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Kath Dickson Family Centre

Serving, protecting and empowering families since 1975

serving, protecting and empowering families since 1975serving, protecting and empowering families since 1975

Kath Dickson Family Centre Blog

Recognising the signs of illness in young children

Samfya Smith - Thursday, May 11, 2017
It’s a familiar scene for parents of young children. In the early hours of the morning, you’re pacing the floor with a crying baby or toddler, and in desperation you say, ‘If only you could just talk and tell me what’s wrong’.

The early childhood experts at Kath Dickson Family Centre shares some tips for recognising signs and symptoms of illness in young children.

How can you tell whether your child may have come in contract with a virus? Perhaps at the Playgroup a few days ago there was a case of chickenpox? How can you predict that you may all be in for a rough night? There are some common signs that your baby or toddler may be starting to feel unwell.

Usually young children’s behaviour changes when they are feeling unwell. These behavioural changes are the signs that children are not feeling their usual self. These signs could include:
crying more than usual
not wanting to join in play experiences
irritability and whinging
demanding more attention than usual
regressing (behaving as a younger child)

While this is not a comprehensive list, as each child is an individual and will present in different ways, the list could be a good starting point when looking at a child.

Remember that we, as adults, have a good command of language to communicate how we feel. But sometimes we even struggle to describe how we feel, particularly when we are unwell. Imagine if, as a child, you only have a limited amount of words and expressions to convey how you feel. In the instance of babies and toddlers, they may not be able to communicate at all. Therefore, if a child tells you they have “a headache in my tummy”, it does not really clarify where the illness may be in the body.

If the child is displaying some of the above signs we need to look for some physical symptoms that indicate illness. These could include:
loss of appetite
thick, green discharge from the nose
a rash
red and irritated eyes, sometimes with a discharge
pale faeces
dark urine

If a child presents with any of these physical symptoms you need to find out firstly if the child has an elevated temperature (fever). Taking a child’s temperature is always a good first step in determining if a child is ill. However it is only one step. The definition of a fever is an oral (mouth) temperature greater than 37.5oC or an axillary (armpit) temperature greater than 37.5oC. Remember to wash your hands before and after taking the reading and comfort the child during the process as you do not want to become sick as well!

Over 10% of young children between the ages of 2 and 5 years can experience a febrile convulsion when their body temperature rises rapidly. Their little bodies cannot handle the sudden change in body temperature and their brain reacts causing a child to convulse. 

It is important to bring that high temperature down by various methods:
give the child a drink
ensure that they are in a cool area with ventilation
sponge them down with a cool cloth or give a tepid (lukewarm) bath
ensure they do not have any tight or constricting clothing

Continue to check your child’s temperature every half hour to see if any of the above methods are working in reducing the temperature. 

If in doubt always contact your doctor- it is better to be safe than sorry!

If you feel you’d like to know more, the Kath Dickson Institute runs regular First Aid courses that are ideal for parents. The next one-day workshop in Toowoomba is on Saturday 17 June 2017. Other workshops may be available in your area subject to demand. Find out more by calling 07 4633 8400.

Explaining Anzac Day to young children

Samfya Smith - Monday, April 24, 2017

Anzac Day poppiesAnzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It can be a confronting and emotional time for adults, let alone children. Our early childhood experts at Kath Dickson Family Centre offer some advice on how to help young children understand the meaning and importance of the day.

Laying of wreaths, the Last Post, a crowd that goes silent, marches, poems, medals…Anzac Day is full of symbolism, both heartbreaking and inspiring. 

The ceremony and traditions are such an integral part of our culture that it is sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has a shared level of understanding. 

The following are some things you can do to help your children understand the importance of Anzac Day to our culture and sense of community, in a way that is age appropriate.

Plan ahead. Brush up on your own historical knowledge so that you feel more informed and prepared when the questions appear. Have a think about your child and what level of information you want to share with them at this stage.

Keep it honest but simple. It may be enough at this stage just to say, ‘Anzac Day is when we take some time to remember all the brave Australian men and women who fought in wars to keep us safe’.

Share a book. A book about Anzac Day that is specifically aimed at children may make it easier for both of you to start a conversation. Read the story and have a chat afterwards. Ask what they think it all means and don’t forget to ask if they have any questions. With the recent Centenary commemorations, there are plenty of books about the First World War for children. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your local library for some suggestions.

Watch or attend a ceremony. If you feel that your children are ready, by all means take them to a parade or dawn service. You may want to observe them and check in with them to make sure they are coping OK. Be open to the inevitable questions and conversations afterwards. Alternatively you could watch a ceremony on TV.

Hold your own commemoration. If you feel that it may be too overwhelming for your children to attend a public service, you could hold your own ceremony, including a minute’s silence. This roleplay would help to prepare your children for attending in the future, including what behaviour is expected of them.

Start your own traditions. Introduce the concepts of Anzac Day through shared activities, such as cooking and craft. These can become a cherished annual tradition for your family. Make Anzac biscuits together and talk about how they were made by wives and mothers, and sent to soldiers who were away at war. Or you could make poppies together. Explain that we wear red flowers called poppies to show others that we are remembering the people who went to war. 

If your children don’t understand everything this year, that’s fine – it’s a big concept to get your head around. But keep up the traditions and conversations and each year they will understand more.

Find out more about the services offered by Kath Dickson Family Centre at www.kdfc.com.au or by calling 07 4633 8400.

Traditional Anzac biscuit recipe

1 cup each of plain flour, sugar, rolled oats and coconut
125g butter
1 Tbs golden syrup
2 Tbs boiling water
1 tsp bicarbonate soda

Preheat oven to 180oC.
Combine dry ingredients.
Melt together butter and golden syrup.
Combine water and bicarb soda, and add to butter mixture.
Mix butter mixture and dry ingredients.
Drop teaspoons of mixture onto a greased biscuit tray.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
Cool on a tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Avoiding the homework battle

- Thursday, April 20, 2017
The school day is over, the children are home and you brace yourself for the daily arguments over homework. 

It’s a familiar complaint from families, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some practical strategies for minimising the tensions and reclaiming family harmony as we enter Term 2.

Parents often feel it’s their job to get their kids to do well in school. Naturally, you might get anxious about this responsibility as a parent. You might also get nervous about your children succeeding in life, and homework often becomes the focus of that concern. 

We all know that getting your children to do their homework can be challenging. But think of it as a process for setting up good work habits for the future, encouraging children to take responsibility for their learning and becoming independent thinkers. By taking an interest in what your child is learning at school, it shows the children that parents and teachers work together to maximise learning opportunities. 

Here are some good strategies to set your child up for success: 

Have a homework friendly area. This is a space that is clear of clutter, is well lit, away from the TV and interrupting siblings and is well resourced with pencils, paper, a sharpener and an eraser. 

Try to do it the same time each day. If your child has no homework from school on a particular day, homework time can be spent going through spelling words, working on some maths problems or reading a book. Establishing a homework routine is important. 

Motivate rather than monitor. Show an interest and ask your children about their homework. Motivate them with praise. As tempting as it can be, don’t give the answers. Offer help and support only when they need it. Check the work when they are finished.

Focus on what they do well. Try to ensure that you’re not just focussing on the areas that they have difficulties with. It is about the effort they are putting in, not just the outcome. And remember not to step in and do the work yourself.

Only help while it is enjoyable for you both. If you can feel yourself getting anxious or frustrated, it is time to walk away. Make an excuse that you need to do something and make a dignified retreat before you get locked into a battle. 

Set a good example. If your evening routine allows it, use homework time to sit alongside your children to read a book or answer emails. 

Teach your children to self correct. You don’t need to send them to school with their homework all correct. It is alright for them to get answers wrong. At least then teachers will know what their skill level actually is and help them to improve.

Focus on the basics. Reading, spelling and maths are the most important things to practice at home. Even reading aloud to children three times a week makes a massive difference to their reading ability. Practicing spelling is as easy as ‘Look, Cover, Write and Check’ a few nights per week. 

Ultimately you don’t want homework to ever be a conflict and undermine your relationship with your child. If you have questions or queries about homework you should see your child’s class teacher and talk about strategies specific to your child. 

Find out more about the services offered by Kath Dickson Family Centre at www.kdfc.com.au or by calling 07 4633 8400.

Family car trip: are you game?

- Monday, April 10, 2017
Family car tripAre you looking forward to the holidays, but dreading that famous four-word phrase “Are we there yet?”…. Travelling with children is enough to raise the blood pressure of even the calmest parents.

There are loads of ‘Apps’ you can download onto your phone or iPad that can keep the littlies entertained, but if you don’t want them attached to screens the whole time here are a few popular, fun travel games. Remember you can be creative and ‘bend’ the rules to suit the age and interests of the children. 

1. I Spy. I’m sure you all remember this one from your youth. Adapt for younger children by using colours instead of letters. For example, “I spy something green”. 

2. Bingo. This fun game combines bingo with a scavenger hunt. Give each child a flat surface, such as a clipboard or hardcover book, to put on his or her lap. Each player gets bingo card and a zip-lock bag with 16 buttons. When a player spies an item on his card, he covers the picture with a button. Just like in regular bingo, the first player to cover all the squares in a straight line wins. You can download picture bingo cards from many websites. 

3. License Plate Game. Make phrases with the car registration numbers e.g. WWW 265 could be Weird Wooly Wombats.

4. Noughts and Crosses. Another childhood favourite that can keep the children going for ages and only pencil and paper required. 

5. I’m Going on a Picnic. This alphabet-based memory game is great for kids 5 and up. You don’t need a game board or any materials. The game can be played with as few as two players, but it’s more fun when the whole family joins in. The first player says “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing...” followed by something that begins with A, such as apples. The second player repeats what the first person said, but adds something that begins with B. So she might say “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing apples and bananas.” And so on with C, D, and the rest of the alphabet. If someone forgets an item, she is out. To be fair, feel free to be lenient and give hints to younger players. The last player to be able to recite all the items on the list wins.

6. 20 Questions. This easy-peasy game is great for younger kids, thanks to its straightforward rules. Player One thinks of a person, place or thing. Everyone else takes turns asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. After each answer, the questioner gets one guess. Play continues until a player guesses correctly.

7. A good old sing along.  Nothing beats the joyful sound of children embracing an opportunity to exercise their vocal cords. 

8. The Windmill Game. Ask the children to spot and count the windmills you pass. The child who counts the most windmills by the time you reach your destination wins! Obviously you can adapt this game for a country or city drive. 

We wish everyone a safe and happy Easter. 

Please travel safe on our roads and enjoy your holiday! 

Books will never be old-fashioned

Samfya Smith - Saturday, March 18, 2017
Reading to childrenWith all our 21st century technology such as smart phones, tablets and 24 hour children’s television it’s easy to think that reading stories and nursery rhymes to your child is old fashioned and outmoded. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s the interactive and hands on experiences children have with their parents and other important adults in their life that best supports their development. 

Given that 50% of our language is learned by three years of age, the importance of reading with your children cannot be emphasised enough. By reading aloud to your young ones for just 10 minutes a day you are not only developing their language skills but also their social and cognitive development and overall well being.

Not sure where to start? Try some of these tips.

1. Have books available
Have a variety of books that suits your child’s age and have them were they can get to them. While you may have a few special books that your child can only have under adult supervision make sure you have plenty available for them to look at whenever they want.  Don’t be afraid that the books will get tattered and worn – that’s a sign they are well loved.

2. Have a reading routine with your child
Choose a time and place that best suits your family. It could be the last activity at night while snuggled up in bed or it could be in the middle of the day at the park. What is important is that it suits your family, you are both comfortable and there are no distractions such as a television or radio on in the background.

3. Make it fun and interactive
Become the characters. Use different voices and expressions. You may even like to get adventurous and use some puppets. If you can, try and relate the story to your child’s experiences and ask questions such as ‘what do you think will happen next?’ and ‘How do you think they are feeling?”

4. Look at the pictures
There can be lots to explore in a picture and it can give another exciting dimension to the story.

5. Be prepared for repetition
Repetition is how children learn so be prepared to read the same story over again and again. It may be driving you crazy but it’s actually helping your child’s development.

6. Read everything
Let your children read the recipe you are using to make dinner tonight. Let them see your shopping list or newspaper. Read the street signs out to them.  This way your child can see how important reading is in everyday life.

7. Let your children see you read
You are your child’s most important teacher and role model so if they can see you reading and enjoying it then they are more likely to want to read themselves.

Still wanting a bit of support?

Come along to one of our Kath Dickson Family Centre playgroups and see us in action with story telling and singing in a fun environment. Our staff would be only too happy to talk to you and help you feel comfortable with a reading routine with your child. 

How to inspire wonderful childhoods

- Monday, March 13, 2017
Child climbing a treeClimbing trees, building forts and riding your bike until dark are almost a thing of the past, with the vast majority of kids now spending more time playing indoors.

More than 40 early childhood educators were challenged to consider the implication of this shift indoors during a recent professional development seminar on ‘Risk Rich Environments’, organised by the Kath Dickson Family Centre. 

Experienced educator, Cathy Cahill from Family Day Care Association Queensland, opened the engaging session by asking her colleagues to reflect on their own childhoods and how our attitudes towards risk have changed significantly in one generation.

“There has been a huge shift our approach to risk,” Cathy explained. “Risk was just a part of daily life when I started in childcare – there was real grass, kids played with water and rocks. Now swings have been taken out of playgrounds and trees have been cut down.”

The mother of three said children need to encounter some real risks so they can respond positively to challenging situation and learn how to deal with uncertainty. 

“Children need to learn how to accept responsibility, build risk management strategies and develop a respect for danger, hazards and experimentation,” Cathy explained.

“Playing outside makes kids happier, healthier and smarter – they need free time, play time, exploring time and quiet time. How do we enable children to reflect and create secret places?”

The well-documented Swedish approach to risk and play was also hotly discussed, with Cathy sharing stories from European childcare centres.

“There is a German kindergarten where you can drop your child at one coordinate and they have to hike, with their own backpack, to another coordinate to start their day,” Cathy said.

“In places like Norway and Sweden, where it snows, kids play outside all year round.”

This contrasts starkly with Australia, with a Planet Ark (2013) study finding that 13% kids now spend more time playing outdoors than indoors. Watching TV, video games, lack of supervision and homework were other barriers to outside activity.

“Crime and safety concerns are keeping children indoors – that fear of who is out there and keeping children safe,” Cathy explained. “But there is no evidence to say that children are more likely to be kidnapped than they were a generation ago.”

Cathy referred to author of “Barefoot and Balanced”, Angela Hanscom, and one of the United Kingdom’s leading thinkers on childhood, Tim Gill, during her presentation.

“I highly recommend their books to parents who are wanting learn more about the importance of playing outdoors and taking risks,” Cathy said.

“Angela is an occupational therapist and mother who promotes the sensory benefit of unrestricted outdoor play and Tim believes that it is natural and healthy for children to take risks, make mistakes, have everyday adventures and test themselves and their boundaries,” Cathy said.

The session ended with educators examining photographs of children playing in potentially risky, outdoor activities.

“When you look at these photographs I want you to examine the perceived risks, but also the benefits,” Cathy said.

“We as educators need to be aware of the National Quality Standard we sit under, but we also need to be able to look at the risk/benefit of a situation, rather than just focusing on the risks.”

Benefits of outdoor play include hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, balance, problem solving, strong gross-motor skills and creative thinking.

“The benefits of exploration are enormous and, as educators, we need to value those risks and ask yourself, ‘How are you inspiring wonderful childhoods?’” Cathy said.

Kath Dickson Family Centre runs regular professional development sessions for early childhood educators and parents. 

Help your child prepare for school

- Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Kate MasonParents can learn how to best prepare their children for school, during a free information afternoon at the Kath Dickson Education and Care Centre next Tuesday. 

Newly appointed Director of the Centre, Kate Mason, said the event will focus on how the Kath Dickson Education & Care Centre Kindergarten program is a high-quality early learning program delivered the year before a child starts school.

“We will focus on the importance on just how much this year is a crucial year where children are equipped with the vital skills needed for school and life success”, Kate said. 

“The Kindergarten program helps children develop foundation literacy and numeracy skills and supports their social and emotional wellbeing  – preparing them for a successful transition to school. 

“We will continue partner with local schools to help tailor our delivery of service to support each individual child to transition smoothly.”

A passionate childhood educator, Kate has 13 years’ experience in the childcare sector.

“When I left school I travelled overseas for a while and when I returned I was looking for work that inspires me,” Kate explained.

“I realised that is children – I have a real passion for promoting lifelong learning and an interest in childhood development.”

As a mother of three children, Kate is also passionate about play-based learning.

“The importance of play is so fundamental to support children later in life – supporting children through spontaneous, structured and play-based programs, while recognising children’s individual learning styles,” Kate said.

With one of the largest playgrounds in the local area, the Kate Dickson Education and Care Centre offers a sensory, physical and play-based approach to early learning.

“We often say the parents are the first teacher, the educators the second and the natural environment is the third,” Kate said.

“Children should be given the opportunity to learn through investigation, discovery, exploration and following their own natural enquiry. And we see our role in supporting their second educators – helping parents to help their child grow and develop.”
WHAT: Kindergarten Information Night 
WHERE: Kath Dickson Education and Care Centre (Crn Bridge and Gladstone Streets) 
WHEN: Thursday 21 February 2017, 4-5pm