Pediatrician’s Corner – Dr. Pradeep Gidwani
November is Family Literacy Month. Our ability to read and write is built on a foundation of learning words. Researchers have identified what they are calling a “word gap”. Many children enter school with many less words than their classmates and when the children are followed over time, the children with smaller vocabularies have less success including how they do in school, how much they earn, and how well their families do even 20 and 30 years later.
We can increase the number of words in a child’s life by starting when the child is still a baby. Babies take in the words they hear and their brains grow when they have continuous interaction with parents and caregivers. Talking is teaching and every parent can talk. First 5 San Diego recommends 30,000 words per day. We can make it a habit to explain what is going on – even talking while changing a baby’s diaper helps build their brains. As they grow, you can explain what is going on as you help them dress or when you’re making dinner.
Talking, reading, and singing with your young child are joyful ways to not only increase their vocabulary, but also to build a strong and healthy parent-child relationship. Most importantly, talking to your children is a healthy brain habit just like how brushing their teeth and eating healthy meals are healthy habits for their bodies.
Choosing Safe Toys and Gifts
For many cultures, December is a time when gifts are given to celebrate, to congratulate, and to show thanks and appreciation for the people in our lives. However, the safety and age appropriateness of gifts are not always the first thoughts in the gift purchaser’s mind. December is observed as “Safe Toys and Gifts Month” and knowing what to look out for can make a big difference in preventing possible injuries from well-intentioned gifts.
This holiday season (and beyond), please consider the following guidelines for choosing safe toys for all ages:
- Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid those that shoot or include parts that fly off. The toy should have no sharp edges or points and should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking, being crushed, or being pulled apart easily.
- Inspect toys your child has received. Check them for age, skill level, and developmental appropriateness before allowing them to be played with.
- Look for labels that confirm the toys have passed a safety inspection – “ASTM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
- Avoid giving toys with small parts (including magnets and “button” batteries which can cause serious injury or death if ingested) to young children as they tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If the piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is not appropriate for kids under age three.
- Avoid giving toys with ropes and cords or heating elements.
- Avoid giving crayons and markers unless they are labeled “non-toxic”.