Author Archives: cvilaelc

Screen Free Week: Take the Seven Day Challenge

Children are spending more time on iPads, smartphones, computers and video games (all commonly referred to “screen time”) at an earlier age: 64% of children ages 12 to 24 months watch TV and videos for an average of just over two hours a day.

How much TV should a child watch exactly? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend ZERO screen time for children under 2 years. For children older than 2, they should receive no more than 1-2 hours of quality screen time per day.

The great news is you don’t have to take a stand alone! Families, early learning centers and organizations across the nation pledged to turn off all devices for seven (7) days during the official Screen Free Week from May 5 to 11. This is something that can go on year round! Keep reading below for your local guide to a screen free week.

Guide to a Screen-Free Week

MONDAY: Start off Screen Free Week with a good old-fashioned family dinner. Invite grandparents over and encourage family discussion. After dinner, go through family pictures or create a family scrapbook. Meal time provides the opportunity to model healthy behaviors and help children to develop critical language skills.

TUESDAY: Teach your child a favorite childhood activity. Whatever happened to games like Hide and Seek, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, Freeze Tag, Hopscotch or Double Dutch? All of these games are simple and require little to no equipment. When children are moving, and their hearts are pumping and bringing oxygen to the brain, they are learning.

WEDNESDAY: Encourage kids to engage in pretend play. Not only does this nurture creativity but it also instills in children the idea that anything is possible. During pretend play, children are engaging language skills and learning to problem solve and think critically. Common items like blankets, dolls, socks and boxes make great props.

THURSDAY: Visit a local library. The West Dade Regional Library in Miami-Dade County offers free storytelling and craft programs. The library houses more than 200,000 books, an indoor garden, an outdoor playground, an art gallery and more. The best part is it’s all free. Call the library at 305-553-1134 for more information.

FRIDAY: Children love music. Get silly, sing songs together, get up and dance. Create a dance routine or start a new band. Music helps develop gross motor skills, allows self-expression, develops coordination and brings awareness of body movements. Encourage different body movements or the use of musical instruments.


Every second Saturday, the Perez Art Museum in downtown Miami opens its doors to families to enjoy its exhibits and permanent collection free of charge. Explore the museum or take part in their family friendly art activities. For more information, call 305-375-4073.

SUNDAY: End the week with a bike ride at Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Beach. Kids can visit the park’s Fun Center which features a playground, carousel, splash fountain and skating rink. The park is free, but there is a charge for parking and a toll to get to Key Biscayne ($1.75 per car). For more information, call 305-361-7385.

Get involved and say ‘No!’ to screen time. Remember that your job does not stop here! Screen time takes away from positive interactions with other children and adults, reading, talking and other developmental activities. As a parent you play an important role in helping your child develop a positive attitude toward physical activity at an early age.

Not only is it important to use the free time to explore your child’s interests, discover new talents, extend their learning, but it’s also important to support their independence, self-esteem and get moving with them. Let them see you enjoying physical activity and have fun together. Take the pledge and find out what else life has to offer!

At the end of the week, discuss with your child the benefits of screen-free week and ways to create a family TV limiting rule, such as having a TV free day or no TV during mealtimes.

For more information on Screen-Free Week and screen-time alternatives, visit or


The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, in partnership with the Nemours Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the South Florida implementer of ‘Taking Steps to Healthy Success,’ a national anti-obesity and wellness initiative targeted toward early learning programs.


Calming Summer Snacks for Your Little Ones



Food additives, colors and artificial sweeteners can make your child’s nervous system overactive. In contrast, foods that have calcium and magnesium, like vegetables, nuts and seeds, can be calming.

Researchers are repeatedly looking at how food coloring and preservatives influence hyperactivity in children. Experts suggest eating as many natural foods as possible and avoiding “factory made” food choices.

This summer, take the opportunity to bring healthy foods into your little ones’ diets. Use the list below as a guide to kid friendly snacks when grocery shopping.

Low Cost Snacks To Help Soothe Little Ones

This summer, take the opportunity to bring healthy foods into your little ones’ diets. Use the list below as a guide to kid friendly snacks when grocery shopping.

  • Fresh veggies like baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, and broccoli/cauliflower florets can be paired with a “healthy dip” like hummus, low-fat salad dressing, guacamole or salsa.
  • Low-fat yogurt or low-fat plain cottage cheese can be sweetened with blended fruit or a bit of frozen fruit juice as a great dessert option. If you use low-fat fruit flavored yogurts, give your little one half of the fruit yogurt to reduce the sugar content.
  • Nuts or seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds and toasted pumpkin seeds are a great source of energy. You can also try roasted soy nuts.
  • Place fresh, frozen or dried fruit in a cup or bowl. Create a healthy fruit and yogurt parfait by alternating layers of fruit with low-fat yogurt and granola.
  • You can now find an amazing array of cheeses made from 2 percent milk in lots of kid-friendly packaging.
  • Pair whole grain crackers with 2 percent milk cheese, peanut butter, almond nut butter, hummus, salsa or spreadable fruit.
  • Couple healthy cereals with skim or low-fat milk or eat them by themselves. To select a healthy cereal, be sure it contains at least 3 grams of fiber per grain and that you see the word “whole” as the first word in the ingredients list.

Healthy Options to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth

Experts suggest avoiding processed foods with additives, particularly food dyes and refined carbohydrates and sugars. Examples of everyday choices would be donuts, cake, candy (especially those with lots of food dye), sugary kids’ cereals, soda and other sugar-fortified beverages (fruit drinks, sports drinks).

Consider these calming foods for kids the next time your little one is craving something sweet.

  • Peaches: The peach contains a natural sedative that can help alleviate stress and anxiety to help calm and relax the mind. Next time your little one wants a sugary treat, hand him a peach instead.
  • Berries: When kids are feeling overactive or wound up, a bowl of berries can do wonders. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries contain healthy antioxidants and vitamin C, plus they help prevent a boost in cortisol, the “stress hormone” produced by the adrenal gland.
  • Oranges: Give your little one an unpeeled orange. The few minutes it takes for him/her to slow down and peel it will be calming in itself. Plus, the vitamin C and muscle-relaxing potassium also will do him/her some good.
  • Apples and bananas are also good sources of vitamins and minerals that can help calm your little one. All-natural applesauce is also a fantastic choice.
  • Dark chocolate: It may not be as sweet as milk chocolate, but dark chocolate is a lot healthier. It can help reduce cortisol levels as well as lower the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which make kids (and adults) anxious and nervous.
  • Ice cream: Giving in to cravings every now and then is not a crime. But don’t choose just any ice cream. Pick a healthier option like low-sugar, low-fat vanilla bean ice cream made from real vanilla beans. Vanilla is known for its calming properties.

Calming Nighttime Snacks

Next time your little one wants a snack before bed, reach for one of these calming options.

  • Whole grain crackers and peanut butter
  • Oatmeal topped with bananas and walnuts
  • Chopped fresh peaches warmed in the microwave and topped with a little milk
  • Whole grain English muffin topped with melted low-fat cheese
  • Smashed bananas on whole wheat toast

Making small changes to your child’s diet and your own can make a huge difference in day-to-day activities.

Summer Time Fun



Summer is finally here. At the ELC, we hope you take this time to enjoy with your families the great things offered by our communities in Miami-Dade and Monroe. This is a great time of year to visit your local librarystate park or one of the many amazing museums we have. These venues provide an opportunity to learn and to have great summer fun.

While South Florida is truly one of the best places to be in the summer, family safety is something we all have to keep in mind. Be sure to take the proper precautions wherever your plans take you. Always remember to Look Before You Lock, ensuring that no little one gets left behind in the car. Take special precautions around pools and at the beach. There are many layers to water safety, including close supervision, barriers to water areas and swimming lessons. Parents can never be too careful with their children around bodies of water.

Please remember that reading with your children is just as important in the summer months. There’s no better way to get them ready for the beginning of the next school year and prevent the “summer slide“.

In addition to the links above, here is a mini collection of websites full of summer ideas families can do together this summer. Now is the time to enjoy your family and your kids and create wonderful memories for all your little ones.

Art/Creative Ideas:

Educational Ideas:

Recipe Ideas:

Water Play Ideas:

Other Fun Activity Ideas:

Daily life as a parent can be stressful, but it is important to set aside some time and enjoy your family. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for family fun.

We hope you all enjoy your summer!

Understanding Learning Styles



All children learn in different ways and at different paces. As parents nurture and care for their child, it is important to observe and watch how they interact with the world around them.  This can indicate how they best learn.

A child’s learning style depends on how they best capture and understand their surroundings. Understanding a child’s learning style may produce beneficial results later on in life with their educational pursuits.

There are 3 basic learning styles: visual/spatial, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic styles. Each learning style differs on how information is best processed in a developing child. Parents should encourage and help develop their child’s learning style, while improving their less developed learning skills.

Different Learning Styles

Visual/Spatial learners benefit from using images, pictures, and written information to better understand new information. These children may become distracted by too much visual stimulation.

Auditory learners gather information by listening to discussion, lecture, and spoken instructions. These children may become distracted by too much noise.

Tactical/Kinesthetic learners benefit from hand-on activities and projects. These children prefer more lively activities to learn. Sitting still for too long or too often may distract them.

Other Contributing Factors

While learning styles are important in allowing children to learn in their most comfortable setting, there are other contributing factors that help children succeed. These other contributing factors involve environmental and sociological settings.

Lesson Structure involves how a child will best understand material. This could be in a logical sequence with systematic steps and objectives or by a freer flowing structure of choice and creativity.

Formal/Informal settingpertains to how a child feels more comfortable when they are learning new material. Formal settings involve traditional chair and desks, while informal settings involve beanbag chairs or even cushioned floor seats.

Individual/Group settinginvolves how a child best learns with other people. Some children are more comfortable in a group while other children are more comfortable learning by themselves.

Other contributing factors include the level of noise in a given learning space, the ambient temperature, and the brightness of the room. These involve the comfort level of the child.

Additional Information about Learning Styles

Parents should keep an eye on how their children move and interact with their surroundings. This will better indicate their learning strengths and weaknesses. While it is important to encourage children to use their learning style, it is also important to improve their underdeveloped learning styles to make them better-rounded and produce the greatest educational success. Parents should also note that children may have multiple learning styles that tend to overlap, which is perfectly normal. Parents can help their child understand their strengths and weaknesses, while challenging them as well.

Learning should be a joy. Using these learning styles appropriately may help children to succeed with their education.

To learn more, visit:

Creating Healthy Habits Early


One of the most crucial responsibilities of a parent is to keep all their little ones as healthy as possible. Sometimes it can be a little difficult in our modern society to provide children with the best food options. Fortunately there are many simple tips and tricks that can facilitate this important task.

Basic Nutrition

The USDA ChooseMyPlate Nutrition Program recommends the following daily servings for small children. If you would like to have more precise measurements for the exact age range of your child, check below for further information. Be sure to always check with your doctor or pediatrician before changing your child’s diet.

  • Dairy: 2-2½ cup daily serving
  • Recommended Dairy Staples: fat-free/low-fat dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese and other fortified soy products
  • Fruits: 1-1½ cup daily serving
  • Recommended Fruit Staples: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried unsweetened fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges and pineapples
  • Vegetables: 1-2 cup daily servings
  • Recommended Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or canned unsalted vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers and green beans
  • Protein: 2-5 oz. daily serving
  • Recommended Protein Staples: proteins such as meats, seafood, eggs, unsalted nuts and seeds, eggs and soy products
  • Whole grains: 3-5 oz. daily serving
  • Recommended Whole Grain Staples: whole grains such as old fashioned oats, popcorn, brown or wild rice and quinoa

Additional recommended nutrition tips: Try to reduce salt, sugar, and fat intake

Frugal Pantry Staples (with average serving size)

Parents constantly have to manage the struggle of keeping up with the family budget as well as providing their children with nutritious meals. The following food list contains thrifty but nutritious foods that may help parents plan creative and healthy meals around affordable food staples for their children.

  • Apples (1/2-1 serving size)
  • Bananas (1/2-1 serving size)
  • Beans (1/2 cup)
  • Brown rice (1/4 cup)
  • Canned tomatoes (1 cup)
  • Canned tuna (3 oz.)
  • Carrots (1 cup, raw)
  • Chicken breast (3 oz.)
  • Eggs (1 serving size)
  • Frozen fruit bags (1/2 cup)
  • Frozen spinach (5 oz.)
  • Frozen veggie bags (1 cup)
  • Jarred Marinara sauce (1/2 cup)
  • Lentils (1/4 cup, dried)
  • Old fashioned oats (1/2 cup)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peas (½ cup, frozen)
  • Potatoes (1 cup, cubed)
  • Sweet potatoes (1 cup, cubed)
  • Onions (1/4 cup)
  • Tub of low-fat yogurt (4-6 oz.)
  • Whole wheat pasta (1/2 cup)

Additional nutrition tip: To reduce the amount of wasted food, follow portion serving sizes at every meal.

Healthy Food in Food Deserts

Unfortunately, not all children live in an area where there are fresh and available food supplies within a reasonable distance due to the lack of grocery stores in the area. These urban or rural locations are called food deserts. In these areas, the only food available to these residents comes from convenience stores, gas stations, and fast food restaurants. This introduces children to unhealthy foods early. While the options are slim, some convenience stores and gas stations do provide some relatively healthy options. Those are the ones that parents should provide readily to their children whenever possible.


  • Trail mix (be aware of sugar and sodium content)
  • Fresh fruit or prepared fruits (some convenience stores provide these fresh options
  • Yogurts (be aware of sugar content)
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Peanut butter (be aware of sodium content)
  • Cereal (be aware of sugar content)
  • Pretzels and hummus

For more information:

Happy Children’s Day!

Sunday, June 8, is Children’s Day, the day to have parents be completely involved with their children. It is a day to appreciate children and show them how important they are to the lives of their parents. There are so many fun ways to make children feel special. Continue reading and find out some amazing ways to celebrate.

Amazing Ways to Celebrate National Children’s Day

Before making any concrete plans, parents should ask their children what they would like to do with them on Children’s Day. It’s their day and they should have a say in how to spend it. If they don’t know what they would like to do, parents can suggest some of the following activities:

  • Arts and Crafts: Parents can make time to paint and draw with their child to see how they view the world.
  • Baking: Parents can bake their child’s favorite dessert, and let their children decorate them in any way they wish.
  • Children’s Day Crowning: Parents can tell their little ones make a crown for themselves to make them feel like royalty.
  • Food Cravings: Children can choose the menu of the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even with the preparation with their supervision.
  • Loving Declarations: Parents can tell their little ones 3 things they love about them.
  • Movie Madness: Children can pick their favorite movies and have a movie marathon with their parents.
  • Play Making: Children can create their own characters by making masks and dressing up to make a homemade play for their parents.
  • Reading Time: Parents, with the help of their children, can make a special reading corner and have reading time with their little ones. Have fun with the voices of each character to make the experience memorable.

Those activities were just a small sample of the many activities parents can participate in with their children. The important thing is to make sure every child knows they are truly special.

For more information about Children’s Day, visit United States National Children’s Day Site.

Vaccinations: A Parent’s Decision


Photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

Most parents dread the subject of vaccinations. The thought of inflicting a child with added pain as well as injecting them with “unknown” chemicals can make any new parent cringe with understandable stress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that parents vaccinate their children as soon as they’re born. As a child continues to grow, so does the list of recommended vaccinations for younger children and older children. Parents may become a bit overwhelmed and cautious with the amount of vaccines that their children are recommended to receive. While parents do have a choice in the matter of vaccinating their children, parents should always receive the best information when it comes to the health and well-being of their children for either choice.

Early Immunizations

Vaccinations are used as a means to reduce the risk of infection from a preventable disease by working with a person’s natural defense system to safely develop immunity to a disease to fight future exposures.

While parents do have just cause in their protective and cautious nature over the health of their child, according to the CDC and other reliable sources, there are legitimate reasons in providing your child with early immunizations.

  • Prevents and protects children, community members and vulnerable unvaccinated members of society from contracting unnecessary and preventable illnesses
    • Illnesses prevented by vaccinations include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Polio, Rotavirus, Mumps, Measles, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Rubella and several others.
  • Provides immunity from these diseases in case of future exposure
  • Helps eliminate these preventable diseases worldwide

Why Parents Don’t Immunize Their Children

Even though there are consistent and justifiable reasons for parents to vaccinate their children, there are some that choose not to vaccinate. While each parent has their own reasons for not vaccinating their child, there are common influences that cause parents to make that choice

  • The connection between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorders
  • The connection between vaccination and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SAIDS)
  • The chemicals included in certain vaccines such as thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative

There has yet to be consistent scientific evidence concerning any adverse connections between vaccinations and autism, sudden infant death syndrome, or chemicals like thimerosal. That being said, parents will usually be cautious over unknown dangers concerning their children. If a parent does not vaccinate their child due to the previous statements or any personal beliefs, then these parents should be aware of the responsibility they have in keeping their child as well as the surrounding community safe.

If Parents Decide to Not Immunize Their Children: What Should They Do?

  • Parents must learn about each vaccine-preventable disease, along with their symptoms and how each spreads. This knowledge can help prevent your child from contracting these unnecessary infections.
  • Parents must inform specific outlets to keep the child and others healthy. These institutions include the child’s doctor or physician, the child’s school, childcare facility, and other caregivers. These places should always be informed because there could be a chance of infection from a preventable disease.
  • If there is an outbreak of a preventable disease in the child’s community, be sure to contact your doctor and be aware that your child may be asked to leave their school, childcare, or etc.
  • If your child does become exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, parents must immediately contact their doctor and notify that the child is infected with a vaccine-preventable disease to keep all staff as safe as possible. Parents also need to isolate their child as much as possible to prevent a spread before medical attention is given.

The choice to not vaccinate is a great responsibility and must be taken with care.

A Final Word

While the subject of immunizations will always be a sensitive issue, parents should always confer with their doctor as well as research unbiased and legitimate sources of information to make the best decision for their child. Parents should feel secure and confident with the information presented to them.  Whether parents decide to vaccinate or not, they must always keep in mind that they hold a great deal of responsibility over the health and well-being of their child.

For Further Information: