Posts Tagged 'summer'

Holy Toledo! Run, don’t walk to the Toledo Zoo

Girl in pretend egg and boy in pretend nest

My kids loved pretending they were animals.

My brother-in-law always says that with kids, if you’re not on offense, you’re on defense. He’s right, so I put a lot of effort into keeping my kids occupied (keeping my kids occupied = maintaining my sanity).

In the spirit of parents helping parents, I recently discovered the Toledo Zoo. Many of you have probably visited already, but for those who have only thought about it, stop thinking and go. It’s fantastic!

I just took my 4.5-year-old twins. The 90-minute car ride went easily. It was the kids’ first time out of state, so when I told them they were in Ohio, they asked “What’s Ohio?” I explained it’s another state, and we live in Michigan. That’s when my daughter said, “Are we still on our planet?”

Sort of. We’re in Ohio.

Enough Ohio bashing. Back to the day trip.

The directions the zoo has posted online were spot on, so once we got off the freeway, I had no trouble finding it. Also, they participate in reciprocating zoo memberships, so if you’re a member of the Detroit Zoo, bring your card and you’ll get 50 percent off admission. For two adults and two kids, it was $35 to get in, plus $7 for parking.

People told me that you get to be closer to the animals at the Toledo Zoo, and they weren’t kidding. It’s a very hands-on place full of activities and learning experiences for the kids. There’s even a zipline over the giraffes!

A man, little girl and little boy standing close to aquarium tank

The aquarium tanks make it very easy for kids (big and little) to get close to the sea life.

It’s a big place — you park on one side of the road and walk over a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the zoo. The kids saw real elephants for the first time, touched starfish, built a nest and hatched from an egg. The highlight for me was the new aquarium. Beautifully done — and air conditioned — the aquarium has several “touch” experiences and easy-to-see tanks.

This zoo is built for kids. It’s almost a theme park/zoo. They have a splash pad, an indoor forest learning center, and two playscapes complete with rock climbing walls that even my littles scaled without a problem. There’s also a children’s area where kids can play and grown-ups can hunt Pokémon. Seriously. They were all over the place. So were Pokéstops.

Not having any faith in the quality of zoo food or the desire to spend an arm and a leg, I brought a picnic lunch, but there were plenty of eating options. One of the café areas is in the building that used to house bigger animals, like tigers. Patrons ate in the steel-bar cages that long-ago housed carnivores, as the etched stone at the top of the building proclaimed. It was a cool experience.

Be warned, we decided to get an ice cream treat in the heat of the afternoon, so we stopped at a stand. My son asked for his favorite chocolate ice cream. Do you know how excited he was when the lady handed him a full pint? Best. Mom. Ever.

And, yes, there were bathrooms everywhere.

All in all, I’d highly recommend this as a family day trip. We spent the entire day there and didn’t get to see everything. But it’s safe to say, we’ll be heading back.

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

Three creative ways to get your kids reading this summer

Three ways to get kids reading this summer

Summer officially started yesterday. The best way to keep your kids engaged with books over the next few months is to have a plan. Be prepared to make it fun, meaningful, and to include the entire family. Here’s how:

  1. Make it fun

There are a number of ways to make reading fun this summer.

  • How about having your child track their reading with a BINGO board? Here’s a fun printable to explore and download.
  • Another way of making reading adventurous is to go on a scavenger hunt at your local library. Last summer, we checked off one of these items each week we went to the library and couldn’t wait to continue on our search for unique titles. My first grader loved it!
  1. Make it a family event

Include the entire family in on reading this summer by hosting a few family dinner book nights. You read a book, make a craft, cook a themed dinner, and discuss the book over a meal with the entire family. There are also suggestions to extend the activity with a service project (hooray for incorporating kindness into your summer activities). My friend Jodi from Growing Book by Book has hosted these book clubs monthly for the last two years. Here are a list of ideas you can adapt for your own family fun.

  1. Make it meaningful

If you’re going to give children access to books this summer — whether they are books from the library, garage sales, thrift stores, bookstores, or Amazon — choose books carefully.

The first rule of thumb is to include some books with strong moral messages. My friend Laura, who is an elementary school teacher, created a movement called #TakingCareThursday. It asks families and teachers to be intentional in reading at least one book a week (it doesn’t have to be on Thursdays) that teaches children about character traits such as kindness, empathy and compassion.

The second thing to keep in mind when bringing books into your home this summer is to choose books that are of interest to your child. Do they love trucks, animals or cooking? Search for these books to get into their hands as well. Here is a list of book suggestions for #TakingCareThursday.

The most important take-away from today’s blog post is to be sure your children have access to books this summer. If they have books but don’t want to read them, add in books with topics they are interested in and the element of fun. You are sure to get them reading then!

 – Maria Dismondy is a mother of three, reading specialist, fitness instructor and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan.

Can my child stay home alone all summer?

Close up of girl sitting on couch

Schools are about to break for the summer and you may be questioning whether or not your child is ready to spend all summer home alone. In Michigan, there is not a set age in which legally a child is able to stay home without adult supervision. Using some of the State of Michigan’s legal handbooks, it seems that it is generally acceptable to leave your child without adult supervision once the child is age 12.

Within the “Improper Supervision” section of the State of Michigan Child Protection Handbook: “According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated, but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.” Additionally, The Michigan Child Support Handbook states, “The court may include an amount covering work-related child care expenses when the child is less than 12 years old.”

Despite the recommended age, it is even more important to determine your child’s maturity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a few tips to help determine if your child is responsible enough to stay home and also some suggestions on what type of rules to set.

Some key questions you may want to consider are:

  • Does my child have any reservations about staying home alone?
  • In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or medical event, can your child respond appropriately?
  • Are you in a safe neighborhood?
  • Do you have neighbors who will watch out for suspicious activity? Would they be able to check in on your children if you aren’t able to reach them?
  • Does your child know when it is safe to answer the door?
  • If there are younger children in the home, do you trust them in the care of their older siblings all day?
  • Have you discussed internet and social media safety?
  • Do any children in the home have serious medical conditions, such as life-threatening allergies, diabetes or seizures?
  • Are you available via phone at all times?

If you’re still unsure you if or your child is ready, consider a few trial runs. Let them stay alone for a few hours at a time. Once you get home, talk about their day, particularly any problems they encountered and how they handled them. I am a big fan of the “drop in”; if you can, leave work early see and how they are faring when they don’t expect you back for hours. If you still don’t feel comfortable leaving your teen or tween home alone all summer, look into summer camps that may be of interest to them. You can also ask available aunts, uncles or grandparents to visit, or see if your child can hang out with friends who have parents home during the day.

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

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.

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 or visit

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:


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