Monday, March 31, 2014

Let Imagination Flow!

Imagination and childhood go hand and hand. Imaginary play allows children to invent creative problem solving techniques, while giving them the ability to venture away from daily structure and expand thinking. Imagination thrives when encouraged by parents and caregivers. Here are a few tips that boost this form of “fun thinking:”

Set limits. Kids have to be taught the difference between imaginary and reality. It’s okay to allow them to use a blanket and pretend they are superheroes saving the word, but they have to understand that the superhero belongs at home or at the playground, not in the aisle of the supermarket.

Embrace imaginary friends. Psychologists suggest that imaginary friends are normal and exhibit a creative, social child. Most kids grow out of this phase as they get older. The only time parents and caregivers should be suspicious of an imaginary friend is when kids start to blame their “friend” for bad behavior. If this occurs, explain to children that they are responsible for their own decision-making behaviors.

Grab a book. While reading is essential to intellectual development, it also adds fuel to the part of the brain that encourages imagination. The vibrant colors, various characters, and enticing adventures take kids away on a magical journey. Next time you’re reading a book to your charge, try reenacting the story.

Limit screen time. The easiest thing to do with energetic kids is to sit them down in front of the TV or tablet screen, but that actually stifles imaginary growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no TV for children under two years old, and only 30 minutes per day for toddlers. As long as kids are sitting in front of a screen, they are being fed information instead of exploring the topic using their imagination.

Allowing kids to step out of the box and entertain themselves is great for child development. A free imagination opens the door for a more creative child to emerge!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rid Your Car Of Winter!

As one of the top three snowiest winters in recorded history, the harsh weather has consistently impacted commutes over the past couple of months. Slush, salt, sand, grime, and frigid temperatures have impacted vehicles from the tires to wiper blades. With the hope that winter is on its way out and spring on its way in, it's time for your car to have a once-over and undo what winter has done.
  • A good detail will do the trick. Salt, sand, and grime can cause corrosion underneath cars. Visit the local detail shop and get the undercarriage thoroughly cleansed. While there, ask them to clean all carpets, window slots, vents, and interior seating to remove all winter debris. It's also a good idea to pop the hood and remove any leaves or frozen elements.
  • Replace wiper blades. Between the rain, sleet, snow, and hail, windshield wipers have done their fair share of work. They have frozen and defrosted numerous times. With the spring showers approaching, it is recommended that drivers change their wiper blades to ensure safe travel.
  • Keep your tires turning. Cold weather can cause tires to be under-inflated and the upcoming warm weather can cause them to become overinflated. Visit your local tire shop and have them inflate, or deflate, all four tires to the appropriate tire pressure standards. Before leaving, have the mechanic inspect tire treads to ensure proper traction support for the upcoming rain season. If the treads have worn down, it is time to replace the tires.
  • Time to align. Once your tires are ready for spring, have your local mechanic perform an alignment. This will reinstate the balance in your car that has been impacted by the  numerous potholes. A typical alignment will average $80, though well worth it.  Proper alignment can catch tire and suspension issues before they become major repairs!
  • Top off all fluids. The extra power needed to make it through the winter elements can pollute oil quicker than usual. While aligning and checking your tires, have the mechanic change your oil. Even if your mileage indicates that it is not time for a change, you want to make sure the oil is clean. Also check all break, transmission, and windshield wiper fluids.
Now that you're ready to hit the road in warmer weather, don't forget to make sure all insurance premiums, inspections, and registration renewals are up to date!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is the House Charge-Proof?

Children like to explore. They aspire to see what goes on in the world around them by touching, grabbing, feeling, and seeing. While discovery is key to growth and development, everyday objects, and places, around the home can be dangerous. Have you taken a moment to ask yourself; is this house charge-proof? Below are just a few places that can start you on the way to safe playing inside the home:
     1. Be cautious in the kitchen. Kitchens usually contain hazardous materials such as knives, candles, cabinet knobs, and cleaning supplies. If left unattended for just a second, children can be exposed and seriously harmed.
     2.  Furniture is sharp and heavy. Look out for sharp points on the end of bookshelves, TV stands, dressers, and tables. Not only can these objects cause bodily harm if a child were to run into the corner and cut themselves on an edge, these pieces could also fall over onto the child.
     3. Outlets are everywhere. Each home has multiple electrical outlets. When crawling, children may become curious and stick their fingers, which are usually wet, into the outlet which could cause an electrical shock. Make sure that there are covers on all outlets within reach of children.
     4. The bathroom can be tricky. By adjusting the water heater, the risk for hot water burns can be reduced. When children are in the tub, be sure to use anti-slip mats to reduce the chance of falling. Also, remember to lock the toilet clips when the bathroom is not occupied.
     5.  Be careful when heading outdoors. Balconies and decks also cause concern when it comes to childproofing homes. Help kids down the stairs, as railing are usually wide and children could slip through. Also, be sure to watch kids when sitting on patio furniture to be sure they do not fall off and hurt themselves.

Inside their homes should always be the safest place for kids.  It is up to the adults in the home to monitor curiosity and make sure that discovering the world is fun, yet safe!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Naptime Should Be Happy Not Horrible?

We all agree that little ones need plenty of rest, but what really happens when naptime approaches? Is there a struggle up the stairs to the bedroom?  When your charge gets to the bedroom, do they stay put? Many kids associate naptime with dread and many parents and caregivers can relate. Without a game plan, getting kids to go, and stay, in bed can be a challenge.
            The best way to handle naptime is to keep it consistent. If parents do not have a set schedule, begin by taking notice of what time tiredness starts to set in each day. By sticking with the same time, kids know what to expect so there is no shock factor when you give a naptime warning. Prior to heading into the bedroom, make a bathroom trip, engage in a soothing activity such as story time, and turn off all electronics that could cause a distraction. Remind your charge that it is time for a nap and let them know what fun activities they can look forward to once they wake up. The sooner they fall asleep, the sooner the fun begins. Once they wake up, praise them for having a good naptime.
            If naptime does not go as planned because your charge won’t stay asleep, there are always a few tips and solutions. Kids of walking age will quickly refuse a nap by hopping out of bed to find their parent or caregiver. If this occurs, immediately return the child to their room. Giving them time to adjust to another room will only make it harder to get them back to bed. Another way kids try to bypass naptime is by crying or calling for someone. When this occurs, be hesitant before walking into the room. Assure them that everything is okay and leave so they can attempt to fall asleep. If your charge continues to cry and call out, wait a little longer each time before you go check in. By waiting longer, they may eventually fall off to sleep. Remind them that it is naptime and once they fall asleep, you will check on them. Again, once they wake up, praise them for having a good naptime and let them know what you expect the next day in regards to napping.
            While naptime may not be the easiest time of the day, it is essential. Remember to ease into naptime with soothing activities, a regular routine, and try not to engage a charge that refuses to sleep. Once naptime is over, the fun begins again!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Technology vs. Sleep

Technology has enhanced communication and entertainment, but is it also a cause for a decline in sleep? New studies in Sleep Medicine Journal suggest that having technology in the bedroom serves as a distraction when people are trying to fall asleep, especially young children and preteens.
                The average preteen should get 10-11 consecutive hours of sleep each night to promote their growing bodies. Kids with access to computers, televisions, cell phones, and video games in their rooms, prior to going to sleep tend to get about nine hours of sleep, one to two hours less than those without the devices. Sleep Medicine reported that kids who frequently viewed TV before bed were four times more likely to report waking up several times during the night, than non-viewers, and frequent social networkers were three times more likely to wake up a lot. Kids who regularly played video games or listened to music at bedtime had significantly more difficulty falling asleep.
Children need boundaries for technology use. Medical experts suggest to remove these devices from the bedroom, and to withdraw from all interaction with technology at least an hour before going to sleep. When devices, such as cell phones, beep in the middle of the night, people are more inclined to get up and reply. While technology is helpful, the addiction to instantaneous information and the impulse to reply immediately is stronger than ever before.
Sleep needs to be held up to the same standards as eating healthy, too much indulgence in food is bad for the body, just as too much technology before bed is bad for sleep. Begin by limiting the amount of time kids spend with technology, especially during the later hours of the day. Try leaving all cell phones in the kitchen, turning the computer off after dinner or after homework, and keeping televisions in the common areas. Letting technology rest will allow for a better night’s sleep and more productive start to the next day. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Combat the Cold

The United States has had its fair share of cold weather since 2014 touched down. While the country is currently experiencing temporary relief, the winter has just begun and it’s time to brace for the next round of artic air that is bound to happen. When the temperatures fall into the single digits and below, everyone is urged to take precautions.
     The best advice during extreme cold, especially for small children and the elderly, is to stay indoors. Exposure to the elements has many risks, but if you must go out, dress in layers. Before leaving the house, be sure to cover your head, hands, and ears. If going outdoors for more than five to ten minutes, be sure your mouth is covered. Failure to cover your mouth leaves lungs vulnerable to cold air, which could be dangerous and painful. Eating a hearty meal can help stay warm.  Keep in mind drinking caffeinated beverages can cause the body to loose heat more rapidly.
     Failure to prep for the cold could lead to the following:

HYPOTHERMIA – Occurs when the body temperature drops low enough that it begins to affect the brain, making it difficult to think or move. People often don’t realize it’s happening because the symptoms of shivering and exhaustion can be mistaken for something else. The symptoms are most noticeable in children and the elderly.

FROSTBITE – Occurs when the skin is exposed to the frigid temperatures.  Symptoms of frostbite include numbness and skin that’s red, white, painful, firm or waxy.

HEART PROBLEMS - Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart, causing the body to work harder to stay warm.  As a result, any exertion can be dangerous for people with heart disease. When the body starts to shiver, that is an indication that the heart has already begun working harder to keep the body warm.
     The winter can be a time of building snowmen, drinking hot cocoa, and ice skating at the rink, but when the temperature takes a drastic dive, take all necessary safety precautions. Do not attempt to brave the cold for long periods of time, especially with children. Remember, spring is just around the corner, but until then, bundle up and stay warm!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Can Portable Devices Cause Hearing Loss?

Did your charge put an iPod or MP3 Player on their wish list this year? While the musical devices serve as great entertainment pieces, could they be damaging to ear health, especially that of a child? According to Health Daily News, one in six teens has some degree of preventable hearing loss, but few parents warn their kids to turn down their iPods or avoid other sources of excessive noise.
Portable devices have been around for decades but, with the advancement of technology, and prolific use, the risk of hearing loss has risen. Some of the main concerns include earbud use and extended head phone use. CD and Cassette Players, some of the first portable music devices, came equipped with headphones, allowing users to avoid outside distractions and listen to music without distracting others around them, but new devices come with ear buds, a more isolated form of listening. Earbuds go directly into the ear, close enough to damage the canal if music is played too loud. Another concern is the advancement in portable storage. Old devices allowed for users to listen for maybe an hour at a time. MP3 Players and iPods can hold thousands of songs and are light to carry, extending the time people listen to their devices.
            The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association mandates that sounds over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss and damage. Newer MP3 Players and iPods can reach up to 106 decibels. The younger the listener, the more damage there is to be done. Hearing loss does not happen instantaneously, it happens over time. A long term repercussion could include the inability to distinguish the letters s, h, and f, which could make hearing difficult.
            If kids ask for one of these devices, there are a few things parents and caregivers can do to lower the risks. Substituting earbuds for headphones will allow them to listen to music but leave a safer barrier between the music and ear canal. Also, set musical limits. All musical devices enable users to set volume controls. Browse the settings menu and set the volume lower than 85 decibels. Finally, limit the time spent on these devices. The younger the user, the less time they should spend. As younger consumers get older and want to listen to music more often, set time intervals. Remember, hearing loss doesn’t happen instantaneously, it happens over time.