Let’s Go Tent Camping!

Toddler girl in tent

Unaltered image. Jay Gooby, Flickr. CC License.

Tent camping is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune on hotels or airfare. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.


  • For your first camping experience, pick a camp area within easy driving distance of your home. This way if you discover that camping isn’t your thing or the weather turns nasty, you can drive home early.
  • State parks are a great place to try camping.
    • Many state parks were founded because they’re near interesting sightseeing areas.
    • The cost for a site is usually around $25/night and they have well-established sites with plenty of trees for shade. Commercial campgrounds are sometimes built on open fields with very few trees.
  • Use Google Maps’ satellite feature to check out the parks from above. This can help you pick out a specific site when making reservations.
  • Find a park that has activities that your family will enjoy. Look for features like swimming, boating, fishing, areas for sports, hiking trails, bike paths, or playgrounds.
  • Many parks now have more modern amenities like electricity and hot showers so you won’t feel like you’re too far from home.
  • You don’t need to spend the whole time at your campsite. Look for things to do in nearby towns. You may even want to go out for a meal at a local diner.


  • Obviously you’re going to need some equipment that you may not own. At a minimum, you’ll want a tent, a two-burner camp stove, some pots and pans, utensils, axe or hatchet, campfire chairs, lighter, bug spray, sunscreen, marshmallow/hot dog sticks, lantern, flashlights, paper plates and cups, table cloth, hot pads, small tubs for dishes, and dish towels. A small folding table is also helpful.
  • Try to borrow camping equipment from friends or family. After you’ve done a few trips, you can start to buy your own equipment. Using someone else’s equipment also helps you find out what works well or doesn’t.
  • Bring your bicycles and helmets. Most roads around your campsite have a low speed limit for cars, which makes bike riding relatively safe.
  • Bring a deck of cards or board games. You can use these during down times or if it rains.
  • Most parks have firewood available for purchase at a reasonable price. If not, you can often buy bundles from places like Kroger or Meijer. Don’t bring firewood from your home stockpile. This can introduce insects and diseases to the park trees. However the store bundles are usually certified clean of disease and insects so it can be transported. Plan on using a couple of bundles per night.


  • Keep meals simple. Sandwiches and chips are an easy lunch and you can take them with you on a hike. Hot dogs or brats make a great dinner and can be cooked over your campfire. On the morning that you’re going home, have cereal for breakfast to minimize cleanup.
  • Try to prep meals in advance. Put together a salad, cut up fruit, or bake cookies before you leave home.
  • Don’t forget the s’more supplies. You can go traditional or get creative. Try Oreos instead of graham crackers or replace chocolate bars with peanut butter cups.
  • After you’ve been camping for a while, get more ambitious with your meals. Look into getting a Dutch oven because you can bake dishes like peach cobbler, chocolate cake, French toast or egg casserole. The Internet has thousands of different recipes that you can try.
  • Bring extra snacks. Being outdoors burns more energy so you’ll find your kids are often hungry.
  • Can’t live without your morning coffee? Remember to bring a coffee pot to put on the stove.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Leave the electronics at home. Obviously you can bring your cell phone for emergencies or to use as a GPS. But leave the iPads, iPods and laptops at home. The outdoors will provide plenty of entertainment for your children.
  • Pack for the weather but remember it’s often quite a bit cooler in the evening in the woods than in the city.
  • Flip-flops are great to use in the public showers, but avoid wearing them around the campsite as they don’t provide protection from sticks and rocks.
  • Tent sizes often show how many people can fit inside. However this doesn’t take into account room for your gear. So you’ll want to subtract one or two people from the sizes. For instance, a family of three will want to use a tent rated for four or five people.
  • A similar story for sleeping bags. They give a temperature range but you’ll want to add 10 – 15 degrees to the rating to make sure you’re comfortable. It’s no fun trying to sleep while you’re shivering!
  • Only use approved fire rings for your campfire.

Now that you have some basic knowledge, get out there and try camping with your family. You’ll be amazed how your kids will remember the experience for years to come.

– Dave Enerson started camping with his dad as a young child and is currently Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop.

Keep Your Cookout Safe

Man grilling on gas grill

Cropped image. Tony Alter, Flickr. CC License.

Having a cookout this summer with friends? Remember these few safety tips to make sure the fun isn’t interrupted by an Emergency Room visit.

Food Safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), July is the peak month for grill fires. A few essential tips are listed below, but you can download a full checklist.

  • Only use grills completely outdoors, never in an area that isn’t properly ventilated such as a garage or shed.
  • Position grills away from trees, homes and structures including decks and gazebos.
  • Keep children and animals away from the grill during and after cooking while the grill or charcoal is still hot.

This helpful infographic from www.foodsafety.gov gives a good overview of how to avoid food poisoning at your gathering. If you do suspect food poisoning, it will be helpful to have poison control already plugged into your cell phone: 800-222-1222.

Sun Safety

  • Be sure to stay hydrated while active! Safe Kids Worldwide offers these handy tips for athletes, but they also apply to anyone having fun in the sun.

Kid Safety

  • In large groups, there’s sometimes a false sense of security that more people mean someone is always watching the small children. To avoid any confusion, make sure it’s clear who has 100 percent responsibility monitoring the little ones at all times. Take shifts with other parents by tagging in and out for meal time.
  • Avoid distractions such as smart phones and excessive alcohol intake if young kids are depending on you for supervision.
  • If a child goes missing, first check any pools or lakes if nearby. Next check trunks and backseats of cars. Approximately 30 percent of children who die from vehicular hyperthermia were trapped after playing in an unlocked car.
  • If there’s a place for kids to play, learn how to transform the playground into a safeground.

– Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System

Summer Fun for Improving OT/PT/Speech Skills

Father and toddler son blowing bubbles together

Cropped image. J B, Flickr. CC License.

Summer is a fantastic time for developing your child’s motor, sensory and language skills. Certainly vacations can afford opportunities for gross motor activities or sensory exploration, but many fun activities can happen right in the comfort of your own backyard.

In addition to traditional running activities, there are other fun ways to develop strength, coordination and developmental skills.

  • Play some old-fashioned games like hopscotch, jump rope and hula hoop (a smaller, weighted hula hoop for school-age children is easier to keep spinning).
  • Practice weight shifting and soccer skills by kicking a ball back and forth using the top inside of your foot to kick the ball and then practice stopping the ball with one foot, balancing and then kicking it back.
  • Since you’re outside, this is a great opportunity to play with toys that move far distances: Frisbees and toys that you can stomp on to project (soft) rocket-shaped toys.
  • Messy play is also better outside, starting with bubbles. For smaller children, you can blow the bubbles and have them practice stomping on them (great sensory input too). Older children can blow bubbles for you or for friends; this helps to develop oral motor muscles, too.

Sensory exploration is also a key benefit to outside play. If you don’t want a sandbox or a pool, consider a small sand/water table or even a storage container that is about 3″ square. Water and sand play afford so many opportunities for sensory and fine motor exploration. Scooping, pouring and digging are all great activities. Don’t forget other senses like smell, vision and hearing; explore your yard and search for different colors and smells or lay on the grass and listen to all the sounds of summer. Talk with your child about all the things you found.

Increase their language skills by increasing their vocabulary! Talk about all the fun things you are doing, but make sure to keep it simple. It’s easier for a child to process and repeat a sentence such as, “Go get ball,” rather than, “Let’s go over there and get the green and white spotted ball.” Make sure to pause and give your child enough time to answer questions and imitate you.

Here are a few tips on how to improve your child’s expressive language skills:

  • Expand on what your child says. If your child labels something “bubble,” you can expand it by saying, “I pop bubble.”
  • Questioning: Ask questions while looking at books or pictures, and during real life experiences to encourage spontaneous language and thought.
  • Commenting/Describing: Talk about daily activities as they are happening. Label objects and pictures as your child is attending to them or requesting them. Always try to use the correct pronunciation of the word as opposed to baby talk.
  • Delayed Responses: Allow your child to use his language to request/comment/protest. Do not anticipate his every need before he has a chance to communicate it to you.

This article will simply get you started. Once you get outside with your child, let both of your imaginations run wild. Take advantage of the beautiful days we’re afforded because before long, we’ll be looking for cold weather play ideas or ways to make shoveling fun instead.

Don’t forget the sunblock and have a fantastic summer!

– Debbie Adsit, OTRL Supervisor, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation and Kristina Frimmel, M.A. CCC-SLP Supervisor, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology

Fight the Bite — Without Toxics

Child with mosquito bites doing yoga

Cropped image. Lars Plougmann, Flickr. CC License.

Would you knowingly spray a chemical on yourself or your children that’s been linked to motor deficits and learning and memory dysfunction? A chemical that’s been found by the National Institutes for Health to cross the placenta, that sacred barrier that protects unborn children from harmful substances? Of course not.

But for years, consumers have accepted the potential neurotoxic health effects of DEET in insect repellents in exchange for the assurance that the chemical works well, is long lasting, and protects against West Nile virus.

Earlier this June, Michigan recorded its first cases of the disease in three crows in Ingham County. Within days, the state put out the call for preparedness. “Michiganders should take the precautionary steps of applying repellents during peak mosquito biting periods such as dusk and dawn, and to drain standing water around their homes to remove mosquito breeding sites,” according to a State of Michigan press release. The State advises using mosquito repellent products containing active ingredients registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Fortunately consumer demand for safer products, coupled with scientific research, created a thriving market for effective DEET alternatives. Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and para-menthane-diol (PMD, synthesized oil of lemon eucalyptus) are all EPA-registered active ingredients, but don’t have known adverse human health effects.

Research shows that some botanical oils — such as soybean, geraniol, thyme, citronella and clove — also protect against insect bites, but may require more frequent application. Protection times range from 1.5 – 5 hours versus 2 – 8 hours for EPA-registered active ingredients. Manufacturers aren’t required to register these botanical oils as active ingredients with the EPA due to the lack of any safety concerns.

DEET-free repellents

If you do rely upon DEET-containing products, remember these tips:

  • Do not use DEET/ sunscreen combination products. The frequent reapplication of sunscreen will, “…pose unnecessary exposure to DEET,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DEET is not water-soluble and will last up to eight hours, while sunscreen washes off and may only last a few hours.
  • Do not use products with more than 30% DEET. They do not offer any extra protection according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and should especially be avoided for use on children.

For all insect repellents, the EPA recommends:

  • Do not allow children to handle…”and do not apply to children’s hands. When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • “Apply sparingly around ears.” According to the EPA Reregistration Eligibility Decision report on DEET, absorption of pesticides through the skin is, “…approximately four times greater around the ears than the forearm.”

To help you find the right product for you, consult:

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at melissas@ecocenter.org or visit http://www.ecocenter.org/lmg.

Bacon in a Can? Why Not!

close up of frying bacon

Cropped image. Cyclonebill, Flickr. CC License.

Growing up, we had an orange tent that was made out of thick canvas and was held together by what can only be explained as a bunch of color-coded, right-angle, aluminum poles. You know the kind: the ones that rattled incessantly until you got to the campground?

This tent was amazing … amazingly hot! I remember on at least two occasions I saw my spirit guide, or maybe that was the heat getting to me. Kidding of course, but no matter what temperature it was outside, it was at least 20 degrees warmer inside that tent.

My Dad loved to take my sister and me all over the Midwest, where we’d pitch our tent and stake our claim on family fun for the weekend. We’d venture to Camp Dearborn, state campgrounds and even head down to Kings Island where you could camp right in the park!

Our coolers would be packed with all the essentials that you need on a camping trip — hot dogs, pop and potato salad. But on one fateful trip Dad splurged and got bacon in a can! Who knew this was even a possibility? Somehow some mad scientist was able to spiral in a whole pound of bacon into a can similar in size to a pork and beans can. To keep the bacon “fresh” it was packed in salt; it truly was a cardiologist’s down payment on a new sports car.

So why bring this up 30 years later? Well it’s one of those memories that my sister and I always bring up and still laugh about. We also reminisce about other road trips we took as kids, like when we took a three-day drive to Dallas to visit family with five people crammed in a 1978 Pontiac Grand Prix.

My Dad, a single father at the time of these two stories, tried his best to help us create childhood memories that would last a lifetime. Even when I was acting like it was the worst thing in the world to do, as some adolescent boys tend to do.

As a parent now, I rely on a lot of things my Dad did with us when helping raise our girls. He taught me my sister and I it’s not what you have, but who you share it with that counts … even if it’s bacon in a can.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Bike Seats and Bike Trailers: Safety While Riding with Children

Toddler in her bike trailer

Cropped image. Jesse Davis, Flickr. CC License.

Summer is here, the Michigan gray seems to be over, and we’re all anxious to get out and play in the sun. Many of us can’t wait to hop on our bikes and take off for a bike ride. But before you take off, put on the brakes for a moment and consider what safety equipment is needed, and if your child is old enough to endure the bounces and jostles of the bike ride.


Helmets are a must for children being toted on bikes or in bike trailers. The helmet shouldn’t be aerodynamic shaped (little Johnny’s helmet shape won’t help your speed) because the pointed part at the back will push against his seat, pushing his head and neck forward and helmet over his face.

A helmet needs to meet proper standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ANSI, or Snell rating. One of these stickers should be on the helmet. The helmet should fit comfortably and not move around when your child turns his head. Check out this article for easy fit tips, but to highlight:

  • The straps need to be buckled and fit snugly (you should be able to fit one finger width between neck and strap)
  • The sliding clasp on each side should be just below the ears.

Children are ready to wear a helmet when they can sit independently with good head control, and they can hold up the extra 10 ounces of helmet. Children are approximately 1-year-old before they can wear the helmet and safely tolerate the jostling of the bike ride. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is ready.

It may take several times to get your little one use to wearing a helmet, so practice wearing it before going for a ride. Remember to wear your own helmet; actions speak louder than words. The kids are relying on you to keep both of you safe.

Bike Seats

There are several ways to ride with your child on your bike. Bike seats that attach to the back of your bike work for children 1 to 3 years old. The bike seat should meet ASTM F1625-00 (2012) safety standards, and the back of the seat needs to be high enough to support your child’s head. Be cautious: the high center of gravity of the seat can make the bike more unstable and harder to maneuver, especially when mounting and dismounting. Children should not be able to get fingers or feet near the spokes of your tires.

A child seat is mounted almost directly over the rear axle and has no springs to absorb the bounces of the ride which can make it a bumpy ride. When going over bumps, you can put more weight on the pedals to avoid the bounces, but your child can’t. A child needs to be at least 1-year-old to tolerate this.

Practice riding around your neighborhood with a weighted backpack strapped into the seat to get an idea how the bike will handle, and remember the backpack won’t wiggle like a toddler.

Bike Trailers

A bike trailer that hitches to the bike is heavier than the bike seat, but has a lower center of gravity and is closer to the ground in case of a spill. The bike trailer should meet ASTM F1975-09 safety standards. Another advantage is it can contain your children, toys, books and sippy cups — a family room on wheels.

A disadvantage of bike trailers is that when you’re riding in traffic it takes up considerable room. It’s also low and may not be seen, so put a bright flag on it. Most drivers will be considerate of trailers, but you want to get the attention of the distracted driver. Remember that a bike trailer is still a rough ride and your child should be about 1-year-old to ride with a helmet on in the bike trailer.

Creative riding is discouraged, such as riding with your baby in a front pack or a backpack carrier strapped to your body. Even with a helmet this was not the intended use of the carriers.

Be safe and have fun with your children!

– By Amanda Froling and Carol Buell, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation


The information in this article was compiled from the following recommended resources:

Summer Sniffles?

 Young girl picking flowers in a field

The scent of freshly mowed lawns, blooming flowers and blossoming trees signal that spring and summer are here, but for allergy sufferers this likely means more than just the arrival of a new season. For allergy sufferers and their parents, these scents can signal the start of allergy season.

So what causes those pesky allergies?

Allergies occur due to an immune response. Once someone with the potential for allergies is exposed to a specific allergen, the body will prime itself to recognize that allergen and upon further exposure will stimulate an allergic cascade ultimately leading to inflammation. The receptors that allergens will bind to can be found in the skin, nose, mucous membranes and lungs, which is why the predominant symptoms of allergies are in these regions.

Symptoms of allergies

Allergy symptoms occur due to inflammation. On the skin, a rash like eczema or hives is often the predominant finding. When the nose and mucus membranes are affected, nasal itching, sneezing, congestion and clear drainage from the nose is common. Some people also have ocular symptoms with itchy, clear drainage and swelling around the eyes. For those with asthma, allergens are often a trigger of their symptoms; cough and shortness of breath may occur after allergen exposure. Despite the organ systems affected, allergies don’t cause fever so if your child has a fever it’s likely something else.

Who is affected and why?

The potential to develop allergies is genetic. If one parent of a child has allergies their child has a 1/3 chance of developing allergies. If both parents have allergies, their child has a 2/3 chance of developing allergies. While the allergic potential is passed on, the individual allergies aren’t. For example, having a parent with a shellfish allergy doesn’t mean that same allergy will be passed on, but the child has a chance of developing allergies such as atopic dermatitis, food allergy, asthma or allergic rhinitis.


If you find yourself reaching for a tissue every time you walk past a freshly cut lawn, it can be pretty easy to determine the trigger for your symptoms. But for those who have symptoms all year or all season long, allergy testing may be helpful in determining triggers.

Allergy testing can be accomplished by a blood test or by a skin prick test in which small amounts of allergen are scratched onto the skin and after waiting approximately 15 minutes, an allergic response is measured on the skin by a surrounding hive and redness.

What can you do?

Allergy treatment is often effective at improving quality of life. Allergy treatment is typically managed with a three-step approach.

  1. The first step is avoidance. This is much easier to do with a specific food or medication allergy, but nearly impossible with a seasonal allergen.
  2. The second step is reducing the inflammatory mediators caused by the allergic response. This can be accomplished through medications such as antihistamines and nasal steroids. For those with skin problems, using a non-scented soap and applying a good moisturizer like Cerave twice daily and immediately after a bath with Vaseline or Aquaphor to dry spots can be very helpful. While many medications are available over-the-counter, it’s always best to check with your child’s pediatrician or allergist before starting a new medication to make sure the medication and dosing are safe and appropriate for your child.
  3. Third, allergen injections can be tailored to a person’s specific allergies and given regularly over a three- to five-year period to desensitize a person to the specific allergens triggering their symptoms.

If you think that you or child’s symptoms might be due to allergies, it’s always best to check in with your physician. Hopefully with treatment, the scents of a new season can mean more time spent outside and less time reaching for a tissue.

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of a toddler and volunteers with the Parenting Program.


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