Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers

Christmas is just around the corner and these ideas for celebrating the season are sure to become your go-to Christmas family traditions.

We have found some lovely Christmas activities that you can share with your little ones. You may reminisce about Christmas traditions you had in your family as you were growing up. Recreating special moments that your children will cherish, and hopefully they will create traditions with their families when they are older.

Thanks to What To Expect® for ths article.

When Christmas is around the corner, it doesn’t take much more than a round of “Jingle Bells” to send your critter into a frenzy of excitement. Luckily, getting youngsters pumped up for yuletide is part of the fun — as are these Christmas activities for preschoolers and toddlers.

Explain the day. “This is when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus” should make it easy for your little one to understand why December 25 is so special — and why many people include church-going as an important Christmas family tradition. If you want to include a secular note, add “We also try to be extra kind and share with others, just like Santa does, and give gifts to show how much we love one another.”

Christmas crafts for toddlers and preschoolers. Toting your tot to Target to pick out another tie for Dad is fine. But to make your present more meaningful, go homemade. Another plus: Your little Christmas elf will be so proud to see the pleasure his gift brings that he’s sure to insist DIY crafts play a big part in future Christmas family traditions.

For toddlers: Buy a canvas from the craft store and use masking tape to spell out the name of your gift recipient (“Dad,” “Aunt Jen”) or a seasonal word (“Hope,” “Joy”). Then suit up your sweetie in an old shirt, arm him with a paintbrush and small plastic cups of craft paint, and let him go at it. Once the paint is dry, remove the tape and you will have a mini masterpiece painted by your pint-sized Pollock.

For preschoolers: Doting relatives will dig anything made by your cutie — but you might want to give them something they’ll use too. Set your preschooler up with fabric markers and a flour-sack dish towel or two (available in any store that sells kitchenware). To prevent bleed-through, spread the towel over a piece of cardboard and let him draw what he wants. Add a holiday message (and the artist’s signature, of course), and wrap it up with a ribbon.

For both: Grandparents love scrapbooks, especially when they’re made by loving little hands. Give your munchkin markers, crayons, and holiday stickers so he can decorate five or six pieces of cardstock or construction paper. Then let him choose photos from the past year to paste on each page. Next, ask your tot questions — “What’s the craziest thing to decorate a Christmas tree with?” “How do you get to the North Pole?” and “What’s your favorite thing to do at Christmas time?” Write down his answers (no matter how silly — that’s part of the fun!) and paste one Q&A set onto each page of the scrapbook. Bind the pages by punching two holes three inches apart and tying the pages together with ribbons, or simply staple the pages together. Feeling fancy? Take your sweetie’s scrapbook to a print shop to be laminated and bound.

Whip up Christmas goodies. Baking cookies and other treats (or buying them) are a regular feature of the holiday season. But too many sweets can wreak havoc on your little one’s appetite, not to mention his behavior. Counteract sugar overload with a healthy toddler meal like this lunchtime reindeer: Spread a thin layer of peanut butter and honey on whole-wheat bread and cut diagonally so that the tip of the triangle forms the point of the reindeer’s muzzle. Add pretzels for antlers, dried cranberries for eyes, and a fresh cherry half or strawberry for Rudolph’s red nose.

Count down with good deeds. Little kids can’t grasp the concept of time, which is why they constantly ask if it’s Christmas yet. That’s the reason advent calendars are a great Christmas activity for preschoolers and toddlers — it gives your cutie a concrete way to count down to December 25. This DIY version — an acts-of-kindness calendar — has the added bonus of teaching tots the true meaning of Christmas, which is what Christmas family traditions are all about anyway. Write down easy-to-do random acts of kindness on sticky notes: Take a Christmas treat to your local fire station, tape a quarter to the gumball machine at the supermarket (with an explanation: “A random act of kindness. Happy holidays!”), bring flowers to your favorite librarian, or bring a cup of hot chocolate to the nearest school-crossing guard. Place a sticky in each pocket of an advent calendar or on top of each day in a regular calendar. All these nice acts will help your child focus less on the toys Santa brings him and more on the joy of giving.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making Chores Fun!

Kids Chore List?  Do you find it hard to get your kids to do chores around the home? At the end of each day we often find ourselves saying pick up the toys or put away your shoes or have you done your homework among other things. Have you thought about making chore time fun and turning it into a positive experience for everyone? Thanks to Janna Jones at Thriving Family for this article that turns chores into funtime!

Making Chores Fun

by Janna Jones

You can have fun with your preschoolers even as you show them how to take care of their belongings and do daily chores. The following fun-filled ideas will help you teach your kids to be responsible contributors to the household.

Make it a game

As bedtime approaches, we often find our 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son playing happily. So instead of telling them they have to quit playing and pick up their toys, we try to make picking up part of their play.
If they are playing with the shopping cart, they can go buy the stuffed animals they left in the living room and use the cart to bring them home. If they're playing with blocks, the block box becomes a basketball hoop, and we see how many blocks they can shoot into the box. If they are playing with cars and people, we pretend everyone is going to a party on the closet shelf.
There are times when the kids just have to pick up their toys, but we've found that looking for creative ways to incorporate cleaning into play makes it fast and fun for everyone.

Take the time to let your kids help you work

Like most kids, my son learns best not by being told what to do but by watching and copying us. So we allow him to participate in many everyday tasks, which helps him learn responsibility.
We let him snap the beans for dinner, cut the cucumbers on a cutting board (with a dull butter knife, of course), knead bread dough, pound in a tent stake when camping, use real tools to work on his bike, sweep with a small broom, clean with a rag, dig with a plastic shovel and bucket in the garden or rake fall leaves with us.

The laundry express: A chore kids will enjoy

Sometimes, we just need to be willing to follow our children's cues.
My 2-year-old son held his blue train engine over the laundry basket. "Mommy, can I throw Thomas in there?"
At first, I didn't see the opportunity that his simple question presented.
"No, honey. These baskets are for clothes." I barely glanced away from my mountain of dirty laundry I was sorting.
"Oh," he said and walked away.
Thankfully, my son returned with another engine to see if it was OK to put this one in the laundry basket. That's when the Laundry Express idea hit me, and it's become a favorite activity in our house.
We line two or three laundry baskets end-to-end and decide what to put in each one (dark clothes, light clothes, towels, etc.). Then my son gives each laundry-basket-turned-train-car a name, and we begin sorting. My son loads the train cars with the dirty laundry, making decisions as to which colors go in each basket. When we're done, he climbs inside a basket for a short ride around the house before we unload at the laundry station.
By allowing my son to take part in everyday tasks, I hope that those experiences will grow into a sense of responsibility and knowledge that will carry him into adulthood.

For a child 4 years plus we recommend using our Reward Chart  My Growing Up Reward Chart  with your child to help them stay motivated into taking responsibility for their belongings and joining in with household chores. For additional information go to and receive a coupon code of 15% off which can be used on the website
Copyright © 2010 by Janna Jones. Used by permission.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reward Charts Black Friday Sale - 40% Discount

Who said Black Friday sales have to start after Thanksgiving ?  Not us!! We know that you love a good sale and we want you to be able to do ALL of your shopping so from Monday 21st November through to Monday 28th November midnight we are having our own BLACK FRIDAY SALE.

We are offering a huge discount of 40% off ALL of our Children's Reward Charts. These charts can be used to help you with behavior, chores, potty training, homework and much more.

The coupon code for our reward charts can be found on our facebook page You will need to 'LIKE" our page in order to receive the coupon code.  So don't delay - order today!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to Save Money on Groceries

How to save money when Grocery Shopping.  At this time of the year it is always good to find a way to save money when shopping for groceries. An anonymous grocery-store manager shares the secrets to lowering your food bill. Thanks to Real Simple for these useful tips.

"Head to the supermarket an hour before closing time. Some stores mark down prepared foods and bakery items then because they can't sell them the following day. You could get a rotisserie chicken or freshly baked cookies for 50 percent off, or nab two sushi meals for the price of one. If you're planning to host a party or some other gathering, it's worth your time to ask the deli or bakery manager for a 5 to 10 percent discount off your catering order. Also, keep an eye out for online coupons: Some grocery stores accept coupons printed out from sites like,, and, even though they rarely publicize the fact. (Find out your store's policy at the customer-service counter.) It also pays to check the market's own website. You could find weekly deals there that it doesn't advertise anywhere else, including its in-store flyers.
"And even though it's convenient to do all your shopping in one place, avoid going to a grocery store for kitchen supplies, like measuring cups and cookie sheets, or seasonal items, like holiday decorations and gift bags. These products will have inflated prices. Buy them at a big-box chain, like Target or Walmart, instead."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Menu Planning: "The Scrummylicious Planner!" Available Now

It's now on the menu!
Our newest addition to our range of charts: 
"The Scrummylicious Planner". 

A must have kitchen tool to plan your meals around your active family schedules. Trying to think of meals last minute will become a thing of the past with our new Scrummylicious Planner. The process of planning and shopping for meals will become fun, fast, and easy! 

Read all about menu planning in this article by Cynthia Ewer, Editor of Organized Home:

Menu Planning: Save Time In The Kitchen

What's for dinner? It's the question of the hour! Too many home managers look for answers in the supermarket at 5 p.m. Harried, harassed by by hungry children, they rack their brains for an answer to the what's-for-dinner dilemma.
Three meals a day. Seven dinners a week. From supermarket to pantry, refrigerator to table, sink to cupboard, the kitchen routine can get old, old, old.

No wonder we hide our heads like ostriches from the plain and simple fact: into each day, one dinner must fall. 

What's the answer? A menu plan.

Menu planning doesn't have be complicated! Planning meals ahead requires a small investment of time, but can reap great rewards:

  • A menu plan saves money. Reducing trips to the supermarket, a menu plan reduces impulse spending. Using leftovers efficiently cuts food waste, while planned buying in bulk makes it easy to stockpile freezer meals at reduced prices. 
  • A menu plan saves time. No dash to the neighbors for a missing ingredient, no frantic searches through the freezer for something, anything to thaw for dinner. 
  • A menu plan improves nutrition. Without the daily dash to the supermarket, there's time to prepare side dishes and salads to complement the main dish, increasing the family's consumption of fruits and vegetables. Knowing what to serve each day--and having the ingredients already on hand--cuts back on the drive-through habit. 

Follow these tips to put the power of menu and meal planning to work for you:

Dare to Do It

For too many of us, making a menu plan is something we intend to do . . . when we get around to it. Instead of seeing menu planning as an activity that adds to our quality of life, we dread sitting down to decide next Thursday's dinner. "I'll do that next week, when I'm more organized."

Wrong! Menu planning is the first line of defense in the fight to an organized kitchen, not the cherry on the icing on the cake.

Take the vow. "I, [state your name], hereby promise not to visit the supermarket again until I've made a menu plan!"

Start Small and Simple

Still muttering, "But I don't wanna ..."? Break into menu planning easily by starting small and simple.

Think, "next week." Seven little dinners, one trip to the supermarket. Sure, it's fun to think about indexing your recipe collection, entering the data in a database and crunching menus till the year 2015, but resist the urge.

Slow and steady builds menu planning skills and shows the benefits of the exercise. Elaborate hoo-rah becomes just another failed exercise in home management overkill.

Where to start? 

The food flyers from your local newspaper, or sales circulars from your markets' Web sites. You'll use the ads to get a feel for the week's sales and bargains. They'll be the basis for the week's selection of dinners. 

This week in my hometown, two local chain supermarkets are offering whole fryers for the low, low price of 99 cents a pound. Clearly, this is the week for Ginger Chicken and Fajitas, not a time to dream about Beef Stew and Grilled Pork.

Menu Planning Basics

Okay, it's food ad day. Time to rough out a simple menu plan. 

The goal is two-fold: shop efficiently to obtain food required for seven dinner meals, while minimizing expenditure, cooking, shopping and cleaning time. Here's the overview of the process:
  • Scan the food ads (newspaper or online) for specials and sales. Rough out a draft menu plan: seven dinner entrees that can be made from weekly specials, side dishes and salads. 
  • Wander to pantry and refrigerator to check for any of last week's purchases that are languishing beneath wilting lettuce or hardening tortillas. Check for draft recipe ingredients. Review your shopping list and note needed items.
  • Ready, set, shop--but shop with an open mind. That 99-cent fryer won't look like such a bargain next to a marked-down mega-pack of boneless chicken breasts at $1.29 a pound. Be ready to substitute if you find a great deal. 
  • Return from shopping. As you put away groceries, flesh out the menu plan. Match it up with the family's calendar, saving the oven roast for a lazy Sunday afternoon, the quick-fix pizza for soccer night. 
  • Post the menu plan on the refrigerator door. Refer to it during the coming week as you prepare meals.
The Scrummylicious Planner is available through our Etsy Store!

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    "Trick or Treat!" - Halloween Safety Tips

     "Trick or treat!" - Halloween Safety Tips for those youngsters shouting this out on Halloween evening! Some really useful tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that parents need to bear in mind before sending their children off into the dark.....

    Halloween Safety Tips


    Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure they have a safe holiday, here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Feel free to excerpt these tips or use them in their entirety for any print or broadcast story, with acknowledgment of source.

    • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
    • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
    • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
    • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
    • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
    • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
    • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
    • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
    • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
    • Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.
    • Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.
    • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
    • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
    • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
    • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
    • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
    • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
    • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
    • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
    • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
    • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    • Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will!
    • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
    • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
    • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
    • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
    • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.
    Source: © 10/10 American Academy of Pediatrics

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Why Breakfast Is Important To Improve Academic Achievement In The Classroom

    Why breakfast is important to improve academic achievement in the classroom, now we have some interesting research into this topic. We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but did we realize how important? One of the most comprehensive evaluations of a breakfast program conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and you can read it here.

    Breakfast at School: Fast and Healthy Food for Thought

    Want your students to be more alert, focused and ready to tackle the day's academic challenges? Encourage them to eat breakfast. Not just on test days, but every day of the year. It's well-documented that breakfast eaters are healthier and more energetic throughout the day.

    Breakfast Improves Academic Achievement and Behavior

    Eating a nutritious breakfast helps students achieve the classroom goals that you've set for them. National studies consistently confirm that breakfast helps kids concentrate, think, behave and learn. Eating breakfast:
    • Improves children's classroom performance, including better test scores and grades
    • Increases children's ability to focus and concentrate on school work
    • Decreases behavior problems, tardiness and visits to the school nurse
    • Increases attendance rates
    Just as important, when students routinely start their day with breakfast, they learn habits that carry over to their teen and adult years, and serve them for a lifetime.

    A Closer Look at the Research

    Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) Breakfast Pilot Program...
    • This is one of the most comprehensive evaluations of a breakfast program. Conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, the report includes Year III program findings.
    How was breakfast served?
    • Participating schools offered Breakfast in the Classroom to every student, every morning, regardless of family income.
    What were the key findings?
    • Composite scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) improved significantly more in the MMFA schools than matched comparison schools from the same school systems.
    • Tardiness decreased by 8%.
    • Suspensions decreased by 36%.
    • 91% of the staff said the program should continue in their school.
    Minnesota's Fast Break to Learning Breakfast Program...Excellent results were reported for the First-Year Results of the Fast Break to Learning School Breakfast Program by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning.
    How was breakfast served?
    • Breakfast was offered to all students, at little or no charge, and often served after the school day started, either in the classroom or the cafeteria.
    What were the findings?
    • On three out of four Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Test (MCAT) reading and math tests, 3rd and 5th graders in Fast Break schools improved academic achievement more than the control group schools.
    • 97% of principals either 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' their school benefited from the program. Principals mentioned decreased negative behavior and tardiness as the top benefits.

    School Breakfast Ensures a Nutritious Start Every Day

    School breakfast is the perfect option for children who don't have time to eat at home, don't have access to breakfast at home, or simply aren't hungry first thing in the morning. In fact, school breakfast is a great option for all kids! Why?
    • School breakfast supplies 1/4 of the Recommended Daily Allowances a child needs.
    • It's a healthy, nutritious meal that provides a variety of foods.
    • It's easy and convenient — for the kids, for teachers and for parents. Parents can feel comfortable that their children are eating a nutritious meal and getting the best possible start to a day of learning.
    • It helps maximize learning time by making sure that kids are a ready to learn.

    Teachers' Role

    For any number of reasons, many children don't eat breakfast at home. And if breakfast is available in the cafeteria, many children don't take advantage of it. They are too busy socializing, or affected by the potential social stigma that the program is for low-income students. Teachers play an important role in encouraging children to reap the benefits of school breakfast.
    • Support school breakfast. Talk to your school's nutrition staff to learn more about the program.
    • Let students know that school breakfast is for everyone, and encourage them to take advantage of it.
    • Promote school breakfast to students as a "tool" that can help them learn.
    • If school breakfast isn't served in your school, create a dialogue about starting a program with the administration and school nutrition services.
    • If your school serves breakfast, but only in the cafeteria, generate a dialogue with the school nutrition director about Expanding Breakfast service outside the cafeteria.

    Expanding Breakfast: A Proven Way to Improve Student Learning, Performance and Health

    Many schools capture breakfast skippers by Expanding Breakfast service beyond the cafeteria's walls. They find that when they take breakfast to students, instead of expecting them to come to the cafeteria, more students from all socio-economic levels eat breakfast and gain the academic, behavioral and nutritional benefits. Typically, schools use one of three approaches, depending on their unique setting:
    • Breakfast in the Classroom — Students eat breakfast in their classroom, either at the beginning of or early in the school day. A breakfast of easy-to-eat items, such as breakfast sandwiches and burritos, low-fat muffins, French toast sticks or cereals, plus milk and fruit or juice, are brought from the cafeteria to the classroom, often by students.
    • Grab 'n' Go Breakfast — Breakfast is packaged so students can quickly grab it from the cafeteria or carts elsewhere in the school. They eat it in the cafeteria, the classroom or on the school grounds.
    • Breakfast After 1st Period — Usually served in middle and high schools, students are allowed to get breakfast after their first period.
    Whatever the approach, participation soars when schools expand breakfast service options, and everyone, from teachers to students to parents wins!

    Can Expanding Breakfast Work in Your school? Absolutely!

    Learn more about Expanding Breakfast and ways you can work with your school foodservice staff to bring breakfast to your students. It's a great way to support your school wellness program.

    Breakfast in My Classroom? You've Got to be Kidding!

    It's no surprise that some teachers are skeptical initially and have a lot of questions about Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab 'n' Go Breakfast and Breakfast After 1st Period. Here's what we've learned from talking to teachers in schools that serve Breakfast in the Classroom and other Expanding Breakfast options:

    • It's a little bit more work, but much less than teachers think. Current teacher participants, even the skeptical ones, say it's well worth the effort and they want the programs to continue once they've tried it.
    • Teachers report they have actually gained instructional time due to fewer disciplinary interruptions and nurse visits, and less tardiness and absenteeism.
    • It doesn't take a lot of time. Breakfast in the Classroom generally takes about 10 minutes to serve, eat, and clean up, and is often done during morning activities, such as announcements, daily oral language or individual reading time. Many teachers find that Breakfast in the Classroom is a successful transitional activity that helps children settle in at the beginning of the day.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Positive Reinforcement for Children is Key to Managing Children's Behavior

    Positive reinforcement for children is key to managing children's behavior. This is our company's ethos and recommendation and seven years of positive feedback to our range of reward charts is testimony to this principal. 

    A recent study on ADHD behavior management from the American Academy of Pediatric's confirms this theory, you can read it here:

    Consider ADHD Starting at Age Four

    The American Academy of Pediatrics this weekend expanded its guidelines for diagnosing and treating kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, recommending that doctors evaluate all patients aged four to 18 who show signs of the condition.

    The new guidelines update decade-old recommendations that focused on diagnosing and managing ADHD in kids aged six to 12. But behavior problems, over-activity and trouble paying attention can show up earlier, researchers said, and ADHD often persists into adolescence or even adulthood.

    Pediatricians should also look out for learning disabilities, anxiety and other issues that can go hand-in-hand with ADHD. And, they should tailor treatment with behavior therapy and medication based on kids' age and severity of symptoms, says a statement published in Pediatrics. (

    According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between six and nine percent of kids and teens have ADHD, with rates higher in adolescents than younger kids.

    "I'm glad to see the guidelines now recognize ADHD can occur both in younger children and older adolescents as well," said Aude Henin, from Massachusetts General Hospital's Child Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Program. "I think those are things that have been ignored in the past."

    Drafted by a 14-member committee, the new recommendations say pediatricians should consult with parents, teachers and other adults in the community about kids' behavior or school-related problems to help them make an accurate diagnosis -- because affected children may not always show symptoms in the doctor's office.

    If kids are diagnosed with ADHD, those adults will also play an important role in treatment strategies, especially in young kids.

    Manage Behavior

    To treat four- and five-year olds, the authors recommend that parents are trained in techniques to help manage behavior, including positive reinforcement and ignoring or punishing certain behaviors when necessary.

    Only when that doesn't work, and moderate or severe ADHD persists, should young kids be put on medication.

    J. Russell Ramsay, who studies ADHD at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, said that many young children are overactive or have trouble focusing at times, but that for ADHD to be diagnosed, that behavior must "cause life impairments" in multiple environments -- at home, at school and in relationships with peers.

    "The diagnosis is a process," he told Reuters Health. "There may be symptoms that are screened for in the preschool population, but (ADHD) should be tracked over time and reassessed to see if it is persisting."

    In school-aged kids, teachers or parents can give behavior therapy using similar strategies as in preschoolers. Some may need special education plans, including less homework if it takes them a long time to complete, Ramsay said.

    Stimulant medications such as Vyvanse, Ritalin and Concerta have also been shown to be effective alone or alongside therapy in this age group.

    Those drugs may have side effects, the report notes, including appetite loss, sleep problems and stomach pain. Youngsters with some signs of ADHD, but not a full diagnosis, shouldn't be medicated, the report says.

    Some of the guideline authors disclose consulting relationships with companies that sell ADHD medications in the paper's conflict of interest section.

    "Medication certainly has a stronger effect on the core behavior symptoms of ADHD, but it's a matter of what the family's preference is (and) what services are available for them," said Dr. Mark Wolraich of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the guidelines' lead author.

    "Where at all possible for school-aged kids and adolescents, trying to implement both (medication and therapy) is probably going to be most effective."

    Medication and individual behavior therapy are recommended for teens with ADHD. The authors emphasize that doctors need to keep their eyes open for any signs of drug or alcohol abuse in this group -- and if those problems exist, they should be a treatment priority.

    Ramsay, who was not part of the guidelines committee, added that car accidents, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are all more common in teens with ADHD than without.

    "It's something else that needs to be factored into the dialogue," he said.

    Finally, because ADHD can persist for so long, the guidelines point out that communication between families, schools and doctors over the long run will be necessary to help manage the condition.

    Doctors "need to have an ongoing relationship with the family," Wolraich told Reuters Health. "The demands and the needs are going to change over time."

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Can Lack of Sleep Cause Child Obesity?

    There is a great deal of talk about childhood obesity in the USA and in fact some 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 are overweight.The ever-increasing waistlines put children at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Those extra pounds also put children at risk for sleep apnea, a serious, debilitating and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). We think it is important to create a bedtime routine, regardless of a child's age. It should include at least 15-30 minutes of calm, soothing activities before bedtime to allow their bodies to relax. If this is an area that is problematic for you and your child, then perhaps consider using a reward chart. Our My Growing Up Chart has the category sticker 'Good Nights' to help you on the subject.

    We have found a recent report* which stresses the importance of sleep and the relationship with a child's weight:

    Earlier Bedtimes Keep Kids Leaner, says study 
    If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, setting an earlier bedtime might help. A study out today in the journal Sleep found that adolescents who get to bed early stay slimmer and more physically active than their night-owl peers, even when both groups get the same amount of sleep.

    University of South Australia researchers recorded the bedtimes and wake times of 2,200 children and teens, ages 9 to 16, and compared their weights and leisure activities (screen time, physical activity, and study time) over the course of four days. Adolescents who went to bed late and woke up late experienced 48 minutes more screen time and 27 minutes less physical activity than those who went to bed early and woke up early, and were nearly 1.5 more times likely to be obese. Night owls were also twice as likely to be physically inactive and roughly three times more likely to sit in front of the TV and computer or play video games for more hours than guidelines recommend.

    Authors say that while participants who went to bed late and woke up late got about the same amount of sleep as the children who went to bed early and woke up early, mornings are more conducive to physical activity for young people than nights, when children are more likely to do more sedentary activities, such as watching TV.

    A number of studies show a strong link between sleep duration and quality and overall health and wellbeing. And previous research suggests that children who sleep less are more likely to become overweight, and some research even shows that overweight children sleep less and have a poor quality of sleep. Also, less sleep equals more waking hours to eat, and may lead to fatigue and decreased physical activity.

    Bottom line: While more research into obesity and sleep-wake patterns is needed, it’s no secret that childhood obesity is a global problem. A number of government initiatives are aimed at tackling the epidemic, but helping your child maintain a healthy weight starts at home, by encouraging healthy eating habits, exercise, less TV and tech time, and a good night’s sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children ages 3 to 5 get 11 to 13 hours of sleep, children 5 to 12 get 9-11 hours, and adolescents get 8.5 to 9.5 hours.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    The Good WILL Win Through

    With all the terrible footage that has ensued from the UK over the last 72 hours of rioting (although it is beyond the true sense of 'rioting') and looting I feel compelled to write.  

    As a UK mom I have totally despaired at the scenes that night after night I have been fearfully watching unfold.  I have felt nothing but anger, sadness and helplessness of the mindless damage and loss these thugs have bought to our communities, businesses and individuals.  Each evening on TV I have watched children, little older than my own, loot, steal and show acts of violence, then you experience their so-called parents defending and/or washing their hands of their children's actions.  Are these adults so blinkered that they cannot see the mess and damage they are creating here?  Do they not feel any responsibility for their  children's up bringing?  Do they not question what sort of world they are creating for their children?  

    Fortunately, I do not know anyone who would condone or be involved with such mindless violence.  Nor do my friends.  We are all just as angered and disgusted.  

    We need to remind ourselves these 'thugs' are a small minority.  We need to try to get back to normality and remember that we are surrounded by good, honest, loving people.  We must celebrate our children who do know right from wrong and who do respect what we, as adults, say.  And we must stay strong, pull together and continue our hard efforts of giving our children the best possible start in life.  

    We have already seen some good that has come about -communities standing up to help out small businesses and shop owners. Coming together to clean up the mess created by these thugs.  Groups of people standing together saying ' no, enough is enough" and helping to protect businesses from being attacked. It may take time, these problems weren't created overnight but the good will prevail.

    Victoria Ballard
    Founder, The Victoria Chart Company

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Talking to your Children about Divorce

    When relationships break down it can be a stressful time for all - the future is uncertain, routines change, relationships are strained and homelife is unsettled. Living in this environment can be very fraught, especially when there is the added concern of children.  

    A parents initial instinct in these circumstances is to protect their children.  This might consist of not discussing the situation in front of them, acting as if nothing is wrong or even removing children from the environment while matters get sorted.  However children are very bright, they pick up on vibes, they watch and listen to their parents reactions, they have a lot of questions - after all, isn't that how they learn?  It is not uncommon for children to feel responsible for the split.

    During this time adults need to be conscious of their behavior. They need to think through how to manage their feelings in front of the children, and avoid blaming one another.  

    Most importantly they need to talk to their children and, if possible, this needs to happen from both parents.  Children benefit from hearing similar messages from each parent. This will require preparation to ensure that both parents are clear on what, and how, they will discuss.  Ideally, both parents should be present, but if this creates tension, then have separate discussions.

    Discussions only need to be kept simple, straightforward and age-appropriate. Parents need to let children know how life will change, including major concerns such as how they will see each parent and where they will live. Children are bound to have questions which can't be answered, so it is important to let them know that both Mommy and Daddy are working out the details.

    Always remember children have a right to love both parents.

    Below we have listed our suggestions of what parents may like to tell their children during this unsettled time.

    • The split has nothing to do with you, it is a grown-up problem between Mommy and Daddy that you cannot change.
    • This will be a difficult change for you, and you can always ask questions and talk to us about how you feel.
    • While Mommy and Daddy’s feelings for each other have changed, we will never stop loving you.
    • You will always have a family. Instead of being a family in one home, you will have a family with Daddy and a family with Mommy.
    • We know this will be hard for you and we are sorry.
    • We will always be your Mommy and Daddy.
    • You can always love both Mommy and Daddy.

    Finally, be patient during this time.  Changes to family situations can take time to settle down. Everyone needs time to adjust. Children will need time to get used to their new arrangements and changes to their routines.

    Do not be shy to ask for help from family, friends and professionals, this will help you and your children adjust to the changes in your life.

    Do find out about local services if you and your partner are struggling to reach agreement on issues such as contact, residence and finances.


    If you are a parent facing divorce or separation I hope you find some reassurance from the information above.  I went through divorce with two young children 5 years ago.  I know what an unsettling time this can be for all concerned, but we are through it and very happily moving on with our lives.

    Your comments and feedback are always welcome.

    Victoria Ballard
    Founder and Director
    The Victoria Chart Company LLC

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Motivating and Encouraging Children from 7 Years

    In 2004, upon finalizing my original range of younger children's reward charts, I wanted to turn my focus to a child of seven years and beyond. I wanted to hear the nags and groans of everyday life from the parents and caregivers of these ever-growing mini adults. I asked them what they struggled with and what they were constantly asking their child to do. The responses were very similar ‘I can’t get my child away from the television’, ‘I am always having to tell them to put down their computer game’, or ‘I am constantly having to nag them to do their chores’ to name but a few. Also, I wanted to hear from the children’s perspective, this too had a similar theme, ‘Mum’s always telling me to put my shoes away’, ‘I’m always being told to tidy my room’, ‘Dad’s nags me to do my homework’.

    Children from the age of seven have reached an important stage of their life. They have conquered the developments of the first six years. It is a time when they are settling down and life is at a steadier pace of growing and learning. They are settled into school with their chosen friends, and reading and writing becomes a major interest. Children of this age are also interested in everyday life tasks and they have a strong desire to do things right, independently and perform well. However, they now have a longer attention span for things they enjoy, but they are also at an age where decision making can be a tough call. This is where conflicts can often arise.

    So the theory behind My Credit Chart is to give children from seven years of age direction. The chart creates a central point in the home for children to refer to with minimal adult involvement. It provides a list of everyday activities such as getting dressed, eating healthily, helping around the home and completing homework - quite achievable activities for a child of this age but so often require adult encouragement to see them through. Completion of the activities are acknowledged through a checkmark system, a more grown-up way to record achievements than that of the 'sticker' reward system.

    By providing a physical, visual tool children have the responsibility of monitoring themselves and being in charge of their time.  In addition, setting simple rewards encourages them to see through their routine and complete the activities.

    Children feel motivated to use 
    My Credit Chart.  Minimal adult interaction is required to sensibly set rewards, oversee the routine and give praise for their child's endeavours.

    My Credit Chart provides families with a more settled home life bringing great comfort from structure and routine - a great support for families of children living with Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia.

    By Victoria Ballard

    My Credit Chart is available for $12.99 from

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Back to School!!

    For Immediate Release

    It’s been a fantastic Summer - family days out, picnics, camps, vacations, long sunny days, balmy summer evenings ... easy times!

    Then all of a sudden it’s ... BACK TO SCHOOL!! 

    However routines have gone out the window! Children need to get up and out of the door on time, they need early nights, parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of homework, planning meals and juggling school activities. On top of this, some children will be facing a change of school. All of these things, when added to the stress of modern family life, can lead to a lot of disruption.

    One solution is to use a reward chart with your child.

    The Victoria Chart Company’s “Encourage & Praise” range of reward charts help children and their families to get on track, bringing structure and routine to home life. Hung in an easy to view place, they provide a supportive tool for the whole family to work from. Children are excited to work to goals, to see their progress and feel good about their achievements. Their charts also help parents to approach discipline from a positive angle, something that can often be missed during pressured times.

    The Company’s Founder, Victoria Ballard, an expert in the field of positive development in children, has been creating rewards charts for the last 7 years.

    "Families find a lot of comfort using our charts, getting back into the regime of school life requires involvement from all members of the family, and our charts provide that focal point for all to work from", says Victoria. "They help children feel good about their progress, which, in turn, allows parents and care givers to feel pleased with their child's development. All of which leads to a calmer home life".

    For more information or to purchase a chart please visit

    My Vacation Journal – A Teacher’s Dream Getting Kids To Enjoy Writing!

    For Immediate Release

    The Victoria Chart Company, a leading UK developer of behavior and reward charts for kids, has created a fun way to keep your children busy during the summer break. 

    Wondering what to do with all those special collectables that you gather during a vacation? Tickets, boarding cards, feathers, shells - all the bits that your kids must keep but end up all over your home or car! Now there is an answer. The Victoria Chart Company has produced a 20 page activity book which provides children with the perfect project for vacations.

    ‘My Vacation Journal’ encourages children to write, color, draw, stick, collect and eventually show what they have been doing during their time away from school. An activity that Teachers are calling out for! Inside the Journal there are seven days to write about their days events, a ‘Why not ...’ section suggesting fun things to try and do. Plus, there is a daily checklist for children to complete helping them understand the importance of sun protection especially important with the current heatwaves we’re experiencing.

    “As a child I would often write daily accounts of my family vacations” says the Company’s Founder, Victoria Ballard, “and it is wonderful that I can now share them with my children. I want other families to benefit from these wonderful keepsakes that hold such memories”.

    The My Vacation Journal (4yrs+) is available for $6.99 from The Victoria Chart Company also produces the My Big Star Chart (1yr+) which is an excellent tool for parents when used as a potty training chart.

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Make Life Easier with Summer Potty Training!

    If you are thinking of potty training then Summer is the ideal time - less clothes are worn and time spent outside make the little accidents easier to deal with.  We have provided our Top 10 Tips to help make your potty training a success for both you and your child. 

    1   Is your child ready?
    Signs of readiness consist of your child staying dry for at least a couple of hours, they show an interest in bathroom activities, they take themselves to a quiet place or tell you when they are doing something.

    2   Plan for it
    Potty training is a process that will require a lot of effort, not only from yourself but from friends, family members and care givers involved with your child. Make a date from which you will all start - it is from this date you say good bye to diapers during the day.

    3   Teamwork
    Consistency and routine from all involved will help your child reach their goal. You may like to forewarn visitors of your efforts so they can be positive and encourage as you do. Forwarding these notes to those people who look after your child in your absence will help them to achieve the same goal.

    4   Actively involve your child with their potty
    You may like to take your child on a shopping trip to choose their potty - which color would they like? is there a character one they particularly like? Tell them it will be their own special potty, they may even like to choose a name for it. Decorating the potty with stickers will help them take ownership of it. You may like to demonstrate their special toy using the potty.

    5   Prepare your child
    Encourage your child to sit on their potty before they properly start using it, practice putting on training pants and washing their hands to complete the task. Praise them for their efforts so they know when they are doing things right.

    6   Interactive supplies
    Look for games, videos, books and activities that will help your child understand the importance of using their potty.

    7   Don’t rush your child when they use the potty
    Let them look at a book, or listen to short story for a few quiet moments when sitting on the potty. Blowing bubbles is another great way to encourage them to sit still. Tell them it is a good try and well done for sitting nicely even if they don’t achieve anything.

    8   Be patient, positive and consistent
    Be patient, potty training does not happen over night. Positive interaction will help your child achieve their new skill, and feel good about their progress. Accidents will happen but continue to keep up the routine, when you choose not to use diapers - stick with it! Going back and forth between diapers and training pants gives your child a confused message.

    9   On the go
    Long journeys will take slightly more preparation than usual. You will need to make more regular stops so make sure you leave enough travelling time. Pack all familiar supplies including books and toys when using the potty on route.

    10   Use a reward chart
    A reward chart provides a visual tool from which children can monitor progress. Hung in a central place, children have the added advantage of showing friends and family how well they are doing. A reward chart acts as a reminder to both adult and child what they want to accomplish. Our My Big Star Chart not only allows parents and care givers focus on potty training but suggests a range of other activities for this toddler development stage. Most importantly, parents and care givers can tailor our reward charts to the individual need of their child.   Watch demonstration video of My Big Star Chart.  Watch demo video of My Big Star Chart.

    We wish you every success!

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