Ques­tions And An­swers


Your Baby & Toddler - - Get set for school -


I’m con­cerned about the new germs and bugs my child will be ex­posed to when she starts preschool. She’s al­ways been home with me and rarely gets sick, but I’ve heard from so many peo­ple that crèche syn­drome hits hard and fast. How can I boost her im­mune sys­tem? PAE­DI­A­TRI­CIAN DR PAUL SINCLAIR AN­SWERS: You may not be­lieve it, but I can as­sure you that pick­ing up new “germs” at school is ac­tu­ally the best way of build­ing an im­mune sys­tem. This is be­cause ex­po­sure en­sures that your child’s im­mune sys­tem de­vel­ops the abil­ity to fight more se­ri­ous in­fec­tions.

How­ever, ba­bies that are put into the crèche or nurs­ery school en­vi­ron­ment when they are younger than one year of age, and es­pe­cially those who have other un­der­ly­ing is­sues (such as al­ler­gies), can be­come chron­i­cally ill eas­ily. Re­cur­rent in­fec­tions in the ears, nose, throat, chest and gut is­sues are then a prob­lem.

Good nu­tri­tion is crit­i­cal to help your child de­velop a strong im­mune re­sponse, so make sure she eats a healthy diet full of va­ri­ety. If she’s a poor eater you can sup­ple­ment her diet with en­hanced for­mu­las or vi­ta­min sup­ple­ments, es­pe­cially ones that con­tain zinc, iron and vi­ta­min A, to­gether with a long term pro­bi­otic (whether she eats well or not).

That said, many sup­ple­ments make ex­trav­a­gant claims that they “stop” viruses and “boost” kids dur­ing the early years. They are ex­pen­sive and of­ten chil­dren don’t want to take them. There are very few, if any, stud­ies to show that they do any­thing but make ex­pen­sive urine, so think twice be­fore buy­ing them.

Once your daugh­ter is at preschool, en­cour­age par­ents to keep sick kids at home and do so your­self. Six to eight in­fec­tions a year are the norm in this age group, so don’t panic if she gets sick de­spite your best in­ten­tions. As long as you’re feed­ing your child well and de­worm­ing her at least an­nu­ally, there’s not much to worry about. Ad­di­tion­ally, all those vac­ci­na­tions you took her for will pre­vent the majority of more se­vere ill­nesses such as menin­gi­tis and pneu­mo­nia.


What is the ideal age to start send­ing my tod­dler to preschool?


MA­HER AN­SWERS: There is no hard and fast rule about when a child should start preschool. Much de­pends on their readi­ness to sep­a­rate and be among other chil­dren. How­ever, chil­dren should ide­ally be at­tend­ing some sort of school­ing from the age of three in or­der to pro­vide them with skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties they will need for suc­cess in the fu­ture.

Most preschools ac­cept tod­dlers from the age of two, although this does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that your child is pre­pared to sep­a­rate from you just yet. If your child ex­pe­ri­ences sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety and is still younger than three, then preschool should not be forced.

If your child be­comes over­whelmed by too much stim­u­la­tion it may be bet­ter to ease them into preschool by at­tend­ing for shorter pe­ri­ods of the day, or fewer days of the week. Some com­mon­place preschool ac­tiv­i­ties, such as mu­sic, singing, play­ing and the noise they make, may ex­ac­er­bate a qui­eter child’s anx­i­eties. A smaller preschool with ten chil­dren or fewer is ideal for this child.

Around the age of two to three, chil­dren move from soli­tary play to on­looker or par­al­lel play, both of which in­volve some el­e­ments of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion with other chil­dren. It is im­por­tant for chil­dren of this age to be ex­posed to chil­dren of a sim­i­lar age so that they en­gage with this play. At­tend­ing preschool also of­fers chil­dren the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop fine and gross mo­tor skills by tak­ing part in ac­tiv­i­ties that they may not be able to do at home. Ul­ti­mately though, the an­swer de­pends on your child and your needs.


My tod­dler is start­ing at a new preschool in the new year. We’ve also started potty train­ing him (as the new school in­sists that it be done be­fore he starts), but it’s not go­ing well. Should I force him to potty train or drop the is­sue? CLIN­I­CAL PSY­CHOL­O­GIST CHEVONNE POW­ELL AN­SWERS: In or­der for a child to be fully potty trained he needs to be able to do a lot more than con­trol his blad­der and bowel move­ments. Re­gard­less of what the preschool says, he is only ready to be potty trained if he shows th­ese signs: 1 His age Toi­let train­ing should be con­ducted be­tween 24 and 36 months. 2 In­ter­est Does he want to use the toi­let? This can be seen in his com­ments and gen­eral at­ti­tude to­ward toi­let be­hav­iours. He may also show a dis­like for nap­pies, tak­ing it off or mak­ing a fuss when you want to put one on.

3 Aware­ness Does your child ac­knowl­edge when he has had a blad­der or bowel move­ment? 4 Fo­cus Can he re­main fo­cused on a task for two to five min­utes? It’s also cru­cial to look at the im­pact start­ing preschool has on potty train­ing. Some chil­dren show re­gres­sive be­hav­iours dur­ing stress­ful events, like start­ing school. When this hap­pens some of their toi­let skills may tem­po­rar­ily fall by the way­side.

My con­cern is not nec­es­sar­ily about the ac­tual event of start­ing school though, but rather the pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion that goes along with potty train­ing on a dead­line. The ac­tual process may take sev­eral months and it should not be rushed. If your child has just started the train­ing process you’ll feel pres­sured to have him fully potty trained in time for the new school year. This may re­sult in frus­tra­tion and anger on your part, which will trans­late to your child. You also need to con­sider what the school will do if your child is not fully toi­let trained. My ad­vice is to follow his progress in­di­vid­u­ally, and if he is not ready, hold off preschool un­til he has mas­tered the skill or find a more flex­i­ble preschool that doesn’t have such strict rules.

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