Here are three quick tips for parents of children under five, to make you a more switched on parent in just a few minutes!
1. Mastering cutlery
Mastering the humble knife and fork is tricky for children, but here is a nifty idea: Use play dough to practise. Start with play dough that has been rolled into the size and shape of a large sausage. Place it on a flat surface or plate. Then, give your child a table knife to hold in one hand and a fork in the other, and ask them to make "pointy fingers" with their forefingers. One pointy finger goes on the back of the knife near the part with the blade, with the other fingers curling around the knife handle; the other pointy finger goes on the back of fork near the tines, with the other fingers curling around the handle. You can pop a small sticker or a piece of sellotape on the knife or fork where your child will place their pointy finger, in order to give them a cue they can feel. The next step is for your child to "stab" the play dough with the fork, and hold the fork still. Encourage them to use the knife to saw back and forth, cutting the play dough while the fork stays still and steady.
2. Safe sneezes and coughs
Winter is prime time for illnesses, and it's important to teach children how to cough and sneeze safely, which helps avoid the spread of germs. Here's a simple three-step method. First, teach your child to trap their sneeze or cough with the inside of their elbow, or in a facial tissue. Second, explain how important it is to put the used tissue into the bin because reusing tissues spreads germs. Third, show them how to wash their hands with soap and warm water and dry them off with a clean towel, or shake them to get dry if no towels are around. Children can be tempted to sneeze into their hands and then wipe them on their trousers, so re-iterate the three-step method in a positive way and if you see your child forgetting, all you have to say is, "Remember the three steps?"
3. 4 things to never say when your child is crying
When our little ones cry, they are experiencing "big emotions" and need to know that caring adults are here to help. Here are five gentle and empathetic things to say if your child is crying.
"I can see this is hard for you"
Acknowledge that you see and hear that your child is having a tough time.
"I love you. You are safe"
Reinforce the connection between you and your child.
"I can see you are upset, but I don't know what you need. Can you help me understand?"
Ask your child to share, in their own words, what is making them upset.
"Let's come up with a solution together"
Working together to devise a solution helps children build problem-solving skills and process their emotions with loving support from a caring adult.
Once the situation is resolved, detail in a descriptive way how successful the intervention and solution were.