My Blog - Children's Medical Center

Baby-led weaning is the method of letting your child learn how to feed themselves solid foods, also known as baby-led feeding or self-feeding. There are several benefits of baby-led weaning:

  • Improve fine motor skills: hand-eye and hand-mouth coordination
  • Oral motor coordination: chewing, swallowing and using their tongue
  • Develop healthy eating habits: new foods, tastes and textures
  • Learn self-regulation: stop eating when they’re full
  • Promote healthy appetites: curve picky eating habits

Most babies are ready to start eating solids around 6-months old — when they are sitting up unassisted with good head and neck control in addition to hand and finger skills. If your child is showing an interest in your food and possesses these skills, it may be time to introduce them to solids. Here are three tips on how to start baby-led weaning:

  1. Choose the Right Foods

Start with foods your baby can easily pick up and chew. Your child should be able to grasp them with their hand, as they are still developing their finger skills. Good choices include mango strips, sweet potato wedges, steamed broccoli, avocado slices, pieces of cooked fish, scrambled eggs or boiled egg slices. Foods to avoid include grapes, apple chunks with the skin, nuts, hot dogs, popcorn or raw vegetables.

  1. Be Alert

You should always watch your baby while eating to ensure they are safe. Babies are going to gag, it’s a natural reflex and one they need to learn. If you see them gagging, try not to react immediately. You don’t want to alarm your child and cause stress. Give them a little while to work it out themselves but be ready to intervene if needed. It’s important to know the difference between gagging and choking. When gagging, a baby will typically make a noise or some type of sound as they try to push the food back out whereas choking tends to be silent. Trust your instincts and be alert.

  1. Get Messy

As expected, when a baby is feeding themselves, it’s going to get messy. Be patient and allow your child to discover new foods and explore the tastes and textures freely. Be sure to have a solid and stable highchair. Try using a bib with a food catcher or a long-sleeved bib to help reduce spills and stains. What is most important is to encourage and support their interest and exploration of new foods.

If you have any questions about your child’s nutrition or concerns about what foods they should or should not be eating, call Children’s Medical Center. We are here to help you navigate your child’s health and nutrition journey.

Social distancing and staying home aren’t just affecting adults, the physical distance is difficult for people of all ages. It’s important for kids to keep learning, have fun and feel social as well. Here are three ways to help your kids stay connected:

Online Classes

While places and organizations slowly open back up, many are offering classes and sessions online. Children are able to continue learning, maintain skills and even pick up a new activity while adding some structure to their schedule. Looking forward to class each week at a certain time allows kids to feel like they have a routine, which is important to make children feel safe during uncertain times.  A few activities that are ideal for online include:

  • Karate studios
  • Dance studios
  • Cooking schools
  • Art studios
  • Theatre and Creative Arts

Virtual Playdates

Setting up planned playdates with friends is a great way for kids to interact and play freely. Toddlers and preschoolers may need a little more help from parents to facilitate the activities. Set a start time and end time so expectations are clearly established. Fun ideas for virtual playdates include:

  • Art projects or free drawings
  • Play-Doh time
  • Freeze dance or dance parties
  • Blocks and Lego-building
  • Show-n-tell with the family pet or favorite toys

Video Chats

Simply allowing kids to talk to their friends is important too. There are so many ways to connect online. A few ways that are easy for both parents and kids include:

  • Facetime (iPhone will allow you to set up a child’s account)
  • Facebook Messenger Kids (ages 6-12)
  • Zoom (good from multiple friends to join at one time)

Prior to the pandemic of 2020, limiting screen time was of the utmost importance and it still is. Hands-on activities, family time and outdoor play is still a must.  The ‘new normal’ has meant a readjustment around screen time and finding a healthy balance between digital-use and when to put the technology away. Our advice as always, is use it in moderation and supervise as much as possible.

If you need help creating a media plan, have concerns regarding your child’s social interaction or their mental health during these trying times, we are here to help. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Fact: drowning kills more children ages 1 to 4 than anything else other than birth defects.

Small children can drown in as little as an inch or two of water, and it can happen quickly.  The biggest threat for families with toddlers is unsupervised access to water like swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, ponds, and lakes. Protecting your children from water hazards where you live and where you visit is crucial — know your surroundings and never leave your child unattended around water.

Here are ten safety tips to help keep your family safe in and around water:

  1. Learn CPR and safe rescue techniques.
  2. Young children should always be within arm’s reach of a parent or designated adult if you’re around water.
  3. Children should take swim lessons as soon as possible to learn the basics of floating and being comfortable in the water.
  4. Watch your children at all times — drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities.
  5. Never swim close to piers or pilings because sudden water movements may push kids or parents into them.
  6. At the beach, look for posted signs about rip currents, jellyfish or shark warnings, and other hazards.
  7. All home pools should be completely fenced-in with self-latching gates.
  8. Wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim.
  9. Never leave a filled, open container of water unattended: buckets, baby pools, coolers, etc.
  10. In the home, use safety latches or doorknob covers to keep children from entering bathrooms unattended.

We all want to keep our children safe and secure and we hope these tips are helpful as you enjoy time with your family at the pool, beach, lake or just at home.

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for our next CPR class, call Children’s Medical Center. Your child’s safety is our number one priority.

Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335

West Chase (813) 891-6501

Trinity (727) 376-8404

Lutz (813) 751-3131

Nutrition is important to your child’s physical and mental development, no matter what age they are. As parents, it’s important to set a good example and mealtime is a great place to start.

Allowing your child to help prepare meals is a great way for them to be active in the selection process. It teaches them how to make something and works the brain muscles at the same time. It sparks creativity and interest. Your child is more likely to eat something they helped make and even try new foods in the process.

Here’s a fun recipe that children can assist with and it’s one that will feed the whole family, approximately 6-8 servings.

Easy Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs (kids love cracking the eggs — use a separate bowl in case of shells)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (let the kids measure this into a cup)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil (if you have fresh basil, it’s fun for kids to pick the leaves)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
  • 45 oz. tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 8 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles (these are great for kids to handle)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach (optional)
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (another good opportunity for kids to measure)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and a 1/2 cup of mozzarella in a bowl. Use a big bowl so the kids can add the ingredients and stir it up without making too big of a mess.
  3. Mix in salt and pepper and, if you’re using them, basil and garlic.
  4. Spread about 1 cup of tomato sauce at the bottom of a 13×9″ pan. This step is great for kids. Think of it as painting the pan red.
  5. Allow the kids to arrange a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce (probably 4 will cover the pan–it’s ok if they overlap).
  6. Next, layer 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture, 1/3 of the spinach (if using), 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Then layer about 1 cup of sauce on top. This part is up to you. It can get a bit messy, but the kids will love that.
  7. Repeat layers in this order (noodles, ricotta mix, spinach, mozzarella, sauce) twice more.
  8. For your top layer, use noodles, then top with remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella.
  9. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 40-50 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer to brown the cheese on top.
  10. Let stand for 5 minutes. Bon appétit!

Family mealtime is so important for children and their development. This is where they learn from you, process what you’re doing, pick up on your eating habits and create their own. We hope you have fun making this recipe with your family and we would love to see you post your pictures of the process.

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The Summer Slide: the slide backwards that many children make over the summer months in regard to the skills they learned in school, often reading and math. It can have a significant impact on their ability to get back into the swing of things come fall.

Even the brightest children can fall victim to the summer slide. It doesn’t need a long period of time to occur, just a couple of weeks away from school can soften the skills previously learned. There are a number of ways to keep your child’s brain in the game as they enjoy the summer break. Try these three ways to prevent the summer slide:

Pick Six

Research shows that reading just six books over the summer can help children from regressing. Help your child choose six books that are just right for their skill level, not too hard and not too easy. Your local library can be a great resource for choosing books that are a good fit, as well as providing reading programs that help motivate kids to read.

Reading out loud can benefit young children and even older ones that tend to struggle when it comes to reading. Parents can read news articles with teens to practice as well as to keep up with current events. Reading aloud on a level above their current skill level will help them increase their knowledge and apply it when reading on their own.

Play Games

Math is a subject that tends to get ignored over the summer break. In fact, the National Association for Summer Learning shows that “students lose approximately two months of math skills in the summer if they don’t participate in some sort of educational activity over the break.”

Some easy ways to incorporate math into your summer include:

  • Flash cards: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • Card games: counting, matching, sorting
  • Board games: counting, matching, problem-solving
  • Cooking: measuring, ratios and proportions

Keep It Manageable

It’s easy to get distracted over the summer break, when you’re out of school and away from your normal routine. Incorporating a little bit into each day, as little as 20 minutes, can help prevent the summer slide.

Make time as a family every day to read, work math problems, solve puzzles or play a game. When activities are done as a family, it’s more fun and seems less like schoolwork. 

Summertime is fun and it still can be with the inclusion of a few educational activities that will help prevent the summer slide. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s learning or cognitive skills, call us to set up a consultation. We are available at our four office locations or by telemedicine.

Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335

West Chase (813) 891-6501

Trinity (727) 376-8404

Lutz (813) 751-3131





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