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Essential Child Spring Issue 2010 Editor Sarah Rogers Early Childhood Consultant Pauline Pryor Layout & Design Sam Pryor Contributing Writers Dr Nicola Holmes Ann Crane Sue Dengate Jodie Smith Jaime Bates Robin Lehman Advertising enquiries: Sarah Rogers, phone 0410 338 201 Contact: phone 02 6656 2109 fax 02 6656 2131 PO Box 1587, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2450 ABN: 47 491 617 953 Essential Child is published four times a year by Essential Child. No other parties or individuals have any financial interest in this magazine. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher. Content within this magazine is information only and not necessarily the views of the editor. It does not purport to be a substitute for professional health and parenting advice. Readers are advised to seek a doctor for all medical and health matters. The publisher and authors do not accept any liability whatsoever in respect of an action taken by readers in reliance on the recommendations set out in this magazine. All reasonable efforts have been made to trace copyright holders.

Inside this issue:

Editor’s letter.

2 Letters to the Editor

ere at Essential Child, spring is the time of year when we truly love living on the Coast. Time to get outdoors and start enjoying everything this beautiful part of the world has to offer. Eating meals out on the veranda, beach BBQs, whale watching, bushwalking – we feel really lucky to have all of this and more at our doorstep.

Out of the mouths of babes

Handy Hints

3 We Love... Amber Teething Necklaces & Playsilks 4 Finding the road out of Post Natal Depression. Dr Nicola Holmes points the way 6 Birthday Parties

Additive-free party food

8 Into the mouths of babes. Sue Dengate looks at the effects of food on children’s behaviour 9 Soap Box Hands up who wants to be a preschool teacher?! 10 Skills For School Ann Crane looks at preparation for school from an Occupational Therapy perspective 11 Tooth Erosion in children & teenagers 13 Deborah Abela’s new novel sees kids combating climate change


Spring is a time to relax, as the children run free on the beach or in the park, no longer stuck indoors on winter days. With relaxation in mind, be sure to check out our party special on page 6. We bring you some tips on hosting stress-free children’s parties, along with some fantastic party food ideas and a giveaway of the must-have book “Let’s Party: Additive Free” by Melanie Avery. On the topic of food, Coffs Harbour author Sue Dengate shares with us some eye-opening information on the effects of food on children’s behaviour. You may be very surprised to learn that it’s not just artificial additives and sugar that can have an impact on your child’s behaviour and health. Another expert guest writer, Dr Nicola Holmes, offers valuable information on post-natal depression. With as many as one in three mothers experiencing depression at some time, Nicola says it’s vital that help be sought. She tells us the signs to look out for and where to turn if we or anyone we know is experiencing depression. So find a hammock and relax with Essential Child in the sunshine. And please continue to support those wonderful local businesses who advertise with us. Without them, we couldn’t bring you all of this fantastic content. Happy reading. Sarah x

Book Review Cat and Fish essential child


Letters to the editor Next issue’s featured letter will win a copy of local author Sue Dengate’s book “Fed Up”, RRP $26.50. Be sure to read Sue’s article in this issue on page 8.

Featured letter Talking Hands I was interested to read your article about baby signing. I used signing with my son when he was three. He’d had lots of ear infections and wasn’t talking clearly. Through my son’s preschool I did a course run by Early Intervention called ‘Talking Hands’ and used this with my boy for about twelve months. I was amazed at how it helped. It seemed to take the pressure off him because he could let me know what he wanted using the signs. And once he was more relaxed his speech improved very quickly. It took a while to convince some family members that the signing was a good idea. They thought he might rely on the signs instead of talking. But I kept going and I’m so glad I did. My boy is at school now and doing well. Helen Simms, Coffs Harbour Thank you for sharing your experience. A beautiful Super Bunny from Orange twiglet supplied by Gecoz, Bellingen is on its way.

A Queensland Fan

Walker Out! Trolley In! I am the mother of a 9 month old son and your article about the safety of baby walkers was quite revealing. We were considering buying a baby walker for our son who has just started to walk around holding onto furniture, thinking it a must have like the article stated. I had never thought about the safety of the eqiuipment, but after reading the article these concerns are obvious to me now. However the information that it could hinder his developing skills was a shock. Why are these products even available? In the least there should be a warning attached listing the dangers. I will definitely discourage my friends from purchasing these products and buy a push trolley for my son instead! Thanks EC, it’s great to read such an informative magazine that also saves us money. Liz Henley, South West Rocks

My 4yr old son is an only child. My partner and I have talked about having another child. When my partner asked my son if he would like a little brother or sister he replied, “I will get my own”. Bonny, Bellingen. Bonny wins a set of Crayola Markers Two preschoolers were building with blocks. When one announced that he was going to knock his building down, his playmate asked him “Are you going to recycle it?” PJP After watching me apply lipstick in the bathroom, and start to leave, my four-year-old granddaughter said “Grandma, you forgot to kiss the toilet paper good-bye!” Maureen, Bonville

Handy Hints Use an A3 size blank paged art book for your child’s drawings. It keeps the drawings altogether and shows the progression of their skills over time.

Freeze large squares of fresh fruit (watermelon, strawberries, kiwifruit) onto ice block sticks for a healthy Summer treat!

Vicki, Woolgoolga

Amanda, Hervey Bay (Qld)

Taking 3 school aged children to the movies can be very expensive! Instead we have movie nights at home during school holidays with a rented DVD. During the day the children design a popcorn bag using a brown paper lunch bag and use their drink bottles for refreshments.

Dear EC, we love the mag! We were recently on holiday in Brisbane visiting family and went to one of the pre loved baby markets mentioned in your “We Love...” article in the last issue. We bought lots of clothes including Bonds, Pumpkin patch and The Gap, all in great condition and everything was $2-$4. Our area needs a market like this!

s” mouths of babe ild’s “out of the ayons! Cr a ol ay Send in your ch Cr of t se chance to win a ur yo r fo s rie sto letters@essential

My daughter (18 mnths) has a favourite teddy she likes to take to bed. We bought another, exactly the same and can now regularly wash them both. She enjoys putting them in the dirty clothes basket and hanging them out on the line.

I recently visited Coffs Harbour for a family holiday and picked up a copy of your magazine. It’s a fantastic publication that presents parenting information in such a user friendly format - reliable, clear, concise and free! Congratulations and keep up the great work.

Baby Markets

Out of the mouths of babes

A good book is a great gift idea, add a soft toy or a puppet to go with the book to make an extra special present, such as a teddy bear given with “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. Lucy, Bonville

Jess & Daniel, Coffs Harbour

We knew our first child was going to be a girl but still tried to buy some unisex clothes. Our second child happened to be a boy and we already had lots of jumpers, singlets, socks and t-shirts that our son could wear. It saved us a lot of money! Place framed photos of your family in view of your child’s cot/bed. I found it difficult to get our daughter to go to sleep on her own after 12 months of rocking, patting and sitting in her room. She has been going to sleep happily by herself for the past nine months. I can hear her saying each family members’ name which is of great comfort to her as she goes to sleep on her own. Steph, Grafton For these 4 great tips Steph has won a set of Crayola Junior Triangular Pencils!

Katherine & Jack, Macksville


essential child

Next issue we have another set of Crayola Junior Triangular Pencils to give away to our favourite hint.

Simple & versatile playsilks!

We love...

Amber Teething Necklaces


t seems every second child at my sons day care centre is now wearing one of these surfy looking stone necklaces – what are they and do they work?


ere at Essential Child, we absolutely love these playsilks from Silk Playground.

I didn’t discover the Amber Teething Necklace until my son was about 18 months old. His 2 year old molars were coming through and giving him a lot of grief. He had a runny nose, a teething rash around his mouth and he was drooling like a St Bernard.

They are large, colourful, shimmery silk scarves that can be anything a child wants them to be - a swimming pool, a fairy skirt, a meadow of grass or a superhero cape. They are a versatile, open-ended toy that encourages creativity and develops a child’s imagination.

I prefer not to give my children over the counter drugs where possible, particularly with something like teething which can go on for months and months so after a couple of nights of dosing my son up on Panadol I remember googling teething remedies on the internet to see what else was available. I stumbled across a website selling baby amber teething necklaces. Initially I thought it was something they chewed on to get relief from the pain – but this is a common misconception. Teething necklaces actually work when the beads of the necklace warm against the skin, releasing the ambers therapeutic properties safely and naturally into the bloodstream. After looking into the benefits of amber I discovered that it had been used for centuries in Europe as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever for teething babies. It sounded remotely promising and that was good enough for me. I ended up purchasing one and putting it on my son. I’m still amazed to this day that within two days his teething symptoms had completely disappeared. No runny nose, no rash and no more drool! I kept it on him 24 hours and day, 7 days a week. Bedtime, bathtime – he always wore it and because it sits underneath his clothes he very rarely touched it or tried putting it in his mouth.

Agoo Comp Winners! Oops! The winners of our Agoo give-away from the Autumn Essential Child did not appear in the Winter issue. Thanks to everyone who entered. The following winners have received their t-shirts. Kerry Greyling, Coffs Harbour; S Atkinson, Moonee Beach; Jane Donovan, Nambucca Heads; Renee Hall, Bellingen; Megan Baxter, Boambee East.

To view their range of playsilks and illustrated play ideas, visit We have one pack of six Playsilks to give away to an Essential Child reader. I must admit I got a lot of very odd looks from strangers who often asked why my son was wearing a necklace. Dash is now 2 ½ years and he still wears his teething necklace. His nan believes he gets a lot less colds and runny noses than he used to. All I know is that it worked for me and I’ve spoken to countless parents since who wouldn’t do without one for their own baby or toddler.

Just write in to: or PO Box 1587, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2450 to tell us how you think your child might use them and we’ll enter you into the draw. Closes 31 October 2010.

Jaime Bates, Baby Bella


Caterpillar House Occasional Child Care Supporting families with young children since 1981 • 0-5 years • Teacher & Trained Staff • We welcome all! Funding support from NSW Community Services and DEEWR

6651 2377 205 Harbour Drv Coffs Harbour essential child


Finding the road out of Post Natal Depression. Dr Nicola Holmes points the way F

ollowing the birth of a child, many mothers – as many as one in three – experience post natal depression (PND) at some time. The symptoms of PND include: • Exhaustion • Loss of interest in activities (e.g. Not wanting to spend time with their baby) • Loss of motivation to do things (e.g. Coffee with friends, shopping, walking out with baby) • Loss of enjoyment in activities (reading, hobbies etc) • Crying easily and being upset or irritated by little things • Lots of negative thoughts (e.g. I’m a hopeless mother) • Problems with simple decision making activities (which jar of honey to buy, what to wear etc) • Problems with short term memory and concentration. In more severe cases people can find their appetite can be affected (increased or decreased), they may have trouble sleeping well (outside of normal baby waking) and feel that life is pointless, or have thoughts of suicide or harming their baby. With “baby blues” some of these symptoms occur, in a fleeting fashion, but with post natal depression they persist for more than a few weeks. For mums who do not seek treatment,

Home Based childcare! • A safe, secure and stimulating home environment with small groups of up to five children. • Flexible hours matched to individual family needs. • Your child benefits by having the same carer, every day. • Mixed ages create a unique learning environment


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PND often resolves within six to twelve months. However, a year is a very long time to feel miserable. In what should be a very positive and rewarding time of life, a mother suffering PND is unlikely to enjoy her time with her child and bonding can be difficult. Certainly there is good evidence that untreated PND can cause lifelong harm to a child, both on development of character and later attachments and relationships in life.

Ph: 6652 7819 ‘The Cottage’ 2 Peterson Rd, Coffs Harbour Email: Accredited by NCAC, licensed by Departments of Community Services, with qualified staff supporting carers and children.

The medical profession does not yet fully understand why depression occurs, or what exactly is happening at a cellular level in people’s brains. What we do understand though is that depression is often experienced at times of hormonal changes such as adolescence, the postnatal period and menopause, and that people with depression do not have enough of a chemical in their brain called serotonin. Serotonin acts a bit like a traffic light, though instead of

regulating the flow of cars on the city streets, serotonin regulates the flow of messages in our brain as they travel through junctions between nerves. Without serotonin, our brains function a bit like a city without traffic lights, a lot slower and less effectively. There are several methods well known to increase serotonin in our brains. The first is free and has lots of other health benefits: exercise. Doing just 20 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate five days a week has been shown to be almost as effective as antidepressants in reducing symptoms of depression. This is a great treatment for mothers, as walking with their baby in the pram can help weight loss, fitness and mood, as well as baby’s wellbeing. Eating breakfast in the sun has also been shown to improve people’s energy levels and aid sleep at night. Early morning sunlight helps regulate the hormonal rhythms of our body that tell us when to be asleep and when to be awake. This is especially important in mothers who may have to get up many times overnight. Psychologists have an important role in treating depression as well. I describe them as the RTA (Road Traffic Authority). Their job involves building new roads and freeways in the thinking patterns of our minds, and helping to put detours around unhelpful thinking patterns that are well worn tracks of habit. Many of our thinking patterns are purely habitual, and do not represent reality at all. Psychologists can teach us to be aware of, challenge, change and control our thoughts, which in the end will change our feelings and emotions. In general it will take a few sessions with a psychologist, and then some months of practice to be able to change the way we think and interpret the world around us, but the rewards are great.

The government now rebates up to 18 psychologist visits in a calendar year, when you are referred by your local doctor. Many psychologists in the Coffs Harbour area have no gap fee so their services are essentially free. Several local psychologists have particular interest and expertise in post natal depression. There is also a free post natal depression support group in Coffs Harbour and Burnside also runs general support groups for parents which can also be

The most important thing about post natal depression is to recognise its symptoms, understand that you are not alone, and to seek help and treatment in whatever way works for you. helpful. Ask your doctor for referrals to and information on these services. There are also some excellent Internetbased resources such as Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, and CRUFAD (Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression) that provide information, practical exercises and support. Lastly there are of course medications (or antidepressants) that replace serotonin levels (or install new traffic

lights!) quickly, usually with good results within two weeks. Side effects can include nausea and tiredness, but these are mostly resolved after the first few weeks. Approximately two-thirds of women with PND will respond to the first medication tried, though sometimes it will be necessary to try a few before finding one that suits the individual. Generally, once the right medication has been found, it will be taken for around twelve months. There is no evidence to suggest that taking antidepressants during breastfeeding causes harm to the baby. However not enough mothers have taken antidepressants during breastfeeding for a “totally safe” label either. The decision to take medication whilst breastfeeding is an individual one, but generally it’s felt that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks of medication. For a natural alternative, St John’s Wort, a herbal plant extract, has shown evidence of improving mood, though not as much as modern antidepressants. However, this has been less studied in the post natal or breast feeding populations. The most important thing about post natal depression is to recognise its symptoms, understand that you are not alone, and to seek help and treatment in whatever way works for you. Being depressed is never anyone’s fault. Twelve months is a long time to lose of bonding with and enjoying your baby, in what should be a very exciting, positive and rewarding time of life. Dr Nicola Holmes (BMED DCH FRACGP) Headspace Youth Clinic, Coffs Harbour.

105 Hyde Street Bellingen Te l: 02 6655 9299 * Largest health & organic online store in Australia

* Fresh, regional organic produce in-store daily * $5 delivery for any size order on Coffs Coast * Bello store open Mon-Sat We look forward to serving you! essential child







emember birthday parties when we were children? A friend at school would present a newsagent-bought Strawberry Shortcake or Transformers invitation, with party details scrawled in the assigned spaces. At 3pm the following Saturday, we’d all arrive in our party clobber and shyly hand presents to the birthday boy or girl, who would rip them open immediately. We’d giggle as our friends scrambled to pin a tail on the donkey; and push and shove our way through musical chairs. We’d hold our breath as we passed a parcel in a circle, hoping that the music would stop while that precious package was in our sweaty hands. We’d rip open each layer in giddy anticipation. And when another child unwrapped the final magic piece of paper revealing their prize of a set of textas or a book, we’d feel jealous for about a minute, before running along laughing to the next game. We’d sing loudly, as a lop-sided tiger or butterfly straight out of the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book was proudly brought out. We’d run ourselves ragged in the backyard, fuelled by sausage rolls, Fanta and chocolate crackles before being handed a little plastic bag containing a piece of cake and a handful of lollies and sent on our way. Sure there were disappointments. Not everyone was invited to every party, so sometimes you missed out. Sometimes the dog ate the cake and we had to eat frozen Sara Lee Chocolate Bavarian instead (which kid doesn’t love Chocolate Bavarian, frozen or otherwise??). And sometimes you just couldn’t have a pool party, because Mum put her foot down. But as kids, we learned to get over it. And those feelings of exclusion or disappointment helped us learn how to deal with those emotions. So when you grow up and are not invited to an acquaintance’s wedding, but all your friends are, you might feel like you’re missing out, but you will be ok. Children’s birthday parties these days have turned into big business. And most parents know that they can also create big stress. The expectations of children, other parents and even ourselves that each birthday event has to be the “best party ever” can drain our time, energy


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and wallets. The most creative theme, the most beautiful invitations, the best entertainment, food, location... the pressure builds. And it doesn’t help when little Freddie’s best friend had a birthday bonanza just last month, complete with bouncing castle, ‘Ben 10’ birthday cake, karaoke machine and Harley rides. Smaller children are slightly easier to cater for, as they don’t have the same expectations as primary- aged children. But then it seems to be the parents who go overboard. The urge to invite every person your one-year-old has had contact with in their first precious year can be overwhelming, but the sentiment is surely lost on your baby, who is really happiest in the company of just two or three people. And let’s face it, Pass the Parcel with two year-olds must be more trouble than it’s worth! It’s important to celebrate a birthday, but how you choose to do it should be a reflection of your family and how you like to spend time together, rather than what you feel other people expect. So here are our back-to-basics tips for your child’s next birthday party. Keep things simple, think about what’s important to you and remember that should be all about fun, not the amount of money you spend.

Guest list • Buck the trend – you don’t have to invite everyone in your child’s class at school or preschool. Let your child know what the limit is before they start writing out the invitations. • If you feel you have to invite more than six children, recruit some other




parents to help. • For babies’ birthdays, resist the urge to invite everyone you know. Babies really do prefer the company of only a small number of people so keep it small and spend the party with your child, not looking after fifty guests.

Invitations Forget intricate, decoupage creations and expensive professionally printed cards. Simple and cheap invitation options include: • Send an email – quick, simple and free! • Create a unique invitation on your home computer, using word processing software. You could personalise it with a photo or a template design. Older children may love to do this themselves. You can print it out at home or the library, or simply email the file to your guests. • Go ‘old school’ and buy a pad of printed invitations from a newsagency. • For a fancier but affordable invitation, try online services, like Snapfish, who offer personalised photo cards for around 50c each.

Location • Having a child’s party at home is not only simple and personal, it actually creates stronger relationships between children, who like to see where their friends live. • Beach reserves and parks are another simple option, and they often have barbeques, picnic tables and playground equipment making catering and entertainment easy.

Additive-free Party Food Shopping List.

New Zealand Natural Classic Vanilla ice cream

Aldi Just Organics tomato based salsa (no bacon)

Smiths plain chips

Aldi Kettle chips

Snickers bars & Twix bars

Arnott’s Teddy Bear, Milk Arrowroot, Milk Coffee Biscuits

Woolworths Select white meringues

Arnott’s Lite Jatz, Plain Saladas or Sao biscuits

Woolworths Select French Fries

Artisse Lollipops (located in the Health Food section of some supermarkets or at your local health food store)

Pascal’s white marshmallows

Woolworths Homebrand Straight Cut frozen chips Woolworths Select Original Waffle Cones You’ll Love Coles 12 pack Waffle Cones

Berri 100% fruit juice

You’ll Love Coles Organic Tomato sauce

Devondale Tasty Cheese

You’ll Love Coles Organic Plain chips

Dorrito plain corn chips

You’ll Love Coles Organic Plain Popcorn

Heinz Organic Tomato Sauce

You’ll Love Coles Organic Sweet and Salt Popcorn

Kettle Sea Salt chips

Hullabaloo Natural Food Colouring

Mars Maltesers (contain barley malt extract) Natural Confectionery Co. lollies Nestlé Larry Lemonade Icy Poles

Hopper Natural Food Colouring



• Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens is a beautiful spot for a birthday picnic lunch and the turf maze and nature trail are great for children. Entry is free, though you may wish to show your thanks with a donation.

• For a picnic party, prepare things the day or night before. Cold meats, sandwiches, quiche and cupcakes are all easily transportable. Make a salad in the morning of the party – or better still, ask someone else to bring one.

• Fun centres have become increasingly popular for parties and will organise everything for you. However, you may pay anywhere up to $40 per child. Be wary of what’s included in the packages and don’t expect too many healthy food options.

• A fruit platter is popular with all ages

Theme & Decorations • To most children, the theme of a party means very little and is usually just a way for parents to impress other parents. Cartoon-branded balloons and napkins can cost twice as much as plain ones, so think how important it is to you to have a theme. • If your child really wants a themed party, try to compromise. Instead of expensive commercially-branded decorations, ask your child to choose their favourite colour or interest (like cars or flowers) as a theme. Spotlight and $2 shops stock affordable party products that will allow you to create a unique “look” without breaking the bank.

• It will pay to think about the additives in the food you are serving. See box for ideas and a giveaway of the must-have book “Let’s Party, Additive-free”

Entertainment • For school-aged children, classic, simple games like Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs will always be popular. And don’t feel pressure to wrap a prize in every layer of the parcel wrapper, or be selective about when the music stops! • Toddler and pre-schoolers don’t need much entertainment, but you might like to put a craft table out for them. Craft stores sell an array of easy activities, such as pre-cut cardboard shapes like crowns and flowers that can be decorated. Avoid messy glue and use double sided tape and stickers instead. [SJR]

A QUICK WORD ABOUT BIRTHDAY CAKES It is quite simple to make an additive-free birthday cake look amazing. By using Natural Food Colourings, you can still have colourful icing on your cake. To decorate the cake with food items, purchase lollies and foods listed in the following list. To decorate the cake the non-food way, use toy cars, plastic animals, toy dinosaurs, superhero toys, butterflies, paper or plastic flowers, papers, dolls, the list goes on. Most cakes as shown in kids’ party books can be adapted and made additive-free by choosing the appropriate ingredients. Change the colours to suit the additive-free supplies if you need to—the end product will still look fabulous. So choose the design for your cake, an additive-free cake recipe and go for it!!! (excerpt from “Let’s Party: Additive Free” by Melanie Avery) • For a long-lasting decoration option, you might think about making your own bunting out of any scraps of material you have. These add a vintage feel to your event and can be used for many more parties in the future.

Food Here’s where it really pays to keep things simple. The best way to save yourself time, money and sanity is to choose to start the party either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, so you’re not expected to provide lunch. If however, you want to have a lunch-time party, here are a few easy options:

Mum and author of “Let’s Party: Additive Free”, Melanie Avery, has generously given us two books to give away to Essential Child readers.

• Depending on where you have your party, one of the easiest food options is a BBQ. Better still, simply serving sausages in bread, with onions and sauce will keep children and adults alike happy.

Just write into Essential Child or PO Box 1587, Coffs Harbour, 2456 and tell us your best birthday party tip!

• Ask people to bring a plate.

Entries close 31 October 2010.

Additive-free party food POPCORN (makes about 6 cups) ¼ cup popping corn 1 tbsp olive oil Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add one kernel of popping corn. When this pops you know the oil is ready—turn it down to medium. Add popping corn and put lid on saucepan. Shake pan every so often. Leave on heat until there is one second between popping sounds. Remove from heat and let cool.

HONEY CARAMEL POPCORN 1 cup pure honey 1 cup caster sugar 60g pure butter Cooked popcorn (as above) Grease baking pan and line base and sides with baking paper. Place honey, caster sugar and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring for 6–7 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil without stirring for 5–6 minutes or until light golden. Working quickly, pour caramel over popcorn and stir to combine. Spoon into prepared pan and set aside to cool completely. Break into pieces. Serve.

MAGIC CORDIAL Looks like water, tastes like lemon cordial! 1 cup sugar 1 cup water ½–1 tsp citric acid Place water and sugar into a 2 cup jug and heat in microwave for 2 minutes. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add citric acid—stir to combine. Store in the fridge. Dilute to taste with water or soda water using 1 part cordial to 4 parts water.

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Into the mouths of babes The effects of food on children’s behaviour P

enny (not her real name) was confused by her three-year-old‘s behaviour. Although normally calm and agreeable, Isabella sometimes acted up and Penny didn’t know why. ‘She gets loud and excited, runs around, makes silly noises and won’t listen to me’, she wrote.

hydrolysed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast or even just ‘flavour’. In 1996, a proposal in the USA that would have required all forms of free glutamate to be identified on packet labels was withdrawn due to industry pressure. Although a ‘no MSG’ claim on foods with free glutamates is considered misleading overseas, you’ll see it on labels here.

Isabella’s most recent outburst happened after she ate a packet of healthy-looking snacks. In the past, Penny blamed sugar but this time, Isabella hadn’t

Few parents are aware that naturally occurring chemicals in healthy foods can cause a problem for some children too. eaten any sugar – and in fact, research1 has suggested that sugar, while not recommended in large amounts, is not associated with children’s behaviour. Like most parents, Penny knew that food additives can be linked to children’s behaviour (see ‘Additives to avoid’ box). At home she served mostly whole foods and she knew to read ingredient labels. The trouble is, Penny thought a product with no apparent artificial ingredients should be safe.

Natural can be a problem too Few parents are aware that naturally occurring chemicals in healthy foods can cause a problem for some children too. Natural food chemicals called salicylates can adversely affect behaviour especially if eaten every day or in large amounts. Foods high salicylates include most fruit, especially citrus, berries, dried fruits and fruit juices, some vegetables such as broccoli as well as tomato-based sauces.

look no further than a ‘no artificial colours or flavours’ sticker, forgetting that a product with this label can still contain preservatives or flavour enhancers. Most parents know to avoid MSG (flavour enhancer 621) but may be unaware of the newer flavour enhancers (627, 631, 635) that have been designed to boost the effect of MSG up to 15 times. As well, products with an ‘All natural, No MSG’ claim on the label may contain some form of MSG - known as free glutamates - such as yeast extract,

Labelling has changed Food labelling has changed since the publication of a University of Southampton study2 showing that normal, healthy children can be affected by food additives. From July this year, products with artificial colours in the EU must carry a warning label ‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’. The warning won’t be used in Australia but many manufacturers have realised that parents would prefer to avoid harmful additives. In an attempt to make their products seem additive-free, some manufacturers have resorted to tricks. One that works well is to use names such as sunset yellow and sodium benzoate instead of numbers such as 110 and 211. Another trick is an additive-free claim on the front of the packet. Many parents


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Additives to avoid COLOURS 102 104 110 122 123 124 127 129 132 133 142 143 151 155 160b

tartrazine quinoline sunset yellow carmoisine amaranth ponceau erythrosine allura red indigotine brilliant blue green S fast green FCF brilliant black brown HT annatto (natural)

Other sources include herbs and spices especially rosemary or herb extract used as a preservative; medications such as Nurofen or salicylate based teething gel, and strong fruit flavours in medicinal syrups or vitamin supplements. Amines are another type of natural chemical that can cause problems for some children in large doses. Foods high in amines include cheese and chocolate. So although you are providing your child with healthy food, if their behaviour is causing concern it is worthwhile considering whether these naturally occurring chemicals could be the cause. Parents rarely realise that their children

PRESERVATIVES 200-203 210-213 220-228 280-283 249-252

sorbates benzoates sulphites propionates nitrates, nitrites

SYNTHETIC ANTIOXIDANTS 310-312 gallates 319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT FLAVOUR ENHANCERS 621 627 631 635

MSG disodium inosinate disodium guanylate ribonucleotides

HVP, HPP, hydrolysed/autolyzed plant/vegetable/wheat/soy protein yeast, yeast extracts, ‘flavour/s’

Signs of food intolerance in young children • Grumpiness, moodiness, oppositional defiance • Long or frequent tantrums • Head banging, headaches • Restlessness, overactivity • Difficulty settling to sleep, night waking, night terrors • Grizzly, anxious or unhappy temperament • Reflux, constipation and/or diarrhoea, ‘sneaky poos’ • Asthma, stuffy or runny nose, frequent colds • Eczema or other itchy rashes

are affected by additives, salicylates or amines unless they eat a large dose in a short time, for example at Christmas or Easter, or until they reduce their intake. This is because when food chemicals are eaten frequently the effects fluctuate and can build up very slowly.

Cutting down Some families see improvements in children’s behaviour by following these hints: switch to preservative-free bread, avoid nasty additives (see ‘Signs of food intolerance’ box), drink water as the main drink, limit fruit to two pieces of fresh fruit a day and avoid fruitflavoured, tomato-based or strongly flavoured products. Some of the safest items for lunchboxes include home-made additive-free sandwiches (for example, preservative-free bread and preservativefree cream cheese), red or golden delicious apples, plain crackers such as Arnott’s Salada biscuits, unflavoured plain sweet biscuits such as Arnott’s Arrowroots or Teddy Bears, home-made pear muffins and oat bars or – as a treat - plain unflavoured chips.

One mother wrote: ‘I cut back my five year old daughter’s intake of fruit to about a quarter of what she normally had. Within days we saw dramatic changes. Her behaviour evened out … she was more sensible and obliging, less aggressive and defiant - and altogether much more pleasant to live with.’ If cutting down isn’t enough, a three week trial of an additive-free diet low in salicylates, amines and glutamates – and sometimes dairy foods and gluten as well - followed by food challenges under the supervision of an experienced dietitian can be the quickest way to identify offending food chemicals. (Ask the Food Intolerance Network for contacts www. For little Isabella, the culprit turned out to be a strongly flavoured snack sold in health food aisles with a ‘no artificial colours, flavours or MSG’ front of packet claim. ‘We buy those because they are so healthy’, said Penny. She was relieved to learn that that Isabella’s problem was a reaction to food instead of her daughter’s natural temperament - ‘I thought she was just like that’ - and could be easily changed. Sue Dengate is the author of the bestselling Fed Up series. Sue Dengate References 1. Wolraich ML and others, Effects of diets high in sucrose or aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children. N Engl J Med. 2. McCann D and others, Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebocontrolled trial. Lancet.

Soap Box

Hands up who wants to be a preschool teacher?!


just don’t get it. I am totally confused by the messages I am getting about what I’m worth. I’m really talking about what I’m worth in my professional role as an educator of preschoolers, but I can’t help but take it all personally. First, we have government rhetoric about the importance of the early years, about the specialised and complex nature of early education, and about qualified educators being the key to good programs for children In fact, more than $126 million has been allocated over four years towards removing TAFE fees for child-care diplomas, creating more university places for early childhood teachers, and reducing HECS debts for some early childhood students. So this should make me feel that I am valued, right? I am university qualified, and I’m doing a very important job that I enjoy. But then I look at my pay slip! Early childhood teachers continue to be paid about 20% less than teachers in schools despite spending the same number of years at university. And educators with TAFE diplomas are paid much less than people with equivalent qualifications in other jobs. To make things worse the new national modern awards (that replaced the dreaded Workchoices) allow employers to pay us even less unless we negotiate an agreement with them! So instead of feeling valued I am feeling let-down, insulted and way undervalued. When I also consider all the hours of training I do in my own time, of all the lunch breaks missed, all the work done at home on planning, recording and administration, the long hours and short holidays, I wonder why anyone would choose a career in early childhood. If Australia really wants high quality services for our young children then the people who are actually doing the work must be rewarded in real terms. A pat on the back and a box of chocolates at Christmas really doesn’t do it for me! Robin Lehman

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Skills For School Ann Crane looks at preparation for school from an Occupational Therapy perspective P

arents often enquire about the skills that are necessary as their child enters school. As an Occupational Therapist I often deal with children who experience difficulties with: • attention and the ability to sustain concentration • gross motor skills such as coordination and balance • fine motor skills such as pencil skills and drawing abilities • perceptual skills • independence (dressing, eating, toileting skills and looking after belongings) While parents often feel that children will possibly improve as they enter school, this may be not be the case. In fact kindergarten may just add to their difficulties as the intensity of school continues. So it is best to address these difficulties well before your child starts school. If in doubt contact your local therapists and discuss your concerns. Your child may be able to attend your local health service or see a private therapist and Medicare and/or private health fund rebates may apply.

Attention When your child enters school they need to be able to concentrate, shift their attention and sustain or return their attention to the most important task. Postural issues may impact on their ability to attend. If a child is having difficulty sitting still and straight, with feet on the floor, then a lot of his or her concentration will be taken up with trying to maintain posture, with little attention left for what the teacher is saying. Movement prior to seated tasks can assist a child’s ability to attend – activities such as swinging, jumping on a trampoline and rolling can be very settling. Certain foods can also affect concentration, so consult a health professional if you suspect that child may have any food sensitivities. Sometimes a visual timetable - pictures or drawings of the schedule of the day - may help to organise a child. These pictorial sequences help children to see what needs to be done (starting from


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getting up, getting dressed and eating breakfast), promote independence and remove the need for you to keep nagging!

Gross Motor Challenges in the gross motor (large muscle) area may show in issues with body awareness, muscle tone, posture and attention. A child may have difficulty sitting with control at a table or on the floor. He or she may ‘W’ sit (on knees with feet at the sides for stability) or may tend to lie on the desk. He may also appear to be ‘clumsy’. Parents can help by encouraging lots of gross motor activity prior to a child entering school. Practice the playground skills of catching, bouncing, hopping, and jumping. These skills promote overall brain/body/thinking organisation and assist in the development of social skills. Encourage activities that require crossing the midline of the body (that is, reaching across the body to, for instance, paint large shapes, catching a ball, sitting sideways to do a jigsaw puzzle) so that motor excellence and hand dominance can be consolidated. An organised body will not only assist with attention it will also assist with the ability to produce appropriate written response.

Fine Motor Children who have challenges with the fine motor skills that are required for drawing, writing and craft will benefit from activities such as finger games, massage, therapy putty and vibration that help to increase joint awareness and muscle tone before a writing or craft activity is commenced. (Therapy putty is a heavy resistance play dough, available from Early Childhood Intervention in Kane Crescent.) Some children perform better when they are given a subject and the steps involved to achieve a drawing. This strategy allows the child to have success, pride in their achievements and willingness to try more challenging fine motor skills. Encourage the child’s dominant hand (clever hand) once this is established or known, and encourage them to use their other hand (helping hand) to stabilise their drawing paper or hold and turn something that they are cutting with scissors. Always assist children with their pencil grip. There are special pencil grips available or you can simply draw dots on their fingers to help show where to hold the pencil. The dots need to go on the pads of the thumb and index finger, the side of the middle finger, and in the middle of the ‘web’ between the thumb

and forefinger (so the pencil can ‘lay down and go to sleep’). Assist your child to write letters in the correct ‘school’ way so that they learn the right way from the beginning, and so that they grasp directionality (that is, the direction in which they should form the lines. Ask your school or preschool for details)

Perceptual Skills As a child enters school they should be able to draw simple shapes and objects spontaneously. These are essential abilities in their preparation for reading and writing. Their drawings of people may have seven components: head, eye, nose, mouth, body, legs and arms and they should be able to draw a circle, square, cross and rectangle. Your child should be able to draw these without training, prompting or practice in these items. In addition they should be able to draw a variety of topics and not just repetitive or rehearsed subjects such as dinosaurs, rockets or Buzz Lightyear.

Independence Many children experience difficulties with their level of independence before they enter school. Children who have yet to establish hand dominance (which hand to use) and children who have midline difficulties often have difficulties in doing up shoes laces, using a knife and fork or sorting out “b” or “d”s. They may also face challenges in opening the zips on their bags, their drink bottles, their lunch boxes, plastic wrap and packaged foods. You can help by reducing the amount of packaged food which requires children to open complex packaging and which may also compromise “attention”! It is very difficult for children to concentrate when they are distracted by difficulties like these. Be sure to also help your child in

identifying their property such as hats, socks, jumpers, bags and lunch boxes.

Tooth Erosion

Remember It is important to talk to your child’s school teachers during the orientation period. They will appreciate being informed about your child’s strengths and weaknesses so they can be prepared and be able to meet his or her needs. Check that appropriate furniture is available for your child. A desk of an appropriate height and a chair that fits their body type (rather than their age group or year level) is very important as this assists attention and ability to organise their body. If your child has specific needs, always ask your paediatric Occupational Therapist for advice. Try not to use interventions or therapies that have been suggested for another child, as each child’s needs are specific. While certain situations may look the same, interventions may vary significantly. Kindergarten days may be long for your child so a quiet period after a school day may assist the child to manage. A firm routine at home including a regular bedtime will also assist a child to cope with the demands of a school day. Always be involved in your school so that you can support your child, their teachers, the school and your broader community. Most of all enjoy your children, support their strengths and understand their challenges. Ann Crane Paediatric Occupational Therapist 0409 090 014

in children & teenagers


ustralian children and teenagers can expect to keep their teeth for life. The impact of tooth erosion, which is irreversible, can be a lifetime of treatment or discomfort. Therefore, preventing or at least minimising the impact of tooth erosion is paramount from an early age. Diet is the major contributor to tooth erosion,with soft drink and fruit juice consumption consistently the most common contributor. Soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices and cordials have high acid levels and play a major role in causing tooth erosion. Consumption of these drinks should be limited and children and teens should be encouraged to drink water (preferably fluoridated tap water) as much as possible.

Preventing or minimising tooth erosion Tooth erosion is irreversible so preventing or at least minimising the impact is highly important from an early age. The ADA’s recommendations for preventing or minimising tooth erosion include getting into the following habits: • If you do drink an acidic and/or sugary beverage, drink it chilled as cooler temperatures have been shown to be less likely to cause tooth erosion. • Avoid holding or ‘swishing’ drinks in the mouth as this increases acid exposure to teeth. • Use a straw as much as possible to minimise the acid exposure to teeth. • After drinking acidic and/or sugary beverages, don’t brush your teeth right away - brushing can remove the softened tooth enamel (resulting trorn the acid exposure), increasing the amount of tooth loss. Wait one hour before brushing teeth. • Fluoride mouthwashes without alcohol will rinse acids away and the fluoride will re-mineralise the tooth surface making it more resistant to acid attacks. • Chewing sugar free gum can stimulate saliva flow and rinse acids away. Australian Dental Association Inc.

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essential child

Deborah Abela’s new novel sees kids combating climate change

Book Review Cat and Fish By Joan Grant, Illustrated by Neil Curtis (Lothian Books) 2+


eborah Abela, author of the Max Remy Superspy series, Jasper Zammit (Soccer Legend) series, The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen has just published her latest novel, Grimsdon. We caught up with Deborah to chat about this exciting new book with a focus on the environment.

What is the story of Grimsdon? Grimsdon is a city that lies in ruins. Three years ago a massive wave broke its barriers and the city was left flooded and in ruins. Isabella Charm and her best friend Griffin live with three other kids in the top of an abandoned mansion. They’ve survived with the help of Griffin’s brilliant inventions, Isabella’s survival skills and their vow to look after each other. The kids find new ways to create power, find food, defend themselves against thieving and kidnapping adults as well as sneaker waves and sea monsters.


whimsical tale of Cat and Fish. Two unlikely friends from different worlds who form a firm friendship, sharing their lives, and learning to compromise. Cat met Fish in the park by the lake and it is here their adventure begins. Cat and Fish explore each others’ worlds, through land and sea they journey together until they find a place they both belong.

What was your inspiration for writing Grimsdon? Grimsdon came about because of my frustration at governments all over the world, including ours, not doing anything about climate change. I thought, what if we woke up one day and everything we knew had changed and what we cared about most had been taken away from us? What then?

Do you think kids are passionate about the environment? Absolutely! In schools there are more and more compost bins, worm farms, recycling and reusing, waterwise and energy saving techniques and kitchen gardens. It’s brilliant!

In what way can books like Grimsdon help kids deal with their concerns? Literature is a brilliant way to focus attention on issues that matter. It creates engaging worlds where characters face many challenges and difficulties and work out ways to overcome them, whether it is bullying, grief or saving the planet! Books help create empathy and awareness as well as adding a voice to what kids care and want to know more about.

You have just been made National Literacy Ambassador by the Federal Government. What does it mean for you, personally? I am thrilled!! It is so important to develop a love of reading in our kids. It is important from birth, some say even before birth, to give kids a love of reading. It develops creativity, vocabulary, the ability to grasp concepts and ideas, fosters empathy for other people and confidence in themselves. It encourages imagination and helps kids realise that there isn’t only one way of facing a situation. Reading develops critical thinking and broadens knowledge and interests. It’s also a fun way to create a sense of warmth and closeness when shared.

A truly unique picture book with stunning black and white illustrations which capture the imagination from the moment the front cover is seen. It is easy to see why this book won a Picture Book of the Year Award (Children’s Book Council, 2004). Illustrated using only pen and ink, each page is accentuated by patterns and lines and the absence of colour is not at all missed. This technique gives each page a three dimensional feel and will have children returning again and again to discover something new. The text is simple and descriptive, “They played in the maze. Fish lurked and cat prowled.” and is a great read for toddlers who are expanding from rhyme based text to simple prose.

A delightful read for children and parents alike which is sure to stimulate imagination and perhaps inspire older children to draw their own line drawings with pen and ink.


Jodie Smith

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Essential Child Issue 7  

Spring 2010

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