encourage your child to fall asleep on his/her own.

Toddlers

This group of toddlers requires between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day but separation anxiety and plain refusal can keep a child this age from falling asleep. Teething and nightmares are also common causes of nighttime waking.

Set regular nap and bed times and establish a relatively short and uncomplicated bedtime routine to help the child fall asleep. During the day, schedule quiet time to encourage the child to nap but don’t force him/her to sleep. Note also that keeping your child up during daytime doesn’t guarantee undisturbed sleep at night.

You should also control what your child watches before bedtime because it cause nightmares. If he/she wakes up due to a nightmare, hold and comfort the child until he/she is calm.

Preschoolers to preteens

Preschool kids require about 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night without daytime naps. School-age kids need anywhere between 10 and 11 hours sleep a night. They also tend to experience sleep problems mostly due to hectic family schedules, after-school activities, TV and technology devices. To ensure they sleep enough, maintain a consistent bedtime that allows enough time, without technology, before bed.

Teens

Teens require roughly 9 hours of sleep each night though this is often shortened by factors like tight schedules, homework, technology and other factors. Ensure they sleep on time and try to discourage the habit of catching up on sleep during weekends.

Regardless of age, establish a routine with a provision for winding-down time and ensure that your kids observe bedtimes. Encourage older kids to maintain a bedtime that gives them the full hours of sleep needed.

 

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Your Child’s Development at 2 Years

Children develop at different rates and master various skills as they grow. These skills include communication, motion, cognitive and social skills. They also take time to learn to use a potty among other skills. The development of these skills at the expected time forms the milestones that doctors use to determine whether the child is developing at the expected rate. Children are not expected to meet these developmental milestones at a specific time. Some meet them earlier while some will master different skills later. There’s a range that is considered normal. Those born prematurely will reach the milestones later.  Below are milestones which your 2 year old child is expected to reach.

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Communication skills

At 2 years, your child is expected to be able to speak over 50 words and use two-word phrases. When he/she speaks, a stranger should be able to understand him or her half the time. Your child should also be able to use real words when prompted instead of baby talk.

Physical development and movement

Your 2 year old should normally be able to scribble and draw lines, stack blocks and feed him/her self. He /she should also be able to run, kick a ball and walk down stairs.

Emotional and social development

By age 2, your child at day care normally should have developed enough emotionally to be able to express fear of things such as certain animals and loud sounds. They also have developed social skill and can play with other children. The development of social and emotional skills also allows him or her to tell you when the diaper is dirty or when he or she need to poop or pee.

Cognitive skills

Normally, children at this age can have developed considerable thinking and learning skill. They are able to follow two-step commands such as picking up an object and placing it on a shelf. They can also name several body parts, pick out pictures from a book and engage in childhood games which involve pretence such as feeding a doll.

Minor delays to reach these milestones should not cause much worry as long as the child is healthy. However if you are worried about the delay, you should talk to a doctor about it.

When you should be concerned

Certain signs can be indicate a delay in the child’s development. If you notice the following signs in your child, you should consult a doctor:

  • The child walks on tippy toes or doesn’t run
  • The child only makes vowel sounds or can’t speak
  • The child shows no expression of emotion in response to his/her environment
  • He or she doesn’t take part in pretend play

You should also seek a doctor’s help if the child’s acquired skills are deteriorating. If you notice that your child has lost his ability to communicate, walk, run, or show emotions among other skills or shows signs of weakness on one side of the body, take him to a doctor. The doctor will examine the child and determine if the child is okay.

 

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Toy safety for preschoolers and toddlers

Not all of the millions of toys in stores today are suitable or safe for toddlers and preschoolers. Toy-related injuries occur quite often in children within this age bracket; with choking being a major risk in children below age 3. It is therefore important to ensure that you choose toys that are safe for your child. Below are some guidelines to remember when selecting toys and measures to take, aside from supervised play, to help prevent toy-related injuries among toddlers and preschoolers.

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  • Age and manufacturer recommendations

Always buy toys that are appropriate for the child’s age. You should select toys depending on the child’s age, temperament, and habits but never on intelligence or maturity. For instance, despite a child being able to sit without support and the safety straps and harnesses on riding toys; always check the manufacturer’s age recommendation.

  • Safety standards

Visit the consumer Product Safety Commission website to view information about recalled toys or check on a toy’s safety record.

Avoid older toys handed down from friends and family, especially those from before 1978 since they might not meet safety standards. They can be faulty and hazardous to the child. You should also avoid stuffed animals and carnival giveaways.

  • Size

Toys should be at least 3cm and 6 cm in diameter and length respectively to minimize the risk of choking. Use a choke tube or a toilet paper roll to determine whether the toy can be swallowed. Objects that are smaller than this or games involving small balls or toys that have small removable parts should be avoided. They should also not contain sharp parts, pinch points or small parts that can reach the back of the child’s mouth. Any strings should be less than 7 inches.

  • Batteries

Toys that are battery operated are not suitable for this age group unless they are concealed with covers that have been firmly screwed in place. This is because if the kid gains access to the battery, there is danger of choking, chemical burns and internal bleeding.

  • Strength

The toys should be strong enough to withstand constant chewing, pulling and smashing without breaking.

  • Material

The toys must be washable and if made from fabric, the material should not be flammable. It should be clearly labeled as flame resistant.

If painted, the paint used must be lead-free. Art materials should also be nontoxic; this should be clearly indicated on the pack. In addition, make sure that the paints and crayons you buy have been tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials. You can tell this by looking for “ASTM D-4236” on the toy package.

  • Storage and maintenance

Despite selecting the safest toy, you must ensure that safety is maintained at home. You can keep your children safer by cleaning and properly storing toys when not in use. You should teach your kids to put their toys away. You should also check toys regularly for faults, wear and tear including splinters and rust. If faulty or worn out, either throw them away or if possible, repair them immediately.

For added safety, keep fireworks, sharp objects, balloons and matches away from children’s reach. You should also ensure that squeak and rattle toys are not too loud since they can cause hearing loss.

 

 

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Toddler temper tantrums

Toddlers can inspire joy yet also be a source of anger and frustration. This is because it’s sometimes difficult to reign in your toddler. It’s however not impossible. Below are some ways to keep your toddlers’ behavior on track.

Maintain Consistency

Stick to the rules you’ve set and follow through with the consequences. For instance, if you’ve set time-out as a consequence of bad behavior, make sure you enforce it; otherwise, your child will view your warnings as empty threats and undermine your authority. Without consistency, your child will likely not stick to the set rules.

Since you have to follow through on the warning, it’s also important to only issue warnings which you’re ready to enforce.  Ensure also that your behavior is impeccable because children learn a lot from observing adults

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Avoid temptation

The natural curiosity of toddlers makes them want to explore the world. It’s therefore wise to keep the tempting items, which you don’t want them to get a hold of out of their reach.

Distract

If your toddler’s attention is set on something dangerous or unacceptable, be calm, say “no”, then either distract him/her with something else or move the child away from the area. It’s also important not to overreact when the child heads towards forbidden objects. Instead of hitting or spanking your child, employ other ways of disciplining your child such as time-outs. Timeouts are an effective discipline tool where you need to take a hard line with your toddler. Explain why a particular behavior is unacceptable then take the child to an area designated for timeout for a few minutes.

The above methods help teach your child what behavior is acceptable. However, even the toddlers with the most impeccable behavior throw tantrums every now and then. It’s better to avoid tantrums.

How to prevent temper tantrums

There are strategies that can be employed to keep toddlers from having temper tantrums:

  • Determine whether the tantrum is just an attention seeking tool.
  • Reward good behavior.
  • Relinquish some control in minor instances. Let your toddler make minor choices that give them a sense of control and fulfill the need for some independence. For instance, offer several choices of healthy foods and let the child pick what he prefers.
  • Give your child age-appropriate toys and play appropriate games. If trying a new task, start with simple tasks and don’t push your child’s limits. If he/she is tired, don’t try to squeeze in more activity.
  • Choose your battles. Consider your child’s request and determine if it’s outrageous. If you can, accommodate the child’s request.

Handling tantrums

When your best efforts to prevent tantrums fail, here are some pointers on how to handle them.

  • Stay calm and try to provide comfort. Showing your frustration will make the situation worse.
  • Ignore the tantrum. If the child’s outburst poses no threat, remain in the area but pay no attention to him/her. If however there’s danger of the child or someone else getting hurt, move the child to a safer environment and let her calm down.
  • Don’t reward tantrums by giving in to the demands. You don’t want your child to think tantrums are effective communication tools. Instead, calm her down and verbally praise her ability to show self-control.
  • Tantrums tend to reduce as children develop language skills. However, if handling the tantrums is proving too difficult, seek advice.

 

 

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Preschool: How to help your child adjust

Preschool is a place where children can not only interact with their peers but also acquire valuable lessons and skills. It also prepares them for elementary school and beyond. Going to preschool can also be emotional for both parents and the child. It can be challenging for the child since he/she is entering a new environment with unfamiliar people. This can be a source of mixed emotions, anticipation and anxiety for the child as well as the parent. To lessen problems for both of you, it is important to be familiar with the setting and be comfortable with the decision to take your child to preschool.

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Easing the fears

Help prepare your child for pre-school by talking to him about it to him and introducing him to some of the activities that take place there such as scribbling with crayons. This will make some things familiar to him when he goes for his first class.

You should also visit the school with the child before school begins. This makes entry into pre-school easier for the child as the child has the opportunity to familiarize himself with his classroom and school environment. Let him freely explore the classroom and interact with other kids if he so desires so he becomes comfortable. During these visits, you are also able to meet the teachers and discover some of the preschool activities and routines so that you can introduce them at home. Take advantage of the visits to find out the first week of school will be structured to help the child make the transition and how the teacher deals with the teary first days.

Finally, provide support but don’t overemphasize the change. Don’t feel too worried, guilty or anxious about this change.  The child can pick up on these emotions and will only make them more anxious and afraid of the change. The calmer you are, the more confident the child is likely to be.

First day

When you take your child to preschool on the first day, reintroduce your child to the teacher then take a step back and allow the teacher and child to start relating. This assures the child that he/she is safe with the teacher. Stay calm if the child refuses to participate or clings to you. Try to assure the child and lovingly say a short goodbye. Try to avoid prolonged goodbyes and remember that most children will adjust well once their parents have left. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to sneak out since doing so might make the child feel abandoned. It also helps to have a farewell ritual that is consistent, whether it’s a goofy goodbye face or a simple wave outside the class window. Stick to this ritual to help make leaving easier.

It also helps to have a staff member available to help the child transition when you drop him/her off at school. This is important because some children, especially reluctant ones, might need the loving attention of a caregiver before they join the other kids in class.

 

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Volunteering at your kid’s school

Getting involved at your child’s school is a way of showing interest in your child’s education. It also shows the child that school is important. It is thus a worthwhile decision to volunteer to help organize and chaperone school activities and fundraising events.

Why get involved?

As a parent, volunteering at your child’s school provide a resource and support base for the school. This helps to teach the child the value of participating in the community and both your and the school benefit. Volunteering gives you an opportunity to interact more frequently with your child’s teachers and administrators and other parents. This provides chances for you to gain better understanding of the child’s activities. You also get to know the fads and trends in school which will help you communicate with your child.

Volunteerism should not stop in elementary school. It is also never too late to start being involved. In fact, there tends to be a shortage in parent volunteers in secondary school; mostly due to volunteerism burnout and parents returning to work after their children are grown. Your services as a volunteer will therefore be helpful to the school.

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Finding the opportunity

For a start, get involved is attending parent-teacher conferences and open house. At these events, you can talk to the teachers or principal about volunteering at the school. The teacher can either organize something with you or refer you to an administrator who will assist. You can join the Parent’s Advisory Council or the Parent Teacher Association.

There are several volunteering opportunities you can take up at your child’s school. These include becoming a classroom helper, a mentor or a tutor, speaking on career day or in class about your field of expertise, helping kids with special needs; organizing or working at a school fundraising activity, and chaperoning field trips, track meets, graduations, proms and dances. You can also assist in theater productions, visual art, craft and design projects. Others include organizing clubs, science fairs and special interest groups and assisting at the library and in fitness programs.

Information you should find out

When you are thinking about volunteering, there are several questions that you should always ask. These include:

  • How much time you’ll need to commit and will it be ongoing e.g. find out you’ll be maintaining the drama department supplies all year or just repairing costumes for the season.
  • If you’ll need to meet any financial cost e.g. if you will have to pay for transport when chaperoning a school trip or if you’ll be driving the students in your own car.
  • The school regulations that you’ll need to observe.

 Things to remember when signing up

  • Make it clear from the start how much time you are willing to commit.
  • Don’t take on too much. Start small.
  • Don’t give special treatment or undue attention to your child when volunteering
  • Get feedback frequently. Find out from teachers and students how helpful your work is to them and what you can improve.
  • Your help might foster confidence and self esteem and build skills in kids long after they’ve left school.

 

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Growth in newborns

A baby’s weight, height and growth rate are usually considered an indicator of good health but little variation in these at birth and later can be normal. It’s therefore important to know what is normal and what to be concerned about.

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Size of newborns

Most infant babies born after 37 weeks normally weigh between 5.5 and 8.8 pounds. While babies can be born heavier or lighter than this without having any problem, extra attention is usually paid to ensure that the baby is fine.

The size of a newborn is largely dependent on a number of factors which include:

  • Parents’ size: If parents are big and tall, their newborns may be larger than average while those that are petite may have smaller babies.
  • Multiple births: Mothers who are carrying twins or more children may have relatively smaller newborns since they share uterine space.
  • Birth order and gender: Slight differences in size are usually noticed at birth with girls being slightly smaller than male newborns. First babies are also sometimes smaller.
  • Mother’s health and nutrition: Lower birth weight can often be caused by things that affect the mother’s health during pregnancy. These include problems such as diabetes and obesity, which can lead to higher weight in newborns and harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarette and illegal drugs. Poor diet during pregnancy can affect the baby’s development and size at birth as well as their growth rate. A newborn might also be bigger if the mother gains too much weight during the pregnancy.
  • Baby’s health: The presence of medical problems such as infections acquired while in the womb or some birth defects can affect the weight of the newborn and his/her subsequent growth.
  • Maturity: babies born premature are generally smaller than other babies and lighter due to missed growth time in the womb and often require special medical care and observation in Neonatal ICU. The individual size and weight is largely affected by how early the baby is born. The baby can be low weight (less than 5.5 pounds) or very low weight (less than 3.31 pounds).

 

Newborns weight loss and growth rate

Newborns often lose about 7% to 10% of the birth weight due to loss of extra fluid in the first days. This weight is usually regained in the first weeks after birth. Over the first month, the newborns grow by about 1 ounce each day and between 1 and 1.5 inches in height.  This rapid growth takes place between 7 and 10 days then between 3 and 6 weeks.

Should I worry?

If you are concerned about too much weight loss in initial days after birth, you should talk to a doctor about it. The doctor will need to know the number of times you feed your baby and how much, how often he/she urinates and the number, volume and consistency of bowel movements. With this information, examination and close monitoring of the baby’s weight and height, the doctor should be able to determine if the baby is okay.

What to expect

Newborns weight and height at birth are not determinants of their size later in life. They often grow close to their parent’s size in adulthood. Genetics and nutrition also play a major role in babies’ growth so pay attention to your child’s diet.

 

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Food allergies in kids

Food allergies are common and affect 1 out of every 13 children aged below 18 years in the US alone. Commonly caused by foods such as milk, peanuts, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts and shellfish; they occur when the body thinks a particular food or substance is harmful. The body produces antibodies and chemicals to fight the allergen triggering the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Being able to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction is crucial to getting a child the needed medical attention quickly and to avoid future occurrences.

Allergy symptoms

Food allergy reactions vary between individuals. They may be mild and restricted to a particular body part in one person but involve more body systems and be more severe, even fatal, in another person. They can occur within minutes of contact with the allergen or a few hours later. In the more severe reactions which involve two or more body systems called anaphylaxis, symptoms can include swollen airways resulting in breathing difficulty, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

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Below are the commonly experienced symptoms:

  • The skin

The skin may have red itchy bumps; appear red and swollen on the face and lips and itchy or swollen tongue or mouth.

  • Gastrointestinal tract

The child may experience diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain.

  • The respiratory tract

Symptoms affecting the respiratory tract include coughing, wheezing, sneezing, running nose and shortness of breath.

  • The cardiovascular system

Where the cardiovascular system is affected, lightheadedness and fainting may be experienced.

A food allergy is sometimes confused with food intolerance due to the shared symptoms such as indigestion and loose stool. However unlike intolerance, allergic reactions involve the immune system and can be fatal.

Diagnosing food allergies

If your child has symptoms of a food allergy, you should take him/her to a doctor and provide information such as the symptoms you’ve noticed, how often they occur, how long after eating do they occur, and whether there’s history of allergies in the family. The doctor will then try to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms such as intolerance or celiac disease. If food allergy is suspected, an allergy specialist will perform skin and blood tests and a physical exam to make a diagnosis. A food challenge may also be performed. The results of these tests are usually conclusive. If they indicate that the child has food allergies necessary treatment and precautions will have to be taken.

After the diagnosis

Though childhood food allergies are sometimes outgrown, they are not curable. Medications such as antihistamines, epinephrine (commonly used in treating severe reactions) or bronchodilators are usually prescribed by doctors to relieve the symptoms during an allergic reaction. A treatment plan developed by the allergist usually involved identifying and avoiding the allergens. Measures that have to be taken include:

  • Reading food labels to determine the presence of allergens
  • Where the child experiences severe symptoms, a doctor may prescribe epinephrine for you to keep around your child at all times in case of emergency. In such cases, after giving the child epinephrine, medical attention should be sought especially since a second wave of symptoms sometimes occur.
  • Write up an allergy emergency action plan with the allergists and give it to the child’s caregivers and school.

 

 

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Elementary school: Helping your child succeed

Parental guidance and support is crucial to the academic success of kids in elementary school. Here’s how parents can help their kids succeed:

  • Get involved

Back-to-school nights and parent-teacher conferences provide an opportunity for parents to know their kids’ teachers and what is expected of the kids. During these events, parents are able to discuss school-wide policies and programs and stay informed on their kids’ progress and how to help the child perform better. It also lets the child know that the parents will be made aware of what happens in school. You can also volunteer in school activities such as class parties and field trips.

  • Know the school

Be familiar with school’s physical layout. This helps you to connect with the child when he/she talks about the day at school. A variety of information and special parent resources can also be accessed on the school, teacher or district website.

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  • Homework support

Your support lets the child know that homework is a priority. Homework is an extension of classroom learning; helping children practice and develop important study skills, work ethics, and a sense of responsibility. Support your kid by providing a comfortable, well-lit, quiet environment suitable for study and guide him/her through the work. Be available to answer any questions the kid has but resist the temptation to complete the work yourself. Limit distractions and review completed work. Set a start and stop time; homework should not take too long to complete. If it often takes too long, discuss this with the teacher.

  • Sleep and nutrition

Proper nutrition and enough sleep are important for the child’s alertness, memory and attention span so your child should have nutritious meals rich in fiber, protein and whole grains but low in processed sugars.  Ensure school-age kids get about 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily by avoiding hectic schedules, video games and TV close to sleep time.

  • Teach organizational skills

Ensure your child stays focused. Help him keep track of assignments and projects using a homework folder, an assignment book and teach him how to create a to-do list. Every school night, check these to make sure that the child doesn’t fall behind on any school assignments.

  • Teach study skills

Be aware of scheduled tests and help your child study well in advance. Introduce them to mnemonic devices and other memory tricks and teach them to break tasks into manageable chunks. Rest is also important so let the child take a break after each study period. If studying remains difficult, talk to the teacher or counselor.

  • Know the school’s disciplinary policy

Make sure that both you and your child are aware of the school’s disciplinary policies and let the child know that you will support the consequences if he/she goes against the stipulation of the school policies.

  • Take attendance seriously

Make sure your child gets to school on time daily so they don’t have catch up on schoolwork too often. The exception is when the child is sick or is not acting as their normal self; in which case he/she should stay at home.

  • Talk about school

Let the child know elementary school is important by making time to talk about school with your child and ask questions that encourage the child to open up about what goes on in school.

 

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Baby growth between 1 and 2 years of age

Babies undergo a lot of changes in their first year with significant growth and development occurring during this age group. By the time they are 1.5 years old; most babies are learning to walk and talk and are growing into capable toddlers. They begin losing the baby look, become stronger and their ability to do various things becomes more developed by the time they get to their second birthdays. Even though they undergo these changes, their physical growth rate slows down as compared to the previous period but they continue to grow at a steady pace. These are just some of the changes to expect but just how much should you expect your child to grow?

How much he’ll grow

The rate of growth generally varies with each child but generally, in this period, the toddler’s weight often increases by about 2.27 kg and they grow taller by about 4 to 5 inches. By their second birthday, most children attain almost half their adult height. Their head size also increases in circumference by about an inch during this period; reaching about 90% of the size of the head in adulthood.

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While growth takes place, more noticeable changes will occur in the toddler’s appearance. In place of the rounded belly and comparatively short legs and arms designed for crawling, you will notice your child beginning to trim down and gain a more muscular appearance due to an increase in physical activity. By the end of their second year, they look less like babies and more like pre-school kids.

Red flags

Children come in different shapes and sizes and grow at different paces. Therefore, a child that is a bit late in meeting these milestones should typically not inspire too much concern. However, you should maintain the regular checkups during which your doctor should continually plot the child’s growth chart. This will assure you that the child is growing at a steady rate despite a child appearing too thin or chubby. Remember that in this period, babies transition to table foods and experiment with different tastes and textures. As their growth slows down, their appetite also tends to go down so periodic disinterest in food can be expected. If however you are concerned the child isn’t eating enough, consult your doctor to be sure that nothing is wrong.

You should also encourage appropriate activity and allow the child to explore the environment as long as it is safe. This has both physical and intellectual benefits as the child learns a lot from his environment. Don’t restrain his movement with strollers and cribs for too long.

What to expect after age 2

The rate of growth remains slow but steady; gaining just about 2 or 3 inches between their 2nd and 3rd birthday. However, this is also the time that they develop their language skills considerably. It is important during this time to focus on providing a safe, healthy environment and support the child’s physical, mental and intellectual development. Should there be any concerns or red flags, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

 

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