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Just Call Me Dad

Fatherhood in the 21st Century


Category: Child Care Tips

Nick loves Thomas and Friends, as I’m sure most two year olds do. The small, rugged trains are painted in bright colors, have strong magnets, and a world of television, clothing, and Internet promotion to keep the kids coming back for more. Obviously a huge marketing success, Thomas can also be used to teach our children about many things.


One of the best things about the Thomas and Friends trains are the wide variety of colors that the engines and trucks are painted. No real life railroad would paint their locomotives red, blue, green, black, orange, purple, and brown, but it sure helps our kids learn about colors. As you play, ask your kids questions about colors like:

Nick, which engine is blue?

Nicholas, what color is Gordon?


I’m sure many corporate fleets could learn something about the simple method that Sir Topham-Hat uses to keep his group of engines organized. There is no way that the local company my neighbor works for is so big that his truck deserves to have UNIT # 465C painted on the side of it. The Sodor Train Company keeps things simple: Thomas is #1, Percy is #6, Gordon is #4. This is great for learning numbers and counting. As you play, ask your kids questions like:

Nicholas, which engine is #6?

Nick, do you see the number 2 on any of these engines?

As a child grows older, you could even use the trains to teach addition and subtraction. Imagine making a long train, counting all of the cars together, and then removing two cars from the end of the train.

How many cars are left?

Or, try addition:

If Percy is pulling two mail trucks, and picks up one milk truck, how many trucks is Percy pulling now?


 Alright, two is a little young to be thinking about my child becoming the next star student at MIT, but the fact is that the laws of physics control the way the world around us works. The sooner that our kids become familiar with these concepts, the sooner that they can move on to other things. Nick’s eyes light up when one train magically picks another up off the floor, or pushes another train down the track just by bringing them close to each other. Many people don’t know this, but the trains have opposite poles on each of their magnets. This means that the train cars and engines all have to be facing in the same direction in order for them to couple to each other. Place them in the wrong direction and the forces of magnetism actually repel the two cars. It’s amazing to watch my son place two cars together, realize one is backwards, and turn it around so that they both click together.


 Those little wooden train tracks have connectors that are not much larger than many puzzle pieces. It requires a fairly high degree of dexterity to assemble a track.


Think about the considerable imaginative play that is required to create a story in your child’s mind and act it out on a set of wooden rails. Also consider the significant understanding of the world that a 2 year old needs in order to lay 10 pieces of track into a complete circuit so that he or she can drive a train completely around it. It requires a clear vision of what the end product looks like, and an understanding of cause and effect to place one piece in one way and knowing that the next piece has to go a certain way or the track will never work out. The individual pieces of train tracks are really an open ended game for kids; kind of like Grand Theft Auto 4 but without the shoot-outs (and drugs and prostitutes).

The best part? I like Thomas too. The toys are fun and simple, and I love playing trains with my son. Keep an eye on this blog for some other train news as Nick’s birthday approaches.

Interested in picking up some Thomas and Friends toys? Check out for a complete selection.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

We have used Baby Tylenol since Nick was an infant to treat his fevers and other pain. One complaint that I always had, especially once he got older, was the dosing device included with the medicine. Baby Tylenol comes with a small 1.0 ml eyedropper dispenser that is not entirely easy to use. In addition, as Nick grew, his dose grew to be larger than 1ml, meaning that we would have to go through the entire procedure twice. This is not easy to do with a crying baby. Also, I don’t really think the act of putting a used dropper back into the bottle of medicine is the safest thing to do; after all, if your child is sick, there are likely to be germs on the dropper.

My solution has been to collect the syringes from the various antibiotics that Nick has been on and use them. These syringes have excellent markings on them for volume, and are easy to take apart and clean. Also, because you can squirt them out pretty quickly, it’s easy to give the medicine to the baby. The problem with this is that the syringe doesn’t fit into the bottle of Tylenol, so I end up spilling when loading the syringe. I asked and looked at all the pharmacies nearby, and could not find a narrower syringe.

Well, last week Nick was having a really hard time with some tooth pain. He had 4 teeth coming in all at once, and he would cry especially hard near bed time. Giving him Baby Tylenol at bed time really helped, but it wore off, and he was waking up at 1am to cry again. Frustrated, we bought a bottle of Baby Advil which was supposed to be effective for 8 hours.

When I opened the box of Baby Advil I was rewarded with a wonderful sight – a 3.0ml syringe narrow enough to fit into the bottle! Yeah! Unfortunately, the syringe is marked only at 1.0ml, 1.4ml, and 3.0ml, but since these are the recommended dosages it’s not really a problem. To make things even better, the Baby Advil allowed Nick to sleep the entire night without waking up in pain.

So kudos to you Advil for thinking about how your medicine is actually used and designing a dispenser that makes it easy. I won’t be buying Baby Tylenol again.


This story has three parts.

Part 1

On Friday night I read an article about how to discipline kids (unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the article again, but if I do, I will post a link for you). To summarize, the author suggested that parents need to learn the difference between a BEHAVIOUR PROBLEM, and a SITUATIONAL PROBLEM. This difference might seem trivial – if your child is misbehaving, your child is misbehaving, right? Well, perhaps not. The author went on to say that if we learn to file our child’s behaviour under the correct title, we can learn to deal with the situation better. Interesting.

Part 2

Saturday afternoon Nick and I went to run a few errands. The last errand was a visit to Staples to pick up a new thumbdrive. In Staples, Nick saw a Thomas the Tank Engine calendar for sale (with big Thomas pictures on the cover). He had to have it. I said no, and he had a cry; nothing too serious, but a cry nonetheless.

It was now 5:00pm. To try and get him in a good mood before going home I thought I’d take him into the Toy’s R Us across the parking lot. There is a large display of Thomas stuff there, and a table with a train set on it that kids can play with. I thought Nick might like that, and if he was good, I could add a Gordon to the set at home.

The playtime was great; leaving the store was not. Nick melted down. Screaming, kicking, and twisting when I picked him up. I tried for a little while to calm him down, but nothing was working. I ended up carrying him out of the store while he screamed in my ear. It was now 5:30pm – supper time. He calmed down on the drive home, ate supper, and was wonderful for the rest of the evening.

Part 3

Sunday afternoon I had a couple more chores to do with Nick. The first was to buy a new cordless drill at Princess Auto (don’t laugh at the name, the store is AWESOME!). The second task was to pick up a couple of things at The Home Depot.

Princess Auto was excellent. Nick was interested, engaged, and having a good time. The time was 4:40pm.

This is where the moment of learning takes place. As I began to drive towards the big orange box store I recalled the article I had read two days before. Then, I thought about the events at Toy’s R Us. I realized that Nick was likely tired, hungry, and bored when I took him to Toy’s R Us, and that the store, which is designed to stimulate children’s senses, probably pushed him over the edge. I’m sure that playing with the trains didn’t help. Nick was misbehaving, sure, but more importantly, I had placed him in a situation where a 19 month old child was destined to misbehave.

I made a decision. Instead of going to The Home Depot, we went to the playground near our house. We ran around the grass, went down the slide a few dozen times, and then tasted some rocks (hey, he’s 19 months old). It was great fun. Nick enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. We went home, had supper, a bath, and then went to bed. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.


Obviously, we can’t pass the blame for our children’s behaviour off on other things all the time. Sometimes, screaming because he wants a train and I won’t buy it for him is simply bad behaviour. However, it is possible that, at other times, parents need to take a share of the blame. The trick is knowing the difference. If we think our child is at fault too often we become nagging parents, the kind you see swearing at their kids in the mall. If we assume that external influences are to blame too often, we become the parents who make constant excuses for their kids and never let them take any responsibility for their actions.

As with most things, the key is to find the proper balance.


Nick has had several ear infections in the past few months; we finally ended up with a referral to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) to have him evaluated.

In a way, it was good timing – he was fighting a cold at the time of the appointment, so the Doctor got to see him in a situation ripe for an ear infection.

The Doctor was able to do some really interesting tests. He had a machine that applied pressure to the eardrum and then measured the response; it was also able to tell a little bit about the shape of the eardrum.

The results – Nick’s eardrums were slightly concave, which is normal for a child recovering from an ear infection. Also, his eardrums moved freely and responded to the changing air pressure. What this meant was that: 1) he was getting better, 2) he didn’t have any hearing problems, and 3) there was no need for tubes to be installed in his ears. All great things.

The final advice of the Doctor was not to take Nick to the Doctor every time he has a cold or seems to be tugging at his ears. What he asked us to do was monitor Nick’s temperature; anything over 39C and we should take him to the Doctor, anything less and he should be treated with baby Tylenol.

I don’t think this advice applies to every baby in every situation, and my intention isn’t to advise you NOT to take your baby to the doctor. However, I thought I would share the information in case you were hearing something similar from your doctor, and wanted to know if other parents were being told the same thing.


About a month ago when Nick was fighting a cold, I posted some tips to help parents deal with sick kids. In that article I mentioned that you shouldn’t give cold medicine to young kids, even if the medicine was intended for them. I also provided some links to articles about that very topic. Interestingly, the debate has popped up in the news again as a group of Pediatricians has called on the FDA to ban children’s cough and cold medicine.

I heard about this on the radio today, and did a little bit of digging. It seems that the FDA has strengthened it’s position a little, but has declined to ban the products outright. You can read more about the story here.

As you can probably imagine based on my last post, I’ve been doing some research on babies and colds over the past few days. What I’ve found hasn’t really been all that surprising – THERE IS NO CURE. Well, as someone who gets 5 or 6 colds a year, I could have told you that. I did learn a few things however. When I get sick, I generally progress through the following steps over the course of a week or ten days:

1. Think to myself that my throat is sore.
2. Whine to my wife that I am getting sick.
3. Act like a baby for one day at the peak of the cold.
4. Return to the real world with boxes of DayQuil/NyQuil Value Packs (or Tylenol Cold & Sinus!)
5. Gradually get better and then forget I was ever sick.

It has become obvious that Nick isn’t able to follow most of these steps, what with him not being able to talk and everything. So more had to be done.

First, what is the common cold? An infection of your upper respiratory tract. Colds are spread by a wide variety of viruses, and you generally become immune to that virus after beating a cold. Since the viruses are constantly mutating however, it doesn’t really matter, as the same cold virus will never hit you a second time. The common cold is spread by contact, especially by objects such as door handles, telephones, and especially for kids – toys. Once you get the virus on your hands and touch your eyes, ears, mouth, or nose, you have been exposed to the virus, and you get sick. As kids play together, with their runny noses and uncovered coughs, colds are passed around a lot. According to it is not uncommon for kids to get as many as 10 colds in a year – yikes. You can help prevent the spread of colds by washing the child’s hands and toys regularly, especially if he or she has recently had a playdate.

How To Treat The Cold
As I mentioned above, there is no cure. That means there is no medicine that will make the cold go away, or go away faster, so you really are limited to treating the symptoms. There have been many recent studies involving children and cold medicines, and they show that medications aren’t effective in young children, and they often overdose the child which, well isn’t good. Follow these steps instead:

First – Take your child’s temperature regularly, and monitor it often.

Second – Call your Doctor with this information. Even if your child doesn’t seem to be having a fever, call your GP or Pediatrician and let them know the age and weight and details of your child and ask for recommendations. Colds can rapidly turn into ear infections in children, and babies are so small it is never worth taking a chance.

Third – keep wiping their noses regularly. If the mucus is free flowing, it will be easy to remember to do this. Nick starts flailing around as soon as he sees a Kleenex come towards his face, and he usually ends up burying his face in my shoulder, wiping the snot all over my shirt. Mission accomplished. I wipe up my shirt and move on. If the nose is kind of dry and crusty, saline drops are available to help break up the mucus. You can then get a suction bulb to suck up the boogers. My success with the suction bulb is similiar to my success with the Kleenex, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Interestingly, our Doctor wasn’t big on the suction bulb, she suggested that it (the snot) will all come out in the end, and to not worry about it. She also said it does no harm. Most webpages and books seem to like the suction bulb, and you probably have one anyway, so use your parental intuition or your own Doctor’s advice.

Fourth – Keep the baby well hydrated and fed. Because babies are so small they dehydrate really quickly, and it is important to keep fluids in them. Nick really lost his appetite for a day or so, but he really kept sucking back liquids. His appetite returned, and now all is well.

Fifth – Run a vaporizer. If you have one, these things are great for everybody in the family. They moisten the air which helps to clear out the sinuses. If you don’t have one, you can sit in the bathroom (on the floor or on the toilet) while running hot water in the shower. The steam generated by the shower can do the same thing. Don’t actually get in the shower with your baby.

NEVER – apply menthol, campor, peppermint, or any product with these ingredients anywhere on your baby. Studies show they can be harmful.

NEVER – give your baby any medicine not specifically prescribed by a Doctor. This includes any cold medicines labelled for infants. There is no proof that they work, and they are often quite harmful. Here are a few links to convince you not to do this:

No Cold Medicine for Infants or Toddlers

FDA – Recommendations for OTC Cough and Cold Products

Here is a great link to the that talks specifically about babies and colds: – Babies and The Common Cold

Finally, please remember that I am a concerned parent, and not a Doctor or medical professional. Do your own research, use your own parental intuition, and most importantly, contact your own Doctor whenever your baby is sick.

I had to take Nick to the Doctor today, he had a crazy case of diaper rash that came up after a bout of diarrhea last week. I asked her a few questions about diaper rash in general, and then did a bit of research once I got home. Diaper Rash seems to be sort of a general term used anytime there is a rash or swelling in the diaper region, no matter what the cause (infection, moisture, etc).

When To See A Doctor For Diaper Rash

Nick had a rash for a few days before we called the Doctor, and then it took a couple more for him to actually get in to see her. This seems to be a pretty common reccomendation for timing a Doctors vist. Of course, this is concerning just a general redness in the area. If there are any sores or scabs or anything else wierd, I’d go see the Doctor right away – better safe than sorry I think.

What Causes Diaper Rash?

There are many things that cause diaper rash, but the most common is probably just having wet or dirty diapers up against the skin for too long. The extra moisture irritates the skin, and then the skin turns red. I also found evidence that new foods can cause a rash, and teething somehow can have connections too. There is also the possibility that the diapers are too small (this goes back to the wetness being up against the skin for too long), or a reaction to some product that you are using like diapers, laundry soap, or wipes. Finally, a yeast infection can also cause a really bad diaper rash.

Treating Diaper Rash

For most mild cases of diaper rash, all you need to do is treat the area with diaper cream. Diaper cream contains Zinc Oxide, which has a soothing effect on the area, as well as helping the rash to get better. My Doctor also specifically mentioned a bit of ‘naked time’ for the boy as a way to help the area get dried out and have air circulated around. If your child’s diaper rash is caused by diarrhea, I think it would be a REALLY good idea to wait for the diarrhea to go away before letting him loose in your living room sans diaper.

Preventing Diaper Rash
Preventing diaper rash is theoretically pretty easy – just keep the diaper area dry and well ventilated. This means changing the diaper as soon as it gets wet, cleaning the area well, making sure the bum is dry before putting the diaper on, and not doing the diaper up too tight. My Doctor specifically recommended washing the bum each time a diaper is changed – I’m not sure how that would work exactly, but perhaps just a wet cloth is enough (currently I use diaper wipes, not an actual wet cloth). Finally, if your baby tends to get diaper rash a lot, preventative use of diaper cream might be a good idea. We used to use diaper cream all the time, but it was so messy we stopped. It wouldn’t have helped in this case anyhow, but it might be something for us to reconsider.

I’m not a Doctor, and have no medical training. I just thought I would share some information that I dug up. I hope it is helpful to you. If in doubt, always check with a Doctor. I found a ton of great websites with diaper rash information, but the best was the Mayo Clinic’s site. The diaper rash article can be found here: