Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Newborn reflexes

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Pelvic floor exercises

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Antenatal Classes

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Budget Friendly Play Activities

collageAs we engage our children in a fun, free spirited manner, not only will we be rewarded with the opportunity to watch them feel comfortable in the exploration of their world, learn new skill sets, valuable social and personal information and delight in their new found abilities; we might even, even if it is just for a moment, also feel like a child again.

How to play and what to play:
1. Collect pictures from old magazines and make a collage. Alternatively, make this activity more memorable by using copies of family photographs to map your shared history and journey together thus far. Older children can be encouraged to build-a -poem. Allow them to cut out large-type words from magazines and remind them to include smaller but essential words, such as: 'the', 'of' and 'is'. Provide an envelope for their collection of words, that can be used whenever inspiration hits. Their verbal expressions, can then be stuck on a piece of card board.
2. To ensure that television watching is balanced by creative play and the stimulation of other areas of the brain, engage with your child after they have watched their favorite TV program. Allow them to chose their character and costume, and replicate the program they have just watched, in the form of a play. Encourage your child to talk about and re-enact what they saw on the screen. This may include copying what the characters did. For example, ask your child to show you how the wolf "huffed and puffed"? The aim of this activity is to stimulate language development and imagination, as you discover new ideas together. Mentally, it also nurtures the parts of your child's brain that makes sense out of what he/she sees and hears.
3. Put on music and dance freely with your child. Sing along, spin around and let your little one shout 'freeze', when the music suddenly stops. Teach your child to clap or stamp their feet, in time with the beat. Demonstrate fast beats, slow beats and double beats. Encourage your child to perform jumping jacks in time with the music or make up their own dance moves. A similar activity can be used while your child is watching television. Hit the pause button and ask your child to get up and physically point to something on the screen, such as a bird, apple, Winnie-the-Pooh, etc. Clap your hands, sing and dance together to the rhythm of the songs on their favourite shows.
4. Create a treasure hunt inside for younger children or challenge older kids to find items round the house or in the garden, rather than in just one room. Pick basic items such as, building blocks, a clock, mini stuffed animals or baby pictures. Provide your child with clues, in their search for the hidden items.
5. Origami can be enjoyed by children of all ages. Even toddlers can participate, with parental assistance, in making a paper puppy:
* Take a square piece of paper and fold it in half, to form a triangle.
* Fold the top two corners down to form ears.
* Fold the top layer of the bottom point up to make space for the nose.
* Give your child coloured crayons or pencils, to draw in their own eyes, nose and tongue.
* Older children, can be given buttons to stick on for eyes, pipe cleaners for the mouth and cut shapes out of material for the nose.
6. Creative food ideas:
* Allow children to layer their own fruity yoghurt concoctions. Place different flavoured yoghurt in bowls, together with a selection of muesli, fresh and dried fruits.
* Give your children crackers and allow them to spread cream cheese or peanut butter as a base. Make silly faces, using grated carrot for hair and cut up pieces of fruit, salad and dried fruit for the eyes, etc.
* Make cereal jewellery by stringing any ringed cereal, such as Cheerios or Froot Loops onto thin liquorice ropes or string. Knot the ends and allow your kids to wear the edible necklaces.
7. Organize a play date, so that your child can meet, socialize and engage in play with their peers. For children under the age of 3, play dates are a social event for both kids and parents. An hour is ideal for babies and toddlers. Most preschoolers can handle 2-3 hours. As soon as your child is able to talk, teach them to say 'thank you, for having me'. Have some activities prepared for restless children or those that require entertainment beyond spontaneous play. Even packing away can become part of the fun. Teach younger children a cleanup song or encourage older children to count how many toys they can put away.
8. Encourage your child to stay in contact with distant relatives by sending them something personalized and creative in the mail. For example, you can help your child (18 month and up) create a giant self portrait. Have your child lie on a long piece of craft paper and outline their shape with a pencil. Go over the pencil outline with a permanent marker and have your child decorate their own image. Provide crayons, finger paints, collage materials and markers. Trim the paper. Roll it into a mailing tube and post. This personalized artwork is bound to make the recipient smile and show how quickly your child is growing. Similarly, your child is learning to express themselves creatively and about the importance of friends and family, even if they are not always physically present.
9. It is never too early to start teaching your children the art of gratitude. From the age of 2 and up, you can help your child make homemade thank you cards. Provide them with an abundance of art supplies and let their creativity flow. Ideas include taking a photo of your child with their new gift, to form the front of the card and asking him/ her, what they like the most about their gift. Transcribe this message on the inside of the card and allow your child to 'sign' their name, draw a picture, use stamps or stickers, to complete the card.
10. Games involving the building and dismantling of objects like blocks and building bricks may be simple but they foster mental development, in terms of new ways of thinking and problem solving. Blocks and shapes are mentally challenging on many levels and teach a variety of concepts, such as spatial reasoning, measurement, balance, equality and physical properties.
11. On a physical level, basic games that require little or no equipment, can be used to develop your child's large muscle groups; such as running, climbing or jumping. These types of play not only effectively use your child's abundance of energy and provide a good overall form of physical exercise but improve balance, agility and co-ordination. Enhance your child's physical development, with a game of tag or hop scotch, Simon Says, a game of football, or time spent playing on a jungle gym.
12. Cutting out shapes with child-sized scissors. Sticking the shapes onto cardboard and making unique designs, such as patterns, animals, a sun, house, etc. And finally colouring in their artistry, will stimulate your child's fine motor co-ordination and dexterity. Comparable games include playing with toys such as peg boards or dressing dolls.
13. Unstructured outdoor play is beneficial on many levels. Children tend to be more physically active when they play outdoors, which is essential for health and fitness. Being outdoors, encourages children to explore and interact with nature, to develop their creativity and imagination as they make up their own games, and to learn that they do not have to rely on technology for entertainment. Free play is crucial to childhood development. In a busy society, where children are often rushed from one activity to another, unstructured outdoor play provides them with an outlet for stress and the ability to simply enjoy life and just be children.
14. Stimulate your child's cognitive development, with activities that require problem solving, classifying, sorting or the use of information. For example, the game peek-a-boo, encourages intellectual development through the mastery of object permanence, or the realization and understanding of how you disappear and reappear. Shape sorters, age appropriate puzzles and matching games, promote problem solving skills and necessitate that your child works intellectually through a problem.
15. Open-ended art, music, movement and dance foster creative expression and build your child's confidence in their own unique personalities, ideas and explorations. Invite your children to make up a story, using costumes, music, instruments and the movements of their own bodies, to express their thoughts, feelings and points of view.
16. Teach your child how to recite and interpret simple poems, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", "This Piggy Went to Market" or "Old MacDonald Had a Farm". The repetition of these rhymes stimulates memory skills and language development, while the accompanying activities and finger play helps improve fine motor skills. You can also log onto YouTube search any nursery rhyme and sing along with your child.
17. Implement design games and activities that are going to encourage abstract thought. One of the ways in which to do this is to ask broad, open-ended questions such as, "What do you think the people in the picture are doing?" or "What would happen if dogs and cats could fly?" Creative questioning allows children to come to their own conclusions about things, without adult prescriptions. Teach children that there is more than one way of perceiving the world and ask them to use their senses in expanded ways. For example, tell them to close their eyes and guess what they are hearing and feeling. This activity can be replicated using the tasting game. Blindfold your child and place various tastes of food items in their mouths, one at a time. Have them guess what they are tasting, using their sense of smell and the texture of the food, as additional clues. Alternatively, place a familiar object like a cotton ball, a coin, a piece of sandpaper or a stuffed animal, in a paper bag. Objects of different sizes and texture encourage your blindfolded child, to use their sense of touch.
18. Word games are an effective way of helping older children make creative associations and relationships between various elements. For example, list 4 or 5 words that are related to each other through one word. Have your child look at the list, with the intention of identifying the connecting word, for example, 'Sleeping', 'mark' and 'contest' are all connected by the word 'beauty'.
19. Have your child draw a squiggle on a piece of paper or cardboard and ask them what it could possibly be. The squiggle forms the basis for something more complex and once your child has finished their artwork, ask them to discuss what they have drawn. This activity of allowing your child to alter or build on a pre-existing shape, includes the benefits of both visualization and word games.
20. Exercise your child's mind and assist in the development of essential problem solving and critical thinking skills, by playing some simple learning games. Place several different objects on a table; such as a fork, a spoon, a plate, a toy and an umbrella. Have your child study the objects for 1 minute. Tell them to turn around (no peeping), remove one of the objects and have them figure out what is missing.
21. Giving and receiving compliments helps children to develop a healthy self-esteem, teaches them to notice the positive qualities of others, hear positive things from others about themselves and how to have a mutual sense of respect in social interactions. These social skills can be emulated in a quick and easy game that can be played with children of all ages, called "Catch the Compliment". Gather all players, in a circle, in a large, open area. Choose a selection of soft, lightweight balls that you would like to use for the game, such as beach balls, foam balls and lightweight playground balls. Instruct the players to toss the balls to one another. As each toss is made, the tossing player gives the receiving player a compliment. To increase the pace and difficulty level, you can increase the number of balls being tossed simultaneously. At the end of the game, ask each player what was the hardest, easiest and funniest part of the game for them. Ask players what they needed to do during the game, in order to be successful. Skills such as, thinking, looking and listening are likely to be mentioned.
22. Create a piece of art as a family, by designing and decorating a family banner, using images and colours that are meaningful to your family. The banner can depict family values, hobbies, interests and pictures of family members. Ensure that at least one idea of each family member is included in the banner and that all members are given a particular task. Supply a variety of craft materials such as glue, glitter, buttons, sequins, material scraps, paper and whatever else you have available. Allow each person to talk about their part of the banner, what it is and why it is important to you as a family. This activity is useful in the building of self-esteem and confidence, encourages family bonding, team work and quality time, and nurtures creativity.
23. Start teaching your preschooler the concept of time. The more experience your child gets hearing and using words, related to time, such as 'morning', 'afternoon' and 'night', the easier this understanding will develop. Put the timer on when baking cookies so your child can feel the passage of time. Create a time line/ chart together of your child's daily routine, so that they can 'see' how their day progresses. For example, playgroup, lunch, nap, visit with grandparents, etc. Talking to your children about their day and the sequence of events, helps reinforce what came before and after. Count the number of 'sleeps' and tick them off on a calendar, until important events happen. This activity will teach your child that not everything happens in the present. Help your child make their own clock, using craft materials such as coloured markers, a paper plate, stickers, etc. Demonstrate how the hands on the clock move and how time changes throughout the day (nap time, lunch time, etc).
24. Make a circuit in your garden with things your child can run and skip around, swing on and climb. This simple, fun activity will increase motor skills, such as balance and co-ordination, as well as encouraging physical exercise and movement.
25. Spark your child's imagination by placing a number of objects in a box and allowing them to play dress-up. Items to include are; old hats, scarves, scrap fabrics, feather boas, shoes, bags and beads.
26. Take the time to read aloud to your child. Enhance the experience by stopping from time to time and asking questions to stimulate your child's cognitive development. For example, "What do you think will happen next?" or "Wouldn't it be funny if…?" Encourage your child to ask questions too. Their natural curiosity is likely to lead to wonderful conversations. Further enhance your child's creativity, language, and social and emotional development, by encouraging them to become the storyteller. Give your child positive verbal feedback and praise their language development, as you play and create stories together.
27. Children of all ages thoroughly enjoy play-dough. Take the experience to a new level by making your own non-toxic toy dough at home. You can even customize your own colours and fragrances.
* What you'll need: ½ cup salt, ½ cup water, 1 cup flour, food colouring, newspaper to cover the surface you are working on.
* Method: Cover your work surface with newspaper. Add all measured ingredients to a mixing bowl in the following order; flour, salt, water. Take a spoon and mix well. Add a few drops of food dye. Pick up your dough and knead well. If you would like to have scented dough, add a drop or two of essential oils.
28. Make super easy, non-toxic finger paints, that are completely edible (not the best tasting but safe to eat nevertheless). Collect jars or containers with lids to put your inexpensive, funky homemade paints in.
* Dry ingredients: ½ cup corn starch, ½ tsp salt, 3 tbsp granulated sugar.
* Wet ingredients: 2 cups water, food colouring or gel paste for brighter colours.
* Jars of choice.
* Method: Combine dry ingredients in a medium saucepan and add water. Stir to combine until there are no lumps. Turn on the stove to medium heat and stir occasionally, until mixture thickens and just begins to boil. This should take approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and continue to stir, until you get a nice, light fluffy texture. When the mixture has cooled, pour into the jars, leaving adequate space to stir. Add a few drops of the desired food colouring to each jar and stir until no more of the clear mixture remains.
* Finger paint: Give your child large sheets of paper and allow them to engage in a sensory, rich fun, learning experience.
29. Keeping kids busy just before dinner is not always an easy task. One way in which to engage them in a constructive manner is to include them in the food preparation process. They are also more likely to eat something, if they play a role in making it. Pizza making is both easy and fun, and can be enjoyed by children of all ages. Buy readymade pizza bases, make your own or ask your local pizzeria, if you can buy some dough.
* Step 1: Spread flour on your work surface, to prevent the dough from sticking to the table or rolling pin. Get your kids to spread out the dough.
* Step 2: Spread the bases with tomato paste or sauce, sprinkle with cheese and provide a wide variety of toppings for your children to choose from. Add olive oil to the edges for a crispy crust.
* Step 3: Place pizzas on a baking tray and slide into a preheated oven.
* Step 4: Bake for 15 minutes.
* Step 5: Remove pizzas from the oven. Allow them to cool and enjoy!
While the pizzas are baking, encourage your children to help you set the table and if possible, enjoy the meal as a family.
30. Buy plant seeds, such as Nasturtium or Sweet Alice from your local nursery. By planting their own seeds and watching them grow, your child will learn to appreciate and connect with nature. The task of watering their plant, will also teach them a sense of responsibility. Once their plant is fully grown, they may chose to give it as a gift, to a friend or family member.
31. Before you throw away a box, think about its potential. It is amazing what a child can do, with a box or two. A box can become a boat, train, car, airplane, table, chair, bed or cupboard. Boxes make wonderful play things and cost nothing. They stimulate the imagination, encourage manipulative skills (using fingers and hands to open and close, balance, etc.), encourage the development of gross motor skills (climbing, lifting, carrying), teach concepts (size, she, position- on, under, in, behind), and provide for useful storage.
The freedom to play
The only thing not to be putting in a box - is play. Play is a cherished part of childhood that is not only integral to our children's physical, cognitive, social and emotional well being but offers us, as parents the unique opportunity to fully engage with our children.

“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good” Lucia Capocchione