Sunday, December 27, 2009

Topics for 2010

Thank-you for your kind comments this past year concerning our little column about the early years of parenting young children. I am always honored and humbled by hearing what you think and grateful for the ideas you offer. One would think we would run out of things to talk about after five years, but that is not the case. In today’s column I would like to preview the topics suggested by readers for 2010.

One area of concern that has surfaced is the dwindling amount of active playtime, especially outdoor play. Along the same lines is a suggestion to talk about the importance of sharing the natural world with our young children.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. I will share various things I have learned about caring for the teeth of young children. We will end February with a visit on Friday, February 26 by Dr. Stephen Reisner on WLDY’s talkline where you may ask Dr. Reisner your questions.

Another area of interest that has been brought to my attention is the topic of challenging behavior. I am asked at conferences to present on this topic, so I would like to share this information in the column. In the same vein, a very old but always enlightening piece of writing on this topic is the ‘Seven Principles of Discipline’. We will review those seven principles in 2010.

The discussion of sleep routines, sleep problems, and night terrors will provide us with interesting food for thought. Eating, eating problems, and mealtime routines are another topic readers have suggested. Breast-feeding and the host of questions surrounding the mother’s nutrition are important topics for 2010.

When I asked for ideas for the column, I received an email from my very first childhood friend. She wrote, "Ponies define who I am." Her email did not exactly suggest a topic but gave me the idea to write a column about pets and other animals in our world.

I have had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Harry Ireton, a developmental psychologist from the Minneapolis area. He responded to my request for topics with a document on "Parents’ Development." I will try my best to do justice to this well written and valuable resource in 2010.

Did I cover the topics you are most interested in? If not, please email ( or call (532-3209) with your suggestions for our next year of Bringing Up Baby. Thank-you and have a great New Year!

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What makes a great gift?

Merry Christmas! As you read today's column, you probably have finished most of your preparations for your celebration. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, (or hidden away for that special Christmas moment in your family's tradition).

When the little ones in your family open gifts take some time to observe what grabs their immediate attention. After the Christmas season is over, observe what toys and activities have long lasting play and learn value. These observations will help you the next time you shop for a child's gift.

Today, I would like to share my thoughts about gifts that have long lasting value. Some presents are appealing to young children because they have seen advertisements on television. We all know how seductive television advertising is for children and adults. However, when the shiny, colorful package has been ripped off and added to the landfill, what remains behind is sometimes a toy with limited creative or educational value. These kinds of gifts will soon join their packaging material in the trash or live in the back of a closet until the young child grows up and moves out of their room.

The toys that will stick around and are always out on the living room floor are the ones that help children imagine and create their own play. They are the books that are read and read again until they are outgrown and stored to be handed down as precious treasures to the next generation. They are the blocks that can be stacked and lined up to create bridges and buildings and forts. They are the puzzles that challenge children to solve the picture faster and faster. They are the one doll or one teddy bear whose hair gets pulled off and whose ear has been lovingly chewed.

What gift is your child playing with over and over again in the months following Christmas? Knowing the answer and understanding how children grow and learn will help you make a good choice the next time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Last week we began a conversation about the use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and how a mother’s use of these drugs during pregnancy will affect her child. Today we will focus on the disease called fetal alcohol syndrome.

There are many things that are known about fetal alcohol syndrome. Babies born to mothers who use alcohol during pregnancy have a lower birth weight and a smaller head circumference. These babies show a significant difference in the size of the brain compared to babies whose mothers did not drink. Fetal alcohol syndrome babies have brains that are much smaller. Brain imaging studies such as the MRI also show abnormal brain development especially in regions of the brain responsible for judgement.

These babies did not grow well before birth and they show slow growth and poor coordination after birth. Many children with fetal alcohol syndrome will have abnormal heart structures that affect the health of the child. A pediatrician or other trained professional will notice variations in the structure of the child’s head, eyes, nose, and mouth. These babies even look different from their peers.

As they grow, behavior problems begin to arise. These children are usually retarded and have attention deficit disorders. How severe the retardation is and how serious the behavior becomes is a function of both how much alcohol the mother drank and when in her pregnancy she was drinking. The outcome for any fetal alcohol syndrome child is not good and the ultimate effect of the syndrome is unknown.

If you are pregnant and drinking, I cannot tell you for sure how severely retarded your child will be, but I can tell you that your child will experience the life long effects of retardation and challenges in behavior. Fetal Alcoholism is a disease. It is a preventable disease.