Tag Archives: holidays

‘Tis the Season for Shopping: Age-Appropriate Gift Guidelines for Kids

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and for those of us with little ones, it can be a challenge to choose a gift that’s both age-appropriate and helpful for development. We’ve all seen the recommended ages on packages for toys and games, but what are really the best toys for your kids?

The great news is that play is not only fun and universal for children of all ages, but it’s actually necessary for ideal development. Toys designed with a child’s current developmental level in mind will promote growth and mastery of new skills and ideas. Here are some guidelines to help you as you’re making your list (and checking it twice):

Little Ones:
0-6 months: Babies birth to six months are learning to control head movement, sit up, and take notice of the world around them. They enjoy toys that engage their senses of touch and developing vision, and help them master grasping—think shaking toys like rattles and something fun to look at during tummy time, like colorful, soft stuffed animals.

6-12 months: Babies on the move like soft toys that will probably end up in their mouths for some period of time (so no small parts!) and that interact with their senses. Bright colors, sounds, and varied textures are engaging. Try simple musical instruments, soft blocks, and push and pull toys.

1-3 years: Toddlers are starting to explore cause and effect relationships and develop more fine motor dexterity—and they do it all while on the move! They like toys with buttons that cause music, lights, and sounds; stacking and sorting toys; picture books; and things that mimic the everyday activities around them: kitchen equipment, a playhouse, or other play household items.

3-5 years: Preschoolers love to do things for themselves, explore outside, and create with imaginative play and materials. Puzzles, clay, safety scissors, paper, books, pretend play tools, and the like are great for development. They are also starting to learn more about how to share and take turns, so early games with turn taking and simple rules, like memory games and short board games, can be introduced.

Big Kids:
5-11 years: Elementary school age children are learning about nature, reading, playing collaboratively, and experiencing further cognitive development. Books that blend pictures and information are great for book lovers. Art supplies are popular for a wide range of kids, and games that encourage their interests and can be played with other children are a good bet. This could include sports equipment, creative arts, board games, music games, and building toys. Science and engineering toys are also a great option.

11-14 years: Middle schoolers are trying to fit in with friend groups and keep up with the demands of school and extracurricular activities. Ask them what they want and keep in mind the benefits of limiting screen time so that physical and outdoor play are not sacrificed.

As you make your shopping list, try to incorporate the interests of the child in your selections. Even very small children have preferences: some like animals and others like dress-up or things that move. The most important tip is to find a toy or game that will appeal to your child’s interests.

Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center.

Helping Trick-or-Treaters with Food Allergies, One Teal Pumpkin at a Time

Teal Pumpkin
Before stocking up on Halloween candy this year, consider this: according to Food Allergy Research and Education Inc., 1 in every 13 trick-or-treaters ringing your doorbell this year may have a food allergy—and in many cases are allergic to the treats you are handing out. The top eight food allergens that cause about 90% of reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish; reactions to allergens vary from mild symptoms of itchy mouth or throat to very severe consequences like anaphylaxis. Aside from having a food allergy, there are countless other medically indicated reasons why children need to adhere to special diets. In our country, more than three million people2 have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining of the intestine when gluten from wheat, barley, or rye is consumed. Irritable bowel syndrome and epilepsy are two other conditions that may require special diets to mitigate symptoms.

Teal 2While some really helpful resources exist, like the Celiac Disease Foundation’s 2015 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List, it can still be daunting to find Halloween candy that’s suitable for each trick-or-treater’s special diet needs. A quick read of a Snickers® Bar food label reveals it contains, milk, soy, peanuts, eggs, and may contain tree nuts. Tootsie Pops, although gluten and peanut free, contain soy and milk, according to the label. Luckily, in 2014, FARE organized a campaign to raise awareness about trick-or-treaters with food allergies, which is also helpful to kids on special diets.

The Teal Pumpkin Project™ encourages households to include kids with food allergies in trick-or-treating by offering non-food treats (playing cards, stickers, bubbles, glow sticks) in place of candy. The mark of a food-allergy safe home offering non-food treats? A teal painted pumpkin on the doorstep (teal is the official color representing food allergy awareness). If you don’t feel up to painting your pumpkin teal, check out FARE’s website for free downloadable signs, pumpkin carving stencils, and coloring pages. In its first year (2014), The Teal Pumpkin Project™ reached trick-or-treaters in all 50 states and seven countries! FARE is challenging 100,000 households to participate this year by taking the Teal Pumpkin Project™ Pledge.

For more information about the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Program, email: celiacdiseaseprogram@nyumc.org

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Jackie Ballou, MS, RD, CDN, Pediatric Nutrition Coordinator and Director of the S.Q.U.A.S.H. Program (Smart choices, Quality ingredients, Unique, Appetizing, Simple & Healthy) at NYU Langone Medical Center.


  1. (Children in the U.S., 18 years or younger) http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
  2. Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner TL, Murray JA, Everhart JE. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538–44.

Traveling with Kids: Tips for Getting to Your Destination without Drama

Make your family travel less stressful!The holiday season can be a hectic time of year with shopping, parties, and family gatherings that sometimes involve traveling. When traveling with kids, the announcements of “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored,” and “I have to go to the bathroom,” are common. In addition to these announcements, yelling, sibling arguments, teasing, and other disruptive behaviors can make parents feel like they need a vacation after their “vacation.” The following strategies will help manage common child behaviors to help everyone survive and hopefully enjoy the season.

Minimize and Plan for Down-time: Preventing your child from feeling “bored” is key as boredom often precedes behavior problems. Strategies that can help prevent boredom and behavior problems include:

• Plan your travel time and route strategically to avoid rush hour, long layovers, or situations that will lengthen your travel if possible.

• Considering planned stops during road trips in addition to the typical bathroom and food stops. This can include kid-friendly stores like Barnes and Noble or other spots where your children can stretch their legs and explore.

• Bring plenty of snacks and water to avoid meltdowns and crankiness due to hunger.

• Have more planned activities than you anticipate needing. This can include group games such as I Spy and 20 Questions; books and audiobooks; and interactive activities such as Mad Libs, paper and crayons, and other easily transportable activities. Additionally, it may help to have copies of the same materials for each of your young children or create a system for sharing to prevent squabbling among siblings.

• Decide about your child’s use of electronics ahead of time. If you are comfortable with it, electronics, iPads, Nintendo DSs, and portable DVD players can help, especially during long flights. If you want to restrict screen time, it’s best to allow any use at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. This will reduce any issues that could arise when your child has reached his or her screen time limit and help provide entertainment at a much-needed time in the trip.

Take Care of Yourself and Manage Your Own Stress: The holidays can be a stressful time and increased parent stress can interfere with your ability to tolerate and manage problematic behaviors. You can take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and exercise and setting aside a small amount of time every day for relaxation. Even a couple minutes can make a difference. The calmer and more relaxed you are the easier it will be to minimize your child’s difficulties.

Anticipate Problems and Consider a Behavior Chart with Rewards: If you expect your child to struggle in a particular area, consider a behavior chart that encourages him or her to engage in the positive opposite of that problem. You can set up a behavior chart by:

• Identify a likely problem, such as kicking the seat in front of him or her or physically fighting with a sibling.

• Figure out the positive opposite of that problem behavior such as keeping hands and feet to self.

• Decide how often your child needs feedback. For instance, your child might need a sticker or point every 15 minutes during a two-hour car ride for meeting that goal.

• Select a reward for success and criteria for meeting that goal. For example, child can earn reward for earning six out of eight stickers.



NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie Wagner, PhD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center. She specializes in providing psychosocial interventions, including parent training, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and school consultation to parents and teachers of children with ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders. Additionally, Dr. Wagner has training in pediatric sleep medicine. As part of her clinical practice at the Child Study Center, she provides organizational skills training. During the summer, Dr. Wagner is a clinical supervisor at the NYU Summer Program for Kids.

Dr. Wagner is a member of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) and Division 53 (Child and Adolescent Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. She has presented her work at national conferences including the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy conventions and has authored several articles and book chapters.

11 Ways to Teach Kids to Give Back for the Holidays

‘Tis the season for celebrating, spending time with family . . . and running around frantically to find the perfect holiday gifts. This is no easy task when everyone on your list likes different things and the lines at stores are absolutely unbearable—not to mention that you usually end up spending much more than planned on luxurious gifts that you *hope* will make your recipients happy.

Sometimes the smallest gifts are the ones that mean the most. Instead of buying fancy new toys or the latest and greatest electronics, help give back and teach our children the true meaning of the holidays with a charitable donation that will bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate. These holiday gift donations can be big or small and can even be made in honor of your children, so they can really take part in helping someone in need. These 11 incredibly worthwhile charities are great options for holiday gift giving this year!

Donation box isolated on white1. Toys for Tots
Founded by the Marine Corp in 1995, Toys for Tots is one of the most recognized programs
helping kids during the holidays. You can either make a monetary donation or donate a toy online or at a donation center. Helping this organization is a great way to give back and show your kids how they can get involved.

2St. Jude Holiday Cards
We all send cards during the holidays, so why not send ones that will help a worthwhile cause? Visit the St. Jude’s website and choose from cute decorations, beautiful designs, and cards starring a St. Jude’s child. Once you select a card—it can be an ecard, card for mailing, or a printable card—indicate your donation and your holiday card will be on its way!

3. USO Holiday Boxes
Donate to USO Holiday Boxes to send festive decorations and treats to soldiers serving overseas. These soldiers don’t have access to a traditional holiday celebration, and truly appreciate these gifts, which help to brighten up their camps and make a far away place feel a little more like home. While the holidays are the perfect time to help this cause, there are also boxes for different times of the year, so you can even send 4th of July flags in the summer!

4. Ronald McDonald House
Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families with sick children. They work to improve the health and well being of children and make it easier for families to stay together at little or no cost while kids are receiving care. Just a small donation will go a long way to make this holiday season just a little bit brighter for these families, and help this amazing organization continue to improve the lives of so many people each day.

holiday charity ideas5. Seussville: Grow Your Heart 3 Sizes 
December 1 marked the celebration of National Grinch Day and kicked off “25 Days of Grinch-Mas”. Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this campaign encourages kids to do one good deed each day and “grow your heart 3 sizes.” You can attend one of the cause’s many events held throughout the country or fill out a form to share your child’s good deeds and then donate a book through FirstBook.org.

6. Reach Out and Read
This is such a fun way to give the gift of reading! Since so many children grow up illiterate, Reach Out and Read helps pediatric doctors promote early literacy and school readiness to parents and young children. This program enables them to give out free books during well visits to promote bedtime story reading. It seems simple, but has had astounding effects—each year, 6.5 million books are distributed to kids thanks to this program!

7. Kangu.org
A non-profit crowdfunding site for safe births, Kangu.org makes it possible to fund a pregnant woman’s health services so that she and her baby can survive childbirth. As moms who all received fantastic prenatal care with our own children, this cause hits especially close to home! When you choose to help a mom-to-be on the site, you not only ensure that she receives basic prenatal care, but you also get to be an important part of her birth story and receive updates after her child is born. The site has funded over 500 women in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, to date, so with a helping hand this holiday season, we can ensure they can help many, many more women!

8. USPS Letters to Santa 
Did you know you can go to your local post office and pick up an actual letter written to Santa? Postal workers sift through the mail to find letters from children in need, remove the addresses, and leave them open for public adoption. You can then return with the gift and a letter back from Santa. How amazing is that? Visit your local post office to learn more, or visit the USPS website.

9. Navy Seal Foundation
Important not just during the holidays, but all year round, a donation to the Navy Seal Foundation supports the families of Navy Seals. With the help of donations, the organization works to do everything from assist the families of fallen heroes to helping families with child care. They also partner with non-profits and academic institutes to help Navy Seal veterans transition themselves and their families to a new life after serving. What’s a better way to give back this holiday season than supporting those who risk their lives for others every day?

10. New York Cares Coat Drive. A coat seems like such a small thing, but for many New Yorkers, having a warm coat for the winter is not possible without help. Each year New York Cares hosts a coat drive with 300 public collection sites citywide, so you can easily find a place to donate near your home or office. If you don’t have any coats to donate, you can also make a monetary donation or volunteer to help the team that works to sort all donated coats.

1501300_820043221394018_4023128855538498254_o11. A Local Homeless Shelter. This year, Kidz Central Station is partnering with Murray Hill Parents, Madison Square Park Mommies, and many Upper East Side parents to donate gifts and supplies to a local NYC shelter. Right now there are over 59,000 people in these safe havens throughout NYC who you can help by dropping off toys, clothing, and other supplies. Visit the Coalition for the Homeless website for more info about how you can help.

If you know of other great ways to give back for the holidays this year, let us know! Email us at info@kidzcentralstation.com—we’ll not only add it to the list, but we’ll also share it and add to our growing list of charities for next year!

Family Ties: Tips for a Stress-Reduced Holiday Season

smiling family with camera at homeWhile holidays are typically a time of joy and celebration, they can also be a source of stress and anxiety. Sometimes expectations about what should happen around the holidays collide with the reality of what actually happens, and this can lead to disappointment, anger, and sadness. Fortunately, there are ways to make the holidays more enjoyable!

Be proactive, not reactive. Enter the holidays with a good idea of what to expect and a plan for how to deal with events and issues as they arise. Begin by reflecting on what has happened in the past at family gatherings—this will make it possible to plan ahead. Often, small alterations in both expectations and behavior make a big difference. Talk over your plans with your spouse/partner and other family members, and take time to think through what you would like to happen during the holidays.

There are two general choices of action to consider from one year to the next:

Stick with existing traditions, but alter parts of them where necessary. If you decide to stick with existing traditions, focus on changing your expectations and behavior in relation to old patterns. For example, if a family member has arrived late to a holiday meal for the past three years, expect that he will do so again and carry on with your plans anyway. If he arrives on time, you will be pleasantly surprised. If he arrives late, you will be less upset since you expected as much.

Create new traditions and/or rituals. Creating new traditions can be an enlivening process that respects what’s come before but generates new forms of celebration reflecting present and changing circumstances. Families that feel exhausted and overextended can scale back the traditions they’ve been straining to uphold. For example, a family may feel relieved to deviate from the dinner menu they’ve prepared year after year just because it was a tradition.

The most important thing you can do to reduce stress during the holiday season is to clearly delineate what matters most about the season. Furthermore, everyone does not have to agree on everything, because there are usually sufficient areas of agreement about what’s important. If compromise in essential areas is not possible, the disagreement may be a clue to important issues that require continued attention beyond the holidays. For example, interfaith couples may find holidays particularly stressful for many reasons. These issues—though unearthed by holiday stress—deserve extra (and perhaps professional) attention going forward.

Here are some tips for reducing holiday stress:

  • Be proactive rather than reactive.
  • Maintain reasonable expectations.
  • Be clear about what is really important to you.
  • Be flexible and willing to change. In addition to making your life easier it is a great example to set for your children.
  • Retain your sense of humor!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Andrew Roffman, LCSW, has over two decades of experience in helping families, couples, and individuals with emotional and behavioral problems. He is a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and also the director of the Child Study Center’s Family Studies Program, a training program in family and couples therapy. Mr. Roffman teaches family therapy and family systems theory to psychology interns, psychiatry residents, and NYU undergraduates.

Mr. Roffman is a Member of the National Association of Social Workers. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles for professional journals as well as a book chapter in Therapeutic Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents. Mr. Roffman received “Teacher of the Year” award in 2008 and 2011 for his work with trainees at the Child Study Center and is a regular contributing editor to The Journal for Systemic Therapies.