Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-13-2015 to 07-19-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Are your child’s crayons toxic?

Choosing the Right Chores for Kids of Any Age

Kids washing the dishes in the kitchenSeveral years ago I learned a Mommy Secret from my girlfriend about kids’ chores that I’ve never forgot. Cindy and I were busy chatting away when she announced to her kids: “Chore time!” As quick as a wink they jumped up from playing and scurried to their kitchen where they proceeded to unload dishes, and put clean ones in the cupboard. And they did so without an ounce of help or uttering one complaint. When finished they turned for their mom’s sanction (she nodded approvingly), and then grinned and ran back to play. (Oh, by the way: her kids were three and five years old. Cross my heart!)

So what was the secret to the mom’s success? Believe me, I asked her, and my girlfriend shared these three simple secrets and I used them that afternoon with my own kids. 1. Cindy chose tasks that fit her kids’ developmental abilities. 2. She planned for chore success. (For example: She bought no-break plastic dishes, and cleared a bottom cupboard so they could put dishes away without help). 3. She first modeled exactly how to do a chore, and then made sure they could do it alone. The result: success! You can use these same secrets with your children to boost their helping attitudes. Here are a few chores for kids that are appropriate for different ages.

Chores for Toddlers: It’s never too early to begin, but let’s be realistic. Do not expect a toddler to do any “chore” on his own, but you can gently encourage his helping spirit. Here’s how:

  • Toddlers love to help and learn best by copying and working next to you. So purchase a pint-size broom, rake, or vacuum (that looks like Mommy’s). Your little one can grab his broom and copy you.
  • Set out a special box, bin or basket for your toddler to help you put his toys away. He won’t do this alone, but would love to help you do the task (for a few seconds anyway).

Chores For Preschoolers: The important Mommy Secret for this age is if you expect this age of child to do chores first alone, they are likely to give up in frustration. So if you want your preschooler to succeed (or really any age child), first show them exactly how to do the task right. They probably will still need your guidance. Here are a few appropriate chores:

  • Set and clear the table and fold napkins: Be on the lookout for placemats that provide inked-in outlines of a fork, knife, spoon and plate. Some moms make them by drawing utensil outlines using permanent black marking pens on construction paper and then covering them with clear laminating paper.
  • Sponge off tables and counters: Hand him a damp sponge and a squirt bottle filled with water and a bit of your favorite cleaner and let him go to town cleaning away
  • Pick up toys: Provide a box, basket, or bin for your child to put away his toys
  • Recycling: He can stack magazines and papers (do specify exactly where you want items placed) and empty small wastebaskets.
  • Gardening: Fill a water can and designate certain plants that should be watered.

Chores for School-Age Kids: School-age kids are ready to help out in the household as well as some yard work. Go through each new chore step by step with your child so that he clearly knows how to do it. Then observe him doing it at least once to make sure he can handle it.

  • Routine household chores: Set and clear table, put dishes in dishwasher, put clean ones away, vacuum, dust, sweep.
  • Laundry: Gradually increase the repertoire until your child can do the majority alone.
  • Meals: Make their lunch and be responsible for cooking one part of evening meal
  • Pet care: Feeding, taking them on walks, brushing, bathing, cleaning out cage.
  • Gardening: Weeding, watering plants, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, sweeping patio
  • Personal bedrooms: They should slowly become their soul responsibility including dusting, making the bed and changing sheets.
  • Laundry duties: Putting his dirty clothes in hamper, emptying hamper, folding and sorting lights and darks.

Chores for Preteens and Teens: In a few short years this same kid is probably will be living on his own. So think of assigning chores to help prepare him for independent living.

  • Cooking: Learning a few basic cooking recipes to cook alone
  • Laundry: Completely doing own laundry
  • Bathroom: Cleaning their shower, toilet, tub (My kids’ roommates have thanked me)
  • Car care: When she gets that license make her responsible for maintaining car appearance washing exterior, cleaning windows, filling it with gas, even taking in for service.

It’s never too early for your child to help out with the household chores. (Okay, do wait until your child is at least out of diapers and can talk). But the fact is the sooner you begin chores, the easier it is be to nurture your child’s responsibility muscle. Remember to choose tasks that match your child’s abilities, show your child exactly what you expect, and finally stand back. The real mommy secret is this: Don’t do any task your child can do alone. Kids needs to see themselves as responsible family contributors.

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See Minions Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

Sensory-Friendly-Films-logoOnce a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Minions-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

This Saturday July 18th, at 10am local time, the Autism Society’s “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program will be showing Minions. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming August 22nd: Underdogs


Editor’s note: Although Minions has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action and rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Pet Allergies, Pet Hygiene and Your Family’s Health

Pet owners shouldn’t let their animals sleep on their beds or even in their bedroom, say vets. This advice is especially important for people with animal allergies.

About half of all households in the UK have a pet, with cats (10 million) and dogs (7 million) the most common (62% of American households have a pet*).

Not only can pets trigger allergies, vets say pet owners need to be aware of the possible spread of diseases from domestic animals.

Allergies Caused by Animals

Keeping House Pet-CleanAnimal allergens are a common cause of indoor allergic reactions. Allergic reactions are caused by animal saliva, skin and urine. When animals groom themselves, they lick, and saliva coats the skin, fur or feathers. Skin cells covered in saliva (‘animal dander’) are shed along with loose hairs and fur.

Cats Protection, a charity that takes in and rehomes unwanted cats, says it receives hundreds of calls a year from owners wanting to give up their cat due to allergies. The charity says there are simple ways to control your allergic symptoms, including:

  • Having hardwood floors instead of carpets, and blinds instead of curtains
  • Avoiding wearing woollen clothing
  • Designating some areas as pet-free zones, particularly bedrooms
  • Opening the windows for at least one hour every day and moving the litter tray and cat bed away from air vents
  • Regularly cleaning rooms where the pet sleeps
  • Washing your hands immediately after stroking your pet and not rubbing your eyes
  • Washing your cat’s bed regularly
  • Taking them to the vet if you notice them grooming or scratching more frequently
  • Using medications such as antihistamine tablets or nasal spray yourself, as advised by your doctor

Cats Protection also suggests that owners with allergic symptoms discuss allergy testing with a doctor before giving up their pet. Sometimes your allergy may be caused by something else, such as dust mites.

Infections from Pets

Infections and diseases can be passed from animals to people. Although this is rare, examples include:

  • Ringworm: a fungal infection of the skin that can be passed on from dogs, cats and hamsters. People who work with animals are more prone to the infection.
  • Toxocariasis: an infection caused by worms found in dog and cat faeces (poo).
  • Toxoplasmosis: caused by a parasite found in cat faeces. It can also be found in undercooked and infected meat and can be spread by using contaminated kitchen utensils.

The most common way to get an infection from an animal is by being bitten, or by close contact with its faeces.

There is also a very small chance of an infection being spread through contaminated water or food. Read more about food hygiene.

Tips on Pets and Hygiene

Follow these general pet hygiene tips to reduce your risk of infection.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly. Always use an antibacterial soap after handling your pets (this is essential before preparing food).
  • Teach children to always wash their hands. You could wipe their hands with a cleaning wipe, especially before they eat anything.
  • Make sure children stay away from dog and cat faeces. Don’t let children play around a litter tray and stay clear of dog litter bins at the park.
  • Check that your pets are in good health. Immunisations should be up-to-date. Regular check-ups at the vets can also spot any possible infections.
  • Keep your pet’s fur clean. This may simply involve cleaning their paws if they’ve dug up any soil or a thorough shampoo after swimming in the local pond.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US audience.

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 07-06-2015 to 07-12-2015

twitter thumbWelcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
How To Save A Choking Baby

To Hover or Not to Hover? THAT is the Special Needs Question

I took my three kids (2 are typical, one has almost invisible special needs) to a theme park last week. As we were walking some park employees started to close a gate and told us we had to wait a bit before we could proceed. There was a young man standing next to me who asked his mom if it was a train or a carriage that was coming by. She said she didn’t know. He started watching a video on his phone to pass the time. I could tell from his posture and his speech that he had some special needs and since I deal with kids with challenges at home and at work I was fine with it when he leaned over and showed me his screen. “See, ma’am?”

Boy with Two Thumbs Up with Mother on CarouselHis mom’s eyes widened. As she hovered, ready to jump in and steer him away I let her know with my smile that we were just fine. “It’s Wicked,” he explained. I commented on how great it was, and answered yes when he asked me if I had seen it.

He was sad because it was closing soon so Phantom of the Opera could take over the theater. He asked if I had seen that show and I told him yes, back in my hometown of New York. I told him he should go see that show, too. His mom jumped in and told me he wouldn’t let her take him because the show is too loud. I agreed it is loud but it is worth it. The carriage passed, the gates opened, and she hurried him away…but I wasn’t finished talking to him!

I wanted to tell him about Phantom and about the tricks of stage special effects. I wanted to suggest that he bring sound-dimming headphones. I wanted to tell him about how live music changes the air around you so you actually feel it, not just hear it. I thought he might be interested in the plot about someone who hides himself away because he thinks the world isn’t ready for him and his talents.

But I understand that mom. She was protecting her child, and she had no way of knowing that he didn’t need to be protected from me. There have been many times when I stand just off to the side while my child interacts with strangers. Usually they have trouble understanding her, so I jump in to translate and then step back again unless I am needed. I want my child to be independent, to initiate social interaction and to make her own way in the world – but some people in the world can be harsh.

Occasionally I have caught other kids rolling their eyes or exchanging looks then scurrying away to play on another part of the playground. Once I even caught a girl making fun of the way my child was talking – so I headed right over to the grown up who was allegedly watching this child and explained about my child’s disability and what had just happened. She was horrified and the girl got quite a scolding, which was not my intention! I just want people to be educated and to stop making fun of others…but in the age of reality tv and cyber bullying that may be an impossible dream.

So where is the line? Do we hover constantly or do we turn them loose and wait for the consequences? Of course the answer is different for each child. I only know the answer for my child – I have been letting her figurative leash out little by little. When she was younger I always remained within earshot, but now I am okay with letting her be only within my sightlines. I have to trust the people at her school to respond appropriately if an issue comes up, and ultimately I have to trust her. My child is going to have some rough times, and I can’t hover her through all of them. They will be stepping stones and learning experiences, and they may involve tears and disappointment but that is all part of parenting.

Of course sometimes people with special needs don’t interpret situations correctly, which is why I still hover. I am sure it is why that mom at the park was hovering. For some great activities to help kids with special needs with social interactions, check out this article from the Friendship Circle’s blog.