Clingy infant, unsettled newborn or tantruming toddler? Here’s all the answers for parents from our expert

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Are you concerned about your child’s sleep, development or behaviour? You’ve come to the right place. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions parents ask during the first few years.

Last week we were joined by paediatrician Dr Katie Heathershaw for a live Facebook Chat hosted by Fisher-Price where our readers were invited to ask Dr Katie questions regarding their children’s development. If you happened to miss out or are after a recap, then check out the top questions regarding milestones, play, tantrums, separation anxiety, behavioural concerns, sleep, settling and more.

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Development and play

Q. What kind of games should we be doing with our 10-month-old to help her development? We do peek-a-boo, sing songs, read books but she gets bored very quickly. She does love her toys but I am just after some different suggestions for play.

A. If your little one gets bored, put some toys away for a while and bring them out after a few weeks. Or, perhaps do some swapping with your mothers’ group and rotate different toys.

Q. How much time should I let my three-year old spend watching TV? She loves Play School but I’m worried she’s watching it too much.

A. Recommended TV or screen time is none under the age of three and limited for preschoolers (30 minutes or less per day). The concern with TV is that it’s passive, non-interactive entertainment. To make it more interactive, watch with her so you can respond to her about what she’s seeing and hearing.

Q. My baby is just shy of six-months-old. I try and ensure that he gets to listen to different languages each morning, gets a book or two read to him, and we sing and do our ABCs. My mother is worried that this is too much structure for a baby. What do you think? Do you have any recommendations on levels of play suitable for babies?

A. It sounds like you are doing a great job. Don’t forget the joy of free unstructured play as well – the importance of this is letting your baby take the lead in play and responding to him. Check out the Fisher-Price Play IQ website for more information about milestones, your baby’s play persona, and different activities to introduce at different ages.

Q. I’m concerned about my daughter’s language skills. We speak two languages and she seems to understand but she still isn’t speaking much. Do you think I should increase her kindergarten days to help with communication with others? At home all she wants is Peppa Pig on TV which I am trying to avoid. 

A. It sounds like you are on the right track with limiting her time in front of the screen and having her spend some time with other kids her own age. Bilingual children can sometimes be a little slower to talk, but have the wonderful gift of two languages. When she’s home with you encourage imaginative play and language skills by introducing toys like the Fisher-Price Little People Range. These kinds of toys can be a great prop to encourage imagination and language while you play and make up stories together.

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Tantrums and behavioural concerns

Q. My 10-month-old is extremely clingy – to the point of working herself into such a state that she is gasping for air if I so much as leave the room to go to the toilet. I have been told by friends that I should put her into child care and give her some time away from me but I’m worried that this might make her even more anxious.

A. Separation anxiety is very common and peaks at about nine months, so hopefully things will start to improve. Follow your instincts. Generally putting a child into child care when they are at the peak of their separation anxiety is destined for disaster! Try telling her each time you are leaving, even for a few seconds, and explain, “I’ll be back in a minute.” Don’t try to sneak out. Gradually try to leave for more time, and perhaps leave her with her dad or another trusted relative for short, then longer periods. It will get easier. 

Q. What’s the best way to discipline a 22-month-old? If my son is doing something naughty when I tell him, ‘No’ he laughs at me. Is it too early for a naughty corner? 

A. I am not a big fan of the naughty corner (or even the word naughty for that matter)! Positive always works better than negative. Try to tell him what you want him to do, not what you want him not to do. Then praise, encourage and reward.

Q. I have a very dramatic two-and-a-half-year-old who throws tantrums and screams. Please, how do I get her to stop? I’ve tried a light smack, time out and ignoring her. She has gotten worse since the new baby, who is now six-months-old, was born.

A. Tantrums are common in toddlers as they are still learning to manage their emotions and often do not yet have the language skills to ‘use their words’. Try to identify the triggers, or what situations tend to lead to tantrums. Amp up the praise and rewards, such as a sticker or stamp on her hand, for positive behaviour and try to minimise attention for tantrum behaviour. 

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Sleep and settling

Q. My four-week-old is a great sleeper at night but very unsettled during the day. We started using a swing during the day and now she sleeps beautifully. But how long can I leave her swinging?

A. If she is in an infant swing, she is comfortable and you are supervising her, then that sounds like a good solution to an unsettled baby. Usually babies become more settled around three months onwards which would be a good time to try to get her settling in her cot or bassinet. 

Q. My nine-month-old is still waking up one to three times a night and will only settle when I feed him. It is getting harder to put him down in a cot – he tends to wake straight back up. Help! 

A. Sometimes when babies are fed to sleep they can develop a parent dependent sleep association that can then result in frequent night time waking. To manage this problem you will need to work on helping your baby learn to self-settle to sleep, which means working on feeding bub while he is still awake and putting him down sleepy, but not asleep.

Q. My two-year-old will not stay in bed, screams and screams at the door at bedtime and wakes up a lot at night. She will only day sleep at child care or out in the lounge room. We have tried routines, sitting in close proximity and controlled crying. Nothing is working!

A. I would often start to use a behavioural approach with this age group, with a pre-bedtime routine sticker chart, and a reward in the morning for staying in bed.

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Thanks so much to Dr Katie and Fisher-Price for answering these questions from our Babyologists. Every child is different when it comes to sleep, development and behaviour but knowing you are on the right track, regardless of where your child is, can be reassuring, rewarding and comforting. We hope these answers are helpful and want to thank all of our readers who participated in the chat.

Keep on track of your child’s development with our ways to help your children reach their milestones, find out how your child learns and reacts to surroundings with the Fisher-Price Play IQ quiz and discover ways to better connect with your children through every day play.

(This is a sponsored post for Fisher-Price)

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