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Biting. No one likes to think about it. The hard truth is that, yes... it is NORMAL and almost every child in a daycare classroom has either attempted it, or done it to another child/staff member. As an Early Childhood Educator I would like to take the opportunity to communicate some of my strategies for dealing with this common issue in my classroom.
First thing to understand is, “Why do children bite?”
Typically toddlers bite for 3 different reasons.
To relieve teething pain- If a child is biting because of teething we are careful to offer more appropriate items for the child to gnaw/bite to relieve their pain. We also take the time to explain to the child’s friends that the toy is to help them with their teeth.
Frustration/anger or intense joy- the key with this one is prediction and redirection. Children that are as young as our Lynx group have not mastered their self control yet, nor do they understand all their emotions yet. It is important to remember that fact when you come to pick up your child and see the incident form waiting to be signed. We all need to have realistic expectations of our toddlers.
Experimental- Sometimes children bite just to see if something happens. They want to see what reaction they will receive. Dealing with this one is not much different than when dealing with an emotional bite.
When diffusing a biting occurrence it is important to comfort the child who was bitten first. Showing attention, even if it is negative, to the biter teaches them that biting gets them immediate attention. Instead, first comfort the child that was bitten. After, turn to the biter, get to their level and use a calm, firm tone to explain, “Biting is not allowed.” Use simple language to describe feelings. “Sarah took your ball. Did you feel angry? You bit Sarah. We do not bite our friends. Teeth are for eating, not biting our friends. That hurt Sarah.” Then show them an appropriate way of dealing with a friend who grabs toys from them.
Language that I try to always use whenever in a “biting situation” is as follows: “Teeth are for eating food, not for biting our friends. That hurts our friend’s bodies!” “Instead of biting, use your words and gentle touches.” Then I would model the language and behavior that I’d prefer the children use. Often the children will want to hug/kiss to show affection/apology. Having a child who bites, or is bitten frequently can be a heartbreaking thing. It is NOT forever and educators in no way hold it against them. We know they are learning about social and physical boundaries every day. Self regulation takes a lot of practice! It is important not to label any children as biters. Negative labels can affect how you view your child and even how they view themselves.
As hard as it is, punishing a biter is not effective. Punishment is not going to help them learn discipline and self control. Instead they get angry, upset or embarrassed. It also undermines the relationship that you/a staff has built with them. In the end prevention is key. Seeing the moments before the bites happen takes practice. Understanding the precursor moments helps parents/educators assist children in managing their actions.
In my experience, biting occurrences happen most often during a transition. [A transition means a time between two activities. IE: diapering/bathroom before lunch, getting dressed before outdoor play] Transitions are some of the most stressful points in our days in school. Everyone is either tired, hungry or needs a staff’s attention RIGHT NOW. Of course, these are the moments when children’s emotions are running high and it makes sense that this is when they would bite. A strategy that has proven effective is to keep group sizes small, take time for each child during transitions and generally slow things down so that each child gets the one on one that they need during these tough periods in the day. For your own peace of mind, talk to your child’s educators. Even better, talk to your child. The issue of biting doesn’t need to be such a feared, whispered about topic.
-Lynx Team Leader, Hayley
After some reflection from our educators in the Lynx Room, we agreed that it would be helpful to us and to the families if we added a few tips and suggestions about assisting and encouraging self-help skills with toddlers.
Potty/Washroom- If your child is interested in the potty or you are increasing your potty-sitting expectations it is VERY helpful if you dress your child in clothing that they can manipulate themselves. Ie: Pull down and pull back up. Overalls, onesies and tight, skinny jeans might look adorable, but they are potty training no-nos. By dressing your child in clothing that they can handle themselves you are empowering them and setting them up for success! The same goes for outdoor apparel. Although our current season makes getting dressed for outside extra tricky, we still take the time to slow down and explain how to get dressed as much as we can. You will be surprised by how well your child can get dressed on their own if you slow down and take your time to get dressed!
Here at the School House we strive to normalize the use of correct anatomical words and break the shame around body parts for our future generations. Multiple times in a day the Educators in the classroom accompany the children to the bathroom to assist in the routine of toileting and diapering. While the children use the potty or are having their diapers changed we use proper anatomical terminology. For example: "Please point your penis down into the potty. Then your pee will go inside, and not spray you or the floor." or "You have a big poop in your diaper. So I'm going to wipe your vulva. I'm just going to separate your labia to get the poop out of there.".
As adults, many of us grew up being shown that these types of words were not OK to say, or maybe not taught them at all, instead being given vague or "cutesy" words. Using proper terms for our bodies empowers children by normalizing all body parts so saying something like "scrotum" is no more strange than saying "elbow". Using this type of correct language will allow children to be clear about their bodies in the future. If issues like allergies, infections, pain or abuse come up for a child during their lifetime, they will be able to be clear about exactly where and what is happening for them. When we use language like "down there" it is not specific and creates an air of mysterious shame around our bodies.
In the classroom we also strive to teach children about consent. Many adults believe that consent is a conversation that should be saved for sexual maturity. But the truth is that consent is something humans learn from birth. As we grow the adults around us teach us about consent and whether our voice is worth being heard. One example of this is how we treat children, especially those who are pre-verbal. We give children warning before we physically move or manipulate their bodies. For example: I will let a child know that I am going to wipe their nose or face with a cloth before I do so. I wait 10 seconds for them to process what I've said, since it can take a young child 10-15 seconds to mentally process what they're hearing. Then I will wipe the child's face. I find that when I take the time to tell a child what will happen before hand they are much less likely to get upset or fight against what is happening. It is respectful to the child. I know that I wouldn't want someone to just come up and put a wet cloth in my face without telling me. Why do we believe children would feel any different?
I will leave you all with one more thought regarding consent. This is a very relevant topic as we enter the holiday season when visits with family and friends are occurring. We have the responsibility to be our child's advocate. Well meaning people in our lives will be exciting to see our child and will ask, or maybe just go, for a hug or a kiss. Support your child's boundaries if their answer is "no". Suggest an alternative. High five? Fist bump? Blow a kiss? Wave? Don't allow another adult's disappointment to rob you of this opportunity to let your child know that you have their back and will make sure their boundaries are respected. Besides if that adult respects your child's "no", chances are, as the day progresses your child will become more comfortable around them and be included in their play or maybe even receive a child-initiated hug or kiss.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions please feel free to talk with me!
Sign language with babies & toddlers! While the concept can be intimidating for many parents, the benefits of learning even a few simple signs with your child outweigh any insecurities you may hold about trying it out. Lynx staff have a series of core signs that they try to use as much as they can with the children. Your child might know a few without you even knowing! If your family already signs at home please share with our team which signs you use so we can continue the practice with your child during their time in daycare!
There are many benefits to children learning sign language at an early age.
Practical- Less fussing, more fun. All of our children are still developing their abilities to communicate with us. Sign language is a stepping stone of communicating and can ease children’s frustrations by providing them a way to say what they’re thinking before they can say it! Parents/children who learn sign language have less moments of frustration throughout the day.
Here are a few to get you started! Ask your Primary which ones they use the most at daycare!
Are you burning out from packing lunches, or do you just want to pack a little variety into your child's lunch? Here are some easy ideas, tried and true from the Lynx Team.
Toddler eating habits. A common anxiety among parents & staff alike. It is School House policy that we do not re-heat any of our children’s lunches. The main reasons for this being that we do not have the means to safely reheat each child’s lunch in a timely manner. Staff would also be required to utilize our kitchen to do so, which would take them out of the classroom at the busiest time of our daily routine. Thus, thermos lunches! Packing a thermos lunch takes a bit of finesse. A quality thermos will come with instructions to pre-heat with hot water, then after preheating you add your piping hot food. The most common mistake when packing a thermos lunch is to add the food when it is at a comfortable eating temp. Food needs to be piping hot, inedible hot, before sealing in a preheated thermos. If the thermos is packed properly there is little to no risk of your child’s food cooling to a ‘danger zone’ temperature after 4-5 hours. In fact, our staff often have to cool thermos lunches for our little ones to eat when it is lunchtime!
Deli Meat Roll-Ups
Think outside the bun! Rolling sliced deli turkey, ham, or roast beef around cheese sticks, cream cheese, and even greens can change the way your kiddos think about lunch meat. Pack with: Veggie crisps, celery (optional sunflower butter filling), cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices. Mix the meats, cheeses and veggies your kids like into plain quinoa and dress lightly with basic vinaigrette. Pack with: mini muffin & choice of seasonal fresh fruit & cubed avocado.
Hummus and Pita Plate
9 out of 10 kids love a good smear of hummus. Why not make it the star of the show? Pack with: sliced cherry tomatoes, snap peas & sliced pepper/carrot sticks.
Mix the meats, cheeses and veggies your kids like into plain quinoa and dress lightly with basic vinaigrette. Pack with: mini muffin & choice of seasonal fresh fruit & cubed avocado.
Simple Cheese, Crackers & Sliced Sausage
Sometimes going simple is the best thing you can do for picky eaters. Finger foods such as this are easy for self feeding practice. Pack with: seasonal fresh fruit, yogurt, or sliced cucumber.
Cold Pasta & Bean Salad
The trick with this one is to pack each thing separately. Do not commit the cardinal sin of combining items! The horror! Canned/rinsed beans & chick peas, cold cooked pasta noodles, chopped peppers/broccoli, cubed tomato & shredded Parmesan cheese. Children can choose to mix them or enjoy these finger foods separately. If you know your child won’t mind combining, add a dash of lemon juice/olive oil dressing to the mix. Pack with: fresh seasonal fruit, unsweetened applesauce &/or boiled egg.
A good rule of thumb when trying to pack a healthy lunch for a child of any age is to make sure their food has at least three colors represented. A beige meal neither looks appetizing, nor it is usually all that nutritious. Also make sure you offer at least a couple choices; however over packing a lunch with too many choices often is overwhelming for our littlest of people.
A popular snack item that I make is breakfast cookies. They are always a little bit different each time, depending on which ingredients we have readily available in the SH Kitchen. These are a fan favourite in the Lynx room among children and staff. I tend not to measure everything precisely. Baking is a science, but as long as you have the basic ingredients needed it doesn't need to be difficult. I know baking is not everyone's forte. I often only have a short amount of time to make snack before I am needed back in the classroom, so these recipes are quick and tasty- but also as nutritious as I can manage while still allowing for enticing taste! They will also always be dairy/egg/nut free, although you can always substitute these items when baking at home. Good luck! -Hayley
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Recipes, guidance strategies, or simply links to important content related to fostering a rich learning environment for your child.
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