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All about Parenting Toddlers , Issue #014 - Hidden Dangers: Children, Choking, and Toys
July 09, 2003

Welcome to another issue of All about Parenting Toddlers. Hope you find the articles here useful.

Shaping the life of your precious ones

All about Parenting Toddlers
Issue #014
9th July 2003

In This Issue:

1. Hidden Dangers: Children, Choking, and Toys
2. Pretend Play Develops Real-Life Skills
3. Choosing books for different age groups

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Hidden Dangers: Children, Choking, and Toys

Children of all ages, not just babies, can choke on toys or other foreign objects.

CHAPEL HILL: While watching TV one day, 8-year-old Lee Wright of Shallotte, North Carolina was toying with a small Lego piece in his mouth when it suddenly slipped down his airway. "He started coughing and ran into the kitchen and told me he had swallowed the Lego," said Renee Wright, Lee’s mother. "He continued coughing and trying to clear his throat, and finally he began to wheeze."

Wright rushed her son to a nearby community hospital where physicians could not detect the object on X-rays, but they could hear it rattle as Lee breathed in and out. Doctors referred the Wrights to North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. There, Dr. Amelia Drake performed a bronchoscopy and retrieved the Lego, which had lodged in the right main bronchus leading into Lee’s lung.

"Lee’s case is not uncommon. Older children are often careless with toys and pieces of food," Drake said. "However, the younger child is more at risk of choking because of the lack of teeth in the back of the younger child’s mouth."

Here are some simple steps a parent can take to help prevent a child from inhaling or swallowing foreign objects:

- Do not allow young children to play with small objects
- Teach children not to hold foreign bodies in their mouths.
- Cut or break food into bite-size pieces, and encourage children to chew their food thoroughly.
- Encourage your child to sit while eating food or candy and do not allow him or her to eat in a moving car.
- Do not offer popcorn, nuts or foods with nuts to toddlers or pre-schoolers.
- Keep safety pins closed and away from children.
- Purchase only age-appropriate toys.

Drake said that parents should seek immediate medical attention should a child demonstrate any of the following warning signs that a foreign object has lodged in his airway:

- He is choking, cannot clear his airway spontaneously or struggles to breathe.
- He persistently coughs or wheezes or otherwise makes unusual noises while breathing.
- There is swelling or tenderness in his neck region.
- He refuses to eat.
- He persistently drools or drools saliva tinged with blood.

"Vomiting and fever also can be signs that a child may have swallowed a foreign object," Drake said. "Parents should definitely be aware of these warning signs for early detection and removal."

This informative article was brought to you by Aubrey Antley of UNC Health Care.

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Pretend Play Develops Real-Life Skills
By Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D.

When you see your child busy pretending, you can be sure there's a whole lot of thinking going on! Pretend play is more than fun—it helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills and strengthens social and communication skills, as well. It lets your child "try on" endless new roles and new ways of looking at the world, which helps build empathy and imagination. And as that imagination develops, your child's interest and involvement in make-believe and pretend play will grow. It's a major developmental milestone!

How can you help? Here are some helpful tips for promoting pretend play with your child—feel free to add some of your own or try different variations:

** Provide a collection of dress-up props for role play.

** Play a simplified game of charades together, where you take turns acting like something (e.g., car or animal) and guessing what it is.

** Look at clouds with your child and imagine what they resemble.

** Listen to music with your child and act out how it makes you feel (e.g., happy, sad, sleepy).

** Read lots of books together.

** Provide toys that encourage creativity and imagination.

** Make up "What happens next" stories with your child, building on each other's additions.

** Arrange play dates with other children to foster social and imaginative play.

** Play "Be the Alphabet" and take turns being things that begin with each letter (e.g., the letter "B"—buzz around like a bumblebee!).

** Know when to be your child's playmate and when to just sit back and enjoy.

Remember, you are your child's first and best playmate! Playing "Let's Pretend" together and doing activities like the ones mentioned are great ways to help your child grow—and to help the two of you grow closer.


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Choosing books for different age groups

Books for infants and toddlers
Books fascinate babies; they pick them up, turn pages, chew them! Encourage this. It’s all preparation for that lifelong reading journey. Our aim with books for the very young is to provide stimulating and engaging experiences.

Tactile and flap books are great for this age. As are durable, laminated board books that withstand chewing! Small board books encourage little fingers to pick them up and turn pages. Cloth and plastic books are also great for hard-wearing washability. Brightly coloured, high contrast pictures attract and stimulate.

Books about familiar objects and people provide many hours of looking, finding, talking; and along the way the little one learns to match speech to print – a critical first step towards reading. Concept books support your child’s discovery of ideas like direction, shape, colours, numbers and letters. The great thing about concept books is that you never have to worry about “finishing” a story, and can work with your child’s concentration span.

As your toddler becomes curious about print, clearly labelled picture books fascinate her as she links the picture to the word and begins understanding how print works.

As children learn about themselves and their world, books about feelings and people interest them, especially if they are about children like themselves or adults like their parents.

Books for pre-schoolers and young readers
Children become increasingly aware of print, can read more words, and are fascinated with sounds. They love books with repeated lines and words so that they can join in confidently.

Picture books with rich illustrations develop concentration spans as children focus on the details on the page, especially if you explore the pictures together.

A wide range of subject matter works for preschoolers. Children in the endless question phase love information books. Realistic stories about a child’s world – friendships, fears, families, rules, choices – mirror developing self-awareness. Fantasy and fairy tales delight vivid imaginations and inspire their own make-believe creations. Wild, wacky tales appeal to their sense of humour and absurdity. Their growing awareness of how language works makes nonsense stories, poems and riddles especially appealing.

Select a good mix of books from all these types; this is the perfect age to start that home library.

And always, always remember: whatever age your child is, choose rhythm – from finger play and nursery rhymes, to rhyming, rhythmic stories, to classic poetry. Playing with language patterns, especially sounds, sets the foundation for language and communication skills.

So, with a few simple guide-lines, a lot of trust in your child, and the visit to the bookstore becomes exciting and productive. Have fun!

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All the best,

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