How to Clean Bath Toys, Which Are Grosser Than You Think

December 29, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

The problem with bath toys generally isn’t on the outside. They plasticine feathers of a rubber ducky look clean because, by and large, they are (assuming no one has been peeing in the tub). But the inside is another matter. Squeeze bath toys don’t really dry out. They have no air circulation and, because they are opaque, light doesn’t really dry them out. That means the inside of a bath toy is damp and dark, ideal for growing mold.  That light gray stain around the polar bears toes? Mold. That strange discoloration at the tip of the rubber ducky’s tail? Mold. And what’s worse, it won’t stay in there. Bath toys are not only cultivators of mold but conduits to the mouths of infants and toddlers. 

Long story short, bath toys are a lot grosser than many people suspect. And they need to be cleaned. Lily Cameron isn’t afraid of gross. She’s the resident cleaning expert at London’s Fantastic Services, a professional cleaner of twelve years, and knows the pain of keeping bath toys clean.

“Taking care of the squeaky toys can be really tricky because of the small hole at the bottom and hard-to-reach surfaces inside,” Cameron commiserates. “Start with squeezing out all of the excess water inside. Then place the toys in a solution of three parts hot water and one part white vinegar – you can either use the bathroom sink or a large bowl. Let it soak for at least ten minutes, then rinse thoroughly with plain water and let it completely dry.”

There are some who advocate for using bleach, but Cameron isn’t one of them. “There is another approach with bleach and water,” she explains. “But I wouldn’t recommend it since bleach can be harmful to use.” Harsh cleaners in general aren’t a great mix for the baby’s bath. If parent’s can’t quite shake the willies of having black mold lurking in their bath toys, there are other options than throwing all of the toys on the grill and giving them a Viking funeral. That’s good news for families with kids who are reluctant to bathe, since bath toys may be the only way to bribe the kid back into the tub.

How to Keep Bath Toys Clean Without Bleach

  • Squeeze out all the water out and replace it with a solution of three parts hot water to one part vinegar. Let that soak for 10 minutes and dry out before putting toys back in the tub.
  • Never assume that because the outside of a toy is clean, the inside is as well. Mold has a tendency to collect inside toys.

Parents can either prevent water from getting into the toy in the first place, or modify the toy to make them easier to clean. Both are quick and easy to do.

To seal a new toy from getting water inside and growing mold, a drop of hot glue can plug the hole. This is a good option if the toy is particularly large, or has a lot of nooks and crannies in its design that makes it hard to clean. It doesn’t really affect the toy; it may be less squeezable, or no longer be able to squeak or squirt water, but that won’t really matter to kids. They don’t need any help splashing water out of the tub anyway. Even sealed toys should be cleaned occasionally, to make sure the outside doesn’t get moldy.

“Every few weeks, you can scrub the toys in hot water with an old toothbrush or a dish scrubber,” explains Cameron.

Another option is to drill the hole larger so that they’re easier to clean. A 3/16” or ¼” drill bit should work. That is wide enough to fit a pipe cleaner to scrub and a cotton swab or rolled-up piece of paper towel to dry. It has the added bonus of leaving the ability of the toy to squirt water unaffected, other than upping the volume of the stream. But the toys needs to be maintained – if mold is allowed to grow inside because the toy isn’t cleaned, it’s likely parents will see chunks of mold floating in the bath water next time the toy is squeezed.

With the proper maintenance, there’s no reason for bath toys to be gross. That’s good news, because bath toys are awesome, and it’s hard to imagine bath time without them.



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How to Use a Baby Wrap the Best Way Possible

December 28, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Sure, wraps might look like they harken back to the heady days of hipster shemaghs, but they can’t be beaten for versatility. There are a lot of great straps-and-snaps baby carriers, including those designed after tactical web gear and for outdoor adventuring with kids of all sorts of ages. But for shear adaptability, the wrap is king. Since it’s just a long, strong bolt of cloth, there’s dozens of ways to wrap it, and a dozen ways to securely carry a baby – on the hip, on the back, or close to the chest. The most secure style of wrapping is called the front wrap cross carry. It keeps the baby in place against dad’s chest and within his line of sight. It is also a naturally cuddly tummy-to-tummy position, and cuddles are awesome.

Benerson Little has worn web gear from his days in the Navy SEALs and he’s worn baby carriers as a father of three. He’s also seen plenty of lower-tech options, both from his time overseas with the Navy and as his career as one of the world’s foremost authorities on historical unconventional naval combat, commonly known as piracy. The front wrap cross carry reminds him of a field-expedient way of carrying wounded.

“I’ve used a coil of line secured at the top and divided in half, worn on my back, as a carrying method for an injured person. The injured party puts one leg through each set of coil loops and wraps hands and arms around the carrier’s torso,” Little explains. The reason why the injured party is on his back? “The big issue with carrying bulky items at front in a military sense is that they interfere with weapons handling.”

Luckily, weapons handling is not a major concern for most dads, so they can sport the front wrap cross carry. It doesn’t just allow them to sit down occasionally, but also to keep their baby in sight and use their arms to adjust the position of the wrap when necessary.

How to Execute the Front Wrap Cross Carry

  1. Find the middle of the wrap. This is probably where the tag is. If the wrap is very wide, fold it in half and keep the open side upward.
  2. Place the middle of the wrap against the chest. Keep it flat and smooth.
  3. Bring one end of the wrap around the back and over the opposite shoulder. Do the same with the other end. The wrap should be crossed in back. Try to keep it flat and smooth. Don’t twist it.
  4. Place the baby under the portion of the wrap that stretches across the chest. The baby should be right up against dad, tummy-to-tummy, with the wrap on the baby’s back and their feet sticking out the bottom. Pull the wrap tight; it should be tight under the child’s knees and high up the back to cradle the neck.
  5. Holding the baby with one hand, cross the end of the wrap over to the opposite hip, keeping it under the baby’s bottom. Switch hands and do the same with the other end of the wrap. The wrap should cross under the baby’s butt, with their feet outside, making a little harness.
  6. Take the two ends of the wrap and tie them securely behind the back or at the side. If the wrap is long enough, wrap the end around the waist one more time and tie them together in front, under the baby.
  7. Get frustrated and watch a video explanation.

Due to the length of the wrap, it tends to work with a wide variety of body styles, with little to no modification. An older child with good neck control can sit in the wrap a little higher, exercise some independence and grab dad’s glasses; a newborn can sit a little lower, where the wrap can support their neck appropriately. The ends of the wrap can also be pulled over a sleeping baby’s head, to keep them secure and block out of the light. The wrap may not be the favored way to carry a baby – that’s entirely up to personal taste – but because of its versatility and ability to be rolled into a small package, it definitely has a place in the family go bag.


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How to Clean Your Kitchen Without Poisoning Your Kid

December 28, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Cleaning the kitchen requires both using and removing extremely toxic chemicals (probably while kids skate their be-socked way across wet floors). The good news for parents is that fears of poisoning via residual cleaners that remain after wiping counters are mostly unfounded. In fact, a little bleach spray moisture on a kitchen surfacer is unlikely to do any damage when a child comes into contact with it. The bad news is that cleaning materials are bad news if kids get their hands on them or, for that matter, their mouths — kids are weird.

Making sure cleaning products are secure and out of reach is the oldest rule in the book, but it’s hard to read the book and wrangle a kid at the same time. Doing so properly requires smart decision making. So, wipe up the chemicals first or get rid of the bottles? Turns out, storing the bottles should take priority.

“Where we see the most injury and potential for issues is less with residual cleaning product left after use and more with containers or packaging remaining out,” says Dr. Michael Lynch, Medical Director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. “The concern, and where we see the most harm from chemicals, is what you would normally do to clean up and put it away, you get distracted and don’t do. Then an accident can happen faster than any of us can realize. You’re cleaning and one of your children has to go to the bathroom, so you have to help them and leave the cleaners on the counter. Distractions happen to all of us.”

How to Make Sure Kids Don’t Get Sick on Cleaners

  • Prioritize getting rid of chemical containers at all times, even if there are chemicals on the counter.
  • Be careful with chemicals packaged to resemble candy. Detergent pods, in particular, can put curious (and hungry) kids at risk.
  • Get the drain cleaner out of the kitchen. It’s dangerous.

All chemicals — including bottles marked organic, which can still be harmful when ingested or inhaled due to their oils and compounds — should ideally be kept inside a cabinet with secure child locks. Some chemicals, Lynch says, shouldn’t even be stored in the kitchen due to their extreme toxicity. For instance, he recommends keeping the drain cleaner away from the drain cleaners. Rust remover is also a culprit. It contains the same hydrofluoric acid Walter White used to dissolve bodies in Breaking Bad (which Lynch says was actually shockingly accurate).

Chemicals should also be stored in their proper packaging, which seems relatively logical, though it’s not uncommon for people to transfer some agents into different packaging, such as putting cleaners and detergents in unmarked spray or squeeze bottles or old juice containers. Some colorful detergent might not look enticing in a boring bottle. But throw some purple cleaner in a Gatorade bottle — which Lynch says happens more often than one might expect — and suddenly the leap in childish logic suddenly makes sense … it’s one step short of writing “drink me” on the bottle.

“It poses a specific danger to kids who don’t know better and go and get these purple and blue and green liquids that look interesting or like juices,” says Lynch.

Bottles aren’t the only delicious looking cleaners in the kitchen, either: Detergent pods strongly resemble candy, leading to a rise in children popping them into their mouths. They should be used one at a time: Dropped into washing machines, which should then be closed and activated.

Inhalation, too, can pose serious danger to kids in the kitchen. That includes organics, which contain oils harmful to lungs. Even more alarming is the mixing of common cleaning products can create toxic fumes, especially bleach and ammonia, which produces a noxious gas called chloramine that causes coughing, chest pains, and possibly pneumonia.

Lynch emphasizes that attentive parents can prevent catastrophe simply by keeping their wits about them, and shouldn’t stress the dangers of simply using cleaning products responsibly. “Most of these chemicals evaporate, soak in, or you wipe them away. There’s really no immediate potential for harm to a child just because a product has been used,” he says.

Still, better safe than sorry. If there’s any fear at all that a child has ingested or been affected by a chemical, parents are urged to do the same thing that the majority of ER doctors do in a situation where a chemical may have been ingested: Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or Text POISON to 797979. It’s a parental lesson repeated ad nauseam, but one that should almost become instinct, especially in an age of tasty-looking washing machine pods.

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How to Make a Good, Nutritional Lunch for Pre-K and Kindergarten Students

December 28, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Cramming an entire food pyramid’s worth of nutrition into a lunch box can be a daunting task for parents, especially given that school lunches are generally packed as the morning clock winds down and kids rampage through the house. Still, it’s possible to jam each of the food groups into a relatively appetizing (by kid standards anyway) lunch. Making that happen — and prepping age-appropriate servings — just takes a bit of planning. Still, it’s worth it. For kids, dinner is probably the actual most important meal of the day, but lunch is extremely important as well.

“Remember, lunch is brain food for the learners in school — it helps kids focus and pay attention while re-energizing their bodies for the second half of the school day,” says author, registered dietitian, and childhood nutrition expert Jill Castle. “I recommend trying to get most of the food groups into lunch, if possible, so that a blend of nutrients such as protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals are offered. This can be tough, though!”

Grains can be relatively straightforward with even the most picky eater, with bread and crackers hitting the sweet spot, while protein can include servings of anything from turkey to peanut butter. Dairy, too, is generally an easy sell for kids, with cheese sticks and yogurt widely available and easy to fit into a bag. But including both a fruit and a vegetable in a way that’s likely to result in kids actually eating either is tough. The easy way out? Dried fruit and dippable vegetables like carrot sticks (hummus is basically a protein pack). 

What that means for parents is that there are a lot of moving parts.  This is why many parents find it helpful to print off a checklist of lunch ingredients to stick on the fridge while packing. Lists like that are also helpful in creating a grocery list, allowing mom and dad a reference point so they can purchase various options for each food group when visiting the grocery store. Castle admits that it might not be possible to hit every food time every morning, but says that parents should definitely make sure that their kid is getting protein, some fruit, and a fiber-rich grain. That’s sort of the hard minimum.

How to Make a Balanced Meal a Little Kid Might Eat

  • Try to get a grain, a protein, a dairy, a fruit, and a vegetable in the lunchbox daily. When you fail, prioritize grains and toss in some appealing fruit snacks.
  • Plan ahead by making lists and using them when shopping. There are too many moving parts to just wing it.
  • Watch what the kid eats at home and try to prioritize packing foods he or she likes. Ask kids what they like if it’s not clear. Just don’t be aggressive about it as antagonism can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

It’s also important to think about what we might call, for lack of a better word, marketing. Kids are notoriously picky, which often means parents resort to hiding the food groups in more fun packaging (squeezable yogurt, fruit leathers in fun shapes, veggie packets). Thats all good, but its naive to believe that this guarantees success. Look in a cafeteria trash sometime and you’ll see plenty of yogurt spilled from packages. The truth is that kids can’t be trusted to eat what they’re given and that there’s no clear solution for this.

The one thing parents can do is monitor what their children are eating at home and try to offer items the kids actually like in the school lunch, filling in some of the nutritional gaps absent in breakfast, which they actually see the kids eating. Simply asking children what they’re eating at school, too, is a good way to figure out what’s missing in a packed lunch. But Castle cautions against grilling a kid too hard.

“I always caution parents about being too intrusive with monitoring because it may break down the communication with your child if you start the inquisition when your child comes home from school,” Castle says. “I advise keeping it positive and being aware, but not the topic of conversation all the time. Another way around this issue is to offer all food groups at all meals, and make sure snacks are nutritious and balanced, showcasing two to three food groups.”

Even the most diligent parent generally relinquishes control of their child’s diet once they’re out the door. Public school cafeterias are not much better than prison cafeterias at this point, bad meals get traded for junk food and junk food gets traded for favors. It’s not a great scene. Though they’d be right to be concerned, parents, Castle is quick to stress, still have control of what’s consumed under their own roof. Mid-day dietary disruptions can be countered with consistency at home.

“The good news is that a child’s nutritional status is not anchored in one meal. Lunch is but a small component of the daily food intake; most kids have four to five opportunities to eat throughout the day, and this allows a solid representation of nutrition and nutrients,” says Castle.”


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How to Tell a Bedtime Story That Puts Children to Sleep

December 27, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

The bedtime story is a long-establish tradition for many families. It is often (along with unsolicited requests for water and unnecessary bathroom trips) the last recourse for kids trying to escape the clutches of sleep, but, when told properly, stories can help relax children and shorten the path to slumber. For this to happen, books and even freewheeling narratives need to be presented in the context of a soothing bedtime routine, with lights turned down, no electronics nearby, little distraction. After that, it’s all about the reading.

Reading for bedtime is necessarily different than reading for fun and health. Parents should read with their kids as often as possible; it’s how kids learn to love reading and it creates a moment of what sociologists call “shared gaze,” which is great for bonding and information retention. It excites and engages them. But reading for sleep is designed to calm children down. Parents could opt for the neuro-linguist programming of The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, but an even, calm delivery can achieve the same result. So, unlike reading for fun, reading for sleep should be an affirming, repetitive experience. 

“Stories with too much action or suspense can cause children to become too invested or hyped up. They can even produce anxiety,” says Chris Brantner, a certified sleep science coach. “Not to mention that action-packed stories require the reader to change vocal tones too often, which can kill the calming mood you’re aiming for.”

How to Read a Toddler to Sleep

  • Establish a routine – turn off screens, skip sweets and turn the lights down low before bed.
  • Choose a book without twists or turns, or with low-stakes conflicts that are fully resolved by the end.
  • Read low, slow and even. The more dramatic or exciting a voice or gesture, the more energetic the child becomes.
  • Avoid LED and other stark “blue” lights for reading; orange lights are much more soothing.

Bedtimes stories that end in cliffhangers, or put the main characters in peril, are probably too exhilarating for bedtime. Low-stakes conflicts and neat resolutions can keep a child interested instead of bored, but not so excited that it’s counterproductive.

A slow, even tone – just this side of sonorous – can help a child relax. (If you want to figure out how to do this from the masters, look up ASMR videos on YouTube. Scientists have not yet proven that ASMR is a real phenomenon, but the videos are inarguably calming.) The entire process should be geared for low energy. Excited hand gestures or facial reactions can be as stimulating as an excited tone of voice. Even the kind of lighting parents use to read can affect bedtime. LED reading lights are too harsh and too blue; in addition to being bright and stimulating, they can inhibit melatonin production and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Orange light is much better to condition the body for sleep, and it’s okay to turn the lights down low – not so low that it’s a strain to read the pages, but low enough to maintain that atmosphere of relaxation.

The whole point of a bedtime routine is, well, the routine. From birth, kids learn what to expect from bedtime and sleep, and any deviation is interesting, if not downright stressful. Repetition is comforting, and comfortable kids sleep better. Just like singing a lullaby to a baby, a story for a toddler should be familiar and soothing.

“Routines are key for children,” says Bratner. “When they know what to expect, they will be more likely to behave accordingly.”


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How to Secure Your Baby’s Neck in Car Seats and Wraps

December 27, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

When strapped into a car seat or secured in a wrap, infants and young children tend to look like bobbleheads. The combination of weak neck muscles, gravity, and jostling can make children’s craniums particularly jostle-able, fraying parental nerves because it just doesn’t look right or healthy or even safe. As protectors, parents want nothing more to shield an infant’s still-developing spine from the (easily overestimated) potential damage of head flops. Fortunately, doing so is pretty simple provided parents get the right equipment, follow directions, and use caution.

An erratically bobbing head — neck craned at a seemingly unnatural angle — conjures thoughts of pinched nerves, slipped discs, and cracked vertebrae in adults. But, for children, the danger isn’t actually neck strain at all. During an infant’s early stages of vertebrate development, ligaments and tendons are extra stretchable, which explains why infants don’t really experience sprains or the like. So when a head flops side to side, it may be slightly uncomfortable for a baby and terrifying to look at, but the risk of major damage is actually minimal. It’s the forward flop — not backward or side-to-side — that can cause major issues as a result of restricted airways. If a baby’s poorly positioned in a car seat or slumped over in a forward-facing wrap or carrier strapped to a distracted parent, parents should absolutely be concerned.

Here’s the good news: car seats are designed to minimize neck movement and many wraps and carriers do so as well. The hard part, though, is ensuring babies are properly secured.

“The way the manufacturer intends car seats to be installed, there shouldn’t be a lot of head flopping forward. If you see a head falling forward in an installed seat, it’s probably installed at the wrong angle,” says Dr. Ben Hoffman, Oregon Health and Sciences University pediatrician and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention.

How to Make Sure a Baby’s Neck is Supported

  • Don’t be overly concerned about a baby’s head flopping left or right, but be hyper-vigilant about making sure a baby’s head doesn’t flop forward, restricting airways.
  • Make absolutely sure car seats are installed correctly. If they are, they should help secure children’s heads.
  • When possible, don’t let children nap or rest on an incline.


Easier said than done. Even the best car seats on the market often require a herculean effort to install, and even after hours of trying to get it right, an alarming majority of them aren’t properly installed. According to Hoffman, 80% of rear-facing car seats are installed incorrectly, and a whopping 95% of families with newborns make critical mistakes with car seats. Parents are strongly urged to get their seats checked by a certified technician. And, no, despite rumors to the contrary, firefighters cannot and should not stand in for technicians. (“Some of the most creative and frankly wrong car seat installations I’ve seen have been by well-meaning, uncertified firefighters,” says Hoffman.)

Bottom line: A properly installed car seat should prevent flop-forward injuries, but not necessarily some left-to-right and right-to-left bobbling. Parents still concerned about that can resort to the toddler equivalent of airline pillows — animal-shaped neck braces or other apparati intended to keep the head stationary — but Hoffman recommends that they don’t.

“I wouldn’t put anything around my baby’s neck, to be honest. There’s not going to be any peer-reviewed data on those things, and that’s the gold standard,” says Hoffman. “I think what happens is those things can make a parent complacent. That’s where things are going to happen, especially if there’s something around a baby’s neck.”

Keeping a baby’s head from flopping forward is also important when carrying a child in a pack or wrap. Parents need to be vigilant, especially when wearing front packs.

“Wraps and front packs are a slightly different issue than seats,” explains Hoffman. “Wear a front pack with the baby chest to chest — if the head flops back the parent should be able to cradle the baby’s head,” says Hoffman. “If the baby is under 4-6 months in a front pack facing away from the parent, there’s a much greater chance of the head flopping forward.”

In other words, parents walking around with their baby facing out are optimizing for cuteness and stranger interactions, not safety. Better to turn the kid around. Or, if not, to keep a very close eye on where their little head is at.

It all boils down to good gear and attentive parents: If a baby’s upright or even slightly inclined, that can mean a flopping head and restricted breathing. The best way to keep airways open is to use the right equipment (and to use it correctly) any time a baby might be in an inclined position — especially since babies tend to fall asleep and slump over in pretty much any situation.

“If anything, when there’s a potential for a child’s head to flop forward — whether it’s a stroller or a jogger or a swing or a bouncy chair or anything like that — make sure somebody’s paying attention,” says Hoffman. “Kids sleeping in anything angled in the first year of life … that should only happen when necessary and when there’s constant parental supervision.”

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How to Teach Children New Words By Showing Them Stuff

December 24, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Parents love nothing more than to gaze lovingly into their baby’s eyes while smiling broadly and burbling soft baby talk. That’s a good thing. Looking at a baby (and letting them look back) is developmentally important as they begin to understand the fundamentals of communication. But it’s also just as important for a parent to look away from their baby and out at the world. Because not only are babies interested in a parent’s face, they’re interested in what a parent is looking at, which helps them catalog all the things they see.

“In order to acquire words, you have to learn there’s a word out there called ‘cup,’ but then you now have to figure out which of the objects ‘cup’ refers to,” explains Dr. Celeste Kidd of the University of Rochester Kid Lab. This is known as the “mapping problem,” and Kidd notes that babies have an ingenious way to solve it. “We know that one of the primary keys that infants use to solve that problem is an adult’s eye gaze.”

Essentially, when a baby looks where an adult is looking and the adult uses a word to label what they’re looking at, the baby is able to map, or save, the association in their brain. In this way, they begin building a vocabulary. The act is called “shared gaze” and babies who exhibit a shared gaze ability early in the first year are found to understand far more words than babies who exhibit the ability later. That said, most babies are able to share an adult’s gaze by eight months of age.

Shared gaze has some important implications for parents in the age of cellphones and tablets, particularly when it comes to the phenomenon known as “phubbing,” a portmanteau of phone and snubbing. Because when a parent is beside their baby and their gaze is constantly on their device, their baby can’t share their gaze. It follows that there would be no mapping during this time. Shared gaze also has implications for the importance of reading picture books to babies. That’s because studies have shown that an infant can map objects that are in books too. “When you read books to your kids you get to jointly attend to objects you wouldn’t normally encounter in the real world,” says Kidd. “When you look at a giraffe in a book and point to it and say ‘giraffe’ it’s very clear what giraffe represents in the world.”

But Kidd notes that there are more benefits from a parent’s conscious effort to increase gaze sharing. Most notably, it requires parent and child to interact. “Babies love being attended to,” she says. “Your kid will be happier.”

There’s also a huge caveat for parents to internalize once they’ve discovered the strange wonder of gaze sharing: Just because a baby is developing their vocabulary doesn’t mean they’re somehow going to be better for it in the future.

“Everybody, eventually, acquires all the words they need to,” explains Kidd. “It’s not clear how important early acquisition of words is. Kids talk at very different rates. I would caution parents to not be too worried.”

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How to Keep a Kid from Falling Out of Bed

December 24, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Generally, experts recommend that children transition to a toddler bed between ages two and three, though some children begin escaping the crib — a prime indicator that they’re ready for a life beyond the bars — as early as 1-year old. But no matter what the bed hopping scheduling ends up looking like, kids will never stop moving. When they’re in the crib, this can result in some stubbed toes and banged up bars. When they’re in the big-kid bed, this can result in a bump in the night followed by screams. Kids fall out of bed a lot. That means parents need to take smart measures to keep their kids from hurting themselves as well as from waking up in the middle of the night.

“The older the child, the less risk there is of significant injury from falling out of bed,” says Amber Kroeker, child injury prevention program coordinator at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. “But it depends on the kind of bed they’re in.”

Whether starting the child off in a toddler bed or an adult bed, parents are strongly cautioned to make sure it isn’t so high that the kid needs a step stool to get in. After that, the best way to keep a toddler in a bed is fortifying the hell out of it. 

If there are no electrical outlets or windows along perpendicular walls, wedge the bed firmly against the wall, which reduces the number of drop-off points to two. This practice is only recommended if there is no gap between the mattress and the wall, or the gap is so tiny that the child won’t become wedged. There’s a good reason for this, too: suffocation from entrapment.

It’s logical when a gap does exist between a mattress and a wall, to want to stuff it with something soft, both to fill the space and to create a makeshift crash pad in the event of a fall. But Kroeker says that soft blankets and pillows can essentially function as quicksand, especially for a younger child who is just transitioning to a bed, or who might be too young to be alone without rails to begin with.

How to Keep a Kid from Falling Out of Bed

  • Consider holding off on the transition to a big-kid bed until a child is at least 2-years-old to minimize injury and risks related to SIDS.
  • Ease into the big-kid bed by starting a child on a crib mattress directly on the floor and work upward from there.
  • Arrange a bed so that it is against at least two walls — as long as it’s away from windows and outlets.
  • Add protective gear like toddler rails or use body pillows to act as a barrier to a child rolling off the bed.

“Kids, especially very young ones, can fall into a down comforter and eventually suffocate,” says Kroeker. “Don’t use blankets, pillows, or other things in cracks to prevent bonks. Sometimes it’s preferential that they just fall on the floor, as opposed to getting wedged between the mattress and the wall.”  She suggests thinking of it like a morbid game of Tetris. A gap between the mattress or wall could be just the right size that a young child could roll in and become trapped. That makes pushing the bed against the wall the best solution.

Barring walls, there are endless options for parents to fortify beds in order to prevent a wild sleeper from flying off the edge. Toddler rails are readily available and serve to contain a toddler from rollover falls. Parents can also get creative, lining the sides of the bed with body pillows or rolled up pillows to create the bedtime equivalent of bumper bowling (just be careful with soft stuff around babies and very young children). But, again, this is only preferable for children over the age of 2-years-old, for whom SIDS risks have diminished.   

Parents can also ease into bigger beds one step at a time, essentially training their children to stay in the designated bed space while sleeping and slowly gaining height as they learn to stay on the mattress. Start by putting the crib mattress on the ground, then gradually transition to a toddler bed. Yes, they will likely fall. But prepared parents can control the difference between a frightened boo-boo and something far worse.

“Even if the kid rolls off onto hardwood floors, they might bonk their head but that’s a very, very small concern,” says Kroeker. “If you’re concerned with a kid rolling off a toddler bed height, like 12 inches, you can get an area rug to kind of cushion that fall. But falls from that height are not super concerning. It’s equal to your child falling from standing, which they do all the time.”

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Weekend Roundup

December 23, 2017 in Family,

We’re busy with last minute shopping, baking, wrapping, and grandparents coming into town. The kids are getting more excited by the minute. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your family and loved ones as well. Things will be quiet here over the next couple of weeks as we take a little holiday break, but here are some links to explore in the meantime. FA LA LA LA LAAA! See you in 2018!

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How to Shop for Kid-Safe Soaps and Shampoos Outside the Baby Aisle

December 22, 2017 in Fatherly, Parenting

Kids have a ton of specialty products devoted to them: soap, shampoo, detergent, toothpaste – it goes on and on. Slap a picture of a cute baby on the bottle and make it smell like an angel’s heavenly breath and you’ve got yourself a new product line. Companies know this and do it all the time. But are these specialty products totally necessary? Not so much. In fact, there are plenty of products marketed to adults that are perfectly safe for children and even infants to use. There’s nothing wrong with using baby shampoo or baby soap, but don’t assume that it’s a necessity. It’s quite possible to find product that work for the whole family.

Finding a Soap for Kids and Adults

The first step to figuring out if a product is kid-safe? Looking for fragrances.

“Fragrance is one of the most common contact allergens and is best avoided on sensitive skin,” explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist and a clinical instructor of pediatric dermatology at the University of Southern California. “Many baby products are actually fragranced or scented.”

For soaps, that means fragrance-free or soap-less washes. Moisturizing soaps can also be a good match for sensitive skin. The selection of fragrance-free or gentle cleansers that don’t pop up in the baby aisle may be limited, but that’s okay – adults don’t need to use harsh soaps any more than kids or babies do, so maybe that three gallon soap pump available at the super saver’s club can serve the whole family.

Finding a Detergent for Kids and Adults

For detergents, parents should focus on the “white bottles” – dye- and fragrance-free versions of established brands. Nearly every company makes a version these days. Products like fabric softener and dryer sheets, that actually add chemicals back into clothing, should be avoided altogether. When doing laundry for a child it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. If a product is advertised by a cartoon character that is absolutely enthralled by a scent, that’s a pretty good indication it might cause a rash. And, just to be clear, those are the stakes. While there are occasional cases of more violent allergic reactions to fabric softener ingredient and the like, the worst case scenario is likely some light itching.

Finding a Shampoo for Kids and Adults

Gentle soaps or all-in-one washes are sufficient to clean babies’ scalps – they tend to not have much in the way of hair – but once those kids sport a full head of hair, adult shampoos are fine. Still, there is something to be said for that “tear free” formula because shampoos are made to be acidic, which makes eye-contact painful. Children’s shampoos aren’t actually missing an ingredient; they have extra ingredients designed to numb, dulling pain.

“Most shampoos labeled for children contain a chemical that minimizes the burning sensation if the suds run into the eyes,” says Shainhouse. “Not all adult shampoos contain this ingredient, so they might cause a bit more stinging if they get into children’s eyes.”

Finding a Toothpaste for Kids and Adults

Dental products can be hard to shop for because kids tend to be picky about certain flavors. Buy whatever toothpaste they’ll use so long as it contains fluoride, which is the thing that matters the most. Sure, kids use tiny amounts of toothpaste – before three years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a smear no bigger than a grain of rice; after three, that increases to a barely-larger pea-sized amount – but once those pearly whites pop out, fluoride-free “practice” toothpaste just won’t cut it. Fluoride has long term benefits and no discernible side effects.

Adult floss is perfectly appropriate, and children should be flossed regularly anyway, particularly once adult teeth start appearing and teeth can get crowded.

Finding a Deodorant for Kids

Precocious body odor is rare in kids, but it can happen. Body odor or excessive sweating can be symptoms of something more serious, so parents should consult with their pediatrician. A dermatologist may be able to recommend some alternatives to deodorant if a child has body odor. If the child sweats excessively and wants to use an antiperspirant, an adult version is fine (sharing it is probably not, however, a great idea). This is an example of a case where the natural product is not always better for the child’s skin; while there are no proven risks with using aluminum-based antiperspirants, natural versions can contain fragrances and botanicals that can potentially sting and irritate the skin.

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