Sleep Hygiene

This blog post is written by our Health and Wellness intern, Alexa Curtiss. She is a graduate student from Wheelock College pursuing a degree in Child Life.

From difficulty falling asleep at night, to troubles sleeping through the night, even to the emergence of nightmares. There are so many questions regarding a child’s sleep as they develop during the first few years. Because the topic of helping children sleep is so popular, I decided to write about a few suggestions that may help with various sleep troubles. Try out any of these suggestions for a few nights and see how it goes!

  1. Cool, dark, quiet rooms help children sleep.

Cool, dark, and quiet rooms can help children get optimal sleep. Being too warm can cause children to be uncomfortable and therefore cause tossing and turning. This is why a cooler room can help them get better sleep. Too much light in a room while a child is trying to sleep can cause the brain to become stimulated, as if it was daytime, meaning the child might have a hard time sleeping or getting restful sleep. The same goes for noise either in the room or around the room the child is trying to sleep in. A white noise machine can be helpful if there is unavoidable noise outside or nearby. You can set a white noise machine to run quietly to mask some of the extraneous noise. While white noise machines can be very useful, young children’s ears are very vulnerable, so it is recommended to use machines that specify on the product information that they do not exceed 50 dBA (decibels) and to keep the device at least seven feet from the child.

  1. Routines before bedtime.

If your child is having a hard time settling down at bedtime, you can try creating a nightly routine of several things you do in a certain order before bedtime. Having a routine like this can help signal to your child and their brain that it is time to start winding down. An example of a routine could be: bath time, pajamas, brush teeth, read a book, sing a song, lights off, two minutes of rubbing the child’s back while they lay in bed.

  1. Nightmares.

If your child starts having nightmares, first, it is important to know that it is common for children to start to have occasional nightmares especially as they start to have a real sense of imagination but are not yet capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. There are many ways to help your child following a nightmare. One example for helping your child is going into their room if they call out for you. Stay long enough to help them calm down, provide them with a comfort item (favorite stuffed animal, blanket, etc.), and then slowly leave the room. In some cases, it can be helpful to speak to your child about a time in which they feel comfortable with you coming back to check on them, for example, agreeing to come back to check on them in an hour (quietly, so if they are asleep, they are not woken), as this can give them a greater sense of security.

Bring your snacks to Tasty Tuesdays and share your strategies of helping your child get a better sleep!

Put Your Listening Ears On!

canon-1-aug-83When my older son was four, he begged for Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site at bedtime.

When he was five, it was Magic Treehouse.

But now that he’s six and just started first grade, he can read to himself, and there is a new treat he begs for…a science podcast for kids.  Yes, BEGS!  To the point that we have had to negotiate an allowance of two podcasts per week so that we’re still reading most nights.

A little background: I grew up on a farm in the landlocked Midwest and had vivid dreams of marine biology and ocean exploration.  I devoured all books on the subject that I could get my hands on (that list was short).  Now I’m raising kids in a world where we can watch (and have watched!) a documentary about giant squid tracking anytime we want.  A YouTube video of open heart surgery.  An app about human anatomy, or insect identification.  A live cam on the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  An animation of primate evolution or chemical bonding.  Suffice to say this would’ve blown my 6-year-old mind.  The access to science and all its wonders is…limitless. Continue reading

How to Make Transitions Easier

transitionHappy New Year! As we are transitioning into the year of 2016, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about transitions for children.  We see a lot of struggles in transitions in the Museum. Children are having fun, and why would they want to leave?  Although it’s very typical for young children to have a hard time going from one activity to another, especially when they are not ready, it’s also not fun for anyone to watch children kicking and screaming for not wanting to move on. Following are some tips that may help children transition a little easier.  Continue reading

Toys For Your Child’s Healthy Development

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

December is often gift-giving time with all the holidays that occur. Children get excited with all the new toys that they get. But let’s take a moment to think about the toys that we give to our children. There are so many choices in the toy stores, and many boxes claim high educational and developmental value to children. How do you choose toys? What’s considered truly “educational” and “developmentally appropriate”? Do toys make a child a “genius”? Continue reading

Cover Your Cough and Sneeze! How to Teach Kids to Cough/Sneeze into Their Sleeves

cough and sneezeWhen I’m on the floor doing programs and staffing exhibits, it almost seems like everyone is sick as I hear people coughing and sneezing all around the Museum. As the winter approaches, our bodies have to adjust to the temperature changes, and the dry air can make us more susceptible to cold.

It’s important to practice good hygiene skills to prevent getting and spreading the germs that cause colds. The followings are some tips to help children practice coughing and sneezing into their sleeves. You can also learn more about germs and hygiene by coming to “Germ Keep-A-Way Day” on Saturday November 28 at Boston Children’s Museum!

1. Start with modeling and directing.

Little kids cough and sneeze everywhere. Even if it might take some time, it will help your child and you stay healthy if your child learns to cover his cough/sneeze. First, whenever you sneeze or cough, make sure that you are Continue reading

Indigenous Halloween Costumes: Empowering or Problematic?

4046By Sara Tess Neumann and Meghan Evans

Recent issues have arisen with the lack of career costumes available for girls, or the prevalence of sexualized costumes for young children. Empowering costumes are challenging to find and a number of websites recommend dressing in Native American costumes. However, many Indigenous communities disagree. This has been brought to the forefront here at Boston Children’s Museum with the reopening of our exhibit Native Voices. Begun in 2010 and developed with an Indigenous Advisory Board from all of the tribes represented, it became clear that of the many goals of this exhibit the most prominent include dispelling stereotypes, correcting misinformation, and conveying that contemporary tribes continue to revive and evolve their cultural traditions, values, and communities. Continue reading

School Readiness – It Starts at HOME!

IMG_3888School is a big step, even for children who have already spent time in preschool or a child care setting. It usually means meeting lots of new adults, learning new names and faces, becoming familiar with a new building, a new classroom, and a new kind of schedule. Being ready for kindergarten can make all the difference in a child’s introduction and further steps in formal education.

By definition, getting ready for school starts at home. During this time parents, caregivers and families all play a leading role in nurturing a young child’s development. School readiness includes self-help skills such as getting dressed, going to the bathroom, washing your hands; familiarity and comfort with using school tools – scissors, pencils, markers, glue sticks; and social/communication skills like using your words to communicate what you need, taking turns, sharing and getting along with others. Continue reading

Encouraging Creative Development

Encouraging Creative DevelopmentBoston Children’s Museum’s Art Studio is one of my favorite places – and that’s good, because I spend a lot of time there. For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve assisted our Arts Program Educator in program preparation and planning, carrying out workshops, and doing my part to help keep the Studio a place of healthy self-expression. My love of this work has inspired a new undertaking: the pursuit of a Master of Education degree in Elementary Education, with a particular emphasis on the creative arts in learning. Each month, I’ll reflect about an element of my graduate schooling and my job here at BCM through the Museum’s Power of Play blog. For the month of February, I’d like to talk about something I learned in a recent class, on the subject of appropriately supporting a child’s creative development.

Taking each of my daily encounters to heart, I learn so much through simple observation and quick conversations with our visitors. With this experiential education in addition to my formal schooling, I’m beginning to understand just how heavy my feedback may weigh in a child’s mind, for better or for worse. Continue reading

Happy Healthy Halloween!

halloweenAs Halloween season approaches you see fun, festive decorations, images of children dressing up, and a host of scary movies and ads. A lot of children, especially those who are older than preschool-age, spend time choosing their costumes and looking forward to all the yummy candies and other treats they will get. Halloween is fun, and it’s also a good opportunity for us to appreciate children’s development and overall health. Bring your healthy snack to Tasty Tuesday and share your plans for Halloween!

  1. Can Halloween be too scary for kids?

Many children love Halloween right from the start. But some children, especially younger children, can develop fears around Halloween. Children who are preschool age or younger may have a hard time differentiating fantasy from reality. Seeing spooky posters, TV ads, and older kids/adults telling stories can fuel a young child’s imagination and may escalate already existing fears, such as monsters lurking under the bed. This doesn’t mean that you should not participate in Halloween, nor that you should try to block all Halloween-related scary things, which would not be very realistic or even healthy. Continue reading

The Art of Letting Go

Boy ChairI have a confession.  I posted an article in March, 2013 called “The Resiliency Gap”, in which I wrote about our observed increase in the number of children shying away from difficult challenges – particularly from trying and failing, then working through that failure and trying again.  This skill of resiliency, or “stick-to-itiveness”, is imperative for a child’s development, their self-esteem and their ability to solve problems.  But here is my confession…as a dad, I’m terrible at teaching this skill to my child.  I talk a good game, but if my 3 year-old son is struggling with a puzzle, or with figuring out how to dress himself, I find that I am quick to step in and assist.  Too quick, actually.  I hate seeing him frustrated, and I have an innate urge to make his life easy.  This extends to real risk-taking too – if I see him climbing something, I am quick to ask him to climb down, or rush over to assist him for fear that he might fall.  If he is in any situation where there is a remote opportunity for injury, I tend to hover.  And worry.  And hover some more.  But my son continually expresses his desire to “do it myself”, or to test his limits and the physics that govern his movements in ways that, frankly, scare me. Continue reading