Improving your child’s motor skills in a winter wonderland

smiling girl making snow angel

Photo credit: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) at Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan winters are cold and snowy. When the family has cabin fever, an outside snowy day is the perfect place to play. Not only is it a fun change, did you know it’s also a perfect way to improve fine and gross motor skills?

Getting ready for snow fun can be both challenging and rewarding. Putting on snow pants then adjusting the straps, pulling on the boots, zipping up a coat, placing on a hat, and finding just the right spot for your thumb in the mittens are all fine motor and body awareness skills children can achieve when given the time and the incentive. The youngest ones will still need a little help.

Once out the door all bundled up, a whole snow-filled playground awaits in the yard! Running with boots on is hard work! Check out the snow; is it soft, crunchy, wet, flaky, good for packing, or powdery? Make a footprint path in the snow for your friends and parents to follow. Take big steps, small steps, and jump with two feet. Making a snow angel is exercise; now try to get up without squashing the angel! Does it look like you?

Ready to build a snowman? Pack a snowball tight, now roll and roll. Keep pushing it, using all of your arm, core and leg strength. Make two more each smaller than the last. Kids can ask mom or dad to help stack the snowballs on top of each other to make the snowman.

Time to go sledding! Younger children enjoy being pulled on a sled while the older kids seek the hills. Sledding down and climbing back up over and over builds great strength and endurance. No hills in your yard? Children can pull each other on sleds or pack some snow and make their own hill – let their imaginations take over. Building a fort, shoveling a path and looking for animal tracks are all ways to enjoy being outside.

Are you ready for one more adventure? Go ice skating! Many rinks have open skate with rental skates available; some rinks offer plastic PVC walkers for children to help with balance. Bring your own helmet (bike or hockey) with you. Ice skating is fun and challenging. It incorporates balance, coordination, and strength. Children about 3 years old can really start to enjoy skating; they don’t have far to fall and they enjoy the quick progress they make.

Well that was fun! The kids will climb out of the layers of clothing, pile up the boots, and are ready for a snack. Soup or hot chocolate are just perfect to warm up all over. This was an exhausting day, so expect the kids to go to bed early tonight.

– Amanda Froling, PT, C/NDT, CKTP, is a physical therapist within the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in West Bloomfield.
– Carol Julien-Buell, PT, MPT, C/NDT, PCS is a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist. She is physical therapist at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in Beaumont Health & Wellness Center, Royal Oak.

Fabulous winter outdoor photography tips

silhouette of boy and girl jumping at sunset

You’ve been waiting for what seems like forever. Gazing wistfully through the icy windowpane, you sigh in impatience as each day passes with less-than-ideal conditions. Just as you reach your breaking point, it comes: An overcast day … and it’s just what you wanted.

The lighting is finally perfect for your outdoor photo shoot!

OK, so it seems strange to desire an overcast day. But believe it or not, sunlight isn’t the best to work with when taking pictures outside. Why, you might ask?

When mixed with clouds and trees, sunlight can cast erratic shadows that are difficult to erase even with editing software. Your subjects may be well-lit in the front, yet they’re squinting because of the light shining into their eyes. Put the sun behind them and their faces might be draped in darkness. The best solution is to remove the sun from the equation completely.

With the lighting set, you should consider your setting. Winter can seem very stark and bland—void of color. So instead of color, focus on texture. Tree bark, bricks and stone are all great options against which to pose your subject. Weather-beaten boards, such as the side of an old barn, look great too. If you do want some color, look around for some graffiti; some buildings in Berkley and Royal Oak feature buildings on which an entire side is dedicated to a gorgeous work of art.

You have your lighting and your setting. Something else to think about is your style. Do you want all posed shots, where everyone is facing (and smiling at) the camera? Do you want everyone centered? Go ahead and get some of those. Then consider sneaking in some candid shots. Get the one where everyone burst into laughter because someone tooted.

The “Rule of Thirds” is a popular one in photography; there are different levels of complexity to this. In the simplest terms, the subject(s) are in one-third of the frame, be it the left, right, or bottom. Shoot some off-center. Also consider tilting the camera and snapping faces from a different angle. Lie down on the ground and shoot up. Climb on a picnic table, gather everyone close to you, and shoot down. You may find that some of the best pictures are captured when conventional poses are tossed out the window.

If Mother Nature somehow confounds you and presents you with one sunny day after the other, you do have some recourse. Find a hill. At sunset, have your subjects gather at the top of the hill and take some pictures as the sun dips down towards the horizon behind them. Use your editing abilities (this can be done on a phone as well as with computer software) to tone down the amount of light in the image. The resulting picture is a timeless silhouette, framed in the vibrant colors of that darn winter sun.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and a huge fan of silhouette photos.

Turkey chili taco soup

close up of turkey chili taco soup

image credit:

Nothing sounds better to me during the cold winter months than warm, comforting foods like soups, chili and casseroles. I used to avoid many of these dishes due to their high calorie content from refined carbohydrates and saturated or trans fats, but I’ve learned how modify these recipes and make healthy substitutes using things like skim milk, low-fat cheese, whole grains and extra veggies. Now I enjoy my favorite dishes without all the calories! Another benefit is that many of these dishes can be made ahead of time and easily reheated or thrown into a slow cooker for a quick, convenient meal.


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound 99 percent lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 10 ounces tomatoes with green chilies (e.g., Rotel)
  • 15 ounces canned or frozen corn, drained
  • 15 ounces no salt added kidney beans, drained
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 16 ounces fat-free refried beans
  • 1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning
  • 2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Spray a large pot with cooking spray then brown the turkey over medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
  2. When turkey is cooked through, add onions and pepper and cook 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, corn, beans, tomato sauce, refried beans, taco seasoning and chicken broth.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Serve hot and top with toppings of choice.


Serves 9. Serving size is 1 ¼ cup.

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 225
  • Total Fat: 2 g
  • Saturated Fat 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 25 mg
  • Sodium: 905 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 31.5 g
  • Fiber: 7.5 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Protein: 22 g

Megan Jozefowicz, RD at Beaumont Weight Control Center, Rochester Hills. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

* Recipe adapted from

A Souper Way to Get Your Kids to Eat More Veggies

Having a tough time getting your kids to try different veggies? Are you having a tough time getting more into your diet? Try soup.

For most people, consuming an adequate number of vegetables throughout the day can be a challenge. By having a “souper meal,” you have the option to consume multiple servings of vegetables in one meal.

Did you know that the more vegetables are cooked, the sweeter and milder they taste? While enjoying the chicken and noodles in chicken noodle soup, you may be oblivious to the numerous carrots and celery you are eating. When vegetables are cooked, the water soluble vitamins leach out into the surrounding water. Fortunately, those nutrients leech out into the broth of the soup, and can still be obtained by consuming the broth.

Although commonly overlooked for its health benefits, soup is a very healthy meal option and offers a variety of health benefits. When selecting a soup, do your best to stick with the broth-based soups, such as chicken noodle, minestrone, mixed mushroom soup and vegetable rigatoni.

Cream-based soups are loaded with saturated fat. Saturated fat requires a lot of blood and energy to digest, decreasing the amount of blood and energy being circulated to your brain. If you’re trying to lose weight, soup is also a fantastic option because most broth-based soups contain significantly fewer calories compared to the average sandwich and chips lunch, yet, the high vegetable, fiber and fluid content makes soup even more filling.

Additionally, soup can play a significant role in maintaining proper hydration. In general, people tend to consume fewer fluids in the winter because the cold does not stimulate one’s thirst mechanism compared to the heat. Broth-based soups are a great source of fluids and the sodium and potassium content plays a significant role in maintaining hydration levels as well.

Stay warm, stay healthy and enjoy a great soup at your next meal! Try out this recipe for vegetarian vegetable soup. You can let your kids select the veggies and pour them in.

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Yield-approx. 1 gallon


2 quarts vegetable broth

2 pounds frozen mixed vegetables

3 medium potatoes, diced

1 can tomato, diced or pureed

1/2 tsp. garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 c. onions, diced

1/2 c. celery, diced

1/8 tsp. bay leaf, ground


  1. Sweat onion, garlic and celery in non-stick skillet until they begin to soften.
  2. Combine all ingredients in stock pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add a little more water if too thick for your taste.

8 Things You Should Know About Colds, Flu and Antibiotics


Besides sharing recent holiday cheer, many shared viruses too. Knowing when antibiotics will help – and when they won’t – is key to preventing antibiotic resistance.

“We all need to remain smart about antibiotic use, and by ‘we,’ I mean doctors, nurses and patients,” says Christopher Carpenter, M.D., director of Beaumont’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. “We have a program that promotes appropriate antibiotic use in the hospital and with the help of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Antibiotic Resistance Reduction Coalition we are providing materials and education to encourage appropriate outpatient use in our Emergency Center and doctors’ offices.”

The CDC offers the following facts and tips:

  1. Colds, fl u and most sore throats and bronchitis are caused by viruses. Antibiotics do not help and may do more harm than good by increasing the risk of a resistant infection later.
  2. Antibiotic resistance – the development of “superbugs” that are resistant to available drugs – has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.
  3. When antibiotics fail to work, the consequences are: longer-lasting illnesses; more doctor visits or extended hospital stays; and the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can cause death.
  4. Children are of particular concern because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. They also have the highest rate of infections caused by antibiotic-resistant “bugs.”
  5. Patients should not demand antibiotics when a health care provider has determined they are not needed.
  6. When an antibiotic is prescribed, take all of it, even if symptoms dis appear. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and reinfect.
  7. The spread of viral infections like cold and fl u can be reduced through frequent handwashing and by avoiding close contact with others.
  8. Viral infections sometimes lead to bacterial infections. Keep your health care provider informed if your illness gets worse or lasts a long time.

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

A Surprisingly Perfect Christmas with Modifications

christmas explosion

The holidays this year were surprising to me. I’ve always been one to love Christmas. I love shopping, wrapping pretty gifts with bows, making homemade bread and cinnamon rolls to give as gifts and trimming the tree with lights shining in all the right spots highlighting the ornaments we bought while traveling in Europe.

Yeah. That didn’t happen.

The gifts had bows, but they never made it under our tree. I made a box of instant dessert bread and called it good. I didn’t even put up my nice ornaments. Yes, I chickened out. I went to Target and bought three packs of shatterproof (challenge accepted!) ornaments for a grand total of $12. It’s a good thing, too, because in a moment of unsupervised curiosity, my little guy (now aged 2) took the ornaments off the tree and put them in a neat pile on the floor. Then he took the light bulbs out of several strings of lights and put those in a neat pile on the floor, too. So I came home one day to a dark, naked tree and a kid who was very proud of his organization skills. We were a bit concerned when we couldn’t find one light bulb and thought we’d have to go digging around in dirty diapers when it appeared under the tree skirt. So, crisis averted. For now.

Our friends and family were incredibly generous with the gifts. We didn’t get many matchy-matchy gifts, but the ones we did get were doubles for a very good reason. There would have been World War MCMXXLII (we’ve gone WAY beyond single-digit wars at our house) if only one kid received a bus, or a Thomas the Train. Gifts even went beyond the boy/girl barrier. My little guy got a baby doll and my little girl got several cars and her own Thomas. I like that.

But I have to say, I’m glad it’s over for now. I’m sure as they get older it’ll will seem less chaotic. It’s tough enough being a full-time working mom. Then you add all the added fun of Christmas to that and it gets overwhelming.

I’m looking at it this way: I have more than 300 days to prepare for this year. Bring it on.

—Rebecca Calappi, Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples