My Blog - Children's Medical Center

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

Summer is the favorite time of year for many children — swimming, cookouts, outdoor fun and fireworks provide excitement but also hazards if not careful. Drowning incidents rise during the summer months, the hot sun causes heat exhaustion and a simple bug bite could lead to a doctor visit.

Apply these safety tips to keep your family healthy and happy as you enjoy the summer months:

  1. Water Safety: Drowning is among the leading causes of accidental death in children. Children should swim only when lifeguards are on duty or if an experienced swimmer is watching. Kids should wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, even if they know how to swim. When kids are in or near water, closely supervise them at all times. Drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.
  2.  Sun Protection: The sun is strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., even on cloudy days. When playing outside, use sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher and blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and every 2 hours. If playing in the water, re-apply after exiting the water.
  3. Overheating: Heat stroke in children can occur without proper hydration or rest. Prior to heat stroke, kids often show milder symptoms such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Drink plenty of water and wearing lightweight clothing when playing outside.
  4. Car Safety: Never leave a child in an unattended car, even if the windows are down. A child trapped inside a hot car can suffocate quickly. Always keep your trunk and car locked, even when it's in the driveway or garage.
  5. Boat Safety: Children should always wear a life jacket when in a boat or on the water. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. It is highly recommended not to drink alcoholic beverages while boating.
  6. Burns: Never leave small children unattended around a hot grill and keep them at a distance while you’re cooking. Over 3,000 children visit emergency rooms each year from injuries due to fireworks. Never let young children play with fireworks.
  7. Bug Bites and Bee Stings: When choosing bug repellents, look for one that contains DEET. DEET is proven to repel both mosquitoes and ticks. Products with a concentration of less than 30% are safe for kids, but not babies under two months old. Apply repellent once a day. Don’t use a combination sunscreen and bug repellent. All-natural repellents (eucalyptus or citronella) are not proven to protect against ticks and should not be used on children younger than three years of age.

With the right preparation and precautions, summertime can be relaxing and fun. Children’s Medical Center is by your side to keep you family healthy and safe this summer.

Call us if you have any questions or need to schedule a telemedicine appointment or in-person visit.

Palm Harbor (727) 787-6335

West Chase (813) 891-6501

Trinity (727) 376-8404

Lutz (813) 751-3131

We understand that life is not the same right now. What is the same at Children’s Medical Center, is that our number one priority is the health of you and your family. We know these are challenging and sometimes scary times — we want to stress that Children’s Medical Center remains deeply committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment to all of our patients.

Children need great pediatric care now as much as ever, and it’s for that reason that we have opened our doors back up. Maintaining regular check-ups and vaccination schedules is important.

We are here to deliver safe, high-quality care for families. Below are a few additional measures we have put in place to enhance the safety of our centers:

  1. All patients will be completely separated. WELL visits will take place early in the day, between the hours of 8am to 1pm (give or take). SICK patients will be seen after our very last well-patient has left the building.
  2. All patient rooms will be completely sanitized between each patient.
  3. Check-in will take place outside and in some cases from your car. When it is time for your appointment., you will go directly to the room.
  4. Our lobbies will not be used for waiting. We have removed all books, toys and stickers from our offices to minimize the spread of any germs.
  5. Our entire staff will be wearing masks at all times.
  6. Our after-hours cleaning service continues to implement enhanced cleaning precautions on a nightly basis.
  7. If we ever have a patient where there is the slightest concern regarding coronavirus or COVID-19, the entire room is completely shut down and unused for the remainder of the day.

We have also expanded our virtual programs and capabilities to offer telemedicine consultations for parents that prefers to stay at home. Telemedicine will not be a good fit for every patient, but if you have a concern and prefer to have a telemedicine appointment to see if it is absolutely necessary to visit the office, this is a great way to do so.

Call us today to schedule a visit or to see if telemedicine is right for you and your family.

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. Here are a few guidelines to help you make healthy food choices throughout your child’s life.

Babies: Got Milk?

Breast milk, formula or a combination of the two will provide almost every nutrient that your baby needs during its first year. Around the six-month mark, your baby should be ready for solid foods like cereal and pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats. Introduce a variety of options to your child, one at a time. The more foods you introduce to them, the more they may like, and the broader their menu will be. A healthy amount of fat is important for a baby’s developing brain, so don’t worry about keeping everything low-fat. They key is variety.

Toddlers:

From age 3-5 your child is going through growth spurts and so will their appetite. Don’t get frustrated when they don’t want to eat or they go through a picky phase. Continue to offer them a variety of healthy choices focusing on each of the five food groups.

Milk is still an important part of a toddler’s diet — the calcium is needed to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. If they don’t like milk or experience lactose-intolerance, try these calcium-rich alternatives:

  • Lactose-free milk or soy milk
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Cereals
  • Waffles
  • Oatmeal
  • Tofu

Fiber is also very important for a growing child. Kids tend to lean towards a bland and starchy diet that includes chicken, pasta, cheese and fries. Eating foods with more fiber like fruits and vegetables will helps prevent constipation, heart disease, and aids digestion.

Grade-schoolers

As children go to school, they have more freedom to make choices in what they eat. Packing your child’s lunch is one way to help keep their options on the healthy side. Going over the lunch menu that the school offers is another way to encourage your child to make good choices and discuss the five food groups and why they’re important. The body needs carbohydrates, fats, sugar and sodium, but moderation is the key. Too much of these can lead to unneeded weight gain and other health problems.

Here is a simple breakdown of the five food groups and suggested servings for each:

  • Vegetables: 3-5 servings per day (1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, 3/4 cup of vegetable juice, or 1/2 cup of raw or cooked vegetables)
  • Fruits: 2-4 servings per day (1/2 cup of sliced fruit, 3/4 cup of fruit juice, or a medium-size whole fruit)
  • Bread, cereal, or pasta: 6-11 servings per day (Each serving should equal 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of rice or pasta, or 1 ounce of cereal)
  • Protein: 2-3 servings of 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish per day (This group may also include 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, one egg, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for each ounce of lean meat)
  • Dairy: 2-3 servings per day (1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese)

Tweens and Teens

As children go through puberty, they need more calories to fuel the changes of the body and more calcium to build bone mass. Encourage your child to drink milk, eat yogurt or other calcium-rich foods. This is also a time where some kids may try to restrict their diet as they become more body conscious. Parents should pay attention to their child and recognize when unhealthy eating patterns develop, like too much fast food or skipping meals all together. Having family dinners at least a few days a week is a great way to promote healthy eating and simply connect.

As teen girls start menstruating, they will need to increase their iron intake. Foods high in iron include spinach and broccoli, cereals, beans, quinoa, red meat or tofu. Teen boys will need to increase their protein intake as they’re growth rate increases. High protein choices include eggs, nuts, Greek yogurt or milk, broccoli, quinoa, and lean beef or tuna.

From toddler to teen, water is vital in order for the body to function properly. Did you know water makes up more than half of a kid's body weight? Although there is not a set amount of water that a child should drink, encouraging them to sip on it throughout the day, especially when it's cold outside or they're participating in physical activities. Avoiding sugar drinks, juices and sodas is always encouraged. If your child doesn't want water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or a few pieces of fruit to sweeten it.

Getting your child to become a healthy eater may feel like an uphill battle at times, but it's worth the fight. Children's Medical Center is in your corner and ready to answer any questions you may have.





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