Posts Tagged 'summer'

Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.


First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.


Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.


Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.


  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.


  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last 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


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