Read these 35 Child Care Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Single Parent tips and hundreds of other topics.
It is important to show your children that you love them every day. One of the things you can do to show (and tell) your kids that you love them is to hide a note in their book bag or in their homework folder for them to find when they get to school. This happy surprise is especially nice if one of them is having difficulties in a subject and a note saying "You are doing a great job." or "I know you can do it" will provide much needed encouragement.
It is never too early to start reading to your child. You can start as soon as your child is born or even before. Even though your child may not grasp the meaning of what they hear, they learn to identify the rhythm and tone of their parent's voice. Nursery rhymes and songs are especially good reading materials for infants.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: Child care authorities generally do not recommend leaving any child under 8 years old home alone, and most people believe that the earliest age to leave a child unattended is between 10-14 years of age, depending on several factors. How mature is the child? Will the child be responsible for younger siblings? Are they ready to accept the responsibility of being alone? Are they afraid to enter an empty home or to be left home alone? If there are younger siblings involved, it would be better if the child were at least 12 or 14 years old before being given this responsibility. The safety of your child(ren) should be your primary concern.
Scheduling a regular quiet time to read to your child after dinner or before bedtime helps both child and parent relax and enjoy each other's company. This reading habit creates an intimate and still moment for parent and child to share and provides a good opportunity for bonding.
Encouraging your child's first steps, or his or her ability to learn a new game helps your child develop a desire to explore and learn about his or her surroundings. Allow your child to explore and play in a safe area where they cannot get hurt. Assure your child by smiling and talking to him or her often. Be an active participant in your child's activities. Your attention helps build his or her self-confidence and self-esteem.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: Keep a close watch on your child and be sensitive to signs of stress associated with this responsibility such as (1) complaints of stomach aches, headaches, or vague illnesses, (2) increase in allergy or asthma attacks, (3) recurring nightmares, (4) moodiness such as being irritable, careless, or listless, (5) a sudden change in work habits or falling behind in school work, (6) talking, even jokingly about committing suicide. Encourage your child to talk about any problems or fears they may be experiencing from being left alone.
To ease your child's separation anxiety, place pretend kisses in his/her pocket before you must leave. Blow a kiss or two into her pocket and make a point of closing it tightly so it will not escape. If your child gets lonely after you are gone, he can reach into his pocket and a kiss will be waiting.
Your children need to get in the habit of checking in with you or a neighbor to let you know they are home. This is also a good time to give any necessary instructions such as reminders they should do homework before going out to play, chores to be completed, or permission to do another activity, etc.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: Being left alone can affect a child's emotional well-being. “Being alone, or worse yet, having responsibility for younger siblings, causes anxiety in many children.” Children can feel unsafe in these situations. They may “worry about strangers, break-ins, about their brothers or sisters getting hurt. It's a heavy responsibility. Parents separated for long periods from their children should call occasionally, just to chat for a few minutes. Children who feel they are ready to be left alone and who have been instructed on safety rules, should also be encouraged to talk about any concerns or fears they may have."
To a child, play is just fun; however, playtime is as important to your child's development as food and good care. Playtime helps your child be creative, learn problem-solving skills and learn self-control. Good, hard play, which includes running and yelling, is not only fun, but helps your child to be physically and mentally healthy.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: The National Institute on Out-of-School Time reports that children without adult supervision are at significantly greater risk of truancy from school, stress, receiving poor grades, risk-taking behavior, and substance use and the juvenile crime rate triples between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. These after-school hours prove to be the most risky time of day for middle school children. Childhood injuries are another factor. Facts compiled by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign reports that the vast majority of unintentional injury-related deaths among children occur in the evening hours when children are most likely to be out of school and unsupervised. Also, children are most likely to be victims of a violent crime committed by a non-family member between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The older and more mature a child is before being left alone, the better!
When enrolling your child in day care, here is a list of some things you want to make sure you do not forget to bring. Their cubbies should be well stocked for any emergency.
1. A change of clothes
2. Extra diapers, wipes and rash cream (or underwear if they are potty trained)
3. A hat (seasonal-heavy with gloves in the winter)
4. An extra pair of socks in case feet get wet
5. A list of allergies and other things the teacher might need to know
6. Spare bottle or sippy cup
7. Emergency numbers that are correct and updated regularly.
8. A small blanket or cover for naptime
Be sure everything is clearly labeled with the name of your child.
Choosing a day care can be a big problem. You want to make sure that your child is cared for properly, that the environment is clean and the staff is caring. When checking out a center, talk to the director and ask to spend a day or a few hours with your child there and just observe. You will need to leave the room from time to time and peek in to make sure things are going smoothly, but you will get a good idea of how things work. Your choice should be a lot easier to make after your trial day.
Reading regularly to infants and young children helps parents to establish family traditions of spending time together and also teaches infants the value of reading. Sharing books with children as they learn to read has proven to enhance their educational experience.
When interviewing people as potential babysitters for your children, you need to find out as much as your can about that person. What experience do they have with children, what's their educational background, do they have references from past employers? Get the names and phone numbers of past employers and contact them. Ask the sitter how they would handle temper tantrums, emergency situations, or a child wanting to stay up past bedtime. You may want to find out how they were disciplined as children. If they indicate there was abuse in the home, you may want to steer clear. Studies have shown that adults who were abused as children grow up and become child abusers themselves.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: Here are two basic safety tips to use when your child is left home alone: (1) Post emergency phone numbers near all phones in the home, including the phone number of a nearby neighbor or friend. (2) Instruct children never to open the door to strangers or anyone they are uncomfortable around.
Instruct children not to let people on the phone know that you are not at home. Children should say that you are busy or can't come to the phone right now and offer to take a message. If it is important that the caller talk with you right away, your child should be instructed to contact you so you can return the call promptly.
Before leaving a child home alone for any length of time, run a few trial tests first. Try leaving alone for 10-15 minutes and gauge your child's reaction. If all goes well, next time you may try 30 minutes or an hour. The next time may be for 1-2 hours. Slowly build up to see how well your child is handling it before you decide to leave them alone all day by themselves.
In trying to determine when your child is ready to be left home alone, consider asking these questions: How does your child feel about staying alone? For what length of time will the child be on its own? What are the safety risks associated with leaving your child alone? Is your child able to say no to peer pressure that would encourage them to break the rules when you are gone? The answers to these questions will give you a clue as to whether or not your child is ready for the responsibility of being home alone.
If your child suffers from separation anxiety and cries whenever he/she is left at a babysitter or daycare, try putting on lipstick and kissing both of his/her hands before leaving, explaining that you are leaving those kisses behind with the child. He/she can "see" your kisses long after you are gone and may find this very comforting.
Many kids today are not getting enough sleep, as evidenced by kids falling asleep on the school bus and having difficulty focusing on assignments in class. When they are not walking around like a zombie, they are acting up and acting out. These kids are often mistaken as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) and given stimulants. If your child is showing symptoms of ADD, you may want to monitor how much sleep your child is getting. Try increasing their sleep time to 8-9 hours a night and see if their behavior improves.
Reading books aloud can be a shared family event. Use this special time to bond with your children, especially if you have been away from them all day. Young siblings can sit alongside their parent and listen as mom or dad reads a story to a new baby. As children get older and start to read, encourage them to read the story to you or younger siblings.
It is okay for children to feel afraid sometimes. Everyone is afraid of something at some point in their life. Fear and anxiety grow out of experiences that we do not understand. If your child has fears that will not go away and affect his or her behavior, the first step is to find out what is frightening your child. Be loving, patient and reassuring, not critical. Remember: the fear may be very real to your child.
Let's face it, regardless of how much you love your children, there are times when you need to leave them in someone else's care while you go to work, run errands, go to the doctor, or even take a stress break. Since your world pretty well revolves around your children right now, you don't want to leave them with just anybody. Hopefully you can find someone who loves children and welcomes the opportunity to share their life with them for a few hours. (Yes, there are plenty of people like that.) Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, or coworkers. Youth groups at church or school are good places to find teens looking to earn some extra cash. Conduct an interview with potential babysitters with your children present to see how the babysitter interacts with your children. If they don't take an interest in your child, keep looking.
To ease worrying and guilt when returning to work after maternity leave, try packing a disposable camera in the diaper bag to take to the caregiver. Ask your babysitter to take periodic photos of your child during the day. This will help you to see the good times your child is having and ease the apprehension about returning to work.
Information from Home Alone article at about.com/health: More safety tips to use when child begins to stay home alone. (1) Let a trusted neighbor know that your children will be at home unattended so they can help keep an eye out for any signs of trouble. Check to see if it is okay for your children to stay at their home temporarily if anything goes wrong. (2) Let children know that sometimes it is okay to misbehave if it is for their protection and safety, such as screaming, yelling, or being rude to an adult if they feel threatened.
Before leaving your child for an extended length of time with a new babysitter, consider having a few trial runs of having the babysitter watch the kids while you are home. You can spend the time cleaning, working in the yard, sewing, or just relaxing by reading a book. This will give you a chance to observe how well the sitter handles your children and will give you some much needed time to get some things accomplished that never get done because of constant demands from your children. Make sure you feel comfortable with the way your children are being treated and that you are able to trust the sitter. If she spends all of her time parked on the couch watching television, or on the phone, you better keep looking. If you have doubts about what may be going on when you are not home, you may want to make a surprise visit home earlier than you had anticipated or with an excuse that you forgot something. Your children's safety and well-being are more important than hurting someone else's feelings.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|