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Creating Happier Day Care Kids

How parents manage their children at home has a direct influence on their behaviour at family day care. Here are three of the top influences that could be affecting your child’s behaviour.If you have ever felt a wave of panic when you drop your children off at family day care; you are not alone. Many parents are concerned about how happy their children are throughout the day and their associated behaviour.

Influence One: Sending your child off for the day without a suitable breakfast or no breakfast. Food is fuel to a child’s body. What they eat determines the capacity of their output. If your child has no food or unsuitable nutrition at breakfast, it can lead to them having poor concentration with emotional outbursts of frustration or an inability to cope in challenging situations. They can also be uncoordinated and clumsy leaving them more at risk of falls.

What to do instead: Avoid giving your child milk throughout the night. This will allow them to be hungrier in the morning. Ensure the foods you offer for breakfast include protein, complex carbohydrates, fruit, essential fats and iron. Avoid simple sugars and processed cereals containing preservatives.

Influence Two: Putting your child to bed too late in the evening. Being overtired before going to bed makes it hard for your child to settle to sleep. When they eventually fall asleep their sleep is often restless and fitful with waking. Their activities before a late bedtime often include watching TV and mischievous behaviour, both causing unsettled sleep.

What to do instead: Introduce an age appropriate evening routine. This will include a suitable meal time, bath time and play time before a pre bed time routine of books. Encourage family time with no TV distractions during the one and a half hours before bed.

Influence Three: Eating foods that provide an unsuitable and adverse effect on a child’s body. Research shows obesity now affects 1:4 children in Australia and allergies and intolerances have increased 500% over the last 6 years. These preventable health issues are rapidly becoming the number one focus for our health industry’s funding.

What to do instead: Go back to basics. Avoid or at least reduce the amount of pre packaged food that your child consumes. Buy a lunchbox suitable for presenting natural foods in. Understand your child will not starve and you can create new habits with their eating behaviour. It is important to know; it is not up to your child to choose what to eat, only whether to eat. It is up to responsible adults to show children how to build a strong and healthy body for their future.

Who is Jan Murray? A Private Child Health Consultant who focuses on helping parents to establish healthy eating and sleeping patterns in their babies and young children.

Her book ‘taste it- easy baby & toddler recipes along with professional child health advice’ is specifically helpful for parents wishing to address the influences discussed in this article.

This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. She publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Answers to Questions from ‘Kids on the Coast’ Readers

Below are answers by Jan Murray to questions sent in by readers of ‘Kids on the Coast’. The magazine is for parents with young children and circulates on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast and ‘Kids in the City’ circulates in Brisbane, Queensland. Also available online.


Q1: Recently my 3 year old has started to say curse words a lot. I have tried to explain that those words are not o.k, but now she thinks it’s funny and is saying them more and more. How do I make it stop?

A: Living and learning as a three year old, is all about mimicking the behaviours they are regularly exposed to, and that includes the words they hear people say. Perhaps it’s time to take note of what curse words are spoken at home and in the areas she spends most of her time. If there are older siblings be aware of the television shows they are watching and change what needs to be changed. It is very difficult to successfully teach your daughter not to do things or say words that she experiences at home—do as I say and not as I do—just doesn’t work. However, it is not all bad, as hearing her say and do things that are unacceptable provides a great opportunity to teach her what your family values are. (My gorgeous first child excitedly shared the F$#@word in the bath with his three younger siblings after his first day at a Christian school!). Your daughter will experience many different behaviours and words as she gets older and socialises with a variety of people, therefore, it is important for her to understand what is acceptable in her family. When you hear her say #?@* you could immediately ask her where she heard it, then calming and confidently say that we don’t use bad words like that in our family—we use better words like J J J (it is important to always give her an alternative word to use). At three years old she needs a short explanation and then divert her attention to something else more exciting. The more you focus on any behaviour—be it acceptable or unacceptable—the more she enjoys the attention and will continue doing it. Remember to pay close attention and give her unexpected praise whenever possible.

Read more in ‘Being a Toddler’ eBook

Q2: My boy is two and keeps wearing girl’s dresses, what should I do?’

A: Wearing girls’ dresses does not make him a deviant or a male with homosexual tendencies. The clothes he wears won’t change what he is on the inside that’s already there by now. It is important to allow your son to role play and live in an imaginary world—that is how a two year old learns about life and how he fits in. Let him discover who he is in the safety of his immediate world—and the earlier the better. If he wears a superman cape it doesn’t mean he will grow up to be superman or when he plays with your hair it doesn’t mean he will become a hairdresser. My son and his mate loved dressing in his sister’s pink tulle tutu, accessorized with high-heels and glammed up with lipstick. If you could see him now at 19 years old you would clearly see that dressing in girls’ clothes had no feminine effects on him what-so-ever. Avoid making a big deal of what he wants to wear that gives the situation unnecessary attention. Give casual comments like ‘mummy used to wear a dress like that’. It’s funny how we never worry as much when our daughters want to wear their brother’s shorts!

Read more about infant and toddler development in ‘mum, baby & toddler’ eBook

Q3: Do you have any cheap and easy last minute dress up ideas?

A: Dressing up for young children is a vital part of discovering the world. It is role play at its best. Children see what grown-ups do and want to do the same. This makes dress ups cheap and easy if you keep it simple. Often toddlers or pre-schoolers want to dress up and change their clothes several times a day. To save messing up the wardrobe and testing your patience, have a box or suitcase in their bedroom with several outfits and mix and match accessories. Let them know they can change their clothes as many times as they like from the selection in the box. Ideas that make great cheap and easy dress-ups are adult shoes (some with laces, some with heels and some bright colours), handbags, hats, ties, glasses and scarves. Wide ribbon and pompoms make great tails (charity stores often have cheap curtain tassels or men’s dressing gown belts with tassels). Tea towels and pegs or old baby blankets with a hole cut out for the head make great super hero capes. Trade worker outfits consisting of a plastic tool box, old phone, stethoscope, hairbrush (microphone or boarder security scanner) and police hat and badge are usually easy to find and well loved. Have a craft box handy containing empty cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes, cotton reels, toilet rolls and kitchen paper rolls. Have a tin of scissors, pencils, sticky tape, glue and staples within easy access (not at child height) for creating the master piece of the day. You provide the prompts and opportunity and children bring the intense imagination to explore and role play. Be encouraging and available to enter into the world of make believe. It is their opportunity to discover and make sense of the world.

Read more about infant and toddler development in ‘mum, baby & toddler’ eBook

Q4: My 2-year old loves running around the house naked. It’s ok except for the accidents (not potty trained yet). Although I’m worried he might start to take on this habit in public.. how do I stop it before it goes that far?

A: It is not unusual for two year old children to enjoy taking their clothes off. A two year old is particularly pleased with accomplishing the skill of taking his clothes off and once the clothes are off he enjoys the freedom of having no clothes on. In the comfort and privacy of your own home, running around naked is an acceptable social behaviour—providing it is ok with you. However, as parents, we are responsible for teaching our children appropriate behaviours and social standards. Running around in public with no clothes on is one of those unacceptable social behaviours as an adult. Help him begin to learn social standards by explaining that he wears clothes when he goes out. Don’t give in to the tantrum when he tries to get his own way. As you constantly re-enforce the rules he will eventually understand them. If he starts to take his clothes off when you are already out in public, remind him his clothes stay on when he is out.

Hints and tips on potty training in ‘Take Aim’ eBook

Q5: How do you stop a child from becoming too self-entitled?! My daughter is my only child so I can’t help but give her lots of attention. She also has two half siblings who completely dote on her and adore her. It’s wonderful that she feels so loved but is she heading for spoilt-brat territory?!

A: Yes it is wonderful that your daughter feels loved, and no, she is not necessarily heading for spoilt-brad territory. Feeling a sense of belonging and being able to attach to other people is significant to her becoming a successful, socially appropriate and secure adult. A self-assured independent child or a child who feels entitled to preferential treatment (self-entitled) is made not born. Babies begin life totally dependent on their parents for their physical, emotional and intellectual needs. Parental support is gradually eased off as babies grow and develop to allow for the natural progression of independence. The term ‘helicopter parent’ is used to describe parents that hover constantly or who are ‘physically hyper-present but somehow psychologically M.I.A.’[i] In this situation parents are not allowing a baby or child space to develop emotional self-regulation. Even if your daughter is an only child that receives a lot of attention, it can be healthy attention. Remain calm, supportive and encouraging. Play is how children learn about life. Allow her space for open ended play, leaving her room to observe, mimic, try and keep trying. Providing such an environment reduces the chance of her always looking to you for help in this imperfect world and not becoming a spoilt-brat unable to solve problems herself.

Learn more about your toddler’s world in ‘Being a Toddler’ eBook

[i] ^ Warner, Judith (July 27, 2012). “How to Raise a Child”. The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved July 31, 2012.


Q6: My child is already in love with sweet stuff and she’s not even two! I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen. It started with a freddo for Easter and now she just seems to instantly recognise naughty stuff at the shop and has a tanty when I say no. Can I ever break this habit?

A: If your child is in love with sweet stuff and not even two years old, I have to ask, whose fault is that. As a parent, it is our job to provide our children with healthy food choices and it is also our job to deal with the tantrums to back up our decisions. I am not saying for one minute that either of those tasks is easy but you can be in control and break bad habits. Once your child has been given sugary foods the craving for more sugar can have two causes a) psychological and b) physical. A psychological cause is when a child knows they are rewarded with sugar treats even with tantrum behaviour. A toddler likes to have things go their way even if it’s not the best way. Sugary food is also often given as a comfort or cure for boredom, sadness and frustration. This association carries on into adulthood and I’m sure I’m not the only one with a psychological connection to sweets as a feel good comfort food! It is not just the emotional need that draws children to sugar but also the physical craving for instant energy. Often our children have the wrong mix of whole foods during the day, creating energy highs and lows. Processed foods and simple carbohydrates gives the body a quick fix of energy but then plummets just as quick causing the craving for more instant energy—sugar. With the occurrence of obesity and diabetes in children rapidly rising, it is important to help our children establish good eating practices for their future health.

Read about feeding solids to babies and toddlers in ‘taste it’ eBook

Q7: I have a 3 year old son who recently seems to have an aversion to swimming. Previously he enjoyed swimming lessons, but now he cries almost throughout his own lesson. Nothing particularly traumatic happened, but he seems really afraid. Am I better to stop him from swimming for a while until he is older or stick with it?

A: From personal experience as a young child, I stopped swimming lessons after I was thrown in the deep end without a bubble on my back (I guess that was the way they did it back then!). It was frightening and I wasn’t encouraged to continue lessons with any positive input, and to this day I am still not confident in the water and don’t have a love of swimming. Children are constantly learning and gaining competencies through play and experiences. At three years old it is important to consider whether these experiences are positive or negative ones. Ask your son what he is afraid of. It could be something he has misinterpreted that he saw about water on television or in a book—children don’t understand fact or fantasy until they are seven years old. Speak to your son’s swim teacher and get some helpful ideas to try during the lesson. It could be getting in the water with him, having your swimmers on and sitting on the side of the pool ready to support him when needed or enjoying fun games in the water. If his teacher is no help, either change teachers or change swim schools but don’t opt out of swimming lessons altogether as learning water skills saves lives. Be positive and encouraging and continue water play at home to keep alive the love of water and the enjoyment of water play.

Learn more about your toddler’s world in ‘Being a Toddler’ eBook


Q8: My partners parents are constantly spoiling my toddler with treats and toys.. and I look like a bad cop… How do I get them to stop!?”

A: Communication is the key to all family matters; therefore, avoid keeping negative thoughts bubbling inside. Grandparents have a strategic role in supporting you, as you raise your children, but like you, they are learning this new role too. It is essential that you and your partner are raising your toddler together. You both need to have the same expectations and ideas and work as a team—it is not just your job! First thing to do would be to get your partner onside with you and find out why his parents are buying these things—perhaps you could ask about his childhood. It is important that grandparents don’t create favouritism towards your toddler and your toddler favouritism towards them. Competing with the other set of grandparents should also be avoided. For these reasons, it is important to talk to each other early, to understand each other’s thoughts, and reduce the risk of serious family conflict. Perhaps the grandparents are old, work a lot, or live away and are substituting ‘things’ for time—a toddler would much prefer time. Thank them for giving your toddler gifts and treats, but explain to them why you feel these are not helpful . . . . Let them know how it makes you and their son feel. Suggest and discuss other alternatives that you would prefer they do and that they would enjoy doing. Decide on some of the treats that are acceptable—a little bit of spoiling from grandparents can’t hurt.

Learn more about your toddler’s world in ‘Being a Toddler’ eBook

More Q’s & A’s to come . . .