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Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips – Straight from the Experts

It’s that time of year again: time to get together with friends, host backyard barbecues, cook up some hotdogs and hamburgers, sip a cool beverage and end the day gathered around watching fireworks. Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately, according to the National Fire Protection Association in 2018 alone, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,100 people for fireworks related injuries and more than one-third of the injured (36%) were less than 15 years old.*

How and Why Do These Injuries Occur?

  • Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into peoples’ faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing; and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
  • Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
  • Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely – even sparklers! Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. But facts are that sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals and enough to cause a serious burn
  • Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
  • Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not here to talk doom and gloom when it comes to 4th of July fireworks. It really can be the perfect ending to an already perfect day…providing we’re careful and follow these key fireworks safety rules:

Top 10 Fireworks Safety Tips:

  1. Use fireworks outdoors only. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  2. Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks including sparklers. Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
  3. Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper. This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  4. Be careful when lighting the fuse. Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back up to a safe distance
  5. Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  6. Only use fireworks as intended. Don’t try to alter them or combine them. They can kill you!
  7. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap. After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  8. Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.
  9. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”
  10. Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy, fun and safe 4th of July

References

  • Fireworks Safety” – National Fire Protection Association
  • Fireworks Safety” – US Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Safety Tips” – The National Council on Fireworks Safety
  • *Data referenced updated 6/30/24

Games for Building Better Family Bonds

Family laughing and playing cardsYour typical afternoon probably goes like this: Pick up kids from school or camp; shuttle to a soccer game, music class, maybe the neighborhood pool; head to the grocery store; then get back home in time to make dinner. And even though the time you spend with your kids is precious, you probably wouldn’t classify this minivan marathon as quality time.

But who’s to say that everyday experiences can’t turn into special moments that strengthen family bonds? And what better way to infuse laughter and fun than with games that draw out every family member?

“Using this time for fun activities reinforces the idea that you can take pleasure in the mundane parts of life,” says Cynthia Copeland, author of Fun on the Run: 324 Instant Family Activities. “It also teaches kids to make the most of what’s available to them.”

Check out Copeland’s kid-friendly game ideas and create memorable moments in the car, at the market and the family dinner table.

In the Car Instead of popping in a DVD, use car time to get kids to observe their surroundings.

  • For short trips Crank up the radio. Pick a common word you’re likely to hear in songs, such as “love” or “time”. As your kids listen, they can announce when they hear the key words, keeping track of how many they hear. The one who racks up the most callouts by the time you reach your destination wins.
  • On a long ride Choose a highway-related category — such as “semi-trucks,” “red cars,” “fast-food restaurant signs” or “billboards” — but don’t reveal it to anyone. Next, count out loud each time you spot the object, letting your kids guess the category. The correct guesser takes over by coming up with a new category and starting the game again.

In the Grocery Store If your kids aren’t old enough to help you find items on your list, these games will keep them entertained, learning and bonding with you.

  • For children old enough to count Engage her in a guessing or number game. Ask her to figure out which items in your cart add up to $10. Have her guess how many people will be in line, how many minutes it will take to get through the checkout or how much is the total amount of the bill. If your child can also read, turn the tables and let her quiz you! Have her read the nutrition label on a box of, say, cereal, and ask you how many grams of protein, fiber and sugar it contains. She’ll get a kick out of being the quizzer and telling you whether you’re right or wrong. (This also opens the door for you to slip in mini-lessons on nutrition.)
  • For toddlers A simple hiding game is enough to keep a little one’s attention. Pick out an item from your list, take it off the shelf and then together, find a place to hide it — behind boxes or cans — in another aisle. Throughout your shopping trip, remind your little guy about the secret place that only the two of you know about. If he can talk, ask him questions about it: What color is the box? When do we eat this kind of food? Check back periodically to see if the item is still hidden. Finally, place the item in your cart before you check out.

At the Dinner Table Besides being fun, a game at mealtime gives you a little extra face time with your kids. “Entertainment is an incentive for them to stay at the table, and inevitably, it opens up the channels of conversation,” says Copeland. You needn’t spend the entire meal playing games; play one each night as a dinner icebreaker, and your kids are more likely to chat and share toward the end of the meal.

Here are a few games to try:

  • Word of mouth A version of the old favorite telephone, this game starts with someone mouthing a sentence to the person across the table about what they did today. That person must then say aloud what they think their table mate said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the person gets it wrong, but it doesn’t matter — each guess usually ends in a good laugh, and you get to hear about some part of a family member’s day you might not have talked about otherwise,” she adds.
  • Creative round robin Copeland likes creative storytelling games because they allow imaginations to run wild and help sharpen your memory — a bonus for kids and adults. To play, start a story with a general and true phrase, such as “I saw a dog today.” Then go around the table and have each family member contribute, repeating the previous sentences before they add on their own. Encourage everyone to be as silly as they like.
  • Would you rather Go around the table, and have each person ask another family member a question that starts with “Would you rather …?” The questions can be on any topic, serious or not. Even suggest different rounds, such as one that’s goofy (Would you rather have floppy clown feet or big Mickey Mouse ears?), one that’s more serious (Would you rather vacation by the beach or in the mountains?) or one that’s gross (Would you rather eat ants or monkey brains?). Encourage the responder to explain the logic behind the answer, and you’ll get rare insight.

After all, isn’t it better to at least discover why someone prefers monkey brains than only hearing that school was “fine”?

6 Reasons to Call the Pediatrician

sick is no funSick children at home? If they’ve got a cold, they’ll usually recover on their own within seven to 10 days, but in some cases, those sniffles can develop into a more serious condition that requires medical attention. If you notice any of the following warning signs in your kids, you’ve got reason to call the pediatrician.

Warning Sign No. 1: A high fever

A fever of 105 F or more can mean your child has another problem, like strep throat. If your baby is younger than 3 months old, you should also call your doctor if he or she has a fever of 100.4 F or more.

Warning Sign No. 2: Symptoms that persist after the fever subsides

Most kids start to perk up after their fever goes down. But if your little one still seems tired and miserable after the number on the thermometer drops, it could mean she’s dehydrated — or even has a more serious infection such as meningitis, so get a hold of your doctor’s office as soon as possible.

Warning Sign No. 3: Wheezing or vomiting while coughing

Call your pediatrician if coughing causes your child to gasp for breath or throw up. She may want to screen for asthma or whooping cough.

Warning Sign No. 4: Symptoms that don’t improve

Kids sometimes catch two colds in a row, so they can be sick for longer than the normal weeklong span. But if it doesn’t seem your child is improving and her runny nose remains consistent for more than 10 days, it’s worth calling your doctor.

Warning Sign No. 5: Rash with fever

Children can get rashes from viruses and allergic reactions. But if the rash doesn’t blanch — or fade — when you press on it, call your pediatrician immediately. It may be a sign of a serious infection.

Warning Sign No. 6: Gut feeling that something’s wrong

I’m a firm believer in a mother’s “sixth sense,” or gut intuition. You know your child best, so if something doesn’t seem right, call your doctor. It’s better to address your concerns early on, so we can catch any illnesses as soon as possible.

Answers to the Top 4 Dental Questions Asked by New Parents

Parents often have many questions in regards to taking care of their children’s teeth. When should our first visit to the dentist be? When should I start brushing their teeth? Do I use toothpaste? What about fluoride? Having the right answers to these questions can help your child have a healthy, cavity free mouth.

  1. help brushing teethTime to start brushing: In the beginning you should start cleaning your infant’s gums with a washcloth and continue as teeth come in. As more teeth come in you may change to a size appropriate soft toothbrush.
  2. What about toothpaste? It is not recommended that fluoride toothpaste be used until child is able to spit the toothpaste from his/her mouth. Begin encouraging your child to spit out the toothpaste as soon as you begin brushing your child’s teeth. For younger children there are non fluoride toothpastes that you may choose to use until they are able to release the toothpaste from their mouth.
  3. Don’t they need fluoride? If your child drinks bottled water without fluoride or is on well water a fluoride supplement is indicated. Fluoride is key to keeping teeth healthy. You might also discuss sealants with your child’s dentist. Sealants can be placed on baby teeth as well as permanent teeth. A sealant is a great measure that provides a barrier from cavity causing bacteria.
  4. Time for a visit to the dentist: There are many different recommendations as to child’s first dental visit age. The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states once the first tooth comes in and no later that first birthday. In contrast, unless your child has risk factors such as sleeping with a sippy cup, family members with high cavity rate, teeth staining, thumb sucking, etc. the first visit can be around 3 years old.

Remember, in order to show your children the importance of regular brushing and flossing it is important that we as parents set a great example by practicing good dental habits ourselves.

Athlete’s Foot – A 12-Year Old Boy’s Cautionary Tale

Children's bare feet resting on grassWhen our son Elliott turned 12, he was by nature independent-minded, stubborn and argumentative (but cute!). Add to his natural tendencies the typical behavior of tweendom, and it was not surprising we ended up in the situation that led me to write this post.

This is a cautionary tale about boys, stubbornness, personal hygiene, failed parental nagging….and athlete’s foot.

Elliott had for months paid no attention to taking his shoes off when he got home from school or came in after playing. Since he’s often home a couple of hours before we return from work – and our first thought in the door is usually not “Dude, have you taken off your shoes yet??” – we frequently discovered his shoes still on at bed time.

It doesn’t help that he has genetically sweaty/smelly feet (particularly noticeable as he nears puberty) – and is often out shooting hoops with friends or tearing through the neighborhood in search of spies – which all just adds to the wet, warm biome in his shoes. But we’d given him ample reasons and months (years?) of coaching about the need to let both his feet and his shoes breathe, and yet he still didn’t listen.

Sometimes you just have to let them fall, fail, learn for themselves. So when Elliott came to me last week to show me the scaly scabby area on the bottom of his foot – which I’ve since discovered is the “moccasin” variety of athlete’s foot – I made sure to connect the dots between his behaviors and this undesired outcome. The next day I came home to find his sneakers propped up in front of the lit fireplace, drying out! And now he is putting anti-fungal cream on the bottom of each foot (yes, it’s on both) two times a day – and was excused from gym class (which he loves).

So, if you have a tween boy who isn’t responding to your gentle prodding – or well deserved nagging – about personal hygiene, feel free to use this cautionary tale.

And for added impact, here are some things about athlete’s foot I wish I had known earlier:

  • Athlete’s foot does not just come with a rash…it itches, stings and burns!
  • This fungal infection can spread to other parts of the body – including the hands and groin area
  • It can be difficult to get rid of, especially if it spreads to the toenails
  • Infection of the toenails can result in thickened, cracked nails – or they can fall out
  • More severe infections may require prescription ointments and anti-fungal pills
  • After you have had athlete’s foot once, you are more likely to get it again

How to Keep Kids From Getting Bit Helping with Dog Training

As a professional dog trainer for many years, there are many things I have had to learn to do differently when working with the dogs around children versus what I would normally do.

Things that I would not typically think twice about, I must when kids are around…. Because they tend to copy everything – and some things may be quite dangerous for them to copy without the know-how and quick reflexes.

Some commands are simple to teach, and for those, the children can be around without encountering any issues, for example:

Sit….Stay….Down….Off

All of those commands are simply taught using some treats and simple leash work. Not only are they simple – they’re predominately safe – meaning if your child is practicing this with the pup later on, and he or she hasn’t mastered the art of “sitting”, it is highly unlikely (unless it a 180 lb mastiff and sits on your 3 year old) that there’s a hospital trip in your future

There are however, other commands that I would highly suggest teaching the dog when the children are NOT around, and show them the after-results – such as:

  1. Corrections of negative behaviors
  2. Drop It
  3. Leave It

There are very specific reasons these aren’t taught around children, and I will explain these in detail below. However, the one reason above all that I want to emphasize is that we train our dogs because it keeps our whole family safe, including our pup. The 3 commands I mention above (correcting negative behaviors, Drop it and Leave it), while not particularly complicated, have the potential to endanger your child if they attempt them on their own (ranging from simple emotional distress to a bite).

Correcting negative behaviors

I typically avoid teaching this when working around children because sometimes a pup may require firm quick corrections on a leash – which can cause problems for children:

  • A more sensitive child can get upset when a negative behavior such as jumping on people or guarding a toy or food requires a quick, firm correction with the leash. They do not always understand that corrections of bad behavior are just as imperative as praising the positive, and that we are not hurting the pup or dog.
  • On the flip side of that, a more confident or bold child may try to emulate what we are doing, but in the process may unintentionally hurt the pup or dog because they do not yet know or understand the amount of pressure required on the leash to make the correction yet not hurt the dog in the process.

Drop It and Leave It

These two commands are typically not taught around children for safety reasons. Kids do much better working with these commands after your pup has mastered them.

I also want to clarify here that when I say ‘teaching these commands’, I am not just referring to specific focused moments of training, like when you’re with a trainer, or even when you plan a specific time to work with your pup. I am speaking in general. Any time training takes place – because impromptu training takes place ALL THE TIME. You feed the dog, you want him to sit before he eats, you’re training.

You need to be careful though with impromptu “Drop It” and “Leave It” training. Remember – kids copy everything. Take for instance a dog that just grabbed the TV remote.! The dog has obviously not taken it to switch channels, so chances are it’s taken to become a new chew toy! And they are not cheap to replace! That is when our ‘protect the item’ Instinct kicks in.

Usually the first thing we do is call them to us. We are never thrilled in these moments, so the call unintentionally gets done in an angry voice (“COME HERE!!”) which clearly told Fido you are not happy with him! Of course, now that he knows you are angry, not only does he ignore your call, but he took off in the opposite direction! So what happens next? We jump up to chase them and retrieve the item back.

It is at this point that one of two scenarios ensue:

  1. The kids join the chase… it becomes a big game to both kids and dog, and you end up with more aggravation and pandemonium on your hands, or:
  2. You ran to chase the dog (which was loads of fun for the dog, as he now has your full attention and is playing the “You can’t catch me” game!) and when you finally get him, your kids see you reach in and grab the item from his mouth.

Now some time passes, and you may have forgotten all about this incident…. But your kids haven’t. So the next time Fido grabs something he should not have, such as one of their toys, your kids repeat what you did… only now the dog also remembers it, and also remembers once you caught him, you took the item away, so this time he is more possessive and guarding the item. This is behavior your child did not see last time, and the next thing you know, they reach out to grab the item back, and the dog strikes out and bites. Impromptu Drop It training gone really wrong.

So how could all of this have been avoided? We start with PLANNED Drop It training when the kids aren’t around.

The “Drop-It” command is a simple task to teach, and can be accomplished using one of their simple rope toys:

  1. Get them interested in a toy by playing with it with them.
  2. Once they are engaged in the play, bring the hand holding the toy closer to your body to stabilize it and hold it still…. This ‘discontinues’ the ‘tug’ action of the game.
  3. Grasp the toy with your free hand right in front of their mouth, and start creeping your hand forward, all the while saying, “Drop-It”. This forces them to lose their grip on the toy.
  4. As soon as they do, praise them, and begin again.

Essentially what this does is show them that you are not just taking the item away from them (which can create some ‘possession aggression’) but rather that the game can continue…. but only if they drop the item when you tell them to.

Now, let’s revisit that scenario. To start with, during the early training stages with your dog, the leash needs to be a vital part of his everyday life. Leash equals control.

  • Dog grabs remote, but since the leash was on, you can step on it and then reel him back in!
  • You have already taught the dog the ‘drop it’ command so the kids never see you reach into his mouth to retrieve the item.
  • You can calmly tell the dog to drop it, they do, you praise them, and the moment is done.

Now, the biggest difference between “Drop-It” and “Leave-It” is that Drop It is used when they already have the item they are not supposed to have, while Leave It teaches them not to pick it up in the first place! To teach “Leave-It” we use desirable ‘training traps’ (things that your dog loves to grab) and the leash. Throw the item on the floor, and when they run to grab it, give a quick, firm tug on the leash and say Leave-It!”. Continue doing this until you can drop the item and they do not lunge forward to get it.

Leave-It is especially important for the safety of BOTH the kids and the dog…. if you accidentally drop a pill on the floor, with the Leave-It command, they will not lunge for it. Also, if your child is eating and they drop a piece of food, using the Leave-It command will avoid the dog racing to grab it, and more importantly, the child reaching into their mouths to get it back!

My last piece of advice…. If you have not had the option to teach them yet what ‘Drop It’ or ‘Leave-It’ means and how it is done, and Fido gets ahold of something you do not want him to have, Distraction is always a great alternative. Grab a very high-value treat (a piece of cheese, a piece of hot dog, etc.) something they do not get often, but they will choose over a tasteless remote. Start off standing still and show it to them, and if they do not come immediately, take tiny steps backwards (movement is very interesting to dogs and gets their attention quicker… moving away from them means they should follow or they may miss out on that treat) Try to make it a treat or an item that they can’t gobble up in one bite, giving them ample time to return to the discarded item faster than you can. What you do not want is a race back to the original item…. I can pretty much guarantee they’ll get back there first.

I also want to note that this last piece of advice should be used as an emergency back-up plan, and not a go-to plan of action. The reason being we do not want the dog to learn that if they want a good high-quality treat, all they need to do is grab something they re not supposed to have, and we’ll replace it with something awesome!!

Being one step ahead of a potential disaster is always preferable to the alternative! So teaching your dog these basic manners when the kids are not present will keep everyone safe, happy and healthy!!!

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