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Q: My 18 month-old likes touching and tugging his willy – is this something I should be worried about?

Counselling psychologist/marriage & family therapist Charis Wong says,

It is perfectly normal for your son to be curious about his body parts as he learns about himself and his body. You 18-month-old is still at the pre-verbal or early-verbal stage, so a lot of his learning about himself and his world is done using his senses such as touch, smell and sight. Little boys are often fascinated with their willy…and really, many would agree that this is a lifelong fascination!

Once your son starts talking and is old enough to sharing his fascination about his willy with you, then it’s time for you to sit down and talk to him about what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to touch.

Make it clear to him that his willy is a special private part of him and that no one should be touching his willy without his permission or when he doesn’t want them to, and explain why he should only be touching his willy in private. Avoid reprimanding or scolding him when he starts playing with his willy, as this would cause him to feel shame or guilt and he may develop a negative attitude about sexuality and his self-image.

Q: What are some tasty and healthy snacks I can feed my 18-month old?

Dietician Ng Yee Voon says,

I often hear, “my kid wants junk” and “carrot sticks won’t cut it!”. You probably thought you’ll never be able to get them to eat healthy foods. However, change is possible and requires time and thinking out of the box. Getting your child to be involved in food preparation always makes things easier. Here are some healthy yet delicious snacks you can try at home:

  • Dip a piece of fresh apple in peanut butter and stick some raisins on it.
  • Hold up granola cereals with diluted honey or condensed milk and freeze them to form shape.
  • Offer crisp orange baby carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli, or red or yellow capsicum, cut into shapes of star or heart and arranged in fun designs or on a colourful plate for greater appeal.
  • Spread 100% whole grain crackers with diluted honey and sprinkle some sesame seeds.
  • Prepare fruit smoothies, made with cow’s milk, banana, frozen/ fresh berries and vanilla extract.
  • Serve canned pineapple slices sprinkled with star-shape cereals. Declare the theme of the day as “the star and the sun”!

Q: My toddler is starting nursery soon and I’m worried that she’ll constantly be catching bugs. How can I boost her immunity?

Paediatrician Dr. Ling Shih Gang says,

There is no magic bullet, be it nutritional supplements, herbal products or probiotics that has been scientifically proven to boost our immune system. However, this does not necessarily mean that these products do not work at all – just that their use is not supported by scientific evidences. Some of these interventions may work for some children but not others.

For a healthy, well-nourished child, I would not recommend any specific dietary supplement to boost the immune system. However, if you still decide to serve them to your child, I would not object, as long as they are safe for consumption.

The question is whether they are effective. You can objectively measure whether these interventions work or not by documenting the number of times your child comes down with illness, for six months before and another six months after starting the intervention. Determine whether there is any difference. That way, you are able to decide whether to continue with the intervention.

Research is still on-going to look for that elusive immune-booster. For the time being, I would recommend these measures to keep your child’s immune system in tip-top condition:

  • Adequate sleep.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Avoid stressing your child with excessive activities and expectations.
  • Eating a variety of natural foods especially whole grain, multi-coloured vegetables and fruits rich in antioxidants.
  • Practice good hygiene habits such as regular hand washing and limiting hands touching areas around nose and mouth.
  • Lots of fun and laughter. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”!

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