Posts Tagged 'indoors'

Beating Cabin Fever with Toddlers

Little girl looking out the window

Unaltered image. LeAnn, Flickr. CC License.

There’s been pestilence at our house for way too long. In addition to the common colds and stomach bugs, we’ve had a round of RSV. The fun’s lasted for three weeks now, and with the extremely cold weather, it’s tough to keep two three-year-olds occupied indoors and maintain the adults’ sanity.

Lucky for me, the clearance sections at big-box retailers have been ripe for the picking.

At Meijer, I discovered Little Hands craft kits. Paper bag puppets, animals on craft sticks, and all kinds of other fun projects (sometimes as many as 20 and it includes a glue stick) came in a box. For a little over $3, you can’t beat the price. Now we have a menagerie, with some aliens and monsters sprinkled in, on our countertops, cabinet doors, refrigerator, etc.

While at Target (my home away from home), I found Cra-Z-Art projects on clearance. I scored a set of cardboard blocks that can be colored as well as a giant dry-erase floor puzzle. Huge hits with the kids!

We also have indoor sandboxes. This isn’t a project for the faint-of-heart. It can get messy, but it’s easy to clean up. Start with a smallish, shallow container with a lid that can be fastened on tightly. Ours are about 8 inches wide, 12 inches long and 3 inches deep. At the store, pick up birdseed, corn meal, dried beans or pasta, rice, aquarium rocks — anything with a dry texture. Combine them in the containers and provide small cups for pouring, spoons for scooping, and trucks for driving. The kids love it. Just keep the vacuum handy when you’re done playing.

When the kids aren’t sick, we like to take them to open play at a local gymnastics place. For a few bucks per kid, we get free rein of the gym, trampolines, foam pit, balance beams, and all the other fun things. It’s a great way to burn off pent-up energy and make new friends.

I’ve also been looking into the Michigan Activity Pass Program, which gets you entry to parks and museums around the state for little to no cost. The program is run through local libraries, so check to see if yours participates.

There’s also a ton of great kid-activity websites out there. What are a few of yours? What are some great indoor activities for your kids?

– Rebecca Calappi is a Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples

National TV Safety Day: Tips on How To Protect Your Child

photo (3)

TV properly secured

February 1st is National TV safety day. You might be wondering, “How does this affect me as a parent?” Aside from regulated screen time, what’s unsafe about a television? You might be surprised.

This national program encourages people to recycle old, big tube TVs that are often put in children’s rooms. First step is to properly secure your television sets. Older tube sets need to be positioned lower and on adequate furniture. New sets should be secured to a wall. Check out our other post on this.

Find a place to recycle your old televisions here.

Learn more about TV safety from Safe Kids Worldwide.

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

How To Keep Your Children Safe in Freezing Temps


Snow can be beautiful, and sure fun to play in, but many local schools have already cancelled tomorrow in anticipation of the below freezing weather. If you and your children have to venture outside, review these tips so that you can prevent cold stress conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.”

Prevent hypothermia by:

  • Wearing multiple layers of loose clothing; avoid tight clothing which can restrict circulation.
  • Change clothing if they become wet or saturated with perspiration.
  • Don’t venture out alone; watch out for warning signs that may not be recognized by the person with symptoms such as shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
  • Watch infants closely for bright red and cold skin and signs of low energy.
  • Start CPR any anyone found hypothermic with no pulse.

The CDC recommends taking the person’s temperature if you notice any signs of hypothermia. If it is below 95° F, they suggest you seek immediate medical attention. While waiting for emergency responders begin warming the person by getting them indoors and remove any wet clothing. Warm the head and center of the body first with hats, blankets and dry clothing. If the victim is alert enough to drink, warm beverages can be offered (but avoid alcohol).

Frostbite is another concern and occurs when exposed skin and tissue begin to freeze. It is most often found on fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, nose and chins.  It is important to keep these areas warm and covered, as frostbite can begin in 15 minutes or less in some conditions. (See the Wind Chill Chart below from the National Weather Service.)

Credit: National Weather Service Forecast Office

Credit: National Weather Service Forecast Office

Monitor these high risk areas for signs of frostbite such as a pale, blistered or gray appearance. Tell children to alert you if they feel their skin burning, or if they begin to have any numbness.

How to Treat Frostbite:

  1. If any of these symptoms occur, get indoors immediately.
  2. Remove any rings or constrictive jewelry, and soak the area in warm water.
  3. Warm area slowly, avoid hot water and heat lamps, as more damage can occur.
  4. If the area is not able to be submerged, apply a warm washcloth compress, but never rub the frozen area.
  5. Continue warming methods for the rest of the body and watch for restored color and feeling.
  6. If after a few minutes feeling is not restored, seek medical attention.

When travelling by car, you still need to be prepared. Road crews and first responders are working around the clock, and if your vehicle gets stuck, you may be waiting for some time. For each person in your vehicle pack full snow gear, blankets or sleeping bags, a warm change of clothes, food and water, an emergency vehicle kit, first aid kit (include chemical hot packs) and flashlights.

Remember, don’t leave the house without a hat, gloves and scarf, covering all exposed skin.

Stay warm and be safe.

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

Bringing Light to Unsafe Toys

Drats! Looks like a few disappointed kids have some reconsidering to do on their wish lists to Santa. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil bag in the photo has suspect pigment and is on this year’s list of unsafe toys from PIRGIM.

Drats! The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pencil bag in the photo has suspect pigment and is on this year’s list of unsafe toys from PIRGIM.

Hopefully, your children received some toys from their wish list for Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. But parents beware, the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan announced dangerous toys can still be found at retailers nationwide.

The good news, according to PIRGIM’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report, is stronger rules helped get some of the most dangerous toys and children’s products off the market the past five years.

PIRGIM’s report reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates. All of these toxins are proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard; loud toys that threaten hearing and toy magnets that can cause serious injury.

“It’s the unseen dangers that trouble me, lead and phthalates,” explains Donna Bucciarelli, RN, trauma prevention coordinator, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak; and education program manager, Safety City U.S.A., a Beaumont Children’s Hospital program. “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of PIRGIM, parents and gift-givers can purchase safer, less toxic toys.”

One key finding from the “Trouble in Toyland” report shows toys with high levels of toxic substances can still be found on store shelves. PIRGIM found toys with high lead levels including a toddler toy with 29 times the legal limit of lead and play jewelry for children with 2 times the legal limit. They also found an infant play mat with high levels of the toxic metal antimony, and a child’s pencil case with high levels of phthalates and cadmium.

To help you choose the safest toys for your children, U.S. PIRG put together Toy Safety Tips at

The Ecology Center, a non-profit group in Michigan, has also teamed up with environmental health organizations around the country and  lists some toys with toxic levels on their Healthy Stuff site.

How To Select Age-Appropriate Toys To Foster Development

image credit: David Goehring

image credit: David Goehring

Providing an age appropriate toy is essential for gross and fine motor skills, sensory experiences and learning. For infants and toddlers, safety is a primary concern. For children who still mouth toys, make sure the object cannot fit inside a toilet paper roll. If it can, that means it can fit in their mouth.

When purchasing toys, know the purpose of the toy. Think about the following factors: does it have multiple functions, is it portable, does it encourage movement, does it promote thinking, does it provide a challenge and do you already have something similar.

Here are some age-appropriate toys to cultivate development.

0-3 months. Your baby is looking at contrasting colors and faces.

  • contrasting colored toys
  • mobiles
  • fabric books
  • colorful activity mats
  • light weight rattles
  • music toys
  • unbreakable mirrors

3-6 months. Your baby is getting stronger and needs encouragement to stay on his tummy so he can learn to roll and move or pivot. Lie on the floor next to your baby and enjoy some tummy time together.

  •  teething toys
  • 3 dimensional toys that can spin and be touched
  • toys that roll or encourage baby to move
  • toys that can be played with on the floor during tummy time such as activity play mats

6-9 months. At this age your baby is getting better at sitting, he can play with both hands and explore toys more. He is beginning to crawl on hands and knees. Toys that move away will encourage crawling and rolling. Peek-a-boo with your hands will have him belly laughing!

  • big soft blocks
  • balls
  • board books
  • more teethers
  • toys that require both hands
  • toys with different textures (crinckly, bumpy, soft, and cause and effect toys)

9-12 months. Your baby is now trying to stand to pull up on objects and cruise and walk. Encourage these activities by putting toys along a sofa. Push toys provide arm support and allow your baby to practice walking.

  • multi colored shape sorter
  • board books
  • play tables or cubes that can be played with on multiple sides in sitting
  • kneeling or standing positions
  • stable tables that baby can pull up on and move away from for standing and walking

1 and 2 year-olds. At this age your child can stand and is mobile. Toys that enhance coordination, thinking, balance, visual and fine motor skills are fun and often serve multiple purposes. Pudding can double as finger paint.

  • toys that challenge balance
  • slides
  • sit and spin
  • kid friendly musical instruments
  • stacking cups
  • balls that roll down shoots & slides
  • balls for kicking, throwing & rolling
  • ride on toys
  • large piece puzzles

3 and 4 year-olds. Your child is becoming more independent and can enjoy more challenges from thinking to balance skills to pretend play and fine motor skills. Your child can take turns at memory card games and board games. A container with rice or beans and guess the object by touching it, can be lots of fun. A game of I spy can pass the time while in the car or waiting in line.

  • arts and crafts
  • bubbles
  • tricycle
  • sit on hoppy ball
  • finger paints
  • activity or yoga cards
  • lacing cards
  • puzzles with more pieces (24-48)
  • dress up with zippers & big buttons
  • balance bike
  • bath foam
  • building blocks
  • books
  • big boxes are great for imaginative play

5  and 6 year-olds

  • fine motor activities
  • arts and crafts
  • play dough
  • clay
  • marbles on tracks
  • building with smaller blocks
  • puzzles with more pieces
  • A Jump rope, hula hoop, hop scotch, sidewalk chalk, balls for catching and kicking make for great outdoor fun.
  • Bicycle riding is also a great activity.

A toy should encourage thinking, playing, and moving. With proper toy selection kids will have fun and learn and grow.

–Amanda Froling, MPT and Carol Buell MPT 

Sources: AOTA How To Pick a Toy: Checklist for Toy Shopping, Tips for Living Life To Its Fullest (2011) Age Appropriate Toys, Reviewed by Baby Center Medical Advisory board 2011

Lessons in Gratitude During the Busy Holidays

Tis’ the season for stress! But keeping gratitude on the top of the list really helps. Here are three ways to keep the good stuff flowing, in spite of your never-ending holiday to-do list.

1. Books on Video
Did you know YouTube has book videos? It’s true! And my kids can’t get enough. Here’s a great list of books you can “check out” right now featuring wonderful lessons in gratitude. (Don’t forget to set your computer security settings before allowing unsupervised YouTube access.)

  • The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
  • Thanksgiving is For Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland
  • Have You Filled A Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud
  • Thanksgiving Blessings by Mike Berenstain
  • The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks by Jan and Mike Berenstain
  • Grateful: A Song of Giving Thanks by John Bucchino

2.  Random Acts of Kindness
Initiating Random Acts of Kindness is a great way to teach gratitude to your children, and is especially timely around the holidays. Ask your kids to come up with 5 acts of kindness. Then work one idea into your day each week. Keep it simple and make a plan to keep it manageable, rewarding and fun. Here are some simple ideas:

  • Make cookies for your mail carrier
  • Tape quarters to toy machines around town
  • Create artwork and mail it to out-of-town family members
  • Donate old toys to families in need
  • Have kids do chores to earn money and purchase gifts for kids in need
  • Bring hot cocoa to the Salvation Army employees collecting donations outside

3.  Gratitude – Write On!
Bring a notepad to dinner and ask family members to share what they are grateful/thankful for. Make a list as you go around the table. Hang the list on your refrigerator for a nice reminder all month long!

What are some of the ways you help your kids show gratitude?

Maria Dismondy, mother of two (and expecting a third soon), reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan

To read more posts by Maria and about literacy, click the Literacy tag or type the author’s name in the search box.

13 Terrific Fall Books for Children

The kids are back to school it’s time to get into the spirit of the next season. The next few months are filled with so many wonderful things!

Let’s begin with Fall. Apple orchards, pumpkins, caramel apples, cider and donuts…the list goes on. Following the start of fall comes Halloween. Another great time of year filled with candy corn and other delicious treats.

Celebrate the season and up-coming holidays with themed books. Remember you can always get books at your local library or buy them used on Amazon.

Fall Books

  1. Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Elhert
  2. Mouse’s First Fall by Lauren Thompson
  3. Leaf Man by Lois Elhert
  4. Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills
  5. I Love Fall by Alison Inches
  6. The Leaves Fall All Around by Steve Mack
  7. Let It Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
  8. We’re Going on A Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
Let It Fall
I Love Fall!: A Touch-and-Feel Board Book
It’s Fall (Celebrate the Seasons)
Mouse’s First Fall (Classic Board Books)
Baby Loves Fall!: A Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Book (Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Books)
Fall Is Not Easy

Halloween Books 

  1. The Curious Little Witch by Lieve Baeten
  2. Where is Baby’s Pumpkin by Karen Katz
  3. 10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman
  4. The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis
  5. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams


The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat (First Time Books)
Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin? (Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Books)
The Night before Halloween
10 Trick-or-Treaters


— Maria Dismondy, mother of two, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan

To read more posts by Maria and about literacy, click the Literacy tag or type the author’s name in the search box.


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