Free Summer Break Activities! (Don’t Tell Them They’re Educational)

boy with baloon2-01Summer break has been going on for quite a while now.

Running out of things to do? Counting the minutes until school starts again?

Help is here!

One of my favorite sites for kid’s activities is Education.com. The site was built with the contributions of thousands of teachers, and they have FREE activities for kids from preschool through high school–activities that help them succeed in science, math, reading, writing, and social studies.

They teach with games, songs, worksheets, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and more.

For example, Education.com let me use the printable maze below for this blog. Doing mazes helps kids learn problem solving, fine motor control, visual motor skills and confidence–all while they think they are just playing a game.

Also check out Education.com for great summer break learning resources for every age child, from helping kindergarteners create stories to geography challenges for sixth graders.

And no, they are not paying me to write this–it’s just a great site.

kindergarten_maze_kayaking

kindergarten_maze_kayaking_answers

 

4th of July: 10 Tips to Stay out of the ER

Sunshine, water, and fireworks. What else could you need? To avoid the ER afterwards!

Oddly, most 4th of July injuries actually have nothing to do with fireworks, and everything to do with parents being so busy that they are not as watchful as usual. Sports are more dangerous when we want to impress cousins. Teenagers tend to get more reckless during a celebration, and young children sneak away quickly.

Most injuries are from everyday activities and household objects made dangerous by the craziness. So,…

Top Ten things that will land you in my office after the fireworks:

1.  Drowning: The 4th is all about water. Every year pediatricians see drownings and near drownings on the 4th. Never leave any child alone for even a moment near open water, whether it is an ocean, a bathtub, or a water bucket.

All it takes is one moment of inattention for a child to slip away. If there is open water, you need to be within touching distance and focused on your child. Pools should be fenced in and closed off with a self-latching gate at the end of the day, and all the toys should be put away. Life vests are fabulous for a parent’s mental health and relaxation (swimmies and floaties are not life jackets). Life preservers and a shepherd’s crook should be placed obviously nearby wherever kids are swimming. For more tips on water safety, check out my summer safety tips.

2.  Fireworks: I know, it’s obvious, but it had to be on the list. Please leave them to the professionals. It’s not worth months in the burn unit and doing physical therapy.  No-one thinks it will happen to their kid, until it does.

3.  Choking: Toddlers will put anything in their mouths. This means that everybody needs to pick up his or her stuff. Items over 1¼ inch in diameter are generally safe. Items smaller than 1¼ inch can go straight into their gut or lung. The most dangerous items to swallow are button batteries and magnets; the most dangerous to choke on are grape sized (older children’s toys, hard candy) or stretchy (balloons, plastic bags, marshmallows). Clean up!

4.  Allergic reactions: Holidays provide a banquet of things to irritate children’s allergies. Plants, foods, cigarette smoke, bonfires and other people’s homes and pets come to mind. Avoid them if your child has allergies.

5.  Fires and electrical injuries are especially common during holidays. Decorations can be flammable, candles and fires are commonly nearby. Frayed and loose wires easily start fires. I have had an astounding number of children run through banked campfires after dark. Block them off please!  Keep your eyes open for dangers.

6.  Poisonings: The one I see most is an overdose on Grandma’s meds. At Grandma’s home they are left on countertops; at your home they are in her purse. A left over drink is also a common way to poison children. A little alcohol can drop a child’s blood sugar and throw him or her into a coma.

7.  Alcohol inside the grown-up: does this really need explanation?

8.  Dehydration/Food poisoning: Watch their intake. It’s hot and the kids are running around in endless circles. Bring lots of water (the stuff mother nature made for you, not the stuff with caffeine and sugar added). Food left out in the heat for hours can grow things that cause vomiting and diarrhea. If you don’t know where it came from and how long it’s been there, don’t eat it.

9.  Scarce common sense: If it doesn’t seem safe, don’t let people pressure you into it. Make them wear that bike helmet! Trampolines and motorized vehicles (Sea Doos, dirt bikes) are never a good idea.  Feel free to let watching your kids take precedence over seeing Uncle Joe’s trophy or Aunt Mary’s vacation photos. “He’ll be fine” doesn’t make him fine. Keep an eye on him.

10.  Politeness: Feel free to be rude and head for home when the kids get tired, if a situation feels out of control, or if your child is being exposed to something you aren’t happy with. Use the munchkin’s youth or fatigue as the excuse for you to head home, relax and read a bedtime story.

The point of celebrations is to solidify relationships and give hope for the future. Focus on family, rejoice in the day and be careful.  Keep plans simple, pick fewer things to do, and do them together. Be safe and stay healthy.

What’s the Deal with Family Separation?

Why Pediatricians Worry about Family Separation:IMMIGRANT-CHILD-CRIES-06-18

Sadly, we have lots of data about the damage done to children when they are separated from their families.

  • In Romania during his tenure as communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu felt that the Romanian economy would improve if there were simply more Romanians, and so he pushed people to have children that they did not have the resources to care for. As a result, there were many Romanian children who grew up in orphanages.
  • In Australia, about 1 in 10 Aboriginal children were removed from their families to be raised by white Christians between 1910 and 1970.
  • In China right now many children, known as “the left behind,” live in outlying villages while their parents move away to work.

When children are separated from their families, their bodies suffer a stress response and secrete cortisol and adrenaline. These molecules initially damage and in the end can kill brain cells. Brain cells cannot repair themselves, so this kind of toxic stress can destroy both the white and gray matter in the child’s brain, resulting in permanent brain damage and lower overall brain activity.

Kids who are separated from their parents at a young age – those Romanian kids, the Aboriginal kids in Australia – have lower IQs, suffer the long term effects of PTSD, and their fight or flight response can be permanently broken. Their brains have trouble distinguishing what is safe from what is dangerous, so they will be scared of things that they should normally know are safe.

Those stolen Aboriginal kids have twice the rates of criminal arrests and gambling, and 60% more alcoholism.

Separated kids have more aggression, tend to withdraw from normal relationships, and have significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression. They are more likely to have high risk behaviors, get pregnant as teens, and commit suicide. It can affect their emotional development, which can lead to less resilience and adaptability later in life.

They are also at higher risk for long term physical problems including hypertension and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

To quote Dr. Hansa Bhargava at WebMD,  it can even potentially change their DNA, “affecting how their body and brain function for the rest of their lives.”

There is no doubt that separating kids from their families is as much child abuse as beating them, even before you add in how they are treated while being held in cages in constant light, noise, and cold, without the watchful eyes and comfort of their parents.

How Did This Happen So Suddenly?

First, some background. Entry into the US without a visa was perfectly legal (with an entrance fee) until 1929, when it was made a misdemeanor. Thousands of Mexicans were prosecuted for illegal entry between 1930 and the beginning of WWII (85-99% of the inmates in the booming border prison business were Mexican). Mostly white people got a pass.

World War II hit and suddenly we desperately needed those Mexican agricultural workers. We said “come on in!” and didn’t prosecute much again until 2005.

In the early 2000s life is places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras became a lot more dangerous. Gangs proliferated, and people came to our borders in increased numbers seeking a safer life for their families. Between 2003 and 2005 the number of illegal entries at our southern border went from 4000/year to 16,500/year; in 2010 it was 44,000; it peaked in 2013 at 97,000.

Recently the numbers overall have gone down but the number of families coming through has increased.

The immigration crisis is here.

So we reacted. A 1997 court had ruled that the government is must release children from detention in not longer than 20 days (Flores vs Reno) to either the parents, an adult relative, or a licensed program. In 2015 they expanded this to apply to children arrested with their families, not just unaccompanied minors.

Since we did not have enough beds for so many, this resulted in the practice of “catch and release.” Immigration aimed at prosecuting people who were dangerous to our national security, gang members, and criminals who had committed felonies rather than simple misdemeanors, and let families go.

On 4/6/2018 Attorney General Sessions announced a new policy of “zero tolerance.” This required every adult crossing the border illegally to be arrested and prosecuted for the misdemeanor offence of illegal border crossing, leaving their children stranded alone.

Not wearing a seatbelt is a misdemeanor. Do we expect to lose our kids forever if we are caught not wearing a seatbelt?

These kids – more than 2300 as I write – are now being housed in cages. We’ve seen pictures only of the older boys; the government will not allow any photos other than the ones they release themselves. The babies and toddlers are apparently being housed in “tender care” facilities, where the staff care for them but are not allowed to touch or comfort them. Hitler did this to babies as an experiment, to see how babies would do with food and care but no love. They all died.

They currently have no plan for returning these kids to their families. Some parents have been told they will never see their kids again. Some have already been deported to their home country without their children; other parents have been looking unsuccessfully for their children for weeks.

So when the head of HHS says we are not separating families, she is lying. When our president says he is merely following the Democrat’s laws, he is lying. There is no law, just a new policy that he could reverse with one order. When Sessions defends this with the Bible… I just can’t.

Session’s says he hopes that knowing this will happen will keep people from coming – an experiment, on babies. Trump says if the Dems sign his Immigration Bill (fund the wall, disavow the Dreamers) he will end it.

Yesterday the UN’s Human Rights Council criticized the practice of family separation, saying “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable…People do not lose their human rights by virtue of crossing a border without a visa.”

So today we left the Human Rights Council.

So What Can We Do About  It?

First, we must stop separating families now. There is a bill in the House right now – S.3036 – to stop it. 100% of the Democrats have signed it, 100% of the Republicans have not. Our reps are playing political games while children suffer. Call your rep and let him know you want this stopped. Here in Alabama that rep is Senator Shelby at 202-224-5744.

Donate to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense).

What can we do long term?

  • We can help South American countries to become safer places, so families can stay in their homes.
  • We can aim better. Prosecute the people who have committed felonies, who might be a danger to our national security, and who are gang members.
  • we can require that employers who hire foreign agricultural and construction workers get the proper visas, pay reasonable wages, and don’t allow child labor.
  • We can allow asylum claims for domestic violence and gang violence.
  • We can streamline the path to citizenship so that it is accessible to all.
  • We can better fund our court system so that it does not take 2-3 years to work through an asylum claim.
  • We can use ankle bracelets to make sure the adults show up for their court dates, but can work and care for their children in the interim.
  • We can get big brains who know a lot more about immigration than I do to work on a bipartisan solution, instead of using these kids as pawns in a political game.
  • We can work together, Democrats and Republicans, to solve problems instead of acting like toddlers fighting over a prize.

We as Americans are abusing and damaging children to win political points. It must end. We have to be better than this.

 

 

 

It’s Not Too Soon. It’s Too Late. Ask Their Parents.

Today’s blog was written by a fellow pediatrician, Dr. Chad Hayes. I could not have said it better.

Florida has some of the most lax gun laws in the country: anyone over 18 can buy  a semi-automatic weapon with no license, no firearms registration, and often without a background check. This is the state that, for a while, made it illegal for pediatricians to council parents on gun safety. If a pediatrician told a parent their guns should be in a safe, unloaded, without a bullet in the chamber–that doc could be arrested and charged with a crime.

The NRA owns our country and our politicians, and it is indeed too late for us to save the 17 children who died today. It is not too late to make rational gun laws that will save the kids who are sitting beside you doing their homework tonight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for gun control:

  • Enact strong, effective assault weapon ban
  • Eliminate the gun show loophole, require mandatory background checks and waiting periods
  • Ban on high-capacity magazines
  • Enact strong handgun regulations
  • Require safe firearm storage under federal law

 

ChadHayes-01This afternoon, after spending a few minutes in my office, watching live coverage of our country’s most recent school shooting, I was talking about the tragedy with my nurse, who grew up in London: “You didn’t have a lot of school shootings in England, did you?”

“No, we didn’t. Nobody had guns. All people had were batons.”

I’ve not heard of many school batonings.

Among similarly-developed nations, frequent school shootings are a uniquely American problem. In fact, they are so common that many occur without drawing significant media attention. There have been several in 2018, and we’re only in week 7.

I’m writing this just a couple hours after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Reports from the scene are still fluid. From what I’ve heard so far, the shooter is in custody, and there are multiple fatalities (update: 17 so far). Those details, no doubt, will change. We will learn the true number of people injured and killed. We will see the faces of children who spent their last Valentine’s Day bleeding out on the floor of their school. We will learn the shooter’s identity (Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student), the weapons used (an AR-15 rifle), and possibly a motive.

But my intent is not to provide these details. I’m not a reporter.

What I am is a father that cannot imagine losing a child.

I am a pediatrician that cares very much about the safety and well-being of children. One that believes that no child should live in fear of being gunned down at school, that no parent should have to bury a murdered child, and that the number of times this has happened without any significant action to prevent the next tragedy is unacceptable.

I am a physician that has resuscitated children with gunshot injuries, and tried to resuscitate others. Some were suicides. Some were accidents. Their stories are powerful, but they aren’t mine to tell.

I sent out a tweet after heard about this shooting, essentially saying that maybe this time, after thisround of children is murdered, we should do more than “thoughts and prayers” and perhaps start taking actual steps towards preventing similar events in the future. It was long until I received a reply: “We don’t know anything yet and you’re [sic] attempt at politicizing this is pretty awful.”

And that seems to be the response every time this happens: “It’s too soon.” “Don’t politicize this.” “You’re using the victims to promote your agenda.” It’s the same response I heard after, just seven miles from my house, nine people were murdered in Emmanuel AME Church. It’s the same response I heard after 58 people were killed at a concert in Las Vegas. It’s the same response I heard when twenty 6- and 7-year-old children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

So, yes. I’m using the victims to promote my agenda. And I feel like their families would probably be alright with that, because my agenda is to minimize the future victims.

Here’s the thing: There is no simple solution. There is no single solution. There is no perfect solution. There isn’t one change we can make and magically make gun violence disappear.

As with many issues, the answer—if we find one—will likely be found somewhere in the middle of two extremes. Firearms are so ingrained into American culture that to think it is at all feasible to ban them altogether is asinine. And to pretend that there are no steps we can take to work towards a safer environment for ourselves and our children is equally absurd.

The Second Amendment was written over two centuries years ago. The men who wrote it would not recognize and could not have anticipated the weapons available today. What they did anticipate was that the future would look remarkably different from their present, which is why they built into the Constitution a means to amend it in the first place. The Second Amendment, despite what the NRA would like you to believe, is not immutable.

At the time the Bill of Rights was signed, the most common weapons were muskets capable of firing a single shot before a rather complex and time-consuming reloading process.

Today’s weapons are far more accurate, far more powerful, and unbelievably fast. The term “semi-automatic” means that a round is fired with each pull of the trigger. This is to distinguish it from other types of firearms that require an additional action, such as the movement of a lever or bolt, to load and fire another round (and also from “automatic” firearms which continue to fire until the trigger is released or there is no more ammunition).

But while the term “semi-automatic” is frequently used in such a way as to demonize the weapon, the reality is that’s just how firearms work today. Just as most modern vehicles  include automatic transmissions and power windows, semi-automatic handguns and rifles are pretty much the standard. And in most states, anyone over 18 years of age (21 for handguns) and without a criminal record can walk into a store and purchase one.

A common example of a semi-automatic firearm is the AR-15 used in the Parkland massacre. These rifles are made for one purpose: to kill people quickly. Because in combat, that’s the goal. But these firearms are not restricted to the military; they are widely available to the civilian market. Certainly, most people that own them do not intend to murder their innocent neighbors; most people that own firearms are law-abiding citizens that simply enjoy shooting them at the range or keep them in case of some real or imagined catastrophe.

There are better firearms with which to hunt. There are better weapons with which to defend oneself or one’s family. But there is no better type of firearm (at least, not one available to civilians) with which to kill a lot of people very quickly. And the teenage murderer in Parkland, Florida knew that.

It is clear to me, and I think most people would agree, that there are some weapons that should not be available to the general public. At some point on the continuum from a baseball bat to a nuclear bomb, there’s a point at which one’s right to self defense is outweighed by the risks that a particular weapon presents to the rest of us. We can argue about where that point is. And we should.

We should argue about where to draw that line. We should talk about what further steps we can take to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from obtaining them. We should talk about ways to encourage safe storage of firearms and ammunition. We should talk about preventing sales of firearms without background checks at gun shows or by individuals. We should talk about the education, training, and licensing that should be required to own a firearm. We have a lot to talk about.

I am not the expert in this field. But there are experts in this field. We should listen to them. Because while a good guy with a gun may occasionally stop a bad guy with a gun, it would be far better to have bad guys without guns.

As emotionally charged as mass shootings are–especially those involving children, they account for only a small percentage of the 30,000 or so gun deaths each year in the US. Far more people are killed by firearms in less spectacular situations like suicides, accidents, domestic disputes, or gang violence. And while we will not be able to prevent every firearm death, we can make a difference.

The thoughts and prayers aren’t working. It’s time to do something.

Because it’s not too soon. It’s too late. Ask their parents.

Doc’s Top Tips To Prevent Summertime Injuries

little cute girl near the pool with a circle for swimmingSafety is not simple.

There is no clear division between “this activity will be safe,” and “this activity will injure my child.” We could wrap our children up, keep them indoors, and not allow them to play with anything remotely dangerous—but then we would have a child who is lonely, overweight and really bored…who would get into trouble and injure themselves… Or not get in trouble and develop diabetes, heart disease and knee problems from obesity.

Kids need to be active, and summertime brings many interesting opportunities for exercise, adventure and injury.

Wouldn’t it be great if some doctor type person would tell you what activities were the most likely to bring ER bills into your life?

Oh, wait… That’s me! So:

The most common causes of accidental death are gunshots, motorized vehicle and bike accidents, drowning, poisoning, and fire.

Drowning, MVAs, bike accidents, and trampoline accidents are all more common in the summer, when kids are out of school.

Water Safety

Drowning is every pediatrician’s worst nightmare. It is currently the fifth leading cause of accidental death. An average of 700 children drown each year: about 2 each day. Most are under 4; 80% are male. For every death, there are 5 more children who drowned but survived, commonly with irreversible damage to their brains.

Infants and toddlers drown in bath tubs, buckets, toilets–it only requires about an inch of water, just enough to cover their nose and mouth. Older children drown in pools, rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Never leave any child alone for even a moment near open water, whether it is an ocean, a bathtub, or a water bucket. All it takes is one moment of inattention for a child to slip away. If there is open water, you need to be within touching distance and focused on your child. The story I have heard over and over is, “We were right there, just talking, but nobody noticed anything until we realized he was gone.” Keep your kids in sight, and don’t let yourself get distracted.

Be especially careful at the end of the day, as the water empties and people are gathering up their belongings and leaving. Children will want to swim just a minute more, or will attempt to go back for that last toy floating in the water.

Pools should be fenced in and closed off with a self-latching gate at the end of the day, and all the toys should be put away. Life vests are fabulous for a parent’s mental health and relaxation (swimmies and floaties are not life jackets). Life preservers and a shepherd’s crook should be placed obviously nearby wherever kids are swimming.

Sign your kids up for swimming lessons, even if you are afraid. A middle schooler or teen will never admit to their friends that they don’t know how to swim. They will fake it, sometimes unsuccessfully. Don’t, however, trust a young child to remember his or her swimming lessons when they need them. If they are startled or scared, they will forget everything they learned and just sink to the bottom.

Know what to look for. In real life, drowning does not look like it does in the movies. It is possible to miss someone drowning right in front of you if you do not know what you are seeing. They do not shout for help and wave their arms. They tire, and panic. A drowning child might never make a sound, but quietly slip under the water. An older child might keep themselves above the water for a while, but their head might be low in the water, with their mouth at water level, or perhaps with their head tilted back. Their eyes might be blank or closed. They will sometimes hang vertically in the water without paddling their legs, or appear to paddle with no purposeful movement. A drowning person is very easy to miss if you are not vigilant; and very easy to help if you are.

Somebody should know CPR—why not you? Your local fire department or hospital will have classes.

Swimming is a necessary skill, fun, and excellent exercise; it is also a time for close observation and care.

Motorized Vehicles

The other motorized vehicles—ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and Sea-Doos—are also commonly out in the summer. They are the perfect storm: they go fast, have no outside framework, roll over easily, and the only things that keep them from crashing are your children’s foresight, common sense, and trained reflexes. Hmm. The United States averaged 23,800 dirt bike crashes requiring emergency room visits every year between 2001 and 2004; these numbers go up as dirt bikes become more popular. Don’t. Really, just don’t.

You do like the kid, right?

Bikes

Bikes come out of the garage when the weather warms up and the roads are not covered in ice. And yes, the dorky bike helmet is an excellent idea.

Thousands of children are injured or killed every year due to bike accidents, frequently right near their homes. In 2010 alone, there were 800 deaths, 26,000 traumatic brain injuries and 515,000 emergency room visits after bike accidents.

Asphalt is not soft, even right next to your house. When a car hits a child, the child flies through the air. The heaviest part of the child—the head—lands first.

Make them wear the dorky helmet, on top of the head please, covering the top of the forehead, and tied snugly under the chin, not dangling on the back of the head. Hang it on the bike handlebars when not in use so that it is the first thing on and the last thing off. Keep a big lock handy so that if you catch them on the bike without the helmet, you can lock it up and they can walk for a week. Sorry kid, that was the rule and you knew it. There is no need for any argument.

Please don’t buy a bike two sizes too big. Your child will fall off. Children should be able to place the balls of their feet on the ground while their rump is on the seat, and their whole foot should be flat when they are standing over the crossbar. An extra bike or two over the years is cheaper than a broken child.

Trampolines

Trampolines are a huge source of income for surgeons and orthopedists. If you would like to make them poor, don’t buy a trampoline. If you have one, please be careful. Most trampoline accidents occur when there is more than one person on the trampoline, especially when they are not the same size. The smaller one goes flying or is fallen upon. Safety nets and pads are better than no safety nets and pads.

On second thought, forget I said all that. Let’s go back to no trampolines. Kids break bones, damage their kidneys, and hurt their heads and spines.

Children will at some point injure themselves because they need to be free to run, swim, and climb monkey bars and trees. Try not to obsess over scraped knees, a goose egg on the forehead, or a few stitches. Everybody gets those, and your children will find a way.

Concentrate on the risks that will kill them or seriously injure them: motor vehicle accidents, drowning, fires, poisonings, and gunshots. Don’t go out of your way to buy things that will hurt them, such as trampolines and ATVs.

Make it so they have to get creative if they want to injure themselves. Creativity is good, right?

 

 

 

 

8 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

Happy little girl with her mastiff dog on a meadow in summer dayThe first blog in this series was 6 Things to Consider when Choosing a Pet. Then came the various Ways Pets Can Make Your Kids Sick, and what to do about them. Last week was How to Raise a Puppy You Will Like as a Dog.

Today’s blog is the last of the series: How to Prevent Bites. Whether or not you have a dog, it is a good idea to teach your kids how to behave around them in order to prevent bites.

Stats:

There are about 800,000 dog bites requiring medical attention annually in the United States; about ten per year are fatal. Of the fatal attacks, 92 percent are by male dogs, 94 percent of which are not neutered. One in four is chained up. The particular breeds that bite vary with where you live and what breeds are popular at the time. In many areas, bites from pit bulls predominate. In Denver, where pit bulls are banned, the majority of bites are from German shepherds. In Canada, bites are more likely to be from sled dogs and Huskies.

Restricting specific breeds doesn’t work because the people are the problem, not the dogs. Unfortunately, there will always be people who want aggressive, vicious dogs. Many states have laws that hold the dog owner responsible for the dog’s actions. These are more effective, but they are not on the books everywhere and are difficult to enforce.

The typical dog bite victim is a boy, aged five to nine. Dog bites are 370 times more likely when there is no adult supervision; 88 percent of dog bite deaths of children less than two years of age are children who were not supervised. Half of these are attacks by the family dog.

Never leave a baby or a young child alone with a dog.

Kids don’t naturally speak dog; we need to teach them!

  • Rule number one is that they never approach a strange dog, particularly one that is chained up. Chaining dogs stresses them and makes them feel vulnerable. When your child approaches them, they are invading the dog’s territory, which they feel they are unable to adequately protect while they are chained.
  • The same problem occurs when small hands are stuck through fences – another don’t.
  • Teach your kids to stay away from dogs that are eating, protecting toys, or nursing puppies – dogs are protective of what is theirs. Even the sweetest bitch will snap at a strange human who approaches her puppies.
  • Never disturb a strange dog while it is sleeping.
  • If a dog is safely restrained and with its human, kids should ask permission before they pet it. They should approach calmly and hold out their hand in a closed fist. If the dog sniffs it and wags its tail, they can scratch it under the chin—not on top of its head. They should not curl their body over the dog; if they stay in front of the dog where it can see all of them it will feel less threatened.
  • If they squat down in front of a dog they are saying, “Come play with me.”
  • If they run from the dog, they are saying, “Chase me!”
  • Teach your kids to stand tall with their shoulders down and chins up. They should speak calmly and quietly, and move slowly. Dogs have been around humans for a very long time and are very good at reading us, and to them this stance means “alpha.” If someone else is alpha then the dog can relax.

As always, dogs are great for teaching life lessons. Kids who stand tall, respect other living creatures, and know how to be calm and take charge do well in real life.

 

How to Educate your Kids with Games, Art, and Fun!

Astronaut child

So, Education.com agreed to let me write a blog about their site, which is way better than just telling everybody I know about it. I love this site! (And no, they are not paying me to write this.)

The site was built with the contributions of thousands of teachers. They have FREE activities for kids from preschool to high school that help them succeed in science, math, reading, writing, and social studies.

They teach with games, songs, worksheets, interactive exercises, hands-on activities, and more.

For example, they have the art activity below to help second graders identify the shapes and positional language that will start them on the road to learning geometry:

Summertime Beach Mosaic:

Second Grade Holidays & Seasons Activities: Beach Mosaic

Capture your beach memories—not with a photograph, but with a pretty mosaic made from that classic beach souvenir, the shell. Celebrate summer and practice easy geometry with a splashy beach mosaic, made with natural materials.

What You Need:

  • Cardboard
  • Collection of shells, various shapes and sizes (sand dollars, augurs, conches, clam shells, etc.)
  • Tempera or acrylic paints, paintbrushes, old newspapers
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil
  • Optional: sand

What You Do:

  1. Have your child plan out his beach mosaic by placing his shells on the piece of cardboard into a scenic arrangement. He may want to recreate a beach scene, using the shells to recreate waves, sand or ocean animals. If he has other favorite summer activities, he can create another scene of his choosing. Or, if he’s feeling free-spirited, he can just make an abstract design.
  2. He may want to trace around shells with a pencil on the cardboard to remember where he plans to place them.
  3. To add some unique color to his mosaic, have him lay the shells on a newspaper and use acrylic or tempera paints and paintbrushes to paint the shells. He may choose to give the shells a new color, or simply cover them with a sparkly or iridescent paint for some extra pizzazz. Paint can be used to help the shells resemble things such as a blue whale, a yellow sun, a brown bird, tan sand, or blue water.
  4. After the paint has dried (we recommend letting it dry overnight), help your child use a hot glue gun to attach the shells to the cardboard in his desired placement. If he’d like, he can also glue sand onto the cardboard to add to the beachy feel of the scene.
  5. Let the glue under the shells dry before moving it.
  6. He can share his beach mosaic with others and describe the scene he created, or see if others can guess what he has depicted!

Your kids are learning the basics of geometry while they think they are just having fun and building memories.

Check out Education.com for other innovative educational opportunities for every age child!

Now I have to go try their bouncy ball recipe with the grandkids. You can make your own bouncy balls! Who knew?

Misadventures in Pottying

Baby in diaper-01The last two week’s blogs have been all about potty training: how to know when your child is ready, and how to go about training them. This week is about when things do not go well–bedwetting, accidents, refusal, and relapses. So what do we do when our efforts are less than successful? When all our hopes and dreams go splat in the night? Read on!

Bedwetting

Nighttime dryness tends to be in the DNA and is related to how deeply your children sleep rather than their actual intent. One in five children still wet the bed at age five, and anything that 20 percent of children do has to be defined as normal. Most kids are dry by age seven. Until then, consider pull-ups at night, or a mattress cover. Limit drinks an hour or so before bedtime because what comes in must go out. Hit the bathroom before you tuck them in.

Bedwetting is not bad behavior or a failure in parenting, and treating it as such can damage your children’s self-esteem. They cannot make themselves sleep less deeply. They can, of course, take responsibility and help with cleaning up and laundry.

If it persists at age seven, discuss it with your pediatrician. Once your child is old enough, bedwetting alarms can teach them to wake when they start to urinate, and have no side effects. The alarms that vibrate work better than the sound ones, because the whole issue is that they are very deep sleepers. Alarms are ridiculously expensive.

Accidents

Never punish accidents; it always backfires. Never punish disinterest. If you want to be potty training for the next five years, punishment is the way to get there. Responsibility is fine: they can throw away the old diapers and get out new clothes, or help to clean themselves up as much as they are able. Don’t even think of punishing a failure. They will do better next time.

Refusal

Toddlers will occasionally flat out refuse to use the potty. Sometimes this is an independence issue: not just “I can do it myself” but “I can do it myself anywhere I choose to.” This is more common when people try to potty train when their lives are in turmoil. Children want to control the one thing they can control.

Sometimes the only thing you can do when this happens is wait until later and try again after things settle down.

If the refusal is not too bad, sometimes you can overcome it:

  • Treat using the potty as a routine task that must be done, like brushing your teeth.
  • Rewards are given after the task is completed, not before.
  • Ramp up the fun factor: toilet paper squares decorated with targets is available. Aiming for fruit loops is a traditional winner. I know I said food rewards are a bad idea, but I can testify that one M&M for every potty use results in very frequent visits to the potty. I am a hypocrite. Sad.

Sometimes kids are downright terrified of the potty. Again you may just have to wait it out and try again later. They seem to feel that they are loosing a part of themselves to the yawning, abysmal plumbing. Reassure them and be patient. Throwing the contents of diapers into the potty can help: show them that this is where the poop goes. Tell them all about the poo-poo party that awaits it at the end of the journey. It would be very sad if their poo had to miss the poo-poo party. Poor, sad poo-poo. (I know, but sometimes it works.)

Relapses

They will also occasionally regress when they are stressed. A completely potty-trained munchkin will start having accidents when they are ill, when there is a new baby, or when there is a family crisis.

Even more frustrating is when they relapse because they have figured out the whole potty thing and are now bored with it. Amp up the fun and the rewards, and let them take responsibility for their action—or lack of action. They can help clean themselves up, put the poop in the toilet, and get themselves new clothes. Be sure to mention the reward they could have had, but have now missed. No punishment please!

Kids may also miss when they are uncomfortable in a strange new place, until they understand what they should do. Tell them there is a bathroom in the store where you are shopping; mention that if they have to potty at a friend’s house, just tell the mom or dad, and they will show him and her where the potty is.

Even when children have achieved the necessary milestones and you have used these techniques, the bottom line is that children will train when they are ready and not before. They need to understand what’s happening in their bodies and be able to let you know about it. They have to dislike having a wet diaper on and want the independence of doing it themselves. If it’s not fun and rewarding for them, they will quit—and you can’t win that battle.

Talk to other parents because potty training can drive you crazy, and craziness is better when shared, and because there are an abundance of ideas out there for how to inspire your toddler to hit that target. And don’t forget to have a potty party when they succeed.

Potty Training: How to Set Kids Up for Success

Baby in diaper-01Last week’s blog was the first installment on the Perils of Potty Training: how to know when your munchkin is ready. This week gives you some tried and tested How To’s, when everything goes as planned.

The first thing you need to do when your children are ready is to decide what words you will use. Remember that whatever words you choose will be shouted loudly at very inconvenient times in public places. Please be anatomically correct and as polite as possible.

Just one aside: potty training increases your children’s vocabulary in interesting ways. If you don’t want to be called a “poo-poo head” for the next year, don’t laugh when they say it the first time. Don’t look shocked, either—they love that.

Second thing to do: buy the potty. They come as either self-contained units or as attachments to the grown-up potty. Choose which style you want, and make sure it is sturdy and their feet have somewhere secure to set down. Then let the child choose the specific model.  We’re looking for pride of ownership here. This is his or her pottyThey can even decorate it.

Schedule some time for them to sit on it just for fun, as often as every quarter hour. Let them sit on it when you model how you use your potty, if you chose the self-contained style. Sitting on it should be fun for them; have special potty toys and books in the vicinity.

When you want them to use it for its designed purpose, put them on it at least every two hours. More often is fine, but don’t stress them out. Remember that the goal is fun, not anxiety. Put them on the potty after meals (we all poop after we eat), when they first wake, before naps, and at bedtime. Put them on the potty quickly when they show signs of needing to go. You know the signs: the pee-pee dance, hands on the groin, grimacing, sometimes a red face. Go sit them on the potty and read that special potty-only book. If you can go too, it will help. Lead by example, as always.

If it works, celebrate! Jump up and down; tell them they’re wonderful. Note that they must feel better now that they’ve urinated or pooped, and isn’t it great that they’re not wet? Aren’t they so much more comfortable? Let them call relatives and friends to tell them the news. Make sure they know that they should be very proud of themselves.

When they consistently use the potty, you can trade in the diapers for training pants. Big kid underwear! Another celebration! I knew one little girl whom I swore only trained because she didn’t want to pee on the mermaid on her undies.

Ahh ahh ahh, ahh ahh ahh… ohhh nooo. Poor Ariel.

What to do if things don’t go as planned and problems occur? Come back next week, of course!

The Blogger's Pit Stop

5 Sleep Problems in Children, and How to Fix Them

Tired Teenager With Tablet“The city that never sleeps” should not be your home. But everyone did warn you. Last week’s blog–Why Does My Baby Not Sleep Longerwas about normal sleep; this week’s is about some of the problems that you may encounter trying to achieve that.

Not Getting Enough  Sleep?

If children are not getting enough sleep, they will not wake up by themselves in the morning, they will be sleepy during the day, and they may be moody and irritable. Kids who do not get enough sleep are not as able to control their emotions.

Chronically sleep deprived kids may have behavior problems that mimic attention problems. They can be emotionally labile. They injure themselves more often because they can be clumsy. Their grades fall because they are sleepy in class. They gain weight because their metabolism is confused.

If your child is showing symptoms of inadequate sleep, move their bedtime back until the symptoms go away. You cannot make them fall asleep, of course, but you can insist that they rest quietly in a darkened, cool room. No TV! Boredom will put them out in the end, and their systems will adjust to the new routine after a couple of weeks.

Infants

Trouble getting an infant to sleep? The bedtime routines described in last weeks blog will help, but also:

If a baby is waking up frequently at night, sometimes they sleep better if you can squeeze in one more feeding per day. Usually you can convince them to eat more often in the morning. Starting them on solid food early doesn’t help, no matter what Grandma said.

They will also sleep better if they are more awake during the day: play with them, keep them moving, and keep the light level up.

Media

Media does have an affect on sleep. Violent shows and games do keep kids up at night, and anything on a screen will affect their sleep within an hour or two of bedtime. If you like your rest, don’t let your kids engage with violent media or watch shows that scare them. Turn the screens off an hour or so before bed. Never put a TV in their bedroom. If you already have one in there, take it out. You need to be able to monitor what they watch anyway.

Get Physical

Diet matters, yet again. If you want your kids to sleep, don’t give them caffeine. It keeps people awake (you knew that, didn’t you?). Caffeine is in most sodas and tea, coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate.

Also avoid heavy, high fat or high sugar foods near bedtime.

Make sure your child gets at least twenty minutes of high heart rate and heavy breathing exercise every day. Run, play ball, jump rope – whatever they like. Keep it going for twenty minutes after they start breathing heavily. It will clean out the stress chemicals in their blood stream. Don’t get the exercise right before bed, however. It will wake them up (I know, you knew that too). If you want to exercise near bedtime make it yoga, or slow relaxing stretches.

Don’t expose your child to cigarette smoke if you want him to sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant. Keep the cigarettes out of the house and car even when he isn’t there. The poisons hang out in fabrics, on the walls and in the air.

There are some medical issues that can interfere with a child’s breathing during sleep, when their airway relaxes. Large adenoids, large tonsils and morbid obesity will block the flow of air into their lungs and they will wake up just enough to breathe over and over again through the night. They might snore, they will usually be tired during the day, or they might have behavioral issues. If your child shows signs of obstructed breathing, bring it up with your doctor.

Separation and Change

Separation anxiety can also keep a child awake. If your little guys suffer from this, leave the door cracked so they can hear you. Check on them every ten minutes or so until they fall asleep. Give them their comfort objects. It will pass.

Children will also have poor sleep when there are changes in their lives. If they have been ill and the routine changed while they were sick, it will take some effort to get it back. After a move, death, or divorce an established routine will save you. Stick to it and your child will feel more secure and safe, and may actually get some sleep.

Inheritable Stuff

Night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking and bedwetting are all genetic and inheritable. Most are more common in boys than girls. They generally occur when the child is sleeping deeply, more commonly early in the night. They grow out of these problems in the end, and nothing but time will cure them.

Night terrors are different than nightmares. When a child wakes from a nightmare he generally has been in a lighter sleep, usually later toward the morning. He wakes up and can remember the nightmare. He can be comforted.

A child in a night terror is still very deeply asleep. Their eyes may be open but they are not awake and they are not seeing what is actually there. Where you are standing they could be seeing the monster in their dream. Night terrors can last from ten to thirty minutes, and can occur for up to twelve years. They tend to occur when the child is overtired and sleeps very deeply. Contrary to popular belief, stress does not cause night terrors – unless it causes the child to be overtired.

You cannot comfort a child during a night terror because they are asleep. Speaking calmly seems to help, but don’t be surprised if they don’t want to be held. Watch them, keep them safe and wait it out. They will not remember it at all. There is no quick fix and there are no medicines that help, only the passage of time.

In The End

Children need to get enough sleep or they can have physical, behavioral or emotional problems. Avoid things – like high sugar foods, caffeine and violent television – that make sleep less likely, especially right before bed. Encourage exercise. Establish a relaxing routine that you can stick to every night, with quiet low light activity and comfort; keep a regular bedtime and enforce it. Having a bedtime routine will save you many arguments and will help your child feel more secure in times of upheaval. Sadly, you cannot make a child sleep, but you can insist that he or she rest in a darkened, boring, TV-less room. They will, in the end, get the sleep they need.

The Blogger's Pit Stop