Tips for a Happy, Healthy Child in the New Year

After the fun of the holiday season, its hard to get back into the routine, especially for kids when it means going back to school. However, this can be an opportunity to help your child be the best student he or she can be. With these few simple tips, you can make sure your child starts off on the right foot in the new year:

Get back on track
After two or three weeks off from school, it may take your child some time to get back into the swing of things. They key is to make the transition smooth and gradual. A few days before your children go back to school, decide on a bedtime that is earlier than they have been going to bed and gradually transition to their normal bedtime on a school night. Make sure your children return to their normal meal times and activities.

A Mental Jumpstart
Breakfast isn’t a meal you want to skip. Having a healthy meal to start your day seems to improve concentration and problem-solving skills. Eating a balanced breakfast can sharpen a child’s memory and improve test scores.

Be a Positive Example
Remember that setting a good example by eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise is key to getting your kids to adopt healthy lifestyles. Don’t underestimate the importance of staying involved in your child’s education and attending school functions. Children who have parents who are more involved with their education perform better in school, are better adjusted and are less likely to drop out.

If You Want to See Better Grades, then you may want to reorganize your child’s room. Specifically, consider moving his or her TV to another location. Too much time spent watching TV and playing video and computer games can harm a child’s academic performance. School-age kids shouldn’t get more than one to two hours of screen time a day. Here are some ideas to help your child develop good study habits:

  • Provide a work space that is specifically for their homework. It can be in their bedroom or another part of the home, the key is that the space offers privacy.
  • Give your child the necessary tools to get the job done. Provide good lighting, pencils, paper and any other supplies he or she may need.
  • Make sure your child has enough time to get his or her homework done at a reasonable hour.
  • Check-in on their computer to ensure it’s being used for their homework and not acting as a distraction.
  • Make yourself available to help them with questions. But never do your child’s homework. If your child is having a hard time with homework, consider a tutor. Talk it over with your child’s teacher.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye, neck and brain fatigue while studying. Have your child close the books for a few minutes, stretch and take a break periodically.

Go Green in 2010 for Your Family’s Health

Getting your kids involved in helping the environment is not only good for the planet—it’s also good for your family’s health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when it comes to air pollution, the greater the level of pollutants in the air, the greater the chance for your child to experience asthma flare-ups and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

Each member of your family can do his/her part to protect the environment with a few simple ideas.

When you go shopping, buy local. Take your child to the farmer’s market to pick out a healthy, locally grown treat. Buying local products reduces energy burned to transport goods.

Avoid waste by letting your child pick out a favorite lunch box and thermos to reuse every day at school.

Turn off the tap! According to the EPA, turning off the water while you brush your teeth can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month.

Invest in rechargeable batteries for your child’s electronics.

Save energy (and money!) by replacing incandescent bulbs in your child’s room with an Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). One CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb.

Walk more. If possible, walk your child to school or to after school activities.
Set up a recycling center in your home. Have your child decorate labels for separate bins for glass, plastics and paper.

Grow a green thumb. Planting a garden with your child is a simple way to help the environment. Whether inside or outside, plants clean the air.
When planning your garden, opt for native plants, which don’t need as much water as introduced species.

Pack a waste-free lunch by including sandwiches in reusable containers; whole fruits without packaging; drinks in containers that can be reused; and snacks purchased in bulk and brought in reusable containers Don’t include: individually wrapped snacks; plastic baggies that are not reusable; disposable forks and spoons; and straws. 

Find new ways to reduce waste quantity and toxicity By thinking creatively, many new uses for common items and new possibilities for source reduction and recycling can be discovered. Here are just a few ideas: turn a giant cardboard box into a child’s playhouse; transform a plastic ice cream tub into a flower pot; give pet hamsters or gerbils paper towel and toilet paper cardboard tubes with which to play; use an egg carton to plant seedlings; turn used tires (not steel-belted) into children’s swings or other playground equipment; select nontoxic inks and art supplies; and choose beverages such as water or milk in reusable containers, where appropriate.

CHOC Docs Named “Physicians of Excellence”

More than 50 CHOC Children’s doctors were named “Physicians of Excellence” by the Orange County Medical Association (OCMA).  Each year, OCMA conducts a thorough survey of local physicians, and rates them on leadership, teaching and mentoring, research, and humanitarian service.  This prestigious list of doctors is published exclusively by Orange Coast magazine.  Be sure to check out the magazine’s January 2010 issue out on stands now!

Start 2010 Off Right With Healthy Resolutions For Your Kids

CHOC Children’s encourages parents to kick off the new year with the following tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Make your children feel loved and important
Recognize every effort and increment of progress or improvement they make; don’t compare siblings; understand your child’s behaviors and emotions. Celebrate their individuality and tell them what makes them special. Assure them that they are loved and safe.

Pay attention to nutrition
Good nutrition is a matter of balance. Provide foods from several food groups at each meal. Emphasize foods that are less processed, such as whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables. Review your child’s diet with your pediatrician for suggestions.

Be involved in your child’s education
Visit your child’s school, and find out how parents can help. Whether you become active in the parent-teacher organization or volunteer in the school, parent involvement matters. Your child will notice how important education is to you.
Read to your child
Start by the age of 6 months. Reading to children shows them the importance of communication and motivates them to become readers. It also provides a context to discuss issues and learn what is on your child’s mind.

Monitor your children’s media
Monitor what your children see and hear on television, in movies, and in music. Talk with your children about content. Be informed of what your children see or hear when visiting friends. If you feel that a movie or TV program is inappropriate, redirect them to more suitable programming.
Prevent violence by setting good examples
Demonstrate and teach displays of affection, attention, approval, and how to ask for, give and accept forgiveness. All of these promote love, good will, self-esteem and reduce likelihood of violence, aggression, and negative, destructive words and behaviors. Set limits for your children by letting them know what’s expected, and notice when they meet your expectations.

Make sure immunizations are up to date
Review your child’s immunization record with your pediatrician. Make sure your child is current on recommended immunizations.

Provide your child with a tobacco-free environment
Second-hand tobacco smoke increases ear infections, chest infections and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you smoke, consider quitting. Remember, your child loves you and will copy you – if you smoke, your children may grow up to be smokers too.
Practice “safety on wheels”
Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up for every ride, with children in the back seat in age-appropriate child safety seats. All bikers, skaters and skateboarders should wear helmets and other appropriate sports gear.

Do a “childproofing” survey of your home
A child’s-eye view home survey should systematically go from room to room, removing all the “booby traps” that await  curious toddlers or preschoolers. Think of poisons, small objects, sharp edges, knives and firearms, and places to fall.

Have a Fun and Safe Time on the Slopes

With abundant fresh snow on our local mountain tops, many children and families will be hitting the slopes to ski or snowboard this season.

Common injuries for snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts include forearm, wrist, shoulder, knee and ankle injuries, ranging from sprains to fractures. Dr. Francois D. Lalonde, orthopaedic surgeon at CHOC Children’s, recommends the following tips to prevent you and your children from injury while enjoying the winter fun.

  • Stretch and warm up:  Proper conditioning can minimize the risk of injury and optimize performance. Make sure you and your children are warmed up. This can be as simple as walking, marching in one place, or doing a few jumping jacks.
  • Use proper safety gear:  The lack of proper gear is a common factor in sports injuries. Make sure your children use a helmet, wrist and elbow guards, knee pads, googles, boots, and the appropriate snowboard or skis. 
  • Dress appropriately:  Make sure your family is wearing the right amount of layers to match the weather and each person’s activity level. Wear a hat or helmet liner and gloves. Also, be sure to wear sun protection, even on cloudy days! 
  • Get proper instruction: Take a lesson from a qualified instructor before you hit the slopes. Ensure that your children know how to properly use the equipment.
  • Follow the rules:  Children should be supervised at all times. Make sure your family understands and obeys posted warning signs. Avoid icy slopes. Do not go off-trail.
  • Ski or snowboard with a friend:  Pre-arrange a meeting place in case you get separated. Use walkie-talkies if possible. Make sure your children have the name and phone number of your hotel.
  • Take a break:  Like any other sport, lots of energy is being used while gliding through the slopes. Take a moment to rest. While resting, make sure you have something to eat or drink.

CHOC Offers Safe Holiday Travel Tips

AAA predicts that 87.7 million Americans will hit the roads during the year-end holidays, the busiest travel period of the year.  Most of these are families traveling with cargo more precious than any holiday gifts – their children.  CHOC encourages drivers to follow these tips to help keep passengers safe on the roads this busy travel season.

• Get plenty of rest before you set off on your destination.
• The night before you leave, avoid alcohol or any medication that might impair your driving.
• If you are traveling a long distance, plan to have rest stops.  Young children can get anxious in the car.  A few stops along the way can allow them to release some anxious energy, while providing respite to the driver!
• Allow extra time for delays and traffic, so you are not tempted to speed.
• Pack snacks for yourself and your passengers.
• To avoid unnecessary spills, bring plastic cups with their own lids and straws.
• Bring plenty of “boredom busters” for kids.  Car-friendly games, puzzles, coloring books, small computer games, and portable CD players with headsets can keep little ones occupied. 
• And, be sure everyone is properly buckled up.

Wishing you safe travels!

Happy Visiting this Holiday Season

The holiday season is a wonderful time for visiting loved ones.  Holiday parties or family gatherings make this time of year so special, but often require bringing young children to unfamiliar territory.  CHOC pediatricians encourage parents to follow these simple tips to help ensure holiday visits don’t land children in harm’s way.

• Whether you’re the hostess or the guest, clean up after a holiday party.  A curious toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.

• Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed.  Keep an eye out for danger spots.

• Keep guests’ purses out of the reach of children. 

• Keep a list of important phone numbers, including your child’s pediatrician, for you or a baby sitter in case of an emergency.  Include local police and fire authorities and the national Poison Help Line 1-800-222-1222.  Laminating the list will prevent it from being torn or damaged.

• Traveling, getting presents, visiting friends, etc. can increase your child’s stress levels.  Trying to stick to your child’s usual routine, especially sleep schedules and timing of napes, can help you and your little one enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.

Enjoy the Holidays, Skip the Cavities

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year!’… especially for holiday treats and candy! While it’s quite nice to enjoy this season’s treats, keep these tips in mind to ensure your children enjoy the spirit of the season – without the toothache!

  • Make sure your child maintains a balanced diet. While sweets abound during this time of the year, try to limit the amount of sugary and starch-filled goodies given to your child. Try some sliced fruit, raw vegetables with dip, string cheese, and yogurt, instead.
  • Encourage good oral health habits with your children, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly. If sugar is not removed with brushing, it can remain in the crevices of your child’s teeth long after sweets have been consumed.
  • Have your children use an age-appropriate mouthwash in the evening to strengthen their teeth and rebuild the enamel, which helps prevent cavities.

Also, keep Christmas lights and electrical cords out of the reach of children – especially infants who may be crawling and can put items in their mouths, explains Richard Mungo, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at CHOC Children’s and Medical Director of the Healthy Smiles for Children of Orange County Oral Health Care Center. He has treated children who have suffered burns to the side of their mouths due to chewing on these cords.

Remember, your children’s dental care is an important part of their overall health, during the holidays and year-round! “It’s really never too early for parents to take an active role in preventing tooth decay in their children—even before kids get their first tooth,” says Dr. Mungo.

For more tips to protect your little one’s teeth, check out the latest issue of CHOC’s Kids Health newsletter:

For more information on CHOC Children’s Pediatric Specialties, visit

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Eat Healthy, Stay healthy – Quick Tips

The holiday season is in full swing and the CHOC Children’s Endocrine and Diabetes Center in Newport Beach reminds families to stay healthy!

The holidays expose families to:

  • more “treats”
  • more calories, carbs & fat
  • larger portions
  • less opportunity for exercise

Avoid excess weight gain by following these simple holiday tips:

  • Try to stay on your regular diet most of the time.
  • Limit portions of “high fat and high carbohydrate” holiday foods: try a small slice of pie, ½ cup of mashed potatoes and gravy, 1-2 Christmas cookies, or ½ cup of Egg Nog.
  • Eat more vegetables with meals and as snacks so you will eat less of the unhealthy” foods.
  • Take your own low fat & low carbohydrate dishes to family meals.
  • Avoid giving homemade goodies as holiday gifts to keep from excess sampling while baking.
  • Exercise more: try to have at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day during the holidays.

To learn more about the CHOC Children’s Endocrine & Diabetes Center or to schedule an appointment, please call (949) 631-2062.