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Backpack Safety 101

As kids go back to school, it’s time for a review of backpack safety. Heavy or improperly worn backpacks can cause pain and injury.

What Type of School Bag is Safest?

The best backpack distributes weight evenly, comes with wide, padded straps, and contains compartments. Messenger bags, tote bags, purses, and briefcases are less ideal because they do not distribute weight evenly. Bags with wheels may not be allowed at your child’s school, and they still need to be lifted when your child climbs stairs or boards the school bus. Look for a lightweight backpack with adjustable padded straps.

Backpack Dos and Don’ts

Do organize items in the backpack so that large, heavy textbooks are closest to the spine.

Do weigh your child’s backpack. It should not exceed 10-15% of your child’s body weight, depending on their strength and build.

Do check your child’s posture while carrying the backpack. If they are arching their back or slouching forward, it might be too heavy.

Do teach your child about organization and planning. They should not be bringing every book home with them every night. Have them write their homework assignments down in a lightweight planner and teach them to take home only what they need.

Don’t sling backpacks over the shoulder. This can cause muscle strain in the shoulders, neck, upper back, and lower back.

Don’t let the backpack sag, as this can strain muscles. Tighten straps so the middle of the back and the abdominal muscles are doing the work.

Do talk to your child’s teacher if you follow all these tips and still have concerns about backpack weight. They may be able to adjust homework assignments.

Proper backpack use prevents spinal compression. Do backpack checks periodically throughout the school year to make sure your child hasn’t accumulated unnecessary items.

Posted in Blog on August 16th, 2017

Laws to Prevent Hot Car Deaths

Parent and caretaker education is our greatest tool when it comes to preventing hot car deaths, especially in Arizona. Still, two preventable deaths have occurred so far this summer. Child welfare advocates have proposed laws written to help parents avert tragedy. Here are two:

HB 2494: Passed, in effect August 9th, 2017

This bill protects Good Samaritans from being sued for damaging a vehicle, if the damage is a result of rescuing a child or pet trapped in a hot car. The person must believe the child or pet to be in imminent danger, and must make sure the car doors are locked before they are legally authorized to break the windows. They must also call the authorities before causing property damage.

If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 so that medical responders can arrive as soon as possible. If you determine that you have to break a window to rescue the child, break the glass furthest away from the child to avoid injury. Then, by law and for safety’s sake, stay with the child until authorities arrive. If the child is alert, offer them water. If the child is not alert, dab their skin with cool water (not ice).

S.1666: HOT CARS Act of 2017, Introduced July 27

This proposed law would require car manufacturers to install back seat alarms in vehicles, which would alert drivers to the presence of passengers in the back seat. Like seat belt sensors, weight would activate the alarm and reduce the chance of drivers accidentally forgetting a child in the car. The law would also outline sanctions for caregivers who ignore the alarm.

The death of a child due to being left in a car devastates parents and families. While we wait for progress on S.1666, it’s a good idea to come up with your own system to remind yourself that your child is with you in the car. For example, you can place a teddy bear in the passenger’s seat, or loop a lanyard around your interior door handle. And never leave your child in a hot car, not even for a few minutes.

Do you have a system for remembering your little passengers? Share in the comments below.

Posted in Blog on August 10th, 2017

Food Safety Tips for Summer Grilling

Did you know foodborne illnesses increase during the summer? It’s the peak of grilling season in the U.S. You might be hitting backyard pool parties around Phoenix, or you might be visiting family out-of-state. Either way, outdoor meals require you to be even more mindful of food safety. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Raw Temperature

At the market, pick out meat, chicken and seafood items last so that they stay cool for as long as possible. Refrigerate the items until you are ready to cook them. If you are marinating items, let them marinate in the refrigerator.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

When checking out at the store, place proteins in separate plastic bags. Wash your hands, utensils and all prep/cook surfaces before and after using them. Discard any sauces or marinades that have touched raw meat. Use different cutting boards for different types of food, such as meat, fruits/veggies, and poultry.

Cooked Temperature

Check this guide to proper cook temperatures for different types of protein. Don’t leave cooked food out too long. You should store leftovers in the refrigerator no more than an hour after cooking when it’s over 90 degrees out.

Dairy, Fruit and Veggies

Wash fruits and vegetables before prepping or serving. Dairy-based salads, fruits, and vegetables should be kept cool in a refrigerator or well-insulated cooler. When serving, do not keep the food out for more than an hour.  Consider serving perishable foods indoors if you are able to keep the room significantly cooler than the outside.

Beverages

In addition to keeping drinks cool, bring a marker to mark cups and water bottles to help avoid “sharing” pathogens.

As always, don’t forget to hydrate and use sun protection! Check our guide to pool safety for backyard pool parties. Have fun!

Posted in Blog on July 25th, 2017

Free Sunscreen Dispensers Improve Public Health

According to the CDC, fewer than 15% of men and 30% of women wear sunscreen on their exposed skin. This is bad news for preventing skin cancer and painful burns. Children are more sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays, so it’s especially important to practice sun safety. Because children learn by example, and because your health also matters to your children, parents need to wear sunscreen, too.

Free Sunscreen Dispensers in East Coast Cities

Citylab reports that free sunscreen dispensers have been popping up from Boston to Miami. They’re funded by community organizations, nonprofits on an anti-cancer mission. As a public health initiative, these dispensers are comparable to hand sanitizers in public buildings or wipes available for shopping carts.

What do these East Coast cities have to do with Phoenix? Well, skin cancer rates have been increasing nationwide over the past decade, except for in the Northeast, where prevention efforts like these are credited with the reduced instances of cancer. It’s worth looking into public health initiatives in the Southwest.

Sunscreen Dispensers in Phoenix?

Although you should apply sunscreen before even going outdoors, it’s often an afterthought. Public availability serves as a reminder, and supplies sunscreen for those who forgot to put it on at home. So far, we haven’t seen free sunscreen dispensers in Phoenix. One of the challenges is the heat, since sunscreen will degrade at temperatures above 77 F.

If you encounter any dispensers in Phoenix, please let us know! If you travel down to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, you can find sunscreen dispensers in the restrooms.

For now, shop for sunscreens rated with an SPF of 30 or higher. Try products until you find one you’re most likely to put on every day. Make sure you store sunscreen properly and throw it away if it’s no longer effective.

Posted in Blog on July 20th, 2017

Summer Road Trip Health and Safety Tips

Gas prices are relatively low, and many families will be hitting the road instead of booking flights for their summer vacation plans. Whether you’re just driving from point A to point B or making a vacation out of the journey itself, keep these safety tips in mind.

Driver Distraction

Navigating unfamiliar roads has only become easier as GPS apps become more accurate and more widely available. Still, have a navigator who isn’t driving ready to read off directions, change the route, or check the ETA. Assign a designated texter to respond to any messages you might get while driving.

Driver Fatigue

When driving a long distance, it’s recommended to take at least a short break every 4 hours. Try not to drive during hours when you would normally be sleeping, and don’t rely on caffeine or other tricks like blasting the AC to stay awake. If you are too tired to stay alert, the only safe option is to pull over and get some rest.

Proper Seatbelt Use

During a road trip, sleeping passengers are not uncommon. Kids should fall asleep in a seated position with the seatbelt on properly. Teach them how to recline the chairs and use pillows so that they can nap without compromising either the lap belt or the shoulder belt.

Securing Pets

Unsecured pets can become dangerous projectiles when a vehicle stops suddenly. In a crash, it’s unlikely they’ll survive the impact, and they could cause injuries if they hit another passenger or the windshield. Check out this guide for options to secure your pet safely in the car.

Teen Drivers

If your teen is legally allowed to take the wheel, you might consider handing over the keys. A responsible teen can relieve parents who have been driving for a long shift and need a break. For younger teens with a learner’s permit, a road trip can help fulfill driving hour requirements. Make sure you know the laws in each state regarding teen drivers, and go over your expectations with them.

When you drive with your family this summer, take the opportunity to set a positive, focused, defensive driving example. More than anything else, this will encourage safe driving behavior in your kids.

Posted in Blog on July 12th, 2017

Why You Should Keep Regular Bedtimes, Even During Summer

Summer creates a break from routine. It’s not unusual for kids to sleep in and stay up late compared to the school year. Unless you have to wake your kids up for childcare before you go to work, it might not seem important to keep a regular bedtime. However, for young children and any child experiencing rapid growth, irregular sleep can adversely affect mood and behavior.

Researchers in the UK concluded that irregular bed times lead children between the ages of 3-7 to experience symptoms similar to jet lag.  Children who aren’t well-rested are more likely to be hyperactive, cranky, or socially inappropriate. Parents find this out themselves, but it is nice to have our experiences backed by research.

Interestingly, putting a child to bed at different times each night had more of an effect than going to bed late at the same time each night. Before the teen years, children experience increased melatonin levels as soon as natural light starts to fade, making the ideal bed time around 8pm. If your family’s schedule requires you to push it later than that, it’s best to stick with the same bed time each night, rather than trying to put the child to bed early sometimes and late the rest of the time.

Bedtime routines signal to your child that it’s time to settle in for the night. These signals occur at a neurological level: by turning off bright lights, electronics and screens, you assist the biological clock. (In fact, if you have trouble falling asleep at night, dimming the lights and turning the screens off 30 minutes before bed helps adults, too.)

For older children and teenagers, it’s difficult to enforce regular bedtimes. Teenagers naturally stay up late and sleep in. You might not be able to prevent this, but you can still set some rules to keep night owls safe and healthy. Establish curfews, set rules for Internet use, remind them that other people in the household need a full night’s sleep too, and consider encouraging them to get a summer job or internship that requires a regular wake-up time.

Posted in Blog on July 5th, 2017

Backyard Kiddie Pool Safety

If your little one loves bath time, he or she will love splashing around in the giant tub we call a kiddie pool. With these simple tips, your baby can play safe and cool off in a plastic or inflatable kiddie pool well into toddlerhood.

1. Protect babies from the sun with age-appropriate, high SPF sunscreen, a hat, and a swim shirt. You could also place the pool in the shade to further protect them from the sun and prevent overheating.

2. Use fresh, clean water every time you use the pool. Remember, kiddie pools aren’t equipped with filters or chemical treatments that kill bacteria.

3. Rinse the pool after each use and wipe it down with disinfectant.

4. Do not let kids drink the water. If your child is old enough to drink water, provide a bottle or sippy cup to help them stay hydrated. Don’t let the mouthpiece get in the pool water.

5. Carry your kids or have them wear slip-on shoes to and from the pool to keep their feet clean. This also protects them from stepping on something sharp in your yard.

6. Give children a bath before they get in the kiddie pool. It seems counterintuitive, but good hygiene prevents bacteria from spreading in untreated water.

7. Make sure they use the potty before play time. Encourage bathroom breaks. If your child is in diapers, make sure they are wearing watertight swim diapers.

8. Remember children (and adults, for that matter) can drown in shallow water. Supervise children around water at all times.

9. Store the pool and pool toys in a safe place to prevent damage to the pool. You don’t want brittle plastic, or for the pool to deflate during play time. Proper storage prevents drowning, too. Leaving toys in the water can lead to children deciding to play in the pool by themselves.

10. As with bath water, check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot or cold. Hoses left out in the sun will run hot at first before they start spraying cold water. Babies and young children can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as we do, so don’t let it get too cold.

Kiddie pools are inexpensive. They provide relief in the hot summer months, and an opportunity for you to practice pool safety with very young children.

Posted in Blog on June 23rd, 2017

Playing Outside in Phoenix During Summer

Technology, hot weather, and busy families all make it difficult for kids to simply play outside during summer break in Phoenix. Whether you have a backyard pool or visit a community pool, swimming time is limited by your ability to supervise the pool area. You want to avoid heat-related illnesses, and you might have summer camp and vacation plans. Add that to the lure of devices, required summer reading and generally busy schedules and summer vacation flies by.

Yet playing outside remains an important part of raising healthy kids. Here’s how you can help your kids enjoy the benefits of outdoor play.

Play During Cooler Times of Day

Little kids tend to get up early. Conveniently enough, we experience the coolest temperatures early in the morning. Even when heat lingers long after dusk, morning temperatures remain more tolerable.

Play Safely at Night

Sundown doesn’t have to mean it’s time to come in. If your kids play in the yard, make sure areas are well-lit. By evening, playground equipment and surfaces have had some time to cool off. Use flashlights and reflective gear if you are walking or biking anywhere. As always, practice traffic safety.

Some family-friendly locations plan evening activities for kids and their guardians. For example, the Desert Botanical Garden offers flashlight tours during the summer.

Go Jump in a Lake (Or On One)

Water recreation abounds in the Phoenix area. Depending on the location, you can hike, bike, rent boats, fish and/or swim. Be sure to check the rules at each location:

Tempe Town Lake 

Riparian Preserve in Gilbert

Saguaro Lake

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Canyon Lake

With a little planning and appropriate precautions, you can make outdoor play a healthy part of your summer routine. Always practice sun safety and know the signs of heat exhaustion. If you’d rather play in the air conditioning, check out our list of indoor activities in Phoenix.

Posted in Blog on June 21st, 2017

Escape the Heat This Summer in Phoenix: Indoor Edition

Keeping your kids active during the summer in Phoenix can be challenging. You want them to play outside, but you don’t want them to suffer the effects of extreme heat.

Thankfully, the Phoenix metro area has no shortage of indoor options for those of us who don’t have a pool, or who simply want to escape into some air conditioning. Here are just some ideas:

Indoor Playgrounds

Located in shopping centers and malls, these provide an environment for kids to socialize and blow off steam. They generally charge admission, but you can often get a frequent visitor pass.

Public Libraries

Our public library systems offer more than just story time (though story time keeps the mind active, which is also important!). From science presentations to martial arts and yoga classes, check your local library for a list of free programs.

Indoor Mini-Golf

With several locations around the valley, mini golf gets your kids on their feet to practice putting.

Trampoline Parks

For vigorous exercise that’s fun for all ages, a trampoline park is the place to go. Talk to your kids about safety and check the facility to prevent injuries from falling.

Indoor Rock Walls and Rope Courses

Climbing builds strength and teaches kids to overcome challenges. Find a facility with seasoned instructors and up-to-date safety equipment.

Phoenix Museums

Downtown areas in and around Phoenix feature a variety of museums to explore. Walking around a museum can clock a lot of steps, and children’s museums allow kids to play.

Posted in Blog on June 14th, 2017

How to Prevent the Summer Slide

Summer learning loss results in students forgetting weeks to months of reading and math curricula. Teachers spend weeks making up for the summer slide by reviewing material, instead of progressing to build on grade level knowledge. Some school districts throughout the country have done away with summer break altogether in order to improve academic retention.

However, old habits die hard. Summer vacation arose from the need for children to help their families with farm labor. Like Daylight Savings, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us. But, since we do have summer vacation, by all means enjoy it! Keep these tips in mind to reduce the summer slide effect:

Keep Reading

Summer reading programs have been shown to improve outcomes for students. Phoenix Public Library offers incentives for summer reading. Reading with younger children instills a love of reading while helping them practice and improve language skills. For all ages, reading engages attention without the overstimulating effect of screen time.

Keep Exploring

Speaking of the library, check your local branch for culture passes. Visit local indoor and outdoor destinations. Let your kids use summer as an opportunity to learn new skills and subjects. Got a gamer? Explore programming. Strike a balance between scheduling activities and allowing free play.

Keep Learning

If you’re going on a trip this summer, educational workbooks are one way to pass the time in the car, train or plane. There’s no shortage of educational games, from the oldschool, portable BrainQuest to the wealth of mobile educational game apps you can download on your phone or tablet. When it comes to educational games, just make sure the games have value as more than just a distraction.

Keep Moving

This one is difficult, but not impossible. Plan activities to make sure you don’t give in to the heat wave’s lulling effect. With little ones, you can put on some music and dance. You could take early morning walks, sign up for classes, or plan outings. Exercise has positive effects on mental health and cognition, which is one of the reasons why teachers defend recess and P.E.

Keep Up with Healthy Habits (And Form New Ones)

In addition to exercise, a healthy diet and regular bedtimes improve cognition. Additionally, consider teaching kids how to do age-appropriate household tasks. For example, you can teach them how to plan and prepare healthy meals.

Posted in Blog on June 7th, 2017