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Merino Court Child Care Centre's October Newsletter

October 2020

Greetings

Hello everyone, welcome to our October newsletter! As always, we provide an overview of what is happening within our childcare community. This month we will focus on biting in young children.

There’s an extensive number of reasons that children bite, ranging from anxiety to boredom, hunger and, most simply, because they’re in a developmental stage. Whatever the reason, it can be highly stressful for everyone involved. We list the most common reasons and offer suggestions and tips to change the behaviour and cope while it lasts.

But first up this month…

Topic of the month - Biting in young children

 

Biting in young children

Biting amongst young children is never easy and can be an incredibly awkward discussion for everyone. Generally distressing for the families of both the child that’s done the biting, as well as the one that’s been bitten. While educators generally understand that biting is a developmental stage that many young children go through (usually between one and three years but can extend outside of these ages), the causes and motivations can vary dramatically and can be polarising for families who've never experienced biting before.

Ideally, early childhood services will have a unified response when it comes to managing children that bite, with emphasis placed on avoiding anger or frustration. This way, educators will know exactly how to handle biting situations, removing some of the stress. 

Families, however, that find themselves in this unknown situation often feel lost and confused as to the appropriate action to take. You’ll generally find an empathetic ear in your child’s educator or service director as they’ll likely have seen it all before, but being educated on the subject is the key to handling the situation. A great resource put together by ACECQA (formally, the Early Childhood Research Hub), outlined below, describes the most common causes of biting and offers positive responses for addressing the various issues. 

Teething

Cause - If a child has teeth coming through, they may be feeling pain and pressure in their gums and biting may offer some relief.

Suggested response - Provide something to bite on to comfort the child such as teething toys or a cold face washer. An older child may be able to gnaw on harder foods, like a carrot. Families might wish to use teething gels to help provide relief.

Development of oral muscles

Cause - As muscles develop, toddlers usually experiment with two developmental behaviours: holding on and letting go. Seen also in other situations, like separation from parents, toilet training, and learning to share. They repeat the same hold on/let go with facial muscles, and biting is an example of holding on. It’s part of gaining control of a muscle group or cognitive activity.

Suggested response - Help toddlers learn to hold on/let go by demonstrating and exploring holding on/letting go with activities like stacking blocks. Set up the play environment to ensure opportunities to practice fine and gross motor skills - games like holding onto a ball then letting go, holding hands and then letting go, physical freeze and move games like musical statues.

Independence

Cause - Toddlers gain independence by learning to do things for themselves, making choices, attempting to control their world and making demands on adults and other children. Biting is one way of demonstrating this independence.

Suggested response -  Offer this independence, along with clear, consistent and firm limits. Allow children to make choices for themselves, but consider restricting the choice to two items - for example, "Jake is using the mower. Would you like to play with the car or the scooter?" Provide limitations while still supporting exploration and learning. By setting achievable tasks children can succeed. Remember to praise and encourage whenever a child makes a good choice.

Communicating through language

Cause - Toddlers are in the initial stages of developing language and are learning to communicate using words. When children cannot yet talk, biting is their alternative. It’s often a language alternative.

Suggested response - Encourage children to "use your words" to develop their language.  Using routine to achieve this is one way to help encourage. For example, during morning tea repeatedly emphasise words and phrases, like “water please”. Making eye contact and using body language re-enforces this vocabulary. Plan activities with verbal components, such as stories, finger puppets, rhymes and songs. Encourage all attempts at language use.

Cause and effect

Cause - Children begin to explore the concept of cause and effect from approximately 12 months of age. Biting is a great cause and effect demonstration as a bite almost always elicits an immediate response. Even if it’s in the form of tears or screaming, it's still a response to a child experimenting.

Suggested response - Offer alternative ways for children to explore the relationship between cause and effect. Use toys that require action to cause a reaction. Pop-up or pull along toys with noises and obvious responses are great for this. Activities with basic science/STEM can also demonstrate cause and effect.

Overstimulation

Cause - Children are known for enjoying life - and their environment - to the fullest capacity. Occasionally they’re bound to become over-excited. This stimulation can happen when they’re over-tired, or their environment is too intense - too colourful or too noisy. In these instances, biting can be a form of tension release.

Suggested response - A balanced day that offers quieter time, like stories or rest time, along with outdoor physical activity and a variety of experiences can be helpful. The use of routine can be tremendously calming to many children and smaller groups may mean less excitement, while incorporating relaxation activities into your child’s day, like yoga, basic mindfulness, or soothing music can make a really positive difference.

Frustration

Cause - Children can get frustrated for many reasons, including, when things are too challenging, there are too many children to socialise with, there’s too little or too much space, there’s not enough undivided attention, or there are too many demands. Frustration may result from needs that aren't being met, an inability to communicate, or inconsistent or unclear limits. Children may bite due to feeling frustrated over any of these reasons.

Suggested response - Make sure you model appropriate behaviour. Scaffold - or intentionally demonstrate - to your child how to respond in frustrating situations. Use verbal responses to express feelings and encourage all attempts made by your child to do the same. Make use of books, cards or discussions on feelings. Set and maintain limits, praise positive behaviour, teach turn-taking and ensure regular one-on-one time whenever possible.

Social

Cause - Children are learning to interact and deal with their peers. Often they show interest by biting, pulling hair or pushing, a form of physical communication most common in pre-verbal children. A child relating in this way usually doesn't understand that they're hurting others.

Suggested response - Teach children words to help them interact and model communication skills for older children. Ensure sufficient amounts of materials and equipment for activities - even consider duplicates - to enable parallel play. Introduce activities such as songs, games, and finger-play with handholding, pairs and introductions. Encourage appropriate, gentler, social interaction including sharing toys, hugging, smiling.

Boredom

Cause - If a child is not sufficiently stimulated or activities don't reflect their interests (for example, a child with a transport passion may just not be interested in puzzles) they may bite due to boredom.

Suggested response - Reflect on your environment - does it consider your child's interests? Is it varied enough? What could you adjust, change or add? Pay attention to when and what your child engages in and try to offer more of that activity, toy or equipment. Perhaps change the activity more frequently.

Attention

Cause - A young child may bite to get attention from their family or educator. Some children  need more attention than others and aren’t able to differentiate between positive and negative attention. Things like biting, scratching or hair pulling can be a way of getting noticed by others.

Suggested response - Ensure your child gets regular, warm, nurturing, one-on-one attention - especially when it’s associated with positive behaviour. Try to ignore negative behaviour. This will reinforce with children, the idea that positive behaviour gets the best attention.

Impulsiveness

Cause - Young children don't have the ability to recognise the consequences of their actions and may act impulsively. Even appearing surprised at the result of their actions. Sometimes children bite simply because they can.

Suggested response - Respond to biting in a consistent way that discourages the behaviour, such as "Don't bite. Biting hurts." Ensure your response doesn't give too much attention to the biting child, therefore, unintentionally strengthening the behaviour. Model alternate behaviours, like holding up your hand to signal STOP!

Anxiety

Cause - Young children often use biting as a way to communicate or release big feelings, like anxiety, emotion, tension or insecurity. It may be in response to stress around them. If you suspect anxiety as an underlying cause, it's worth questioning any changes at home, in routines, or in a care environment. Examples might include being recently weaned, a new baby at home, moving into a new room in their daycare service, or anything that may feel different for the child.

Suggested response - Try to determine the source of the anxiety. Make use of a comfort item, like your child’s blankie or special toy. It’s a physical reminder of support. Offer soothing activities such as water, sand play, soft music, favourite lullabies and quiet time songs or stories. Consider massage or aromatherapy or basic mindfulness. Keep routines predictable so your child feels safe and secure. Even sketch out a daily plan of your child's day and run through it with them the night before, or during a quiet moment at the start of the day, eg/ breakfast > playgroup with mummy > nanny's house for lunch, etc. This way they’ll know what to expect during their day. 

Imitating

Cause - Babies and toddlers learn by imitating and biting can be a learned behaviour. From around 18 months of age children become very observant. A behaviour they may have witnessed can be saved in their memory and acted upon later (known as deferred imitation).

Suggested response - Ensure that your verbal and non-verbal behaviour is positive, nurturing and appropriate for your child to copy. Use positive behaviour guidance, like distraction, redirection and encouragement. Be equally observant when your child is interacting with other children to note any possible triggers.

Exploration

Cause - Biting is a form of sensory-motor exploration. It can be part of your child's way of exploring the world. Similar to how they’d look, smell, touch and listen. Help them learn about their world. Younger children go through a stage of exploring everything with their mouth.

Suggested response - Provide lots of oral options for exploration – like teething rings and toys. Experiment with food, offer chunks of raw or steamed vegetables (large enough to grasp in little hands, only lightly steamed so they won't disintegrate easily). Temperature is good too - ice cubes are a great sensory treat for young children to bite on and some supermarkets sell teething devices with mesh, allowing smaller children to taste without the fear of choking.

Hunger

Cause - A young child may bite purely because they’re hungry.

Suggested response - Ensure snacks, meals and even water is offered regularly. If you still notice biting behaviour, consider adding a few extra, nutritious snacks into your child’s day.

In summary

It’s always worth remembering that biting can be purely developmental and sometimes it’s something you may have to endure through gritted teeth - with nurturing and positive reinforcement - until your child grows out of it. Seek support from your child’s early childhood service, or your GP if it proves overwhelming. Sometimes all we need is a gentle reminder that certain behaviour is “normal” and likely won’t last forever.

Childcare development

0-12 month development

When can babies have chocolate and does it cause any problems

Author: Rohit Garoo

Everyone loves chocolate! And that is exactly why it can be tempting to give your baby a taste. You just know that a taste will result in a beaming smile and maybe even bellowing laughter. 

However, chocolate is not appropriate for children under the age of 2 years old. Before this age, babies are unable to properly chocolate because their digestive systems do not yet possess the correct mix of enzymes and acids.

Furthermore, most chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. These stimulants are also not advised for consumption at such a young age. The caffeine is especially harmful.

 

Refer to the original article to learn about managing children’s chocolate intake. 

1-2 year development

Choosing the best sleep training method

Author: Cara Birnbaum and Nicole Harris

All expecting parents hear tales of how they will not sleep once their baby is born. However, nothing can truly prepare you for months of midnight wailing.

The article breaks down the publication’s suggests 5 best sleep training methods. While each training method has a proven track record of success, they are not suitable for every family or household.

The fading method may work for patient parents who prefer gentle tactics, while the heavily criticised cry it out method would be more suitable parents who are not as emotionally attached to their children. 

Refer to the original article to learn about the different ways you can help your child sleep through the night.  

2-3 year development

Toddler staph infections

Author: Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Children are most vulnerable to staph infections because their immune systems do not yet operate at full strength. This makes them more vulnerable to the staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly found on human skin.

Staph infections can cause various types of infections. Minor cases will look similar to eczema and can be treated with oral antibiotics. On the other hand, the most severe cases can result in toxic shock syndrome and would require hospitalisation. 

Ultimately, a staph infection will rarely become serious, especially if it is diagnosed and treated early. It is recommended that you visit a doctor if you notice any type of skin rash or skin lesions on your child.

Read on if you want to learn more about staph infections.

3-4 year development

The Best Ways to Clean Car Seats

Author: Christin Perry

While a new car seat glistens and shines, this will not be the cse for very long. Children are inherently messy, possessing the impressive ability to stain any object in under 10 minutes. From juice box stains to unfortunate ‘accidents’, your car seat is in for a wild ride.

Although stain removing power is a major consideration, you need to remember that your child’s skin will come into contact with the car seat regularly. Ultimately, this means that you need to avoid harsh detergents.

Other tips include removing the seat from the car before beginning the clean, as well as refraining from washing the straps or drenching the seat with a hosepipe.

Continue reading for further car seats cleaning tips.

4-5 year development

Biological Factors That Influence Child Development

Author: Douglas Haddad

‘Nature vs. Nurture’. It is an age-old conversation that continues to drive debate among parents, educators and psychologists. While ‘nature’ refers to a child’s genetic makeup, ‘nurture’ refers to a child’s upbringing.

This article specifically dives into biological factors - the way ‘nature’ affects a child’s progression, development and learning paths. The focus is born out of the fact that biological factors are particularly important during the early development stage.

And while gender is the most obvious biological factor, genetic influence, brain chemistry, hormone levels, and nutrition are also analysed.

Refer to the original article to understand how genetics affects development.

Do Girls and Boys Bully Differently?

Author: Sherri Gordon

Despite educators’ best efforts, bullying is still prevalent in almost every school and on almost every playground. Children are bullied every day, however, their experiences vary significantly, often depending on the bully’s gender.

A Closer Look at Male Bullying

When it comes to bullying, boys usually resort to physical bullying. This is not to say boys won’t exclude others, but there is a tendency to resort to physical domination tactics.

Male bullies usually attack other people when they show weakness. Alpha bullies often assemble a group of followers. While the followers are usually looking for acceptance, the bullies use this group to consolidate and assert their dominance.

These bullies are usually more direct, openly speaking about their bullying and enjoying the status that their antisocial behaviour brings. This makes these bullies easier to spot.

Continue reading to learn more about how boys tend to bully.

A Closer Look at Female Bullying

On the other hand, girls tend to use relational aggression. This is not to say that girls won’t be physically aggressive, but there is a tendency to rely on verbal attacks and social exclusion - typical mean-girl behaviour.

Much like boys, female bullies also form groups. However, the hierarchy in these groups is usually more fluid compared to the male equivalents. The ‘leader’ can change regularly.

Girls are more adept at disguising their bullying because of their passive-aggressive tactics. Ultimately, this makes girl-on-girl bullying much more difficult to spot. Educators and parents must be aware of this fact and make an effort to look for this less identifiable form of bullying.

Continue reading to learn more about how girls tend to bully.

Craft Corner

Chemical reaction car

This upcycled car uses science to power itself. With just the most simple household supplies, you need to create a bottle car. Once that is complete, baking soda and vinegar propel your vehicle.

Read on for further instructions

Paper bird flyer

Teach your children about the magic of flight with this paper bird flyer. This craft covers the basic concepts of lift and thrust in a fun and interesting way. Although you will probably enjoy building your flyers, the real fun begins when you start flying them.

Detailed instructions provided here

Origami Crow

This traditional craft is more suitable for slightly older kids or younger children who possess impressive patience and have a fine eye for detail. Using plain black paper, you will need to follow the folding instructions carefully until you are left with a spooky origami crow.

Follow the steps to create your very own crow

Surprise Big Mouth Crocodile

This printable craft is probably the easiest of the bunch, making it suitable for almost all ages. However, despite its relative ease, this craft is still incredibly stimulating. It is a playful and interactive activity that even includes moving parts. 

Refer to the original article for exact directions

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