Entries Tagged as 'Advice'

Infectious Diseases at School

In April 2009, H1N1, also known as “swine flu,” began to circulate throughout North America. With many students having just returned to school from spring break vacations to Mexico, where the virus is thought to have originated, several outbreaks began to pop up in schools across the country. Many of these schools closed temporarily to disinfect the buildings.

While H1N1 certainly may be an eyeopener for parents and students, providing lessons on just how rampant infectious diseases can be in a school environment, flu viruses aren’t the only infectious diseases to be concerned about at school. Experts say that exposure to a variety of different infectious diseases in a school environment is inevitable, especially at the grade-school level.

The common cold, chickenpox, head lice, tuberculosis, mononucleosis (mono), and many other conditions can be expected in school environments. It’s important to be aware of the necessary actions to take to prevent the proliferation of disease in school. Consider these factors.

Teachers spend several hours per day with students and can typically be the first line of defense when an illness is suspected. They can view physical and behavioral changes that may indicate a student is not feeling well, especially when “symptoms” are compared against normal behavior for this particular student.

Signs of illness may include:
• Changes in appetite:The student may pick at food or want to avoid food all together.

• Behavior changes:Lethargy, irritability or lack of energy could indicate something is amiss.

• Skin color: Pasty skin color can indicate illness, as well as flushed skin. Eyes may also appear glassy or red.

• Fever: While teachers aren’t frequently engaging in personal contact with students, they may be able to detect a fever upon touching a student’s arm or hand. Hand-washing and use of hand sanitizers remains one of the best ways to reduce the spread and severity of diseases at school. Here are other steps students should take.

• A sick student should remain home from school until he or she is over the hurdle. While having a sick child home can be an inconvenience for working parents, it prevents other students from potentially getting sick.

• Students should not share eating implements, straws, etc. Saliva can spread any number of infectious diseases.

• Students should not share towels or other personal hygiene items after gym workouts. Also, it is safe to wear water shoes or some sort of flip-flop if using public school showers to clean off. The floor of locker rooms may be teaming with bacteria that could lead to foot fungus.

• Inspect children for head lice, especially if a case is detected at school.

• Teachers can offer a courtesy to parents when a contagious outbreak is detected in a class, such as posting a notice about strep throat, so they can choose whether it is safe to send kids to school.

• Students should be encouraged to eat healthy, balanced meals. A good diet can keep the immune system functioning properly to ward off common illnesses.

• Many schools mandate that students be up-to-date with required immunizations.

Find the Right Fit for Your Child’s After School Program

For many households across the country, having two parents working has become not only the norm, but a necessity. This trend has resulted in after school programs growing more and more important as the years go on.

Recognizing that, the National Afterschool Association (NAA) has identified several things parents should look for in an afterschool program to ensure kids will be well cared for and enjoy their time once the final school bell of the day rings.


The staff is very important when finding the right fit for your child’s after school program. One of the things parents must observe is the staff’s interaction with children. Before deciding on a specific program, visit each of those your are considering on a typical day to witness how the staff interacts with kids. The NAA suggests looking for specific things regarding the staff’s interaction, including whether or not children are treated with respect and allowed to voice their concerns or opinions; how well the staff knows the children in the program, including their interests and personalities; and the type of atmosphere the staff fosters for children, be it positive or negative.


The layout of an after school facility is an important consideration for parents as well. According to the NAA, a good facility will have plenty of open space for activities as well as a quiet area that allows kids to do their homework in peace.
The layout outside of the facility is something to consider as well. Kids need to exercise, and parents will want their kids to have ample outdoor space to play after a long day at school. Play equipment should be available, and that equipment should be new and not the product of neglect.


While structure is important for kids, it’s also important for kids to experience variety. When looking at a given facility, the NAA suggests looking at the program’s schedule of activities. A variety of available activities will lessen the likelihood of kids growing bored with a given program.
In addition, activities should be stimulating. Simply watching TV should not be acceptable. Rather, activities should be well suited to children’s interests and age-appropriate.


Other things need to be considered as well before parents can make a final decision on an after school program. One of those things is nutrition. Most after school programs will have snacks for kids. Are these snacks healthy? Is the staff willing to alter their snack items if parents object?
Another thing to factor in is the structure of the facility. An older building, for instance, might not be as safe, and it might also not have adequate ventilation, heating or light. Kids are typically more susceptible to illness than adults, so these are important considerations not to be taken lightly.

To learn more about after school programs, visit the NAA Web site at www.naaweb.yourmembership.com.

From pre-K to K, how to handle the transition

Have you ever moved? Think about how you felt when you left the neighborhood, house, friends, and stores that were familiar and then had to become acquainted with entirely new things. It can be exciting, but for many it can also be a scary experience.

For preschoolers about to enter kindergarten the feelings may be quite similar. They’re leaving behind the comfort of a routine and people they’ve grown accustomed to and must now move into the fast-track of elementary education.

School Starting Earlier
Kindergarten isn’t the first time youngsters are introduced to teachers and learning these days. Recent estimates say that at least one million children attend some form of preschool or education-based child care in the United States today. The National Institute for Early Education

Research at Rutgers University says that 75 percent of 4-year-olds are in pre-school. The rise in kids starting school earlier likely has something to do with the number of two-income households in most areas of the world. Today it has become increasingly difficult for the average family to live
comfortably on one salary. Therefore, preschools and daycare centers allow both parents to work.

Many centers have developed schedules and curricula so that children are not simply exposed to free-for-all play for the durationof the day. Some hands-on learning, craft projects, and preliminary lessons are also offered.

Easing the Transition
“When young children feel complex emotions like those entering kindergarten, they don’t know how to deal with them. Their parents need to guide them,” says Norma Richard, assistant professor of education at the National College of Education of National-Louis University in Illinois. “Be sure to tell your child, ‘You can do this!’” There are a number of factors that can help make young children feel more comfortable when attending kindergarten, and parents should lead the way.

1 . Program continutity
: One way to ease the transition for children into kindergarten is to choose a pre-school that offers a similar curriculum to the kindergarten he or she eventually will attend. Program continuity keeps things familar for youngsters and allows them to reinforce lessons learned at age 3 or 4. Many preschools also offer kindergarten classes, so this could be a viable option and one that best addresses the continuity situation. If your center does not have kindergarten, see if pre-school teachers can converse with kindergarten teachers in the next school to offer information about what was taught and how your child was responding.

2. Talk to your child:Talking about what will be expected in kindergarten and “psyching” your child up for attending “big boy” or “big girl” school can go a long way toward boosting self-esteem. It can also take away that fear of the unknown. Mentioning a friend or a family member who has already attended kindergarten, one whom your child likes to emulate, can also make things seem less scary.

3. Mention the similarities of kindergarten and pre-school: There will be many activities that your child will still find similar in kindergarten. Most programs still focus on building upon a child’s sense of curiosity, physical learning, and problem-solving. Things learned in pre-school will only be enhanced in kindergarten and added to with more scholastic endeavors.

4. Reading and writing importance: Kindergarten lessons will more deeply explore your child’s understanding of vocabulary, letters and reading comprehension, even if he or she is not yet doing the reading. Picking up a book and reading with your child remains one of the best ways to prepare him or her for kindergarten. Children who love books and vocabulary will have a head start.

Metro Creative Connection 2009

Reading Material: Summer Reading Can Help Kids Get Off to a Strong Start

As kids across the country prepare to head back to school, parents are focusing on helping their kids get off on the right foot for the coming school year. Though they used to be commonplace, summer reading lists have fallen by the wayside in many school districts.

To get kids enthusiastic about summer reading, consider the following tips, courtesy of the Literary Council of Alaska.

* Read to and with your child. A daily routine that includes reading with or to your child can help kids embrace reading. Kids often look forward to spending time with Mom and Dad, and will therefore be less likely to see reading as merely another summer chore.

* Go beyond books. Summer reading doesn’t have to be limited to just books. Kids can gain a lot from reading the local newspaper, and parents can also subscribe to magazines tailored to children, such as Sports Illustrated for Kids or even the classic Highlights magazine for younger children.

* Discuss what you’re reading with each other. Engage children in discussions about the books they’re reading. If you show interest, they’re liable to be more interested themselves. In addition, discuss books you read as a child with your children.

* Get kids their own library card. Take kids to the library once or twice a week and let them find their own reading materials. Kids with their own library cards can even visit the local library on their own, especially on hot summer afternoons when the air conditioning at the library can be a
welcoming respite from the summer heat.

* Provide a good example. Kids routinely emulate what their mothers and fathers do, and much of their behavior is learned from Mom and Dad as well. Let your kids see you reading on a regular basis, and they’re more likely to embrace reading as a result.

2009 Metro Creative Connection

Summer Sport Safety

As summer gets set to hit full swing, scores of people across the country are readying themselves for backyard barbecues, trips to the beach or casual afternoons spent soaking up some sun.

While spending as much time as possible outdoors is a summertime tradition, soaking up too much sun can be dangerous. In addition to painful sunburns and dehydration, overexposure to the sun can also result in skin cancer. In fact, according to the SkinCancer Foundation, 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

Those planning on taking advantage of the warmer weather and catching as many rays as possible also must work to prevent other heat-related illnesses.
To do so, consider the following tips from the American Red Cross.

* Dress accordingly. Lightweight,light-colored clothing reflects some of the sun’s energy away. Also consider wearing a hat whenever possible, or at least during the midday hours when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. When sitting out in the sun, be it at the beach or in the backyard, it’s also wise to use an umbrella.

* Drink plenty of water. Caffeinated or alcoholic beverages dehydrate the body. When spending time in the sun, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

* Don’t overdo your diet with protein. Diets high in protein increase metabolic heat, thereby raising your risk for a heat-related illness. When it comes to diet in the hotter months, it’s best to eat smaller meals and eat more often.

* Take a break. If you’re going outside to mow the lawn or work on the garden, be sure to take plenty of breaks and do so either indoors or under ample shade.

* Jog early. Joggers are often especially devoted to their daily runs. However, joggers, no matter how experienced and devoted, are still susceptible to heat-related illnesses. If possible, run during the coolest period of the day, which is typically early morning between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.
While summer is a favorite season for many people across the country, it can also be a dangerous time for those who aren’t careful.

To learn more about staying safe in the sun, visit the American Red Cross Web site at www.redcross.org.

Making Youth Sports Fun Again for Kids

Thousands of children participate in some sort of organized sport, whether it is school-related or on an independent team. Kids as young as 4 are now playing organized soccer and baseball.

However, with the pressure to succeed put on children so early, there are many people who wonder if the benefits of youth sports participation outweigh the negative aspects.

Consider these myths and revelations:

Myth: My child should play sports - - and begin early — because he or she could eventually earn a college scholarship.

Fact: According to research by the National Center for Educational Statistics, fewer than 1 percent of the kids participating in organized sports today will be good enough to land a college scholarship. There are very few young athletes who will go on to be the Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Michael Jordan, and Venus Williams of the future.

Putting stock in youth sports simply for the fame or fortune it may bring is being short-sighted and frivolous, say experts.

Myth: Winning is important, and it’s good to teach kids early on to strive for success.

Fact: Various studies show that 73 percent of kids quit their childhood sport by age 13 because it ceases to be fun. Pressure from coaches and parents simply doesn’t make it worthwhile for kids to play any further. Children should be encouraged to play for the fun of it, and not for the potential trophies and medals they could win.

Myth: Youth sports is all for the benefit of the children.

Fact: Research conducted by the National Alliance for Youth Sports has found that one-quarter of adults have witnessed a physical confrontation involving coaches, officials or parents at a youth sports practice or game. If sports participation were all about the kids, why would adults find
themselves in such an uproar about rulings and what’s going on in the field or on the court?

With these clarifications in mind, parents, coaches and caregivers need to discover how to make sports fun again for children and motivate them in positive ways.

Here are some of the better-known benefits of sports participation:

• Learning to play collectively with a team.
• Physical exercise.
• Problem-solving and forming strategies.
• Social interaction.
• Stress release.
• Overcoming challenges through practice/discovering personal strengths.

By making changes to the way adults view youth sports, there is the greater likelihood for children to enjoy themselves for the love of the game.

Hidden allergies lurk in your yard; how to avoid them

The rejuvenating power of spring is well known. When the weather warms up, adults and children alike typically take full advantage, soaking up some sun and shaking off the cobwebs of another long winter.

But as fun as spending time outdoors can be each spring, lurking allergens can quickly ruin a picnic or trip to the park.

Sneezing, itchy eyes, soar throats, and runny noses are often unwelcome guests during spring.

This emphasizes the importance of limiting exposure to allergens like pollen as much as possible to ensure you and your family get the most out of the spring season.

Though allergists recommend avoiding the outdoors during the peak of the allergy season, parents know it’s hard to keep kids from enjoying the great outdoors when the weather finally warms up. To minimize exposure to common allergens, consider the following tips.

* Know the pollen counts and limit outdoor activities during times when the pollen count is highest. In general, the pollen count is at its highest at specific times depending on the season. In spring, for example, tree pollens make their presence felt most strongly during morning hours, whereas allergens such as ragweed tend to do their damage in the middle of the day during the fall season.

Daily pollen counts are often documented in the local newspaper or on local news broadcasts. Familiarize yourself with these and use them to your advantage.

* Don’t use clotheslines. Clotheslines are popular in the suburbs during spring time, and they can be more environmentally friendly. However, hanging clothes or bedding on clotheslines can invite pollen to attach itself to such items, which can bring allergens into the home.

* Close the windows when pollen counts are high. Home and car windows don’t have to be up all the time to avoid exposure to allergens. However, when pollen forecasts are predicting higher pollen counts, it’s best to close the windows in both the car and home.

To put this in perspective, if you own a dark-colored automobile, closely examine it on a day when the pollen count is high. You’re likely to notice that it’s covered in a yellow dust. That’s pollen and that thick coating is a testament to just how pervasive pollen can be on days when the pollen count is especially high.

While it’s nice to let the warm air in during spring, you could be letting in a whole lot more than that if you’re not paying attention to the daily pollen predictions.

* Consider bathing before going to sleep at night. One of the worst things about allergy season is how invasive allergens can negatively affect our daily lives, including our sleeping habits. Bathing before bedtime can help wash off a day’s worth of allergens, and make it easier to enjoy a good night’s sleep in the process.

These Are the Times To Remember

Timesaving Tips for Creating and Sharing Family Memories

A chubby thigh, a dimpled cheek, that powdery baby aroma – there’s so much families love about new babies. From the moment a couple says, “We’re expecting,” the baby frenzy begins with friends and relatives awaiting the latest scoop, the smallest update.

Hollywood paparazzi have nothing on a doting grandmother or an adoring aunt anxious for the first glimpse of that pint-sized pixie. And as baby grows, so does the interest in new pictures and information.

Time spent with a child offers magical moments that you’ll want to remember forever.

These are also months and years of your life when you may be full of love, but short on time.

Luckily there are fast and easy ways parents, grandparents, or anyone in your virtual community can enjoy and share the adventure that is new life.

Create a keepsake
Of course you want to recall the first time you laid eyes on that amazing life growing within you. Having a baby involves a roller coaster of emotions and memories on which parents certainly want to reflect. But just as the pangs of labor pains become a distant memory a year or two after a baby arrives, so can those little details. A journal can keep track of those special snapshots in time.

Meet our new arrival
As soon as baby arrives, loved ones are anxious to hear all about it, and to see a picture of that cute little bundle. Enlist the help of a friend to do the honors of sharing the big news with well-wishers when you only have eyes for that special someone.

Wow … How time flies
Babies transform into toddlers to older children in a flash. Photo documentation and picture sharing remains one of the best ways to preserve the memories of all your times together.

Uploading to an online photo database is a real timesaver, not only because loved ones can view images directly, but because you can create slideshows with personalized captions, as well as order gifts made with your favorite pics. With images organized online there’s no more hunting through boxes upon boxes of prints.

A high-capacity photo vault offers the opportunity to upload numerous photos so you won’t have to pick and choose among favorite photos to share. Then simply reach out to your virtual community so others can contribute to these family albums with their own content and commentary. Grandparents can add a photo comparing Mom’s baby picture to her newborn’s. Do they share the same eyes? Dimples? Enjoy life with your children and share moments with friends and family far and near 365 days a year.

Metro Creative Connection 2009

Be Ready For Baby

Welcoming a baby into the world can be one of the most awe-inspiring and joyous times for a woman. If you feel you are emotionally and mentally ready for pregnancy, now is the time to prepare your body for the adventure ahead.

You can increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy and infant by taking precautionary steps before getting pregnant. Once you’ve made the decision that now is the time to begin trying for a child, take some time to make healthy lifestyle changes to benefit you and baby.

Boost fitness
With a pregnancy the body goes through many miraculous changes. To help compensate for the extra weight you will carry and the other changes that are in store, gradually build up your stamina and fitness level. This will help you cope with the strain a pregnancy can put on your body. Once the baby is born, being in shape will help you get back to your prepregnancy weight faster and ensure you have the energy to care for your
new child.

Visit the doctor
Now is the time to schedule a visit with your Ob/Gyn to talk about your baby plans. He or she can update your family history and do any precautionary screenings, such as tests for infections, diseases, or discover genetic abnormalities that could affect the baby. Use this time to discuss any worries or concerns with your doctor and to find out his or her suggestions for preparing for the pregnancy.

Healthy Eating
There are studies that indicate a link to diet and the chances for conception. It is important that both you and your partner consume a healthy diet, low in fats and sodium while trying for a baby. Eating well also ensures the body has a good balance of vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor may prescribe folic acid, or tell you to consume more dark leafy green vegetables and enriched cereals to acquire this important nutrient. Folic acid is a B group vitamin vital for healthy cell development. Studies indicate that folic acid helps preventneural tube defects and reduces the chances for miscarriage. Few women get enough folic acid through their normal diet so it is recommended that anyone planning a pregnancy should take folic acid supplements for three months prior to conception as well as during the early stages of pregnancy. Apart from enriched grains and vegetables, folic acid can be found in chicken liver, beef liver, lentils, wheat germ, pears, asparagus, papaya, broccoli, cantaloupe, eggs and canned salmon.

Quit smoking/reduce drinking
Couples looking to get pregnant should quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption - both of which can reduce fertility levels. Research indicates that smoking reduces fertility levels by up to 30 percent in women and smokers are likely to take much longer to conceive than non-smokers. Sometimes a woman is pregnant for several weeks before she realizes, making it important to drink in moderation so that the fetus is not harmed. If you have concerns consult a doctor.

Rest up
The next nine to 10 months will be a roller coaster of emotions and activity. Your body will be pushed like it has never been pushed before. Take every opportunity to get adequate sleep and rest so that your body can fully devote its attention to the baby growing within. Lack of sleep can have detrimental health effects, such as diminished concentration levels, poor mood/irritability, depression and lethargy. Don’t ignore your body’s signals that it needs rest, regardless of what chores or work need to get done.

Clarified requirements of new children’s product safety laws

Guidance intended for resellers of children’s products

In February 2009, new requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act took effect. Manufacturers, importers and retailers are expected to comply with the new congressionally mandated laws. As of Feb. 10, 2009, children’s products cannot be sold if they contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) total lead. Certain children’s products manufactured on or after Feb. 10, 2009 cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1 percent of certain specific phthalates or if they fail to meet new mandatory standards for toys.

Under the new law, children’s products with more than 600 ppm total lead cannot lawfully be sold in the United States after Feb. 10, 2009, even if they were manufactured before that date. The total lead limit drops to 300 ppm on Aug. 14, 2009.

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban.

Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold.

However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

When the CPSIA was signed into law on Aug. 14, 2008, it became unlawful to sell recalled products. For more information, resellers should visit the CPSC Web site at www.cpsc.gov for recalled products before adding items to inventory. The selling of recalled products also could carry civil and/or
criminal penalties.

The agency intends to focus its enforcement efforts on products of greatest risk and largest exposure. While CPSC expects every company to comply fully with the new laws, resellers should pay special attention to certain product categories.

Among these are recalled children’s products, particularly cribs and play yards; children’s products that may contain lead, such as children’s jewelry and painted wooden or metal toys; flimsily made toys that are easily breakable into small parts; toys that lack the required age warnings; and dolls and stuffed toys that have buttons, eyes, noses or other small parts that are not securely fastened and could present a choking hazard for young children.

The agency has underway a number of rulemaking proposals intended to provide guidance on the new lead limit requirements.

For more information, visit www.cpsc.gov.

Courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.