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Child Proofing Your Home

As a parent, you probably never stop worrying about your child. Is he or she happy? Healthy? Safe? While you can’t control everything, there are steps that you can take in your home to help improve your child’s safety and well-being.

Childproofing your home can be an overwhelming task. The most effective way to start is to evaluate your home, room by room, from your child’s perspective. If your child is crawling, get down on your hands and knees. Is your child toddling or walking? Get down to his or her level and check out the view. If you were crawling, toddling or walking where would you go? What looks tempting or interesting? What is within reach? Where could you climb? While not all accidents can be avoided, below are some general childproofing tips to help you get started. Remember to evaluate every area in your home for potential dangers.

Also keep in mind that childproofing is an ongoing process. As your child grows and develops (e.g., crawling, toddling, walking), you will need to reevaluate your childproofing efforts upon each milestone.

Furniture & Appliances

  • Secure heavy furniture and appliances to walls wherever possible.
  • Store heavy items on the bottoms of furniture such as bookshelves and cabinets so they are not top heavy.
  • Keep furniture and/or office drawers closed when not in use – climbing children tend to use these as ladders.
  • Make sure heavy appliances, such as televisions and computers, are pushed back from the edges of furniture – bolt them to the wall if possible.
  • Cover pointed edges of furniture with guards or bumpers
  • In the kitchen, use a stove guard to prevent your child from touching the burners or pulling at hot pots.
  • Use plastic covers if the stove’s knobs are within your child’s reach.
  • Always lock your oven or invest in a lock to prevent your child from opening the oven door.

Doors & Windows

  • Keep windows and doors closed and locked when not in use.
  • Use door knob covers. Be sure that these covers are sturdy enough not to break, but also allow doors to open quickly by and adult in case of emergency.
  • Use door stops or door holders on doors and hinges to keep little fingers safe.
  • Place marks or stickers on glass and sliding doors to make them visible.
  • Keep furniture away from windows.
  • If you have double hung windows, open them from the top.
  • Never open low windows more than four inches.
  • Use window stops, to prevent windows from opening more than four inches.

Blinds, Curtains & Draperies

  • Keep your child’s crib or bed away from blinds, curtains or draperies.
  • Keep blind, curtain and drapery pull cords out of your child’s reach.
    • Cut or remove pull cords.
    • Replace pull cords with safety tassels.
    • Use inner cord stops.
  • Make sure that older blinds and drapery cords have tie-down devices to hold the cords tight.
  • When purchasing new window coverings ask for those with child safety features.


  • Keep the toilet seat down when not in use.
  • Install a toilet lid lock to prevent your child from lifting the lid.
  • Always unplug appliances such as curling irons and hair dryers, after each use (and never keep anything plugged‑in near water).
  • Keep all medications and vitamins in a locked cabinet.
  • Keep razors, scissors, tweezers and other sharp bathroom objects in a high or locked cabinet.
  • Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees or lower to help prevent burns from hot water.
  • Install anti-scald devices on faucets and showerheads.
  • Use a non-slip mat in the bathtub and on the floor next to the bathtub to prevent slips.

Cabinets, Closets & Drawers

  • Secure cabinets, closets and/or drawers with locks or child-proof latches.
  • Store sharp, potentially harmful objects and dangerous products in high cabinets, out of your child’s reach.

Stairways & Other Areas

  • At the top and bottom of stairs, use safety gates that screw in place; they are more secure than those that stay in place with pressure.
  • Use safety gates that children cannot dislodge, but that you can easily open and close so you will be less likely to leave them open.
  • Use safety gates to prevent your child’s curious exploration into dangerous areas around your home such as the kitchen, bathroom, pool and hot tub.

Electrical Outlets

  • Cover or replace all electrical outlets.
    • Plastic Outlet Protectors –These devices fit directly into the outlet holes to prevent the insertion of foreign objects. If using these protectors; make sure they are large enough not to be a choking hazard.
    • Tamper Resistant Outlet Covers – These outlets look just like regular outlets, but use a plastic shutter to prevent the insertion of foreign objects.
    • Tamper Resistant Outlet Face Covers – These receptacle covers have plates that slide over the outlet holes when not in use. Some require replacing the entire outlet cover, others install over the existing outlet face cover.
  • Use a power strip safety cover on all in-use power strips.

Sources: www.cpsc.gov, www.babycenter.com, www.kidshealth.org


Beach Scavenger Hunt

The beach is a perfect stage for playful learning. You can develop a scavenger hunt for your family to enjoy at the beach. You may decide to see how many items you can each check off in one day or consider extending the hunt for the length of your trip.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • a blue beach towel
  • pink sandals
  • a kite
  • a beach ball
  • a sand castle
  • a sail boat
  • a jet ski
  • a seagull
  • a green bathing suit
  • a dog
  • seaweed
  • a striped beach towel
  • a beach umbrella
  • a blimp
  • an airplane
  • a shell

You can alter your list depending on where you are vacationing and what items are age appropriate for your child. The possibilities are endless!


Media Use by Young Children By Dr. Kyle Pruett

Remember when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its recommendation five years ago that children two and under should not watch any television, and that children over two should limit exposure to two hours per day? Many parents seemed as reassured by this advice as they were confused. How could such an esteemed organization give advice that was “so out of touch with real American family life,” as one mother commented to the evening news? In those five years, children’s media appetites have hardly slackened. In fact, ‘screen time’ has eclipsed ‘TV watching’ as the name for such activities, given the plethora of devices on which real or animated moving and talking figures can now inform, distract, stimulate and baby-sit our young. So what is a parent to do?

An enlightening new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop,, “Always Connected: Young Children’s Media Use is On the Rise (March 2011),” tells us what parents are actually doing. It seems like many parents don’t know about the guidelines anymore, given that the majority of parents ignore them.   They may feel a need to ‘plug the kids into something besides me [i.e. the parent],’ or they turn a deaf ear because they feel that media exposure stimulates intellectual growth and development or they feel that ‘it’s something the world will expect my kid to be able to use, so the earlier the better.’ The report goes on:

  • For the time being, television remains the favorite medium.  90% of the average families sampled with children over five had kids who were regular, even enthusiastic, viewers. They watched an average of three hours per day.
  • Media use by young children ranges across a variety of platforms. 80% of sampled kids five and under are on the internet at least once a week and slightly less than half of all six-years-olds regularly play video games.
  • Media multitasking is growing quickly, with over a third of two- to eleven-year-olds using the television and the internet simultaneously (sound familiar?).
  • These usage patterns are likely to change, given that four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.

So, back to that question of what is a parent to do, given that the expert advice out there seems not to have kept pace?

  • If you want your kids to play imaginatively (great pre-literacy foundation!), keep the playthings away from the screen. University of Massachusetts researchers found that toddler play erodes and disorganizes when TV is on.
  • Keep the media diet balanced.  Print materials, screen devices, video games and DVDs should be rotated and refreshed (if not occasionally ‘lost’). Think of nutrition’s representation of a healthy, balanced diet. The food pyramid evokes positive images of a ‘media pyramid.
  • The best way to use the positive impact of TV (yes, there is one and this is it) is to engage parent-child pairs in co-viewing programming that stimulates learning and delight with the use of humor and playfulness (not silliness), novel topics and perspectives. This prevents the use of TV as a baby-sitter, but that’s the point. There is no stand-in for you, or the delight that you take, in your child’s growth and health.



10 Tips for Traveling with Your Preschooler

Traveling can be stressful, but traveling with young children can be downright challenging. As you hit the road, keep these handy travel tips in mind.

  1. Take breaks. If you’re driving, try to make regular rest stops so your child can get some exercise, get some exercise, use the bathroom or have a snack.
  2. Stock up. Bring a stash of toys, snacks, coloring books, crayons and other goodies to keep your little one from getting bored or hungry during the trip.
  3. Tire ’em out. Children often travel better when they’re tuckered out and sleepy. If you’re flying, have your child push a small suitcase around the waiting area or ride the escalators with you. If you’re driving, try to leave the house before dawn so you can scoop up your drowsy child, put her in the car seat and hit the road.
  4. Surprise them with treats. While good behavior doesn’t automatically warrant a reward, a piece of candy or a wrapped toy can certainly encourage your child to keep up particularly pleasant behavior.
  5. Engage them. When children are actively involved, they are less likely to misbehave. Talk to your child about the trip and ask her what she’s looking forward to seeing or doing. You can also give her a disposable camera and ask her to document the trip. This will encourage her to observe her surroundings and focus on her interests.
  6. Take a bus, a subway, a train or a boat. Children love the novelty of public transportation, so if it’s available at your destination, use it. Large cities, such as New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., usually have public transportation systems that are fairly inexpensive and easy to use.
  7. Keep tabs on your children electronically. You can use an electronic child locator to make sure you can find your child if you’re separated. Most locators cost around $30 online and include a transmitter your child wears and a locator unit you carry. If you get separated, you can press a button on the locator, and the transmitter will make a sound that you can follow to find your child.
  8. Check the weather. Make sure you pack for any weather conditions you might encounter. You don’t want your child to be too hot or too cold. Extra clothing may make your luggage bulkier, but you’ll be glad you’re prepared if the weather changes.
  9. Pass the time. Travel delays are almost inevitable, but games can make the wait more fun. Whether you’re playing 20 Questions, a travel version of a popular board game or a quick game of Go Fish, you and your child will appreciate the distraction.
  10. Sanitize. Traveling means coming into contact with more germs than usual, especially if you’re flying to your destination. Be sure to pack plenty of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer to disinfect your little ones’ hands, especially if they have touched the seat-back pockets of airplanes, which can be full of harmful bacteria.

Planning mini Vacations …Maybe For Memorial Day?

Planning a child-friendly mini vacation can be a difficult task; you will want to choose a destination that will be memorable, safe and fun. With young and energetic children, families should choose destinations that offer a wide array of activities. Comprehensive research, via the Internet or your local travel agent, is integral to a safe and smart mini vacation for your family. Consider the following tips when arranging your next family trip:

Zoo or Aquarium

Zoos and aquariums introduce children to thousands of new animals and species. The majority of zoos and aquariums use creative ways to involve young children in what is usually considered a ‘look-but-don’t-touch’ environment.

  • Opportunities to pet and feed the animals will allow your child to explore and discover in a hands-on way. Children may or may not recall something that is told to them, but if you allow them to do it and touch it, it will make a lasting impression.
  • Make sure the zoo or aquarium offers educational programs that target young children.
  • Ensure that the zoo or aquarium has a strong commitment to safety, including several first aid stations and ample security.
  • Visit the zoo or aquarium Web site before finalizing your trip to make sure that it will be an appropriate fit for your young child.
  • If your child is a journal writer, encourage them to journal their experiences and feelings.

 TIP Read a book about animals/aquatic life with your child before your zoo or aquarium visit – this helps build excitement about the upcoming trip. Providing children with a little background regarding animals they may experience may produce a higher probability of knowledge and experiential retention.

Beach or Lake

If you are near a beach or lake, make it a day! Children love to explore sand and water–let them play in it!

  • Bring a plastic magnifying glass so your little trekker can become a geologist, analyzing the sand and shells.
  • If the beach you are planning to visit has a bay area, or if you are visiting a lake, rent a canoe for an afternoon and take your child for an aquatic adventure. This is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of water safety and aquatic life – always wear life jackets.
  • It is imperative to re-apply your child’s sunscreen every two hours. Shade your child from extra rays and use an umbrella and hats.
  • Maintain eye contact on your child at all times, regardless of the presence of lifeguards.
  • Consider painting your seashell treasures when you get home. These personalized memories are wonderful gifts for grandparents, aunts and uncles.

 TIP Bring a large make-up or powder brush (with talc) for an easy, pain-free way to remove sand before sunscreen application or at the end of the day.


Museums are a great attraction for family trips.  Children’s museums focus on learning through play, where children are encouraged to explore with their senses.

  • Museums generally allow your little explorers to participate in activities such as working with fossils, climbing tree houses and even performing on a TV set or an opera house stage.
  • Exploration centers, imagination factories, sensory stations and education-based play spaces are common attributes in many museums. Even your infant will enjoy learning.
  • If it looks like a mini-supermarket, understand that to your toddler or preschooler it is a supermarket. Allow you little one to explore this environment as if it was a ‘research and development’ project.
  • Does your museum display art? If it does, ask your child open-ended questions: What do you see? What colors did the artist use? How would you change this painting/sculpture?
  • After your museum adventure, take a few moments with your child and draw or sculpt (with dough or clay) a memory.

 TIP Allow your child to explore every facet of the museum. The museum’s design is based upon research in child development; even the ‘silliest’ activity may improve a developmental skill.




Outdoor Activities And Park Play with Your Children

A day at the park may seem like ‘just another day,’ but learning and bonding experiences flourish at the park!

Pack for Safety

Drinking water, sunscreen, hat, water to wash as well as wipes for hands, sneakers or other closed-toed shoes, a change of clothes or a towel for the seat, small first aid kit for those little scrapes and a small trash bag to keep the earth litter-free are all important.

Expect to Get Dirty

Going outside is about the freedom to explore and the only way to explore is to touch it, and yes, it is dirty – it’s outside! Dirty does not mean ‘germy’. Roll in the grass, stomp in the mud, touch the frog and splash in the puddles.

Infant to Six Months

  • Pack for safety: A blanket to crawl on and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. Be prepared to change diapers on the go.
  • Be prepared to climb and crawl yourself. This is the best way for you to ensure your child’s safety. Watch for items going into your child’s mouth.
  • Hydration: the outside air and activity increases the amount of fluids you both need to consume. And while you’re packing the water, pack a snack.
  • Point, name and describe: As your child explores, point out the details; name objects and talk about your experience.

First Steps (12 to 18 months)

  • Pack for safety: Bring a blanket and a sturdy pair of pants for crawling on rough surfaces. This is not the place for skirts or dresses.
  • Plan for breaks and pack snacks, water and a few books.
  • Dig and touch: Collect items to further explore when you get home.
  • Walk the trail with your little one on a riding toy. Don’t forget the helmet.
  • Park Play Etiquette: If your little one finds a playmate, ask the other parent if both of you may join in the play. Your child will learn to ask for your approval before playing with strangers and the parent of the other child will appreciate this overture.

Toddler and Get Set (18 to 36 months)

  • Plot the potty path!
  • Bring balls to throw and kick or bean bags and a bucket.
  • Move beyond the park and walk a trail or explore a nursery. Go to the stream, lake or pond and skip rocks. Turn the rocks over to find creepy, crawly things.
  • No breaks required – but pause for a moment to re-hydrate.
  • Look through binoculars – even two toilet paper tubes offer a new view of the world.
  • Tent it! A pop up tent is an instant playhouse.
  • Take an umbrella and put on your galoshes – take a walk in the light rain.

Preschool to Pre-K (36 months +)

  • Lie down and look up: Children like to see the world from a different perspective.
  • Picnic: Let your child be a part of packing the necessities and preparing the sandwiches.
  • Play “I Spy” or “I Hear.”
  • Read or draw under the trees.
  • Bring a magnifying cup for bugs and objects to view. Research your bugs and objects when you return home to learn more about each.

Go outside all year long – visit http://www.scdconline.org/PDF_files/weatherwatch.pdf to know what is considered safe outdoor weather for children.



Three Cute Craft Ideas for Mother’s Day

Attention all dads!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and the most special gifts are those made by the hands of your tiny tots. Here are three craft ideas to help your child create a special keepsake for Mom.

  1. Design a Flower

Gather a photo of your little one and cut it into a circle. Next, encourage your child to choose a color (or two) of construction paper and cut out about ten ovals for petals. Cutting should be done by an adult. Help your child glue or tape the petals around his picture so his face is the center of the flower. Use a straw or pipe cleaner for the stem and cut out two more ovals of construction paper for leaves. For a more advanced activity, help your child write a poem for Mom and attach it to the flower.

  1. Handprint Tote Bag

You will need a blank canvas tote bag and some acrylic paint (encourage your child to choose the paint colors). Put a piece of cardboard (the size of the bag) inside the tote to ensure the paint does not seep through to the other side. Pour the paint on a paper plate. Assist your child in placing her hand in the paint and then making a handprint on the tote. Rotate the handprints in a circle to make a flower or sun, etc. Mom will love the creativity!

  1. DIY Colored Flowers

For this activity, you will need food coloring and a bouquet of white flowers. Encourage your child to choose two or more colors of food coloring. Gather two jars and pour water, about halfway, into each jar. Add 15 drops of food coloring in each jar (one color in each). Cut an inch or two off the bottom of the stems (this should be done by an adult) to help the flowers absorb the coloring easily. Place the flowers into the jars, and after a full day the flowers will have changed colors!

*An adult should oversee all activities. Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.


Routines and Rituals by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D

Ah, routines and rituals…such comforts against the one universal truth that life is nothing but change. Our children seem to get this sooner than we parents. When they struggle as infants to get the day and night thing down, they are teaching us how important and soothing the predictable is when tired, hungry, cranky and the like. As toddlers, we watch in amazement as they doggedly line up their shoes, trucks or dolls in the face of a little uncertainty and in search of the reassuring symmetry of order. These are not simple entertainments, but powerful and effective coping strategies that, if we are lucky, they never quite give up. Some of the uses of the psychological calendar of anticipation and predictability:

  • By 18 months:  Children know the routines of everyday life and are very reassured by them: dressing, mealtimes, play, school, bath time, and finally bedtime with a story and a kiss. These are an antidote to the uncertainties of this period of rapid growth.
  • By 24 to 26 months:  Children have a reliable sense of the week’s rhythms, and appreciate the difference between a weekday and a weekend.
  • By 42 months:  Children begin to anticipate the predictable patterns of the year and its changing seasons, family gatherings, holidays, and birthdays.
    All the while they are soaking up the beginnings of culture and ethnic diversity in such vital rituals.

Routines and rituals are especially important (and sometimes hardest) to maintain when a child is ill, or the family is going through a stressful time. Routines around food, clothing, bathing, going to school and sleep can be soothing precisely because they don’t vary in the face of change.  The ultimate routine or ritual is mealtime. Children learn about what matters in life in a regular, predictable, culture-rich and (one hopes) nutritious environment. Plan it and protect it.

Ultimately, they (and we) give up most of these early comforts, going the way of the blankie and binkie. The next generation of routine and ritual comforts owe their efficacy to these early and more primitive coping strategies.  So honor and promote them while you may. They disappear all too soon.

Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. is an advisor for The Goddard School®.  Dr. Pruett is an authority on child development who has been practicing child and family psychiatry for over twenty-five years.  He is a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale University’s Child Study Center. 

Child Care Prep Tips for Parents-to-Be

Expectant parents have a lot on their minds from shopping for playpens, to stocking up on diapers, to baby proofing the house. They also have to make a decision about child care. If both parents are going back to work after the baby’s arrival, one thing that must be added to the checklist is finding high-quality child care.

Start Early
The best time to begin researching child care providers for your infant is before your child is born. It might sound a little silly to begin your search so early, but there are a few good reasons to do so. Many families reserve their children’s spots early on, creating long waiting lists at many child care providers. A mom-to-be who waits until the last trimester may encounter some restriction in going out and taking a tour, especially if she needs bed rest. The sooner you find a provider that you are comfortable with, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the time with your newborn.

Another factor to consider is location. You may feel more comfortable having a child care provider close to home, but you’ll need to think about whether this creates problems with picking your child up on time after work due to traffic. You could also choose a location closer to your work, but this could create problems if you ever work from home. If you choose to breast feed, it is more practical to pick a location near your workplace, this way you may be able to go to your baby and nurse. Find out the designated area for breast feeding and if there is a quiet place where you can do this. A few other questions to ask is which parent will be primarily responsible for dropping off and picking up your child, or will you share that role. If you’re sharing the role perhaps you should find a child care provider that is centrally located.

Health & Safety
There is nothing more important than your child’s safety, and when it comes to health and safety there is no question too big or small. Find out if proper hand washing techniques are being utilized. Go ahead and ask about diapering procedures, and whether the location is cleaned every day by a professional. Be clear about any illness policy that determines when children are too ill to attend. Take a tour and see for yourself if the environment is clean and inviting. With all of the concern over immunizations these days, it’s important to ask if the school requires a medical screen and updated immunizations in order to enroll a child, and if the teachers have to provide a medical screen as well.

Director and Teacher Qualifications
You’ll certainly want to find out if the school employs teachers with education and experience in Early Childhood Education. Don’t assume that the school requires ongoing teacher training and development, ask about their plans for ongoing professional development. Make sure to inquire whether teachers are required to have first aid/CPR training. It’s important to know if children are supervised by sight and sound at all times and if the group sizes are small. Smaller group sizes and low teacher-to-child ratios ensure better supervision and safety. These ratios vary from state to state, so inquire about regulations.

Getting a third party opinion is not a bad idea either. You shouldn’t base your decision solely on that, but getting input from friends and family definitely helps in making a decision. To get a real sense of what the typical day is like at the child care provider, you should also make it a point to visit during hours of operation. Plan ahead by asking about other classrooms as well so that you can see the program that your child will attend as he/she grows.

Transitioning to Childcare by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D

Transitioning your child from home care to childcare is wrenching for every parent. In fact, most babies and young children adapt to their new environment more easily than parents do. And it’s important for parents to appreciate and care for their own emotions at this juncture.

As with so many things for young children, taking it slow and easy can work wonders. If your child is moving into alternative childcare for the first time, make the transition gradual, providing lots of support.

  • Make sure your child meets the caregivers or teachers before moving into this new environment. If you choose a childcare center or a preschool, make sure your child knows at least one other child in the class. If your child doesn’t already know someone, ask the caregiver to suggest one or two children who might be good matches for your child, and set up a few play dates.
  • Talk to your child about the new arrangement, describing the friends to be made and the wonderful things to be done and learned. Talk about being apart and getting back together. Play games such as hide-and-seek that demonstrate being apart and together.
  • When moving to a new childcare arrangement, start gradually, if possible. For example, allow your child to be alone at the childcare center for short periods at first, then slowly increase the time away from you.
  • Once the new arrangements are underway, get up a bit earlier so you have time together before you leave. Also, make special family times in the evenings and on weekends.
  • Let your child take her favorite toy or “softie” to school.
  • Tell the caregiver or teacher of any factors that might influence your child’s behavior or needs for the day, such as a restless night, family illness or visits from relatives.
  • Be aware that separation anxiety may come and go in cycles. You can ease your child’s upsets if you make your departure warm and smooth, staying long enough to let your child settle in, but without lingering. And never sneak out or lie, telling your little one you “will be right back” just before you dash to the parking lot. Your child needs to be able to rely on his trust in you as he navigates this new world.
  • When you pick your child up, ask the caregiver about what happened during the day. Then discuss the day’s events with your child.