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.