Robbing my kids of joy…one holiday at a time.

This isn’t really what I pictured when I mentioned that I may start doing some “hot topic” posts. But apparently Halloween is a bit of an issue for me.  I have written past posts about why my family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but if you don’t want to click through to those links, I’ll summarize briefly for you:

1) Aaron (my husband) grew up with essentially NO holidays.  Since our little family DOES celebrate most holidays in some way, this one (which I’ve never been too excited about) seems like a small compromise.

2)  Halloween makes me think of creepy stuff and people acting naughty.  What about that is something we should celebrate?

3)  People have told me, “It’s just for fun, don’t worry about it!” but I really think our society could use MORE thinking, and LESS fun.  Not that I’m anti-fun.  Just a fan of thinking about it first!

***************************************************

In past years, I have let the kids dress up to hand out candy.  This has always bugged Aaron, since it seems too close to celebrating, and too picky about the “rules”.  This year, I’m contemplating just avoiding it all together – let’s leave the house, and just go do something else, maybe?

If there was a good harvest/fall party, I would let the kids pick out costumes and go.  In fact, I’m getting dangerously close to hosting one myself.  I think I would shoot for sometime closer to Thanksgiving.  And even if other kids dressed up for Halloween, they could get some extra use out of the costume…hmmm…I’m thinking of ideas already.  I’m such a dork.

***************************************************

Just to be clear, we are not banning fun in general.  My kids can have candy generally whenever they ask for it. (Still enjoying candy from a parade this summer!) And I’ll let them each pick a bag of “the good stuff” to choose from for the fall.  Also, I give the kids a few Thanksgiving presents.  This is what I remind them of when they are whining about not getting to go trick or treating.  Who ELSE gets Thanksgiving presents?!

To be consistent (and also because I don’t see the point of them), we also don’t tell our kids about the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.  No, they will NOT be ruining your kids’ fun, at least not on purpose.  They’ve been told that some kids believe in them, and they are NOT to go blurting out that they are a fairy tale. (Easter is usually on or close to Ben’s birthday and only a month before Leah’s, so the extra gifts/candy aren’t really necessary.)

***************************************************

Speaking of fairies.  Leah has a minor obsession with the pixies, and has for awhile, even though I’ve been clear with her from the beginning that they aren’t real.  So when the Tooth Fairy was due to make an appearance….she was rather crestfallen.  We had a sweet little conversation about it, though, and decided to play the game anyway.  I didn’t set out to ruin THAT fun, but Ben was kinda freaking out at the thought of something creeping into his room in the middle of the night.  I HAVE A KID LIKE THAT, folks.  Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have a guy sliding down our chimney or a rabbit hiding stuff in our house.  At least the leprechauns leave chocolate coins when they make a mess.  WHAT?  I have some friends who do Valentines Day in a big way…I lean towards mischief.  It’s a good way to make it through the winter.

***************************************************

You think I’m a freak?  Ok. You are probably correct.
You think I’m a joy kill?  You are entitled to think that way, although my kids joyful personalities beg to differ.
Maybe you think I’m reading too much into a simple holiday? I’m really okay with my kids seeing me make thoughtful decisions, and not just go along with the status quo. (Although don’t get me wrong – I don’t think poorly of those who choose to dress up and beg for candy.:)
Or perhaps you are thinking more along the lines of religious extremists or zealots? I can only hope so, but not in the scary violent way the terms are used these days.

What I would love is some non-Halloween activities to do with the kids, or ways to avoid looking like the Grinch dressed in orange & black.    Any thoughts on that?

In small quantities, fear is a good thing!

The summer that Leah was about 18 months old, and probably the next summer too, every time I tried to take her swimming I spent about 3/4 of the time trying to coerce her into actually getting into the water.  About 15 minutes before it was time to leave she’d finally decide to enjoy herself.

When Ben was that same age and stole a kid’s boat at a wading pool, I had a brain flash and put some of our excess bath toys into a bag to keep with the swimming paraphernalia (swim diapers, chlorine-removing shampoo, swimsuits, towels, sunscreen.  Keeping it together in one place makes it sooo much easier to just GO.)  He was a bit more interested in the water, but true to his cautious nature, spent most of the time holding my hands or legs.

They have both taken swimming lessons for at least 2 years now, and Ben is still nervous about jumping off the edge of the pool, especially without someone catching him.  If fact, he WON’T jump unless he thinks someone is going to catch him.  Too bad his mom is kindof a liar in that department. (We’ll just call it a Tiger Mother streak…I KNOW he can do it!)

But this 3rd baby, on the other hand…

What did I expect, when he was doing THIS at just over a year?

There is no hesitation about water for this kid.  He is IN IT from the moment we say okay, and sometimes almost before he has his swim diaper/trunks on!

Late last week we went to a wading pool, and instead of depending on me to play with him, Adam took charge and spent the time walking around on his own…and only periodically commanding me to “One two FREE!” and swing him into the water.  Impressively, he did a pretty good job staying upright, and only slipped under three times.  I grabbed him immediately the first time, and he hardly seemed to notice.  The second time he dunked under but had gotten his footing by the time I made the two steps over.  The third time I was there right away again, but he required a short comforting before diving – or stepping – in the water again.

Each time we go swimming, he gets bolder and closer to giving us a heart attack.  Yesterday we all went swimming, Daddy included.  After Adam got tired of walking around in water up to his chin, he did a little dance on the side of the pool, on a penninsula-type of thing.  It was great entertainment for everyone, even the lifeguard. Then he started walking on the filtered border of the pool, about a foot wide.  At first he was on my side of the penninsula (chin deep on him), but he quickly rounded the corners and was one topple from being in water 5 feet deep.  Aaron was closer than I was, but I knew he wouldn’t be able to get there in time.

As I hoisted myself out of the water, I checked the lifeguard’s position – and yes, she was paying attention and looked ready to jump in at a second’s notice.  Reassuring that I wasn’t the only the one anticipating his actions!

I walked along side Adam for a bit before redirecting him to shallower waters.  Soon he was going down the slide (no water running on it, just at the bottom)  – on his belly with feet first – whereas on our previous visit he refused to go at all. 

I guess I’ll get used to having my eyes on him constantly  – and having my blood pressure spike periodically.  It’s all just another relaxing summer afternoon!

***************************************************************
Have you had any close calls around water?  (Let’s keep it light – I’m aware that there are plenty of tragedies surrounding water and children, and if you’ve experienced that, you have all my sympathies.  That possibility is why we will never have a pool, and why I make sure to have plenty of eyes on my kids, and usually life jackets too.)

Play it safe this Spring

While parents are scooping up the hottest toys for spring and summer play, safety should be at the top of the list.  Each year an estimated 169,300 toy-related injuries in children ages 14 years and younger are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States.  With the federal toy safety standards passed in 2008, parents can be reassured that the vast majority of toys on store shelves are safe.

 Appropriate selection and proper use of toys, combined with active adult supervision, can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of toy-related injuries.  If you have multiple children in your homes of different ages, make sure to keep their toys separate.  This is because children should only be allowed to play with age appropriate toys.  Some of the toys that older children play with have little parts or pieces that a younger child might choke on.  Keeping toys separated & secured is important when younger children are in the home.    

 Some safety tips to help make for safer play are as follows:

  • Use Mylar balloons instead of latex.
  • Make sure to consider the child’s age, interests, and skill ability when selecting toys.
  • Avoid toys with sharp points or edges, toys that produce loud noises and projectiles (such as darts).
  • Toys with strings, straps, or cords longer than 7 inches can unintentionally strangle children and should be avoided. 
  • Inspect old and new toys regularly for damage and potential hazards at least every 3 months.
  • Toy cap guns use caps that can be ignited by the slightest friction and cause serious burns; these should not be used by children.
  • Assure covers to battery compartments are well secured so children can’t access the batteries.

 Actively supervise children when they are playing with riding toys as well as any toy that has small balls and small parts, magnets, electrical or battery power, cords and strings.  Simply being in the same room as your child is not necessarily supervising.  Active supervision means keeping the child in sight and in reach while paying undivided attention. 

 Eighty eight percent of deaths and nearly eighty percent of hospital emergency room visits for airway obstruction injuries were among children ages 4 and under.  The majority of these incidents occur in the home.  Children are at risk for choking on small round foods such as hot dogs, candies, nuts, grapes, carrots, and popcorn.  Some non-food items tend to be coins, small balls, and balloons.

 Always actively supervise young children while they are eating or playing.

  • Do not allow children under 6 to eat round or hard foods including hot dogs. 
  • Remove hood and neck drawstrings from all children’s outerwear.
  • Learn how to give first aid to a child who chokes or stops breathing.

 For more information about safe play or any unintentional injury, e-mail us at safekids@altru.org, or check out our website www.safekidsgf.com.

Keep your eyes open and your windows shut!

With this week being National Window Safety Week (April 3rd-9th), we believe it’s important to remind you that placing a crib, changing table or even a chair next to a window might offer your child a nice view outside, but be careful.  Window falls can happen to anyone and in some cases may be deadly.  Active Adult supervision is always required around open windows, no matter the distance to the ground or how far open the window is.  Toddlers have been known to fall out of windows open as little as five inches. 

 Every year, window falls account for 12 childhood deaths and 4,000 injuries for children under 10 years old.  We strongly recommend window guards on all windows above the first floor, preferably guards equipped with an emergency release device in case of fire. 

 Do not view screens as a safety device, it is only designed to keep insects out, not children in.  Proper safety guards on windows save lives, and have shown to reduce window fall-related deaths by up to 35 percent as found in a pilot program in New York City.  In an apartment in a high-rise building, window guards should be considered essential safety equipment. 

 Install window guards to prevent children from falling out of windows.  For windows above the first floor, install window guards with an emergency release device in case of fire.

  • Install window stops so that windows open no more than 4 inches.
  • Keep windows locked and closed when they are not being used.
  • Keep furniture away from windows so kids can’t climb to the ledge.
  • If you have double-hung widows – the kind that open down from the top as well as up from the bottom – it’s generally safer to open the top pane, but growing kids may have enough strength, dexterity and curiosity to open the bottom pane. 
  • Never try to move a child who appears to be injured after a fall.  You can cause more damage, call 911 and let trained medical personnel move the child.
  • Consider using cordless window products in your home if you have young children or if they visit your home frequently.
  • Check all Roman Blinds and roll-up shades in your home.  Kids have been strangled while playing with dangling cords.  If looped pull cords, exposed inner cords, or exposed lifting loops are round, replace the blinds or shades with products that do not have exposed pull cords or inner cords.

 For more information about window safety and falls e-mail us at safekids@altru.org, or check out our website www.safekidsgf.com.  National Window Safety Week is an annual program of the National Safety Council.  Visit them at  www.nsc.org.

Concussion Management

Last week we discussed numerous things that should be considered when pulling out spring toys and equipment for your children.  Each year more than 30 million children participate in sports during the spring time in the United States.  More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries.  While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe. 

 With that being said, we at Safe Kids believe that there is a need to address the issue of concussions.  Not only how to prevent a concussion, but also what are the symptoms or signs, and last but not least the steps that should be taken after.

 A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by a bump or blow to the head.  Even a bump or blow to the head that seems mild can be serious.  You can’t see a concussion and that is why it is very important to know what you’re looking for after you suspect one has occurred.  Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of a concussion can show up right away or may not appear or be noticed until days or weeks later.  If your child complains of any symptoms or you see any signs, make sure to get medical attention right away.

 Nobody can ever predict whether or not a concussion is going to occur, but there are certain precautions you can go over with your child.  Even though every sport is different, there are certain precautions that can be used for all sports.  Discuss with your child that it is important for them to follow their coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.  Encourage them to practice good sportsmanship at all times, no matter what the situation.  Make sure they wear the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, mouth guards, and eye protection).  As a parent you should make sure that all protective gear is properly fit and well maintained. 

 Some of the signs and symptoms of a concussion according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are as follows: The child

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets an instruction
  • Is unsure of the game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly or slower than normal
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events before or after the hit or fall

If a concussion has occurred your child may complain about the following:

  • Headache or “pressure” in their head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double vision or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
  • Confusion
  • Doesn’t “feel right”

 If you suspect a concussion has occurred it is very important that you seek medical attention right away.  A heath care professional will be able to decide how serious the concussion and when it is safe for you child to return to sports.  Until your child can see a medical professional, make sure to keep them out of play.  Even after they have been assessed by a medical professional, make sure that they wait until the doctor says it’s ok to return to the activity.  Also it is important to let your child’s coach know about any recent concussion and that they are aware of the current situation.   

 Remind your child that it’s better to miss one game than the whole season.  Concussions range in severity which is unknown to you, make sure your child seeks medical attention.  For more information about concussions and unintentional injury prevention, please visit our website www.safekidsgf.com.  You can also find more information on concussions at the CDC website, www.cdc.gov/injury.

It’s that time of year again to dust off the bats and gloves.

As winter turns into spring and temperatures increase, so does the amount of time that children spend outdoors playing spring sports.  This means that the number of injuries to children can also increase.

 Each year, more than 30 million children participate in sports in the United States.  More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries.  While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe. 

 In team sports, such as baseball/softball, track and field, and also soccer, most injuries (62%) occur during practices, not games.  The most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, repetitive motion injuries and heat-related illness.  Although the spring temperatures don’t get as warm as summer, it is still very important to make sure your child remains hydrated.

 When we think of sports injuries, we tend to think of dramatic tackles of falls, such as plays you often see on highlight reels on ESPN, but young athletes are also at risk of injuries.  Be sure to remind your child that if their coach recommends certain warm-ups, it is not a punishment; they are simply trying to help them become a better athlete and keep them safe. 

 Below are some recommendations to think about when preparing yourself and your child for spring activities:

  •  The start of the season is a good time to assure that last years gear still fits.
  • Before signing up for a sport, have your child get a general physical exam
  • Be sure to have them wear the appropriate protective gear for the activity.
  • Remind them to also do their warm-ups and cool-downs.  This is especially important not only before the activity, but also after so that your child does not cramp up.
  • Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Talk to you child about “playing through” an injury, remind them that they should not do this and get immediate help from a coach or trainer. 
  • If your child is playing outside, have them wear a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher.
  • Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based not only on sportsmanship, but also safety.

 Last but not least, make sure to keep your child hydrated.  Drinking plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity will greatly help to avoid dehydration.  A child can lose up to a quart of sweat during two hours of exercise, and kids get overheated more easily than adults, and are not able to cool down as fast.

 For more information regarding spring sports safety or other unintentional injury prevention, visit our website www.safekidsgf.org.  We also have helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and other various safety gear available at our Safe Kids store at a reduced price.  If you are interested in purchasing please contact polsen@altru.org.

Poison Prevention Tips

Every year, more than 72,600 children ages 5 and under visit the emergency room for unintentional poisoning.  About 40 percent will be poisoned by prescription drugs and other medicines.  Ninety percent of child poisonings happen in a home.  They even happen in homes without children (when kids visit), and they happen when people bring medicine into homes where children live.  Young children are very curious and cannot yet read.  They often cannot tell the difference between things such as juice or candy, and a potential poison.  Their curious nature may lead them to ingest a substance that can be very harmful to them.  So take the following steps to keep children safe in your home:

  • Keep medication and harmful products locked up and out of a child’s sight and reach.
  • NEVER call medicine “candy.”
  • Buy medicine and household products in childproof containers.
  • NEVER leave alcohol within a child’s reach.
  • Seek help if a child swallows a substance that is not food.  Call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or your doctor if a child swallows a poisonous substance.
  • Keep the following numbers near your phone:

            

Poison Control Center:

1-800-222-1222

Doctor:___________

Hospital:__________

 

  • Syrup of Ipecac is no longer recommended for poisoning ingestion. Activated Charcoal is the agent of choice, and can be obtained over-the– counter.  However, activated charcoal is difficult to get children to swallow so we recommend not wasting time but rather just going to the emergency room.
  • Keep all products in their original containers. NEVER put inedible products in food or beverage containers.
  • Teach children not to drink or eat anything unless it came from an adult.
  • If your home was built before 1978, test for lead-based paint and get your child tested for lead exposure.  Children inhale the dust of lead-based paint and can build up enough lead in their blood to affect intelligence, growth and development.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside every sleeping area and on every level of your home.  Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that builds up around fuel-burning appliances and cars in garages.  It can make a child seriously ill in concentrations that would barely affect an adult.
  • Be alert for repeated poisonings. Children who swallow a poison are likely to do so again within a year.

 Discuss these precautions with grandparents and caregivers.  They may have medications that can be very dangerous to children and their homes might not be as well childproofed as yours.  For more information on poisoning or other childhood safety topics, log on to www.safekidsgf.com or e-mail us at safekids@altru.org.

Keeping children safe on their walk to school

Even though the snow is slowly melting, we are still experiencing some rather cool weather.  If weather permitting, we highly encourage children to walk to and from school.  With children walking to and from school this time of year, they could encounter some hazardous situations if the right precautions are not taken.  Take some time and go over a few tips with your child about pedestrian safety.  

 Children are at an increased risk for pedestrian injury or death because traffic rules and risks often exceed their cognitive, developmental, behavioral, physical, and sensory abilities.  Do not overestimate your child’s traffic safety skills, simply read over the following tips to help keep your child safe:

  • Keep driveways and sidewalks well shoveled and apply materials such as rock salt or sand to improve traction.
  • Make sure children under age 10 do not cross streets alone.
  • Remind children 10 and older of the rules of pedestrian safety such as using sidewalks, walking on the left side facing against traffic, stopping at the curb edge of the road before crossing and looking left, right, and left again for traffic.  Children should keep looking and listening as they cross.
  • Never let children play in the street or other places where cars go such as; parking lots, driveways, etc.
  • Make sure children wear appropriate shoes and clothing with retro-reflective material while waking in snowy conditions.  Also choose bright colors that can easily be seen against the white snow.

 All winter activities, including walking to school, require warm, dry clothing to prevent frostbite.  Children should be dressed in warm, dry clothes including:

 Hat: Warm, close-fitting, and covers his/her ear lobes; not a “fashion hat” or baseball cap.

  • Mittens: Gloves do not keep hands as warm and effectively as mittens.
  • Lose layers: An absorbent synthetic fabric next to his/her skin, a warmer middle layer, and a water resistant outer layer.
  • Socks: A single pair of socks, either wool or a wool blend is best.  Avoid extra thick socks as they can cause cold feet by restricting blood flow and air circulation around the toes. 
  • Boots: Be sure boots are dry and not too tight. 

 While you are driving make sure to stop before all crosswalks.  This is especially important in the winter time because with snow banks along the street it’s very easy to not see a small child entering the crosswalk.  Be very cautious and slow down because stopping quickly on slippery streets can be very difficult. 

 For more information regarding winter pedestrian safety log on to www.safekidsgf.com or send us an e-mail at safekids@altru.org.  If you are interested in free retro-reflective zipper tags, contact Patty at polsen@altru.org.

The hidden home hazard…

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that between 2000 and 2006 there were at least 180 deaths related to tip-overs of furniture, televisions or appliances.  Most of theses deaths, 80 percent of them, involved children younger than 10.  In 2007, the CPSC identified this issue as one of the top five hidden home hazards.  Children can be seriously injured or killed as result of climbing onto, falling against or pulling themselves up on shelves, bookcases, dressers, TV tables and other furniture. 

Whether you have a baby learning to stand, an unsteady toddler trying to climb, or a fearless preschooler who still doesn’t quite understand balance, furniture tip-overs are a real and hidden danger for children. 

Regardless of your child’s abilities and limitations, top-heavy furniture, TVs and appliances can tip over and seriously injure young children. There are many easy-to-install devices that anchor furniture to the wall, making furniture more stable and tip-over resistant. These devices are designed for dressers, wall units, and anything your child might try to climb.

Top safety tips to help prevent tip-overs:

  • If a piece of furniture is unstable or top-heavy, secure it to a stud in the wall using brackets, braces, anchors, or wall straps. Large items such as TVs, microwaves, fish tanks, bookcases, heavy furniture, and appliances can topple off stands and fall on children. 
  • If you have a newer flat screen TV, make sure it’s properly anchored to the wall.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for tips or warnings regarding placement of your TV or furniture.
  • Keep heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers.
  • Don’t keep remote controls, candy, toys, or other items that attract children on top of furniture, as your child might be enticed to reach for these items.
  • Supervise young children at all times. Nothing can take the place of active supervision.

Children are also in danger of suffocation if they become accidentally trapped in a cabinet, toy chest, or laundry machine; in 2007 alone there were 3,270 injuries to children ages 2 to 14 involving toy chests.  Toy chests that meet voluntary standards set by the CPSC are equipped with lid supports that hold the lid open in any position.  The standards also call for ventilation holes to prevent suffocation.  If you have a toy chest with a lid that doesn’t stay open, the CPSC recommends you to remove the lid or install a spring-loaded lid support.  Always supervise children around any confined space and keep the lids/doors closed and locked when they are not in use. 

Although these are not hazards that kill thousands of children every year, like vehicle crashes or drowning, they are so easy to prevent and the consequences can be so severe.  Don’t underestimate the possibility of a small child being crushed by unsteady furniture.

For more information regarding furniture tip-overs and entrapment, or other information on injury prevention, log on to www.safekidsgf.com or send us an e-mail at safekids@altru.org.

Buckling up the little ones…

Most parents believe they buckle their child in correctly, but surprisingly, 4 out of 5 times they are wrong.  It is hard to be sure child safety seats are installed correctly. One common mistake is that parents believe that once their children outgrow a forward-facing child safety seat, buckling them in an adult seat belt is adequate.  But in all actuality, a child must be placed in a booster seat until they weigh more than 80lbs and are about 4’9” tall.  For most children that will be between ages 8 and 12.

One way to tell if your child is able to use a safety belt alone without a booster seat is if the Safety Belt Fit Test is passed in every vehicle.  The Safety Belt Fit Test is preformed by going through the following steps with your child, and you must be able to answer “yes” to all:

  • Have your child sit all the way back in the seat. Do his/her knees bend at the front edge of the seat?
  • Buckle the lap belt. Does the belt lie on the upper legs or hips?
  • Does the shoulder belt rest on the shoulder or collarbone? Never let the child put the shoulder strap behind his/her back or under his/her arm.
  • Does your child remain in the correct seating position for as long as you are in the car?

If you answer “no” to any of the above, your child must return to a booster seat.

If you have any doubts, Safe Kids of Grand Forks and Altru Health System are pleased to partner with our local GM dealer and Safe Communities to offer monthly car seat check-up events.  These events are offered the 2nd Thursday of every month from 4-7p.m. The upcoming dates at the Rydell GM Auto Center are:

  • March 10th
  • April 14th

Some important tips to remember:

  • All children ages 12 and under should sit in the back seat properly restrained.
  • Never use only a lap belt across a child sitting in a booster seat.
  • Never allow a child to place the shoulder strap behind his/her back or under his/her arm.
  • Always use the proper safety restraint for your child, whether that is a forward-facing car seat, booster seat, or safety belt.
  • Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 6 to 14.
  • Set a good example for your child and buckle up.  Children learn from adult role models.
  • Insist that everyone buckles up on every ride no matter the length of the trip.

For more information about child passenger safety log on to www.safekidsgf.com or send us an e-mail at safekids@altru.org