Children and TV — the effects

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting a child’s use of TV, movies, video and computer games to no more than one or two hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

* Obesity. Children who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be overweight.
* Irregular sleep. The more TV children watch, the more likely they are to resist going to bed and to have trouble falling asleep.
* Behavioral problems. Children who watch excessive amounts of TV are more likely to bully, have attention problems, and show signs of depression or anxiety than children who don’t.
* Impaired academic performance. Elementary students who have TVs in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on tests than those who don’t.
* Less time for play. Excessive screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.

20 tips for picky eaters

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Children’s nutrition: 20 tips for picky eaters
Is your child a picky eater? Use these practical tips to avoid mealtime battles.
By Mayo Clinic staff

Your preschooler has refused to eat anything other than peanut butter sandwiches for the past two days, and your toddler would rather play than eat anything at all. Sound familiar?

If children’s nutrition is a sore topic in your household, you’re not alone. Many parents are distressed by what their children eat — or don’t eat. However, most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. Until your child’s food preferences mature, prevent mealtime battles one bite at a time.

1. Respect your child’s hunger — or lack thereof. Young children tend to eat only when they’re hungry. If your child isn’t hungry, don’t force a meal or snack.
2. Stay calm. If your child senses that you’re unhappy with his or her eating habits, it may become a battle of wills. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle.
3. Keep an eye on the clock. Nix juice and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, he or she may be more motivated to eat.
4. Don’t expect too much. After age 2, slower growth often reduces a child’s appetite. A few bites may be all it takes for your child to feel full.
5. Limit liquid calories. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products and 100 percent fruit juice can be important parts of a healthy diet — but if your child fills up on milk or juice, he or she may have no room for meals or snacks.
6. Start small. Offer several foods in small portions. Let your child choose what he or she eats.
7. Boycott the clean plate club. Don’t force your child to clean his or her plate. This may only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. Instead, allow your child to stop eating when he or she is full.
8. Leave taste out of it. Talk about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.
9. Be patient with new foods. Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite.
10. Eat breakfast for dinner. Who says cereal or pancakes are only for breakfast? The distinction between breakfast, lunch and dinner foods may be lost on your child.
11. Make it fun. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters.
12. Recruit your child’s help. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don’t buy anything that you don’t want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
13. Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
14. Be sneaky. Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
15. Keep it separate. If your child isn’t a fan of various ingredients thrown together, you might “unmix” the food. Place sandwich fixings outside the bread, or serve the ingredients of a salad, casserole or stir-fry separately.
16. Stick to the routine. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If the kitchen is closed at other times, your child may be more likely to eat what’s served for meals and snacks.
17. Minimize distractions. Turn off the television during meals, and don’t allow books or toys at the table.
18. Don’t offer dessert as a reward. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child’s desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week. Or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
19. Expect some food preferences to stick. As kids mature, they tend to become less picky about food. Still, everyone has food preferences. Don’t expect your child to like everything.
20. Know when to seek help. If your child is energetic and growing, he or she is probably doing fine. Consult your child’s doctor if you’re concerned that picky eating is compromising your child’s growth and development or if certain foods seem to make your child ill.

Your child’s eating habits won’t likely change overnight. But the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating

Cough and cold medicines aren’t recommended for young children

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A Mayo Clinic specialist explains why — and offers tips for treating your child’s cold.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Jay Hoecker, M.D.
The common cold is a nuisance, but over-the-counter cough and cold medicines can help your child feel better — right? Think again. Cough and cold medicines aren’t recommended for young children, and the jury is still out on whether cough and cold medicines are appropriate for older kids. So what’s the best way to treat a child’s cold? Here’s practical advice from Jay Hoecker, M.D., a pediatrics specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
What’s the concern about cough and cold medicines for kids?
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines won’t cure a common cold or make it go away any sooner. In fact, cough and cold medicines haven’t been proved effective for children. And there are serious risks to consider. For example, the sedating effects of antihistamines can be dangerous for kids already having trouble breathing. For young children, an accidental overdose of cough or cold medicine could be fatal.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly encourages parents to avoid cough and cold medicines for children younger than age 2. And in October 2008, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association — with the support of the FDA — went a step further. They volunteered to relabel products to indicate they shouldn’t be used in children younger than age 4.
What if cough and cold medicines seemed to work for my child in the past?
Chances are, your child’s signs and symptoms simply improved on their own — or the sedating effects of the medication made you think that your child was feeling better. Low-grade fevers don’t need treatment and may actually help the body fight cold viruses. Research shows that cough and cold medicines for kids are no more effective than a placebo.
Are cough and cold medicines a problem for children older than age 4?
Older children aren’t as likely as younger children to experience side effects from cough and cold medicines, but side effects are still possible. Some cough and cold medicines may make kids sleepy, while others may have the opposite effect. Even then, remember that cough and cold medicines can’t make a cold go away any sooner.
Experts from the FDA are studying the safety and effectiveness of cough and cold medicines for older children. In the meantime, if you choose to give cough or cold medicines to an older child, carefully follow the label directions.
What about antibiotics?
Colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics won’t help. And the more your child uses antibiotics, the more likely he or she is to get sick with an antibiotic-resistant infection in the future.
Can any medications help treat the common cold?
An over-the-counter pain reliever — such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Motrin, others) — can reduce a fever and ease the pain of a sore throat or headache. Remember, however, low-grade fevers don’t need treatment. If you give your child a pain reliever, follow the dosing guidelines carefully.
Don’t give ibuprofen to a child younger than age 6 months, and don’t give aspirin to anyone age 18 or younger. Aspirin has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal illness.
Also treat herbal or alternative remedies for the common cold with a dose of caution. Few studies have been done on the effect these products may have on children. If you want to give your child an herbal or alternative remedy, consult your child’s doctor first.
How can I help my child feel better?
There’s no cure for the common cold, but you can help your child feel better while he or she is toughing it out.
• Offer plenty of fluids. Liquids can help loosen the congestion, and coughing can help clear the mucus from your child’s airway. Offer water or juice. Serve chicken soup for dinner.
• Encourage rest. Consider keeping your child home from school and other activities if he or she has a fever or bad cough.
• Moisten the air. Run a humidifier in your child’s room to help soothe irritated nasal passages. Aim the mist away from your child’s bed to keep the bedding from becoming damp. To prevent mold growth, change the water daily and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the unit. Steam from a hot shower may help, too.
• Try saline drops. Saline nose drops can loosen thick nasal mucus and make it easier for your child to breathe. Look for these over-the-counter drops in any pharmacy.
• Soothe a sore throat. For older children, gargling salt water or sucking on hard candy or cough drops may soothe a sore throat.
When should I call the doctor?
Most colds simply need to run their course. It’s important to take your child’s signs and symptoms seriously, however. If you have a baby who’s younger than age 3 months, call the doctor at the first sign of illness. For newborns, a common cold can quickly develop into croup, pneumonia or another serious illness.