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It is doubtful that anyone would deny that parenting is hard work. When parents and caregivers are busy working, paying bills, keeping food on the table and managing a household, keeping track of developmental milestones in our young children can be challenging.

The hard work of parenting comes with immeasurable rewards as our young children grow, learn and become unique individuals full of personality. We know children develop skills and reach milestones at their own pace and thrive naturally when given the proper support, but how can we be sure our children are developing in a healthy way and reaching important developmental milestones?

During the most precious stage of early brain development, parents and caregivers can ensure children are reaching those milestones through regular developmental screening. Parents and caregivers can gain a clear understanding of a child’s strengths, what to look forward to in their development, and what support services a child might need in order to ensure healthy development and school readiness.

The Ages & Stages Questionnaire® (ASQ) is a highly researched, valid and reliable tool for parents and caregivers to get a snapshot of a child’s development in communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social skills. The ASQ takes about 10-15 minutes to fill out and can be administered at any time from birth to age 5 ½ years. Based on responses, results will help determine if a child’s developmental progress is on time and/or alert parents and caregivers to any potential concerns that can be shared with the child’s health care provider.

Developmental screening can help parents and caregivers:

  • Learn more about their child’s growth and development
  • Learn about their child’s strengths
  • Address any questions or concerns about behavior, growth and development
  • Identify if there are any areas of development that need more support
  • Get connected with local resources for children and families

4-C is pleased to offer free and confidential ASQ developmental screening for all children birth to 5 1/2 years old residing in Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Jefferson, Rock, Sauk and Walworth counties.

The ASQ can be filled out by parents or primary caregivers online or paper versions of the ASQ can be requested from 4-C at any time by email, phone or mail to:

4-C Early Intervention Specialist
5 Odana Court Madison, WI 53719
608-271-9181 x7029
asq@4-C.org

We encourage you to take 10–15 minutes to check in with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire®. The sooner a developmental delay or special need is addressed, the better long-term success can be expected for a child’s overall well-being.

The following list contains many early childhood blogs that stand out above the rest. They are suitable for both parents and child care providers. Be sure to click on the links to check out the blogs and the many high quality, play-based activities they offer.

Pic1HANDS ON as we grow

Jamie, a mom of 3 young boys, created this blog to share simple, hands-on activities to do with kids. Many of the activities can be done with items that are already in your home. One of the most popular posts on the blog is 35 things to do with CRAYONS – pinned by 276,000 people. Jamie searches the internet to find the best activities and brings them together on this well-organized website.

Pic2The Imagination Tree

Anna, a mom of 4, early childhood teacher and play enthusiast is the creator of this site filled with over 700 ideas and activities for young children. She has fun recipes such as Homemade Moon Sand, The Best Ever No-Cook Play Dough, Edible Finger Paint, and many others. Why reinvent the wheel when someone like Anna offers so many great ideas on her blog?

Pic3RED TED Art

RED TED Art was named the top Early Childhood Education Blog in both 2016 and 2017. The ratings were measured by how many site visits, site references and the growth in the number of visits to each site. Maggy, the creator, is the mom of two young children and loves all things crafty. There are a ton of ideas on the site in many different categories. One of the newest activities on the blog is Valentine’s Day Magnetic Clips which would be great to make with children to give as gifts to their parents this Valentine’s Day.

Pic4Kidsactivites.com

Holly’s blog has more than 62,900 members! She not only has many different creative activities to do with kids, she also offers quick and easy recipes and printables. Some of the newest printables include Valentine’s templates such as slime valentines, a winter paper doll template and printable play money. This site has a wealth of resources for anyone who spends time with young children.

Pic5Happy Hooligans

Jackie is a mom and a family child care provider. She works to help children explore their world through arts, crafts and good, old-fashioned play. Her blog has arts, crafts, activities, outdoor fun and more. One article that may be especially helpful for those on a budget is 70 {Awesome} Homemade Toys You Can Make for Your Kids.

Pic6Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds

Sheryl has been a toddler/preschool teacher for over 19 years. She has a passion for young children and her blog focuses on activities, themed units and resources for teachers. These resources include helpful topics such as preschool classroom design, dealing with big emotions in the classroom and tips for kids that can’t sit still at circle time.

Pic7Teach Preschool

Deborah is a preschool teacher who regularly shares ideas from her own classroom. She has information about literacy, art, sensory play, motor skills and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). She provides some unique ideas for how to incorporate STEM into the preschool classroom including: how to explore energy with energetic kids, exploring robots inside and out, a crazy cool DIY water and play stand and raindrop graphing on the flannel board.

Pic8Growing a Jeweled Rose

Crystal strongly believes in the importance of play as the core of early learning and her website focuses on fun and educational activities for kids. Take a look at: glowing snow paint (We all know that kids love things that glow in the dark!), how to make snow rockets and winter science experiments.

These blogs are just a few of the many resources on the web for parents and child care providers. Take some time to explore them-the young children in your life will surely benefit!

It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
So come over here, and lend me your ear
It’s time for a story today, hooray!
It’s time for a story today. (clap! clap!)

It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
Let’s take out a book and we’ll give it a look
It’s time for a story today, hooray!
It’s time for a story today. (clap! clap!)
(To the tune of Mexican Hat Dance)

How can you keep from singing when the tune is engaging and fun? The stress of transition time can be eased when the instructions are sung to a familiar tune. Singing slows down language, and gives young ones an opportunity focus. And since music engages both sides of the brain, singing together helps to reinforce important concepts. Songs with active movement, such as clapping or finger moving, help to keep children’s bodies occupied as they move from one activity to another.

To start the day with a warm welcome, I like to sing an easy tune which features each child’s name—this is a favorite, because clapping keeps everyone involved. Children are invited to dance in the circle after their verse:

Welcome song:

We’re all here today
We’re all here today!
Clap, clap, oh clap your hands
We’re all here today!

Jack is here today,
Jack is here today!
Clap, clap, oh clap your hands
Jack is here today!
Go Jack, go Jack, go JACK, JACK, JACK!
(To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

Keep your transition songs simple enough for children to sing by themselves. You will hear children singing the songs on their own, reminding themselves of the steps to accomplish a job.

Washing song:

Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Make them nice and clean.
Wash the germs right down the drain,
Make them nice and clean.
(To the tune of Row, row, row your boat)

Walking song:

We’re walking down the hall, we’re walking down the hall,
Let’s keep together friends, we’re walking down the hall!
We’re walking up the steps, we’re walking up the steps,
Hold on to the railing friends, be careful not to fall!
(To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

Singing a tune lends a light touch to instruction—especially when there is humor involved. Gather the children with a smile using this little song.

Gathering song:

Everybody take a seat, take a seat, take a seat,
Everybody take a seat on the floor.
Not on the ceiling, not on the door!
Everybody take a seat on the floor!
(To the tune of Shorting Bread)

Active learning is an important part of childhood—so I like to give students an opportunity to really move when they need it! Here’s a little spoken chant to celebrate our wigglers and help them focus for the next task.

Wiggling song:

Wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes.
Wiggle them fast, wiggle them slow.
Wiggle them high, wiggle them low.
Wiggle them, wiggle them GO, GO, GO!
Wiggle them east, then wiggle them west,
Wiggle them together, then let them rest!

The NAEYC Position paper (2009) on Developmentally Appropriate Practice discusses the use of scaffolding to guide children’s behavior. Singing through transitions is an ideal example of this principle.

Scaffolding can take a variety of forms; for example, giving the child a hint, adding a cue, modeling the skill, or adapting the materials and activities. It can be provided in a variety of contexts, not only in planned learning experiences but also in play, daily routines, and outdoor activities.

Clean up songs:

Clean up time can be a challenge in any classroom. Some children might not be ready to give up their play time, and others just don’t seem inclined to be on the cleaning crew. My grandson Will’s class sings this version of "Twinkle, twinkle," which gets the job done and offers encouragement of fun the next time the children are together.

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Stop and clean up where you are.
It’s time to put the toys away,
We will play another day.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Stop and clean up where you are.

Here’s another clean up tune which is light and fun and tells the children just what is expected. Change the words to include cleaning up after play (for example: . . legos in the bin!) Make up your own variations.

Everybody clean up, clean up, clean up,
Everybody clean up, after lunch.
Trash in the trashcan—recycle in the bin
When we work together we all win!
Everybody clean up, clean up, clean up,
Everybody clean up, after lunch.
(To the tune of Shortnin’ Bread)

Goodbye songs:

Saying goodbye at the end of the day offers particular challenges. Sometimes parents don’t all arrive at the same time, leaving children anxious. Here are a few tunes to lighten up the day.

Well it’s time to go, so we better check our cubbies
Singing doo-wah-ditty-ditty dum ditty doo
Well it’s time to go, so we better check our cubbies
Singinig doo-wah-ditty-ditty dum ditty doo
You look good (you look good)
You look fine (you look fine)
You look good, you look fine
We’ll see you another time!
Singing whooah, oh oh yeah!
Goodbye!
(To the tune of Do wah diddie) (repeat with other getting ready to go chores—for example: Well it’s time to go so we better put on our coats . . . Well it’s time to go so we better put on our hats . . .)

I love watching little ones trying to wink when we do this tune!

It is time to say goodbye to all our friends (clap, clap) (2x)
It is time to say goodbye, give a nod, and wink your eye
It is time to say goodbye to all our friends. YEE HAH!
(To She’ll be coming ’round the mountain)

Your turn! What’s your most challenging transition? Don’t know a song for your situation? YOU be the song writer! Choose a familiar tune—Here we go ’round the mulberry bush, Shortening bread, The Farmer in the Dell, Row, row, row your boat, are all good choices. Then make up a rhyme—one concept per verse. You will usually need 8 beats to fit into the song—play around with it until your song is satisfying!

Here’s an example: The assignment—put on your boots, coat, hat and mittens when you go out to play in the snow.

The tune: The Farmer in the Dell
The lyrics:

We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
Winter is a time for fun,
We’re playing in the snow. Hurray!

Put on your snow boots—tug, tug
Put on your snow boots—tug, tug
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your snow boots—tug, tug

Put on your winter coat—zip, zip
Put on your winter coat—zip, zip
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your winter coat—zip, zip.

Put on your cozy hat—whoop!
Put on your cozy hat—whoop!
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your cozy hat—whoop!

Put on your mittens now—both hands!
Put on your mittens now—both hands!
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your mittens now—both hands!

We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
Winter is a time for fun,
We’re playing in the snow. Hurray!

See how easy it is to add new words to a familiar tune? I like to jazz it up a bit with fun sounds like hurray! zip! or whoop! to add more fun.

Some other scenarios to consider are tooth brushing, setting the table, putting on a paint smock, choosing a station in the classroom to play. You will notice that these are all tasks which move children toward independence, and singing the instructions provides a tool to help. Please add your tune in the comment box! And most importantly, have fun singing!

Source:
Hooton, Margaret. “Singing Through Transitions.” Community Playthings Blog, Community Products LLC, 3 Oct. 2017, www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2017/singing-through-transitions.

Lately, gluten free diets are getting a lot of attention. Going gluten free has been rumored to increase energy and concentration, cure digestive ills, and even improve symptoms of autism and ADHD in children. With so much hype it’s hard not to wonder if your child might not benefit from a gluten free diet.

Gluten is a protein found in certain grains like wheat, barley and rye that gives baked goods their texture. Because gluten helps make foods taste better and improves their texture, it's also added to everything from deli meats to French fries. For most children gluten is completely harmless, with two exceptions. "Children should be following a gluten-free diet if they've been diagnosed with celiac disease or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity," says Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, co-author of Easy Gluten Free: Expert Nutrition Advice with More than 100 Recipes.

What exactly are celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity? Celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue, is an autoimmune condition that affects one in 133 people. For children with celiac, even the slightest morsel of gluten can mean trouble, triggering the release of antibodies which mount an assault on the intestines. These attacks damage the intestine, making it difficult to absorb many of the nutrients children need to grow and thrive. They also cause many unpleasant symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and weight loss or weight gain. Untreated, celiac can also lead to complications such as anemia, neurological disorders and osteoporosis. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (or NCGS) is believed to be more widespread than celiac, affecting an estimated 18 million Americans. It's similar to celiac in that it also involves an immune reaction to gluten. But unlike celiac disease, that reaction doesn’t cause the body to produce damaging antibodies. So while a child with NCGS may have many celiac-like symptoms, he or she won’t experience the same intestinal damage, nutrient deficiencies or long term complications.

Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a gluten free diet. "A gluten free diet is extremely restrictive so it can be difficult for a child to follow," says Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "It can also be psychologically and socially challenging." Birthday parties, sleepovers, eating out and even snack time at school can be difficult to navigate. But the good news is that when children with celiac disease do give up gluten their growth returns to normal and their symptoms quickly improve according to a 2008 article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (now known as Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

If you suspect your child has celiac or NCGS, experts recommend having your child screened by your health-care provider before going gluten free. In fact, testing for these conditions only works if your child is eating a gluten containing diet. Because gluten is found in so many foods, unnecessarily restricting it can actually cause your child to miss out on important nutrients like iron and B vitamins children normally get from enriched and fortified foods like cereals, bread and pasta. If, after testing, you do find that your child needs to go gluten free, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can help develop a plan that ensures he or she gets all the nutrients needed for optimal health.

Should people without Celiac Disease eat a gluten-free diet?

Many on Gluten-Free Diets Don't Have a Celiac Diagnosis
Lack of a doctor's diagnosis hasn't deterred people from trying gluten-free diets, which have gotten high-profile plugs from celebrities and talk show hosts. The market research firm Mintel estimates Americans will spend $7 billion on gluten-free foods this year. The market for gluten-free products has grown 27% between 2009 and 2011.

Among 55 people in the study who said they were on gluten-free diets, 53 tested negative for celiac disease. That led researchers to estimate that 96% of people on gluten-free diets may not need to be on them.

While experts say it's not necessarily dangerous to eat gluten-free -- many people who try it find they eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food, for example -- it's not recommended to self-test with a gluten-free diet. You should check with a health care provider first.

"If you suspect you have some intolerance to gluten, it's VERY important that you get tested for celiac disease to confirm or rule out a diagnosis," says Rachel Begun, RD, a dietitian who specializes in celiac disease and is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Begun says people who try gluten-free diets on their own may also miss out on key nutrients, like iron and B vitamins. And a new study suggests that going gluten free may actually raise your risk for type 2 diabetes. The gluten-free diet, meant for a small population of people who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, became popular despite lack of evidence that it was healthy for most people.

According to Dr. Geng Zong from the Harvard University Department of Nutrition T.H. Chan School of Public Health, gluten free foods are often less nutritious because they lack dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be more expensive. His study looked at the health effects of a gluten free diet on subjects that did not medically need to follow one. In a long term longitudinal study scientists observed that most subjects consumed 12 grams of gluten or less per day. In those that consumed higher amounts of gluten the risk of type 2 diabetes over a 30 year span was lower. Cereal fiber intake was lower in subjects on a gluten free diet, which is important to note as it is a protective component for the development of type 2 diabetes. After accounting for the effect of cereal fiber those in the highest 20% of gluten ingestion experienced a 13% lower risk of diabetes development than those with the lowest intake of gluten.

The bottom line is that if you don’t need a gluten free diet don’t follow it. Include gluten-containing high fiber whole grains in your diet daily. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise 20-25 grams of dietary fiber daily for women and 35-38 grams of dietary fiber for men. Below is a list of whole grains and their fiber content:

  • Barley (1/2 cup cooked): 3.1 grams
  • Bran cereal (3/4 cup): 5.9 grams
  • Brown rice (1/2 cup cooked): 2 grams
  • Oatmeal (1/2 cup cooked): 4.1 grams
  • Rye bread (1 slice): 1.5 grams
  • Quinoa (1/2 cup cooked): 2.75 grams
  • Whole wheat bread (1 slice): 3 grams
  • Whole grain pasta (1/2 cup cooked): 5-6 grams

Sources:

Andrews, Lisa C. “Can a Lack of Gluten Raise Your Diabetes Risk?” UP4Nutrition, 20 July 2017, up4nutrition.com/2017/07/20/can-a-lack-of-gluten-raise-your-diabetes-risk/.

Ansel, Karen. “Does My Child Need a Gluten Free Diet?” Www.eatright.org, American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 21 Jan. 2014, www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/vegetarian-and-special-diets/does-my-child-need-a-gluten-free-diet.

Doheny, Kathleen. “What's Behind the Gluten-Free Trend?” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/news/20160916/whats-behind-gluten-free-trend#1.

“Celiac Disease.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease.

“Going Gluten Free?” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 19 July 2017, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2016/05/going-gluten-free.

 

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