7 Tips and Resources to Keep Your Family Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

After settling into a new school year, it’s only a matter of time until the weather starts to get cooler and cold and flu season starts. The common cold results in 22 million lost days of school for students meaning millions of days of lost learning and millions of opportunities for students to fall behind.

Regardless of how much handwashing and antibacterial gel you use, how insistent you are about taking at trip to the sink to rid little hands of germs upon setting foot into your house, or the fact that your family has gotten yearly flu shots, there is always a chance that you could get sick. Since being sick is never any fun for parents and kids alike, here are six helpful tips and resources to keep your family healthy during cold and flu season.

Teach good hygiene to keep kids healthy. Research shows that teaching good hygiene habits, such as hand washing, can help eliminate lost school days by 26 percent. The Healthy Habits Program reinforces the practice of healthy habits in helping to keep students well through three key areas of healthy habits: hand/surface hygiene, nutrition and physical activity. This collaborative effort from the PTA, National Education Association (NEA), and Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides teachers and parents with downloadable materials to help educate students and families about healthy habits through ready-to-use, standardized lesson plans, a year-long activity calendar for parents, a classroom supply list, tips on helping families and classrooms to stay and healthy, and more.

Be aware of the different illnesses that are more common among certain age groups and how they spread. The Healthy Habits Program provides helpful information about the kinds of illnesses more commonly spread among young children (ages 3-5) compared to elementary school ages and older students.

Know the difference between cold and flu symptoms. The cold and flu have some common symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes but there are also distinct symptoms of each illness. Knowing the symptoms helps parents figure out what their child has faster in order to provide relief in the form of over the counter medicine.

Have the right medicines on hand to treat symptoms. According to statistics from YourHealthAtHand.org and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), 5 out of 10 parents report that over the counter medicines have helped keep their child from missing school. Make sure that your medicine cabinet is well-stocked and has a variety of over the counter medicines for adults and kids that aren’t expired.

Know how to administer over the counter medicine safely. Often times symptoms are the worst at night and rather than desperately grabbing for whatever you might have on hand, make sure you have the right medicine to treat the symptoms and you’re administering it as directed on the Drug Facts label.

Know possible prescription drug interactions. According to OTCSafety.org, cold and flu medicines have active ingredients that are designed to treat four basic categories of symptoms including pain/fever, coughing, thick mucus, and a congested nose. Refer to this handy chart to check to make sure that what you’re giving yourself won’t interact with any prescription medication you might be taking.

Store medicine up and away. Sometimes it’s too easy for us to forget to store medicine out of reach of small hands especially when we’ve been up all night taking care of a sick child but leaving medicines out on the counter is not safe. OTCSafety.org wants to keep families safe by ensuring that everyone is storing medicines safely and practicing safe medicine disposal.

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5 Free Sites That Make Volunteering Easy

Volunteering doesn’t have to be hard. There are often many jobs that teachers, extra curricular activity leaders, and sports coaches would love to have help with. These free websites make managing, coordinating, and even polling volunteers easier so you can dedicate more time to providing assistance where it’s needed.

Parents, teachers and room moms who are coordinating activities at school, teams, Scouts and groups can use VolunteerSpot. VolunteerSpot saves time and allows ANYONE  to create a schedule of jobs or items needed and invite volunteers to sign up for a day and time with a single click or tap either through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Volunteers get a confirmation and reminder of what they’ve signed up for so they don’t forget and the organizer just has to take a look at the VolunteerSpot calendar to see what spaces are filled and by whom. VolunteerSpot invites teachers and parents to give VolunteerSpot a try for the opportunity to win $1500 for your school by pledging to volunteer in the classroom this year. Teachers can enter to win 2 iPad Minis (one for them, one for their classroom!) by agreeing to try VolunteerSpot. Enter on the VolunteerSpot site before September 15.

Room parents trying to coordinate treats for a class party will appreciate the ease of Sign Up Genius. A coordinator creates a sign up form, indicating how many of each item they need for the class party and invite parents to sign up via email. Parents will get a direct link to the Sign Up Genius form where they can indicate what they can bring among the list of items. It’s also a helpful tool for coordinating events and potlucks for clubs, groups, and sports teams too.

It’s often helpful to coordinate meals around the birth of a new baby, illness, or death in the family and Lotsa Helping Hands is a site that makes it easy for each person to know what to do and when. A calendar makes it easy to schedule and sign up for tasks such as meals, rides to appointments, and visits and reminders are sent so no one forgets. The Community Building Feature is a great one that allows caregivers to communicate with each other through message boards, sharing photos, and even sending well wishes to the family.

If your school community is small, a Facebook Group could be the perfect communication tool for parents who are also friends on the social network. It’s easy to create a private group and add individuals but if you’re not a regular Facebook user, you may forget to check the group for posts asking for help.

Looking to create a database, send out a survey, or collect information from parents or the community? Google Forms are the way to go. Google Forms can be used by teachers to establish a spreadsheet of contact information for parents, create a database of expertise among parents for Career Day, or even ask community members to weigh in on different topics of interest to the school.

Volunteer group hands together showing unity via Shutterstock

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Amazon Announces New Kindle Paperwhite Shipping September 30

The Kindle Paperwhite has been a popular eReader choice for kids and parents alike but today Amazon announced a brand new Kindle Paperwhite that will start shipping on September 30. Improvements include new display technology with even better contrast of print against the screen thanks to darker text, better touch screen that responds to the smallest touches, next generation built-in light that is less likely to cause eye fatigue by providing a great reading experience during the day and at night, and a faster processer that means books open faster and pages turn quicker. The long lasting battery reportedly lasts up to eight weeks on a single charge when the device is sued 30 minutes per day.

In addition to the great improvements, parents who are looking to purchase an eReader will find that the Kindle Paperwhite is more ergonomic than an iPad mini since it’s 30% lighter plus a lot less expensive. Paperwhites begin at $119, less than half the price of the iPad Mini that starts at $329.

The new Kindle Paperwhite will also come with new great features like Vocabulary Builder and FreeTime. The new Vocabulary Builder feature makes it easy for young readers to add new words to their vocabulary. Words looked up on Kindle are automatically added to Vocabulary Builder where kids can quiz themselves with flashcards to reinforce new word retention.

Previously available for other Kindler versions, FreeTime is a welcome addition to Paperwhite. FreeTime lets parents create personalize profiles for kids and provides them with access to titles from your collection of books. Kids are rewarded with achievement badges when they reach their goals and progress reports keep parents updated on total time spent reading, number of words looked up, badges earned, and books read.

Additional features that will be found in the newest Kindle Paperwhite include:

  • Page Flip that allows readers to skim books page-by-page, or skip through chapters without losing your place.
  • Goodreads integration to connect to the world’s largest community of book lovers to connect to like-minded readers, share recommendations and decide what to read next, straight from your book.

Image courtesy of Amazon

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7 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor While Teaching Kindness with Daniel Tiger on Neighbor Day (Sept. 2)

Every adult who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood remembers the iconic show’s theme song but the idea of being a good neighbor is an important concept that can be taught to kids at the youngest ages. What does it mean to be a good neighbor? One of the fundamental skills involved is kindness. Kindness can be taught in many ways beginning at the youngest ages but it also needs to be modeled by adults and reinforced in a variety of different ways.

To celebrate the upcoming Labor Day Neighbor Day with Daniel Tiger this Monday, September 2, PBSKids provides the following seven suggestions for families to help teach children kindness while getting to know your neighbors and neighborhood better.

  • Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt with this downloadable PDF from PBS Kids. Featuring words and icons, it’s a great tool to reinforce early literacy skills while taking a walk on the sidewalks near your home.
  • Invite some friends for a neighborhood game day and have them bring their favorite game. Things like flying kites, playing hopscotch, and jumping rope are always better with friends.
  • Have a potluck at a park or central location to spend some time getting to know each other and having a face to face conversation.
  • Create a sidewalk chalk art murals where everyone gets to exercise artistic abilities to make your neighborhood a little more colorful.
  • Arrange a neighborhood book swap/swap meet to share your family’s favorite books with others.
  • Play the Make a Card game on PBSKids.org. This interactive game gives children a way to create a card for someone they care about and helps them know that everyone in the world, young and old, is a giver and a receiver.
  • Have a Daniel Tiger’s Neighbor Day viewing party on Monday, Sept. 2. In this half hour special, Daniel learns how good it feels to be neighborly and that one kind act can lead to many. His first good deed starts a chain reaction of kindness all around the Neighborhood, culminating with the declaration of “Neighbor Day” where kids will be encouraged to do something nice for a neighbor. If you can’t wait for the special Neighbor Day episodes, episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood are available on PBSKIDS.org and the PBS KIDS Video app.

Additional activities and resources for parents can be found on the Daniel Tiger Neighbor Day website. The Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood parents site also has a lot of good advice from Mister Rogers, including an article on Fred Rogers wisdom on making friends and an article by PBS Parents about helping your child make new friends.

Image courtesy of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood © 2013 The Fred Rogers Company

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4 Ways to Save Money When Dining Out

With the hustle and bustle of school followed by after school activities, sometimes it’s easier to grab dinner out before extreme hunger hits and while going out can be more expensive than eating at home, it doesn’t have to be. But how do you know where the deals are? Surprisingly, there’s doesn’t seem to be a great iOS or Android app to help parents but tech savvy families can stick to their household budget by doing these four things to save money when dining out.

Get email alerts for daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social for restaurant deals. While the selection varies from day to day, email alerts help you stay on top of what restaurants are offering deals like half off on dining certificates.

Look for kids eat free days. Often restaurants advertise their kids eat free days and others are happy to offer up the information when asked. Another great resource is MyKidsEatFree.com that allows you to do a search based on your city and state for participating kids eat free restaurants. Since it can be hard to remember which restaurants offer free meals on various days, make a list on your smartphone to give your family some options when you need to grab a bite on the go.

Check Restaurant.com to see what area restaurants participate. Just by entering your zip code, Restaurant.com will find local eateries and you select the gift certificate amount you’d like to purchase at a heavily discounted rate. Often times $25 gift certificates to a restaurant cost $10 out of pocket. There are sometimes restrictrictions such as days of the week the certificate can be used or a minimum purchase amount but generally Restaurant.com is a great way to save a ton of money as long as you enjoy the fare at the participating restaurants in your area.

Shop for gift cards for favorite restaurants at warehouse clubs. Our local Costco has a wide variety of gift cards for restaurants in our area and while it’s a significant outlay of cash at first, generally a purchase of $80 comes with a $20 bonus gift card for a total of $100. If you easily tire of the same restaurant, purchase gift cards to one restaurant and have a friend purchase gift cards to another then split them for variety’s sake.

Daughter enjoying meal with her mother via Shutterstock

 

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