Entries by Mark

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Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives – A Rough Guide

Seasonal Allergies in Under-Fives - A Rough Guide

Seasonal allergies: how to recognise symptoms, causes and how to treat them.In our last post all about food allergies, we also briefly touched upon seasonal allergies in young children. Today, we take a closer look at those and explain how to recognise their symptoms, what causes them and perhaps most importantly, how to treat them. Also known as “Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis” and, in the case of pollen allergies, “Hay Fever”, seasonable allergies can be miserable for children affected. It’s therefore important to alleviate any symptoms, or at the very least find workarounds, wherever possible. Doing so will make affected children more comfortable and able to breathe more easily.

What are the Causes of Seasonal Allergies?

As the name suggests, seasonal allergies are more prevalent at certain parts of the year than others, usually being worse during spring, summer and/or autumn. They are caused by an allergic reaction to such things as tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander, Seasonal allergies can be caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites, mould and pet dander.which are present in the air that the child breathes. The child’s immune system treats such allergens as invaders, defensively reacting to them by releasing the protein histamine into the bloodstream as part of its wider physiological response. It is this specific protein that triggers the unwelcome symptoms experienced by the child.

Children can be more prone to seasonal allergies if they have a family history of allergies.

What are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Children?

Itchy ear canals is one less common symptom of a seasonal allergy.The symptoms of seasonal allergy are similar, but not identical, to what we often refer to as having ‘a cold’. The most common symptoms of a seasonal allergy include nasal congestion, a clear, runny nose, an itchy nose, throat and/or roof of the mouth, sneezing and a ‘postnasal drip’ (dripping of mucus from the back of the nasal cavity directly into the throat). The latter can also cause persistent coughing, perhaps accompanied by wheezing and shortness of breath. Although similar to a cold in many respects, the symptoms of seasonal allergy are different in that they do not include a fever, any cough is usually a ‘dry’ one and nasal congestion is clear and watery rather than thick and cloudy as you might expect if the cause was a cold. Another difference is that a seasonal allergy may persist for weeks or even months, unlike a cold, which generally goes within a fortnight or so.

Sometimes seasonal allergy symptoms go on to trigger …

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Food Allergens for Infants – A Rough Guide

Food Allergens for Infants - A Rough Guide

Amongst children aged up to two, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild.We previously looked at the types of food for parents to avoid giving infants and now follow up with a separate post about foods that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in the very young.

Some reactions towards food are also not true allergies, in the scientific sense. For those that are, it’s important to stress that severe allergic reactions (a.k.a. ‘Anaphylaxis’) in infants under one are rare. However such severe reactions should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even amongst children aged up to two, though, the incidence of proven food allergies is only 5% and such reactions are generally mild. Nonetheless, parents, carers and guardians of infants will naturally want to be cautious. Today’s post discusses the food types that most commonly cause allergic reactions and how they can be introduced to infants.

Severe allergic reactions (Anaphylaxis) in infants under one are rare, however such reactions should be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So, what are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? The NHS lists symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, coughing and a blocked or runny nose as possible signs of an allergic reaction. Itchy, red, watery eyes or a red, itchy rash are also possible signs, as are worsening symptoms of eczema or asthma.

The Most Common Food Allergens

According to the NHS, the 8 food types that are most likely to cause allergic reactions are:

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Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it’s Important

Tummy Time for Babies — & Why it's Important

The idea of tummy time is to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles and to improve coordination and motor skills.‘Tummy Time’ is very important for babies and today we take a look at why that is, and what exactly tummy time entails. The NHS defines tummy time as follows:

“Tummy time is time your baby spends on their tummy when they are awake.” (NHS)

The idea behind the activity is a simple but crucial one: to help babies strengthen their neck, core, back, shoulder and arm muscles as well as improving coordination and motor skills. These are important for newborn babies because they have comparatively heavy heads for their size, not much physical strength and poor coordination and motor skills when they’re first born. Tummy time allows them to improve in all these areas. After regular tummy time, they should become more able physically, they’ll gradually become more mobile and, crucially, will be better able to keep themselves safe. You could even argue that tummy time is a survival thing at its core.

Tummy Time Benefits

Tummy time benefits babies in many ways, including …

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A-Z of Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant

The A-Z of Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant

The NHS recommends a significant list of foods that adults should avoid giving babies and young children.It is so important to avoid feeding a baby or toddler anything that could be detrimental to their health. So, once infants are weaning off milk and eating solids, vigilance and care is needed over every food choice. Allergens aside, the NHS recommends a significant list of foods that adults should avoid giving babies and young children. Such foods are on the ‘avoid’ list usually because they contain one or more of the following three ingredients, although there are also others to look out for, as you’ll see.

  1. Too much salt. This is bad for babies’ kidneys, which have not finished developing. It can also raise blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. According to the NHS, babies under 1 should have less than 1g of salt per day and this will usually be achieved through milk intake, so none should be added. Children aged between 1 and 3 should only eat a maximum of 2g of salt per day (0.8g of sodium). For 4 to 6-year-olds it can increase to 3g of salt per day (1.2g of sodium).
  2. The NHS's Food Scanner phone app is available free.Added sugar. Infants do not need this. If added, it may increase instances of tooth decay, unhealthy weight issues, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. With children typically consuming more than twice as much sugar as is recommended, it is a real issue. The NHS’s sugar calculator can help when preparing food for infants, or alternatively use their Food Scanner app to find healthier food choices (click the yellow graphic to download).
  3. Saturated fats. These can raise levels of cholesterol and increase the risk of getting heart disease.

Foods to Avoid Giving Your Infant

In alphabetical order, foods that the NHS warns parents to avoid feeding babies and infants include …

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Baby Banks – Help for Struggling Families

Baby Banks - Help for Struggling Families

Some baby banks even supply pre-loved toys to children of struggling familiesWith the fall-out from ongoing energy increases and costs rapidly rising for food and products, many families are struggling to afford new things for their children. However, real help is at hand in the form of ‘baby banks’. Baby banks are primarily, although not always exclusively, aimed at those who are struggling financially and allow families to obtain anything from baby food to buggies, absolutely free of charge. It’s a little bit like the concept of food banks, when you think about it, and indeed some food banks are now also joining forces with baby banks to supply other essential items to families.

What Baby Banks Can Supply to Families

The growing number of baby banks offers all kinds of free items for families with babies and young children, usually aged up to five although sometimes also significantly older. Items that families can obtain, without charge, include:

  • Nappies and baby wipes

  • Clothes for babies and chiildren
  • Strollers, buggies and prams
  • Moses baskets and small cots
  • Bedding (not for cots)
  • High chairs and floor seats
  • Towels
  • Toys & play equipment

  • Baby food, snacks and formula milk
  • Toiletries for babies and mothers
  • Baby carriers
  • Some car seats (conditions apply)
  • Bibs
  • Clean bottles and sterilisers

N.B. not every baby bank offers …

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Unpaid Parental Leave: Your Right to Extra Time Off

Unpaid Parental Leave: Your Right to Extra Time Off

Occasionally, an unexpected need arises in relation to your child's welfare and you simply have to deal with it.Sometimes it can be almost impossible for working parents to juggle their jobs with complications associated with parenting. Occasionally, an unexpected need arises in relation to your child’s welfare and you simply have to deal with it — even though you’re trying to hold down a job. For this reason, working parents in the UK are protected by law and are entitled to a fairly generous amount of unpaid parental leave from work, without their jobs or employment rights being threatened as a result. While such absence from work is unpaid, time off can be an absolute godsend when your child’s welfare is at stake. Today, we take a look at eligibility and rules around unpaid parental leave for UK parents.

Reasons to Take Unpaid Parental Leave

You may need time off to look at nurseries or pre-schools for your little one.Entitlement to take unpaid parental leave from work comes down to the need to look after the welfare of your child under 18. Some examples may help to illustrate a few of the possible scenarios:

  • Perhaps you can’t arrange alternative childcare for a particular future period. However, this will happen while you’ll be busy at work and, at that point, you also know you’ll have no more annual leave remaining. In such a situation, you simply have to look after them yourself using your unpaid parental leave entitlement. After all, they are very young and cannot simply be left to fend for themselves.
  • Another example would be when you need to take time off with your youngster to go and look at nurseries, pre-schools, schools or even further education settings when it’s nearing time for them to enrol with one. When it’s not possible to do such things outside of working hours, at weekends or during standard annual leave, unpaid parental leave can really come into its own.
  • You may also wish to take unpaid leave from work to ensure your child settles in well at any new childcare or education setting. A week’s grace when they start somewhere new can really help you and your child at such major milestones in your lives.
  • Unpaid parental leave can also be taken for something as simple, though important, as spending some quality time with family. For example, perhaps the child hasn’t spent time with their grandparents in a while and you’d like to pay them a visit as a family. Unpaid parental leave, away from work, can be used for that.

Your Unpaid Parental Leave Entitlement

There are a few, simple rules around entitlement to unpaid parental leave in the UK:

  • You are entitled to take up to …
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20 of Our Favourite Quotes for Parents

20 of Our Favourite Quotes for Parents

Today we put the spotlight on 20 of our favourite quotes for, or about, parents and parenting. Each one of them either inspired, amused or resonated with us in some way — we are parents ourselves. Indeed, if they did not affect us in one of these ways, they simply did not make the list! Some are also quite profound and, we’ll be honest, may stir an emotion or two. If you are a parent too, see if any affect you or register with you in a similar way. Click any quote for a larger view and you can then also scroll through all 20 quotes individually.

These quote images can be shared freely on social media, pinned on Pinterest, bookmarked or linked to it if you found any of them amusing, inspiring or touching.

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20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

20 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Little Ones

It's important that young children are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allowsOutdoor play offers an enormous range of benefits to children, particularly during their early years. It’s therefore important that little ones, in particular, are given ample opportunity to play, learn and explore the many activities that only the outdoors allows — under adult supervision, of course. Outside, they’ll learn new skills and knowledge and will benefit both physically and mentally in ways that perhaps the indoors could never fully allow. So, if you are the parent or guardian of a child in their earliest years, take a look at 20 of the key benefits of outdoor play for little ones.

1. Outdoor Play is Great Fun!

Playing outdoors is generally great fun!We should not overlook the complete obvious — playing outdoors is generally great fun! That’s not a trivial thing and indeed it’s important for children’s wellbeing. After all, fun and games are all an essential part of any happy childhood. There is also no better way for little ones to learn than through play, so giving them the opportunity to play outdoors represents a much wider opportunity than anything they can do inside.

2. A Completely Different Set of Activities & Challenges

Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors.Outdoor play offers a largely different set of games, activities, challenges and exploration opportunities compared to those available indoors. After all, it literally opens up a bigger world for children to experience. With the myriad of different environments available outdoors, whether man-made or natural, there’s simply more to do. So, the potential for a near infinite range of different activities and games is possible outdoors — each of which can teach children something new.

3. A Greater Sense of Adventure

As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure.As well as being a fun place to be, the outdoors will give children a sense of adventure that is harder to replicate indoors. And adventure is all a healthy part of childhood, when you think about it.

4. An Escape from Electronic Screens

Outdoor play is also a very healthy release from spending time in front of electronic screens like TVs, tablets, games and maybe even mobiles if children have them. Studies and a good dose of common sense show that too much screen time is not good for children and getting them outdoors is a great way to go back to basics and enjoy more natural, active play.

5. New Knowledge

Children get to learn so many new things when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors.Along with this bigger world comes greater knowledge, pure and simple. Children will get to learn so many new things, about both themselves and the world, when taking part in the myriad of possible activities outdoors. Whether it’s new knowledge about nature, the elements, materials, places or something else, there is so much knowledge out there to feed their young minds.

6. Outdoor Play Supports the EYFS Curriculum

The varied nature of outdoor play supports the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum in many different ways. This includes support for ‘prime’ and key’ areas including Physical Development, Communication & Language Development, Understanding the World, Personal, Social & Emotional Development and even Mathematics.

7. Outdoor Play Helps Mental Health

Spending time outdoors and fresh air, particularly when surrounded by nature, is known to help the mental health and wellbeing of both children and adults. Study after study …

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Is Your Child a Fussy Eater?

Is Your Child a Fussy Eater?

Today's article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.Is your child a fussy eater? If so, it can be rather frustrating for parents or guardians. It could also lead to a poorly balanced diet, which would be bad from a number of health and wellbeing perspectives. The good news, though, is that there are lots of things that parents can do to potentially cure the problem. Today’s article offers a handy guide to dealing with toddlers and preschoolers who are fussy about food.

Don’t Stress

If they’re in their early years, food fussiness is rather common, so you’re far from alone. When they transition from milk onto solids, everything is new to infants, from tastes to textures — and even colours when you think about it. While some little ones take to the new sensory stimuli with relish, others seem put off initially by many of these new food experiences. After all, most of them will not be as sweet as the milk they’ve been used to. Being wary of new food is perfectly normal too, even instinctive for many. After all, they don’t know what’s good or bad for them at such an early age.

Some Think They Don’t Like it

Another major factor in disliking certain foods is that children often think they don’t like it. That’s common to many children and, indeed, even to some older children. It’s even common for adults to later eat and enjoy foods that they wouldn’t have given the time of day to during childhood, simply based on a misplaced early belief that they didn’t or wouldn’t like it.

Try, Try and Try Food Again

Infants may need to try a new food as many as fifteen times before they accept it.

That, above, is one of the main secrets of encouraging children to accept a particular food i.e. getting them to try, try, … and try it again. It can sometimes take 10 to 15 times before they’ll realise that …

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Microgreens: Fun Food Growing for Under 5s

Microgreens: Fun Food Growing for Under-Fives

Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads and garnishes.In our last post, we featured fun food growing activities for under-fives. Today, as promised, we follow up by explaining how children can grow ‘microgreens’. These are easy, fun and educational for children to grow and indeed food-growing activities have many benefits for little ones. Growing microgreens is an exciting activity that results in hundreds of nutritious baby shoots that children can eat in salads, garnishes, stir fries and more. Growing microgreens is also a nature-based activity for children and one that requires very little space or equipment. It can be accomplished entirely indoors — just a well-lit windowsill will suit.

What Are Microgreens?

First, though, what exactly are microgreens? Also known as micro leaves, they’re the very young shoots of edible plants like herbs and vegetables (more about those later). When young and grown from seeds, these can grow into a thick ‘blanket’ of tiny growing shoots that can be harvested and eaten as food. They’re very tasty, totally natural and extremely nutritious.

Microgreens are great in salads, in sandwiches, or used as garnishes with meat, fish, burgers and pasta.Children will get to enjoy every stage of growing them — from sowing the seeds, watering them, watching them sprout and later snipping off the blanket of shoots ready to use in meals. It’s another great way of teaching children where food comes from and, what’s more, it’s really easy, inexpensive and is faster than growing most other types of plant-based food.

Which Seeds Can be Grown into Microgreens?

Seeds that are suitable for use as microgreens include those for the following herbs, vegetables, root vegetables and leafy greens:

  • Basil for tasty, aromatic leaves — great on pizzas, in salads and perfect for making pesto sauce.
  • Rocket, a peppery and flavoursome addition to any salad or pizza.
  • Coriander with its …