Car seats are often a confusing hassle for parents. They’re bulky and difficult to install, and let’s not even get started on coordinating them when you’re carpooling with other families. (If you’re stuck, our installation guide can help!)
Thankfully, new innovations are making car seats simpler and more convenient every year. Last week, we covered a new car seat that can protect babies from being left in hot cars. In addition, we recently got to check out the Mifold, a cool booster seat that’s currently in development and will hopefully be released by the end of the year (assuming it passes all its final US safety tests). Instead of lifting your kid up, the Mifold brings the seatbelt down to keep him safely secured. It’s about ten times smaller than a regular booster, so you can actually fold it up and tuck it into your purse or your child’s backpack (solving those pesky carpool dilemmas after school!) Plus, it’s barely visible when a child sits on it, so older kids don’t have to feel embarrassed about being in a booster seat in front of their friends. For a more in-depth look, check out this video:
Intrigued by this revolutionary new idea? Mifold is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for those who want to preorder at a discounted price. As I’m writing this, they’ve already raised over $293,000–that’s 734% of their goal. There’s the proof that parents want better, easier car seats and booster seats. Let’s hope that the manufacturers continue to come up with inventive ways to keep kids safe.
Chrisanne Grise is an assistant editor covering kids’ health at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.
My oldest son is playing on a Little League travel team this summer, and unlike the regular season, which, in my son’s division, is coach-pitched, travel team means kids face pitchers their own age. My lefty son is one of several kids on his team who will be hurling balls at batters, and that means that not only is he working his arm on game day, but he’s also practicing pitches on his own several times a week.
I’m happy that my boy has the opportunity to play different positions (he also catches and plays first base) but even at this early stage in his “career” I’m worrying about overuse injuries—in part because he isn’t involved in any other organized sports at this time, and also because two recent studies are shedding additional light on the problem. Research presented earlier this week at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found that “surgeries related to overuse elbow injuries, i.e., Tommy John surgery, are more common among young athletes than previously believed.” According to lead author Brandon Erickson, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, 15–19-year-olds made up more than half of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR), or Tommy John, surgeries performed in the United States between 2007 and 2011.
In a press release, Dr. Erickson noted, “The research numbers suggest that more young athletes believe that having an UCLR procedure performed earlier in their career may lead to the big leagues or a scholarship, even though only one in 200 kids who play high school baseball will make it to the MLB. This paradigm shift needs to be evaluated further to help prevent overuse injuries in kids from the beginning of the season when most issues arise.”
ON that note, interestingly, another new study from the AOSSM found that having surgery before college athletics may actually put young athletes at an increased risk for future injury—although this particular study found that to be the case with lower extremity surgeries, rather than an arm surgery like Tommy John. “This is the first study to look at the relationship between precollegiate surgery and future injury requiring surgery in collegiate athletes,” said lead author, Dean Wang, M.D., from the University of California at Los Angeles, in a press release. “Our results suggest that athletes injured before college might be left with a functional deficit that puts them at risk for future injury.”
Don’t get me wrong here—I’m not the sports version of a stage mom, already dreaming of an athletic scholarship for my son. And I trust that his coaches, who keep track of the kids’ pitch counts, are aware of the issue. But the findings of studies like the ones noted above have opened my eyes even more to the dangers of overuse injuries—and I’m doing everything I can to educate myself and protect my little athletes.
Erika Janes is the Digital Director of Parents.com, the mom of two sports-loving boys, and a former college athlete who managed to avoid surgery for overuse injuries.
Can you guess the leading cause of deaths in children under 10? It’s not cancer or disease. It’s unintentional injuries, and half of them happen in or around the home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the summer, kids break away from the order and control of classrooms and get the chance to let loose at home, often without direct supervision. By making your home as safe as possible, you can let your kids enjoy maximum freedom.
Nationwide Insurance partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide in hopes of preventing unintentional injuries through Make Safe Happen, an initiative that educates parents on creating safe environments.
This summer, Make Safe Happen is stopping at fairs and festivals across the country to spread the word about unsafe scenarios in the home. You can walk around in a simulated home, with each room featuring a dangerous condition, like household chemicals left in plain view or TVs that could be knocked down. With an iPad and Nationwide’s mascot, Nate the Eagle, you’ll learn how to make the space safer for your kids. Plus, you’ll get tips like how to make sure water temperatures aren’t too hot and how to make a fire escape plan. The tour will hit Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Arizona; click here for a full schedule.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital also recently teamed up with CDC experts to launch a Make Safe Happen smartphone app that helps you create a safe environment for your little ones. Safety expert Dr. Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, was inspired to develop the app after having triplets, for whom she needed to babyproof her home in a major way.
“For the first time, we began implementing the safety advice I had been giving as an injury researcher for more than a decade,” Dr. McKenzie has said. “I had the willingness to make my house safer, and the knowledge to do it. I’d been researching ways to prevent injuries in and around the home for years and gave interviews about it, so how was this still so hard?”
Dr. McKenzie has said her smartphone is the one thing she always has, which is why she figured it’d be the best tool to guide home safety measures. After entering the ages of your children into the Make Safe Happen app, you can explore room-by-room lists of safety steps. The app tracks your progress, letting you make to-do lists of how you could make your home even safer. Make Safe Happen can also set seasonal reminders, such as when to test smoke alarms or change the batteries, directly into your smartphone’s calendar. Plus, in-app links let you make shopping lists of products you might not own, like toilet seat locks, then head straight to Amazon to buy them.
“It’s fair to say that [my] triplets don’t care a whole lot about safety themselves,” Dr. McKenzie has said. “But they’ve pushed me to think about it in a different way. And I hope that the tool that my triplets inspired can help you.”
Marissa Laliberte is an Editorial Intern at Parents magazine who loves running, baking, and drinking coffee. Follow her on Twitter:@mjlaliberte
As a grade-schooler, I would climb over our backyard fence (which bordered a playground) and walk to class on my own. I usually came home for lunch, and remember bringing friends with me—sometimes without my mom being home. I wasn’t a latchkey kid by any means. I had loving, involved parents. It was simply a different era, when free-range kids were the norm and there was far less concern about stranger danger (not that the world was truly any safer, mind you).
I have no desire to return to that era of laissez-faire parenting. Still, when my 10-year-old daughter, Isabella, asked if she could start walking the three blocks to school on her own, I thought it was high time to let her. And the advice in our magazine confirmed that it was age-appropriate. First, though, I had to teach her to cross the street.
We went out on a Sunday afternoon and practiced together. I modeled how to look both ways and watch for cars that might be turning left or right into the crosswalk. I stressed the importance of waiting for the image of the pedestrian walking to light up before going—and never to cross when the red hand was showing, even if she was certain there was no traffic coming. (That was a challenging behavior to model, as New Yorkers don’t wait for an invitation to cross and constantly assert their right-of-way over cars regardless of what the lights indicate). Then I shadowed her, watching from half a block behind as she made her way home from school.
She was ready. Were we? Isabella had shown us that she deserved our trust, but how would we know she was okay? For many kids, technology is the answer: They call on their cell when they arrive safely. Only one problem: Isabella doesn’t have a phone yet. So we worked out a compromise: Once at school, she would go up to the school office and make a quick “I’m okay” call. The administrator agreed to let her—in part because she supported the idea of waiting to get her a cell.
Now I get a call five times a week from my darling daughter at 8:03 am: “Hi, I made it to school, dad.” I tell her I love her and wish her a wonderful day. And then my wife and I can rest easy. Isabella asks repeatedly if she can stop calling. The answer is no.
Still, she’s taken other noteworthy steps on the path toward independence this year. She now gets her homework done on her own before we return from the office, which has facilitated a far more peaceful evening routine. She picked out her fifth-grade science project (pictured) on her own, recruited and tested subjects without our help, and put the whole thing together with minimal help. Heck, she even got it done early. She has also started going for “out lunch” on Fridays with friends, a lesson not only in independence but also, we hope, in money management ($12 doesn’t go as far as you’d think, especially in Manhattan).
Recently, she got her ears pierced. My wife wanted to wait until Isabella showed she was responsible enough to clean her own ears three times a day for eight weeks so as to prevent infection. But Isabella had proved herself in other areas (including street-crossing), so she got her wish. True to her word, she has cared for them properly, and has only one more week to go.
I can’t claim that there aren’t areas in need of improvement. Isabella needs to be reminded to change the empty toilet paper roll and (sometimes) to set the table. We’re still working on life skills like fetching her own snack and sorting her own laundry.
Even so, she’s come a long way this year, and her graduation from elementary school is more than a formality. My baby is growing up. She’ll keep making strides toward independence during middle school, and we’ll gradually have to learn to let go.
This guest blog is from Glenn S. Fleisig, Ph.D., research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute.
You can hardly look at the sports headlines today without seeing that another star pitcher has blown out his elbow and is heading for the dreaded “Tommy John surgery,” which will sideline him for at least a year and perhaps curtail his career. Roughly 25 to 30 major league pitchers have the surgery every year, and one out of four has had it during his career.
This may naturally lead parents to wonder whether baseball is a dangerous sport—not just for pros, but for our kids.
The answer: Absolutely not. Baseball is a great sport and generally a safe one, especially when the proper guidelines are followed. Based upon nearly 30 years of research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, my colleagues and I have identified key factors for pitchers to minimize their risk of injury.
Last year Major League Baseball (MLB) formed a task force of medical and scientific experts, including me, to look at pitching injuries and take action to make the sport safer. The first thing we found was that Tommy John elbow injuries are indeed on the rise in pro baseball. Our opinion was that these injuries to “the big boys” are directly connected to a sharp rise in elbow and shoulder injuries among adolescent pitchers. Our task force concluded that the best way to prevent pitching was to make recommendations for all levels of baseball—from youth leagues on up to the Majors. MLB then teamed up with USA Baseball to launch a new initiative, including a website of recommendations, called Pitch Smart.
One of its key components is recommended limits for pitch counts and rest between pitching outings. The frequency and amount of pitching has been scientifically proven to be a key factor in determining who gets hurt versus who stays healthy. So kids 8 and under should be limited to a maximum of 50 pitches followed by two full days of rest before pitching again, while 9- to 10-year-olds should max out at 75 pitches, followed by four off days for recovery. (The limits gradually increase as a player gets older.)
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
Pitch Smart provides a number of other safety recommendations that center on what to do to protect your child’s arm: avoid pitching with arm fatigue, avoid pitching on multiple teams (like a traveling and a school team) with overlapping schedules, and avoid playing both pitcher and catcher (since these two positions put the most stress on the arm). Young pitchers should also wait to throw curveballs and sliders and take at least a four-month break each year from competitive pitching.
Prevention of arm overuse is more important now than ever before. When I was a kid many moons ago, my brother Wayne (a current member of Parents board of advisors) and I would play sports with our friends year-round. Sometimes it was organized play, like the school baseball team or the town soccer league. More often than not, though, it was simply free play with friends in the neighborhood.
Clearly times have changed. No longer do most young kids wander out with the simple instructions from Mom and Dad to “Be home by dinnertime” or “Be home by dark.” Free play has been replaced by organized, adult-supervised activities including travel teams and private lessons. Although the current system was created with the best intentions, it has significantly increased the risk of overuse injuries.
It’s exciting to see how many organizations, coaches, and parents are turning to Pitch Smart for guidance. The idea behind it is straightforward and logical: Let your kids be kids. Let them play baseball and many other sports, get physical activity, and have fun—while staying healthy, so they can stay on the field.
Glenn S. Fleisig, Ph.D., is the research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute. He is an advisor for Major League Baseball, USA Baseball, Little League Baseball, Motus Global, and MomsTEAM Institute.