Author Archive

Smart Exercise for Kids

Monday, July 8th, 2013

 

Even though kids have more free time in the summer, they often exercise less—especially if it’s sweltering outside. This is the perfect time to check out Adventure to Fitness, an educational fitness DVD program. The 30-minute animated episodes have been a hit with more than 75,000 teachers, who use them with their students. Now they are available for families—and are sold either as individual DVDs or streaming video. Each episode—such as Chinese Challenge, Colonial Chaos, and Serengeti Stampede—takes kids on a journey around to globe or back in time to learn cool facts about history, animals, the environment, and nutrition. Kids can keep both their minds and bodies active while school’s out!

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Tags: | Categories: Health & Safety, Time for Fun, Your Child

Just Saying No to Junk Food

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Even when you want to eat more healthy food as a family, it can feel like an uphill battle. There is so much “kid food” available everywhere, and our children are served snacks and sweets at school, friend’s houses, and soccer games. The new e-book, Bite This! Your Family Can Escape the Junk Food Jungle and Obesity Epidemic, was written by Haim Handwerker, Eileen Katz, and Katherine Weber, who met at their children’s school and discovered that they shared a similar desire to return to “real food.” Even if you have chicken fingers in your freezer (like I do), the authors will inspire you to realize that making smarter choices is easier than you think.

Check out the ideas for throwing together simple meals and snacks from an inventory of healthy basics like rotisserie chicken, plain yogurt, quinoa, eggs (“the new black”), chick peas and spaghetti squash. The book (only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and PDF) has attitude, and the authors want you to get one too. It urges you to be informed, be engaged, be intentional, and persevere.

 

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New Improvements for Child Care

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

In a welcome piece of good news from Washington today, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed major new regulations to help protect children in child care centers and family child care homes. “Many children already benefit from the excellent care of high-quality child care providers who are meeting or exceeding the proposed requirements,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “However, too many children remain in settings that do not meet minimum standards of health and safety. These basic rules ensure that providers take necessary basic steps to shield children from avoidable tragedy.”

I met recently with parents whose children had died in child care because these types of regulations did not exist. These parents have been working to help make sure that a similar tragedy wouldn’t happen to other families, and their advocacy has paid off. Child Care Aware of America has led the charge for safety and quality improvements, and we’ve been privileged to partner with them on their efforts. Most parents would be shocked to learn about the current minimal standards.

For all child care providers who accept federal funding through the Child Care and Development Fund, the new regulations would require:

  • Health and safety training in certain areas
  • Compliance with state and local fire, health and building codes
  • Comprehensive background checks (including fingerprinting)
  • On-site monitoring

States would also have to post information online for parents about health, safety, and licensing. The proposed regulations will be open for public comment for 75 days.

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New Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free Cookbook

Friday, May 10th, 2013

I am lucky not to have any food allergies, but I still want to make so many of the delicious-sounding recipes in Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Simply Allergy-Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week. Just looking at the gorgeous photos in the book, you’d never know that ever recipe is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. Author of the blog My Allergy Free Life and owner of the online allergen-free bakery Betsy & Claude Baking Company, this busy mom of two girls has multiple food allergies. She says, “I like to think of these recipes as the little black dress of my pantry—simple and economical fare that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”

She shows you how to use (and where to buy!) key ingredients like xanthan gum, agave nectar, superfine rice flour, powdered vanilla rice milk, and sorghum flour, which can make gluten-free and allergen-free foods taste like “the real thing.” The recipes I can’t wait to try include chicken tikka burgers, chickpea French fries, beef tostadas, corn quinoa salad, herbed biscuits, and chocolate pretzel pie. Yum!

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Speaking Honestly About Children’s Mental Health

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

It’s been said that “a mother is only as happy as her least happy child,” and it’s so true that children’s mental health affects the whole family. If your child suffers from anxiety or depression or ADHD, you want to get her the best treatment just like you would if she had diabetes or asthma or cancer. And yet, stigma still does exist, and can get in the way of addressing a child’s problem. In our recent survey of more than 1,600 parents conducted in partnership with the Child Mind Institute, 48% said they think parents are to blame for children who exhibit disruptive behavior.

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, there has been a call for improved mental health care—and mental health advocates are seizing this opportunity to talk about the importance of effective diagnosis and treatment. Indeed, our survey found that 60% of parents are concerned that kids who have a mental illness like Asperger’s Syndrome or depression are more likely to hurt themselves or others, and 61% of parents said that parents of children with mental health problems should not be allowed to have a gun in their home. However, the truth is that most violent crimes are not actually committed by people who are mentally ill, and kids with mental health issues can grow up to lead happy, productive lives when they get proper care.

“The Newtown shooting has lead to a national conversation about mental health—not just to prevent potential violence, which is very rare, but to prevent suffering, which is very common and often very treatable,” says Parents advisor Harold Koplewicz, M.D., president of the Child Mind Institute. “What we hope will come from the tragedy is openness that starts in each family and community, when we acknowledge our worries about our own children, and help make other parents feel safe enough to speak up about their worries, too.”

One piece of good news from our survey: 66% of respondents do believe that parents are now more likely to seek help if their child’s behavior worries them. We’ve also been encouraged to learn that an increasing number of pediatricians now have mental-health professionals working right in their office. Not only does that make access to care easier, but it sends a message that mental heath is just as important as physical health.

You can participate in the Speak Up For Kids campaign and learn more from the online events being hosted by the Child Mind Institute in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

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Keep Children Safe in Child Care

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Earlier this week, I was honored to participate in a panel discussion at Child Care Aware of America’s Policy Symposium about the important role that parents play in advocating for improved safety and quality standards in child care centers and family child care homes. Vicky Doughterty (pictured with me), of Pennsylvania, shared her story of how her 17-month-old son, Warren, died after suffocating in an outdated and defective crib at a family child care home. Vicky has become a passionate advocate to help prevent other families from suffering a similar tragedy: Pennsylvania state law does not require that child-care providers have inspections before becoming licensed, and inspections of family child care homes are only conducted for a random sample of 15 percent of registered homes each year.

Kim Engelman’s 13-month-old daughter, Lexie, died as the result of an accident when she was left unsupervised in a child care home. Shocked to learn about the lack of regulations in her state, Kim fought for the passage in 2010 of Lexie’s Law in Kansas, which includes comprehensive safety and quality requirements. Certainly, caregivers can be loving and trustworthy, but they also need proper training and guidelines to follow.

Read our article, The Child-Care Crisis to learn more about how you can help improve child care for all children, and send a letter to your members of Congress as they consider reauthorizing the Child Care & Development Block Grant and strengthening minimum protections for children.

Child Care Aware just released its latest rankings of states’ child care regulations and oversight. Only 16 states address the basic health and safety requirements recommended by pediatricians. See your state’s ranking.

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Improve Child Care For All Kids

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Child care often costs as much as college tuition, and 87 percent of Parents readers who use child care told us that finding affordable quality care is either a challenge, very hard, or simply impossible. The facts in our recent article, “The Child Care Crisis,” are eye-opening.

Although we’ve heard a lot about our “do-nothing Congress,” watching this video of a Senate subcommittee hearing about child care gave me some hope. The Chairwoman, Democrat Barbara Mikulksi, and the ranking Republican, Richard Burr, had nothing but kind words for each other. They both said that it was time to make improvements to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the legislation that authorizes Federal subsidies to states for child care, which hasn’t been updated since 1996. “It is absolutely crucial that we make a national commitment that safe and quality child care is available everywhere,” Senator Burr insisted.

After all, no matter what party you’re in, children should be a priority. As Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said recently: “The worst time to work together on a bipartisan basis is right before an election. The best time to work on a bipartisan basis is right after an election.”

Parents is partnering with Child Care Aware of America on a letter-writing campaign to advocate for new standards like these that will protect children at child-care centers and in family day-care homes:

  • Comprehensive background checks for all caregivers
  • At least 40 hours of initial training and 24 hours of annual training for caregivers in health/safety and child development
  • At least one unannounced inspection per year
  • Required state license for all centers and day-care homes of any size
  • Results of inspections and violations posted online
  • Quality rating systems for centers and homes in every state
  • An increase in the percentage of federal funds reserved for quality improvement

Please click here to send a letter to your members of Congress!

Photo courtesy of Child Care Aware of America

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Pumpkin Fun

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

My 7-year-old daughter got a real kick out of making the Witch Pumpkin from our October issue! She was determined to do almost all of it by herself, and decided that the hair should be orange and black instead of green, as it was in the magazine. She still needs to add the gold buckle to the hat, but she can’t wait to put the pumpkin outside our door on Halloween so all our neighbors can see it. She loved the adhesive glittery craft foam used to make the face—it’s going to be a new craft staple in our house. Watch a how-to video here, and get more easy Halloween craft and decoration ideas here.

 

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Tags: | Categories: Crafts, Holidays