Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Baby's First Birthday

When your children are first born, it is hard to think about them growing up. When my son was born, I wished that he would stay a little baby forever. Most women I know hope the same thing. But, before we know it, out babies are crawling, sitting up, talking, and walking. And then, right before out eyes, they turn into toddlers. Although it is kind of sad, it is a great thing to see your baby hitting all of his milestones, and watching him grow. My favorite thing about my son growing from a baby to a toddler was his first birthday. A first birthday is the most special birthday of all, I think. It is a time to celebrate the first year of your baby's precious life, all of his milestones, and especially a time to celebrate that your family has gotten through the time alive! When you are planning the party, there are a lot of small preparations to make, and the planning may get overwhelming, but all you have to do is take a deep breath and finish with your plans. This is a once in a lifetime party, and you will want to make it as great as you can, not only for your child, but for your whole family.

The first thing you should do when you are planning your baby's first birthday party is make a guest list. When you are making your guest list, there are a few things to think about. The first is the location that you are hosting your party. Make sure that there is enough room to fit all of your guests that you want to invite. If your party is in the summer, you may want to think about having the party somewhere outside. If you do have an outside party, there will be a lot of room for children to run around, and if they spill anything, it will not stain the grass! If you do have an inside party, make sure that the area you have will not be crowded and also make sure that there is enough seating for everybody to sit if you have food at the party. Nobody likes to stand and eat.

After you have made your guest list and decided where you are going to have the party, it is time to send out the invitations. On the invitations, write the time the party begins and ends, and if you are going to have food, write it on the invite as well. Some parents like to open presents with their child after all of the guests have left, and if you are going to do that, write that on the invitation as well. Parents do this sometimes because a young child can get overwhelmed with so many people looking at him, and then he might just scream and cry. Other people do this so that the other children at the party do not feel left out. If you decide to let your child open his presents and there are a lot of other children at the party, you might want to think about having little gift bags for the other children. You do not have to spend a lot of money on them, dollar store gifts will do. Children will be happy with any small toy. This will ease the tension for the small children and you.

A lot of people decide to have a cake for their guests, but also a small cake for their child. It is a tradition for a baby to eat their first birthday cake with their hands, and they usually make a huge mess. If you let your baby do this, take a lot of pictures! I remember when my son had his own first birthday cake; he smashed the cake with his hands and then set the whole cake on the ground next to him, and placed the empty plate on top of his head. We have a great picture of him in his birthday outfit wearing the empty plate on his head!

If you want to make your child's first birthday party special, you might want to think about hiring something like a clown, a pony, or someone who puts on a magic show or a puppet show. If your child is scared of something, make sure you do not hire it for his party! But, if you do hire entertainment, not only will your child have fun, but all of the children at the party will remember it for a long time. If you are having a big party, you might also want to think about hiring a caterer for the food. You can also recruit a teenager to help you stay and clean up after the party.

Since your child's first birthday is a very special and important day, make sure to take a lot of pictures. It is a time that you will want to remember for the rest of your life. With the pictures you can make scrapbook pages, put them in a picture album, or turn them into your Christmas cards. Remember to save a few for your child's baby book.

Share your child's first birthday with family and friends who you love and people that are an important part of your baby's life. Have a great time and if the party does not turn out exactly the way you planned, do not worry about it. Just have as much fun as you can!

Picking the Right Doctor for Your Baby

Many new mothers are overwhelmed at the idea of picking the right doctor or pediatrician for their new baby. When your baby is first born, there will be many things to think about, but picking the right doctor or pediatrician is a decision that you will make that will affect your baby for the rest of his childhood years. My son was scared of his doctor at first, but now that he is two, he does not scream and cry every time we go to see his doctor. My son's doctor would hold my son for a few moments before starting to take his temp or anything like that, and it seemed to help my son calm down. Now that he is older, he trusts his doctor, and actually likes him!

When I was searching for the right doctor for my son, I was scared that I would pick a horrible doctor who was mean to my child and would not listen to the worries of a new mother. I ended up picking my own family doctor as my son's doctor. I like my doctor, and he is the one who was with me from the day I found out that I was pregnant. He is also the one who delivered my son. I figured that he knew me and my baby best, and I knew that he would answer any questions that I had, not matter how silly they sounded.

Although you will want to pick someone that you trust and like as your baby's doctor or pediatrician, do not base your attitude towards the doctor on things you have heard from other people. Somebody may tell you certain things about a doctor that do not sound good to you, but give the doctor a chance if you have heard some good things about him or her. Choose somebody that you get a good vibe from, and that your baby seems to like. If your child is screaming and crying and does not want anything to do with the doctor, you might want to think about taking your child to someone else. Although, if your child has just got a shot from his doctor, or being poked and prodded from the doctor, it is most likely that any child will cry while this is happening, no matter who is doing it to him.

When you are pregnant, you can start making appointments to meet different doctors and pediatricians for your future child. This way, you can get to know your baby's doctor before trusting your child in his hands. If you make an appointment like this, you should make a list of questions to ask the doctor to make the appointment fast and efficient. Pediatricians are very busy, so try not to take a lot of time. Only ask important questions during your first visit. Some questions you may want to ask are if he will make emergency appointments to see your child if he is very ill or seriously hurt. You may also want to ask how long he has been a doctor, and how long he has been around young children. Sometimes, it may be better to pick a young doctor that is open to new ideas, instead of a doctor who has been practicing for many years and is stuck in his ways. It can also go the other way around. An older doctor will most likely be able to tell when something is serious and when something is not, especially if he has been deciding these things for most of his life. A young doctor might make you feel like you have to second guess his decisions.

If you have decided on a doctor for your baby, and you decide sometime down the road that he is not the right doctor for your child for some reason or another, do not feel obligated to stay with this doctor. There are many doctors and pediatricians that would love to have your child as a patient. The most important thing is that your child's doctor listens to you, and treats your child well. Even if your doctor is kind of kooky or goofy, but takes great pride in taking care of your child, you are lucky to have found him as a doctor!

Giving Your Toddler Confidence

Recently, there have been a lot of TV shows and movies about young teens and pre teens that are having lots of problems in school, issues at home, and a hard time all around with life. There are psychiatrists and psychologists saying it is caused from parents not being around enough, school problems, and nowadays, it is just hard to face everything that comes with being a teenager. Although teens and preteens do have a lot to deal with, I think that these kids are having so many problems because they are not confident. If your child does not feel confident in himself, he will become withdrawn, and maybe act shy around his peers and his teachers. Low self esteem and not being confident can start as early as infancy. If you want your child to be proud, be confident, and have high self esteem, there are many different things that you can do for your child. Although you cannot force your child to be confident, you can help him along the way and show him how to feel good about himself and the choices that he makes throughout life.

One problem many parents have when their children are babies, is when they are praising their child, they tell them they are cute. If your child grows up hearing every day that he or she is cute, but not hearing that he or she is smart, their confidence will spiral downward. This child may try to get through life by acting cute or relying on their looks to get what they want. If you are constantly telling your toddler he or she is cute, and then you discipline him for maybe throwing a toy, he might think that if he smiles and acts cute, he will get away without being disciplined. When your child is at this stage, it is important to set boundaries with him, and stick to them. When you do this, you are letting your child know that he cannot control you with his looks. If your son or daughter listens to you when you give him his punishment, praise him for being a good listener. There are so many things that you can praise your toddler for besides being cute, such as being a good helper, being a good listener, being good to his siblings or pets, and picking up his toys without you having to ask him. If you praise your children for these things when they do them, they are more likely to do them without being told.

Besides praising your baby or toddler, there are some other things that you can do to help him become confident in himself. If you notice that your toddler is good with his hands, and is good at balancing and other things like that, you might want to think about enrolling him in gymnastics or soccer. When young children are exposed to sports and other athletic teams, they become involved in something other than their family, and it gives them a feeling of confidence. If you do enroll your toddler in any class such as ballet, sports, or even an art class, try to be hands on with your child's class. Although your child is in a class to be a part of something new, you can still help out his teacher and be around once in awhile. This will let your child know that you care, and that you are proud of him and the way he acts when he is in his class. Being in classes and sports also gives your child a new group of friends to play with. If your child finds a friend that is interested in the same things that he is, but they do not go to the same school, it would be nice for the children to be able to see each other outside of their extracurricular activity. Strong minded friends will also bring out your child's self confidence.

Self confidence is something that every child and adult should have. If you respect your child, and start teaching him the importance of self confidence, and high self esteem from the time that he is a newborn, he will have a head start on life. Love your child and help him make the right decisions when he is young, and hopefully he will follow your lead when he gets older. If he does, you should have a happy and confident child!

Fun Outdoor Activities for You and Baby

My family and I live in northern Wisconsin, and no matter what the season is, there are always many fun outdoor activities for me and my young son to participate in. I believe that children and adults need a lot of fresh air and sunlight to grow up strong and stay healthy. Some outdoor activities can be dangerous and not suited for toddlers and young children, but there are many that are fun and exciting.

My two year old son loves to go to my parent's house in the summer and jump on their huge trampoline. Although this could be a dangerous sport, my parents bought a cage that completely wraps around the trampoline and makes it virtually impossible for any child to fall out or off of it. My son has been playing on the trampoline since he was about six months old, and he loves it. Remember, if you buy a trampoline or allow your young toddler or baby to play on one, only do so if it has a cage around it. A large trampoline is very high off of the ground, and if your child fell off of it, it could result in a broken or fractured bone, or much worse even. Another thing to watch out for on a trampoline is the springs that hold the bouncing mat to the frame. A child can get his fingers or skin caught in the springs and it may result in broken bones or cuts.

Another activity my son loves in the summer is swimming. Around Wisconsin, we have many lakes, rivers and streams that are great for swimming. If you decide to take your child swimming, make sure he knows the rules and always keeps on a life jacket or other floatation device. It is a good idea to swim with your child until you are sure that he is a strong enough swimmer on his own. If you take your child in a river, never let him go if there is a current or an undertow. Only take your child in spots on rivers that are marked safe to swim in. The bathtub is a great place to practice swimming techniques with your child such as holding his breath, kicking his arms and legs, and floating on his back. Swimming is great exercise and great fun for the whole family. If your child does not like the water at first, sit with him on the beach and let him play in the sand and get used to the water by walking in the shallow water. Soon enough, your child will think that he or she is a fish!

My favorite outdoor activity is taking my son to the park. My husband and I love to pack a picnic and go to the park for the afternoon. If you take your child to the park, let him know ahead of time that he may have to take turns on the equipment. Do not be scared to join your child in the fun! Even if it has been a few years since you went down a slide, you will remember how much fun it really is! If the park is divided into two different sections, such as one for toddlers and younger children, and a section for older children, make sure that your toddler or young baby stays in the toddler section. Older children can be rambunctious and a little wild at times, and even if they do not mean to, they can end up running over small children or stepping on them. It is best if you keep your young child on the smaller equipment.

My husband loves to take my son for walks by the rivers and waterfalls that are near our house. It gives them a chance to spend some time together, and to get some fresh air and exercise. If you decide to take your toddler for a walk, make sure that you keep him a safe distance from large rocks and water that can be dangerous. You might want to think about putting your child in a pack on your back that is made for hiking with young children. This will ensure your child's safety.

The most important thing about safe outdoor activities is having fun with your children. Always make sure that you have enough sunscreen to keep your child from getting sunburned. Also, dress your child for the weather. This will ensure that you have a happy child, and a great time!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Adopting Baby

When you are considering adopting a baby, there are a number of ways you can go about the process. The first, and least expensive, way to adopt a baby is to go through social services in your area. You will contact the social services or family services group in your area and explain that you are considering adopting. They will interview you and send you through a series of classes. These classes are little seminars that are intended to help you understand the emotional and behavioral issues you may encounter with adoption. Some of this information will not be helpful if you are looking to adopt an infant. Other information will be important later, such as how to deal with birth parents.

Then you will go through the home study process. In this part of the adoption process, a social worker will come in and inspect your home. Now keep in mind that this person is checking out safety issues. If there are building code violations or filth, for example, then you will not pass. This person is not checking out how much money you have. The size of your home is important only in that you must have enough space for a child to live. Some states require that the child will have his or her own bedroom. Others require that they have their own bed but may share a room with another child.

Once you have passed through the courses and the home study, then you will be approved and placed on the list to adopt. During this process, you will be able to share with the social worker assigned to you the type of baby you want. You may want to specify race or sex as many adoptive parents do. You also may want to indicate whether or not you will take a child with handicaps or how old of a baby you are willing to adopt. Keep in mind that your parameters determine how long you will wait. The longest waits are for newborn white males without any health problems, but you can get an infant much sooner if you loosen your requirements.

The second option is to go through a private agency to get a newborn in the United States. You have a much better chance with this choice of getting a baby who does not have health problems. Many of the birth mothers who go through these programs are young girls who got pregnant and are unable to keep their babies. Often, with these agencies, the birth mother will get to meet you and may even select you from your picture and a letter you write. If you do not want to have contact with the birth mother, you need to be very selective in picking your agency. These agencies are very expensive, but you will be more likely to get a newborn as many of the mothers know that they are going to give their babies up for adoption before the baby arrives.

The third major choice is to use a private agency but to adopt a child outside the United States. These agencies are pricy as well, but there is not a huge difference in cost between these agencies and private agencies with domestic adoptions. You will have less say in the child you adopt through these systems. In some countries, such as Guatemala, most babies are sent out for adoption by the time they are six months old. That means that while you will not have a newborn, you will have a baby to hold in your arms. Many parents like the fact that they will not have to deal with birth family issues through international adoptions.

The decision to adopt an infant is an important one, and you should be sure to make this decision after careful deliberation. After all, you are deciding to add a new person to your family, and you will live with the joys and trials of this decision for the rest of your life. Be sure that you ask questions and that you are clear about your expectations. Speak up because you are creating a family. Make the right decision, and you will have a life of love.

By Julia Mercer

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Join a Parenting Group Online

By Christina VanGinkel

If you are a mother or father of an infant or a toddler, and your child is going though any number of various growing pangs, reflected in a way that you are having a difficult time dealing with them, be it feeding issues, tantrums, spitting, extended crying, whatever, and you are suddenly feeling overwhelmed, there are things you can do to help yourself through what you might consider some of the most stressful trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Talking with other parents who are currently going through some of these same or similar situations, or who have already gone through them, is a great way to help your self through this period. Finding other parents may or may not be a simple task. One way to reach out to those that might be able to help, is to join a parent's group that meets locally, or an online group, such as one of those hosted by Yahoo groups.

With the online world growing rapidly every day, more and more people are doing the latter, and joining an online parenting group to help them deal with the stresses of parenting both big and small. At the same time, many of them are even finding friends in fellow parents that they may be likely to keep in contact with for years to come.

Sort of like any other parenting group, where you take any advice given with a grain of salt, but where you can freely ask if this or that is normal, or where you can discuss what someone else might do under certain circumstances, where you can ask just about any question from what brand of diapers do others recommend, to what are others views on preschools. The difference being that the group is online and people communicate via posting to the group's board or via email.

What I have found to be nice about the idea of an online group is that parents of infants and toddlers are already stretched for time, and getting out to one more group meeting may be nearly if not totally impossible. By meeting online via one of these groups, you can pop in whenever you happen to have the time, and if you join a large enough group, invariably someone else will be online. If not, you can always post a question, or leave a response for some other parent who asked or inquired about something, and then just check later when you have a moment.

These groups can also be nice for those who might live in such a rural area that finding a group of parents with children of similar ages is impossible even if you have time on your hands a plenty!

At Yahoo Groups, you can check out what groups are available by searching through their directory. Start by clicking on their Family & Home section, and from their, clicking into Parenting. Within the category of Parenting, you will find quite a few specialized group headings from which to search even further. Some that I found interesting included Parenting Babies and Toddlers, Single Parents, Twins and Multiples, Single Parents, Child Safety, Stay at Home Parents, and several more. Clicking into any one of these or the other headings within Parenting and you will find numerous groups with specific details about what the groups are all about. Some you can just join by following the instructions, others may require the group's moderator to approve you before you can start posting or reading messages. Some groups do this top keep down the number of people who might just be interested in a group to whom they could send spam, and not really be interested in becoming a valuable, active member.

You are almost sure to find one that will more than meet your needs. I also know quite a few parents who belong to even multiple groups, and they say it takes much less time, and they gain much more information, than if they belonged to even a single in person group. If you do not find a group to your liking, you can always create a group of your own, in hopes that some other parents in a similar situation will find your group. If you go this route, be sure to clearly state what you hope the group to be focused on.

Sun Safety

By Christina VanGinkel

Warm weather and sun means it is finally time to get baby outside and experiencing the exhilaration of all the fresh air. Trips to the park, beach, even strolls around the block in the stroller, or for those a bit older, maybe a fun walk being pulled around in the wagon. It also means that it is time to take these very same little one's protection from the sun seriously.

We all know that the sun has some very obvious benefits, but with too much exposure, the positives can be quickly outpaced by the negatives. With infants and young children, the negatives can add up quickly because of the nature of their so new and untarnished skin. This means that as a conscientious parent, we must take care to protect our little loved ones from over exposure to the damaging rays of the sun. One of the last things any parent wants to have to deal with is an infant or toddler who is suffering from a serious sunburn, or even heatstroke. Both conditions are potentially dangerous and could even be fatal.

Each year, as we learn more about the damage to our own skin and health that exposure through the years can bring, companies are working to help us keep all of our family members, including the smallest, safe, and still able to enjoy all the positives effects of the fresh air at the same time. A few products that I have noticed, and that seem to take this issue both to heart and seriously include the following:

Kiddopotamus and Co. have developed several sunshades that work on your stroller. Their RayShade UV Protective Stroller Sun Shade fits most single strollers, and attaches with both hooks and straps. By using this with your existing stroller, you can be sure that your little ones can enjoy a jog around the park or a walk around the block even during the sunniest part of the day, and never be in the full heat or exposure of the sun's rays.

Sunshades that attach to the inside of the vehicle, right on the window itself, not only cut down on the glare that may hurt an infant's or toddler's eyes, they can also help to keep baby cool, especially if your vehicle does not have air conditioning. Take note though, that these are not meant to keep the vehicle cool enough to leave an infant or child in a parked vehicle. Always take your child out of the vehicle on hot days. Leaving a child or infant in a parked vehicle, even for a few minutes, is totally unacceptable. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a mother, father, or some other caregiver make a statement that the child is sleeping and they left the windows or door open, so how hot could it potentially get in just a short time. It can get hot enough to injure or kill the child.

The Sun Stop'r Kwik Cabana I Tent, 36"h X 39"w X 39"d, the Sun Stop'r Kwik Cabana II Tent, 42"h X 47"w X 47"d, or the Sun Stop'r Kwik Cabana III Tent, 58"h X 74"w X 70"d are all made to provide a place for the little ones to play and enjoy the outdoors, all the while keeping out 97% of the sun’s rays. All three models have a built in floor, which is a nice feature for when you want to use them at a public beach or park, keeping baby safe from rocks, insects, and other undesirables that might be on the ground. They all fold up to carry and set up to use quickly and simply. This is one of those products that the first time I saw one, I wished it had been available when my own children were small. I cannot tell you how many trips to the park I took with my older kids for example, when I would have loved to have a safe spot to set my youngest one down for even a few minutes. The two smaller ones are enclosed much like a tent, while the largest of the three is open on the sides and is even big enough for a parent or older sibling to sit under too!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Toy Recalls

By Christina VanGinkel

The recall of a toy is often a very serious issue. The idea that toy boxes across the country often contain toys that are deemed hazardous for one reason or another is a frightening prospect, especially when you consider that it may very well be the toy box that your own child or grandchild plays from daily! Sadly, once a toy is purchased, parents may forget its very existence, so even if they read or see information posted in a store about a specific recall, they may not even be aware that it pertains to a toy that a child dear to them may own.

A good way to stay alert to which toys may have a recall or warning on, is to get in the habit of checking online sites such as the Child Product Safety site, which lists recalls separated into easy to navigate categories, including:

Animals Stuffed / Not Stuffed
Balls
Bathtub Toys
Blocks / Sorting
Boats
Buses
Cars
Chests
Clowns
Dolls
Games
Guns
Helicopters
Holiday / Seasonal
Infants / Cribs / Strollers
Jewelry
Miscellaneous
Musical Instruments
Planes
Play Sets / Activity Sets
Playhouse
Puppets
Puzzles
Ride-On Toys
Sports Toys
Telephones
Trains
Trucks
Whistles

Another site created by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC, also provides a convenient listing of the most recent product recalls right on the front page of their website, and you can sign up to receive an email whenever new product recalls are added to the lists. Categories include a variety also, including toys, child products, sports, and recreation, just to name a few. The search variables are customizable and easy to navigate.

On the most recent day that I visited these sites, I actually browsed several of the listed categories because I had bought four different toys at a local citywide garage sale event. All of the items appeared to be in good condition, but I wanted to make sure that if there was a recall or warning on any of them, I would not be endangering my young grandson just so that I could be happy that I saved a few dollars.

Keep in mind though, that many newly released toys and products have recalls on them, too. Just because an item is brand new does not necessarily mean that they did not discover an error or some other concern after the product was placed on store shelves for sale.

Besides toy recalls, also be aware of other products that your children or grandchildren use that may also be affected by recall issues. Safety seats for keeping them buckled in vehicles are an amazing step toward keeping little ones safe during daily travel here and there, but being aware of any recalls with the seat you use is as important as keeping them buckled up. Also, be sure not to use a second hand one if there is any chance that it might have been involved in a crash of any sort. Belts and buckles might appear to be in good condition, but be lacking their original strength from the force of the crash.

Gym sets and various other playground equipment, furniture, including beds, dressers, dressing tables, etc., can have recalls for a variety of reasons, including paint issues to stability. Strollers and infant carriers, and products such as thermometers, walkers, pacifiers, monitors, backpacks, rattles, and more should all occasionally be checked, especially when bringing something new home, be it new from the store, or new from a sale such as the one I recently shopped.

The information given in a recall will often include not only the information needed to identify the particular item in question, but often what stores they were sold in, and if they were marketed under various manufacturer names, along with date of manufacture, and time frame the items in question were most likely sold. Keeping in mind that second hand items, and items sold in many discount stores may easily fall outside of the date range given.

All of these and more can be found online via links from the Child Product Safety site, so take a few minutes and make sure that all the children dear to you are not coming into contact with any product that might endanger them instead of amuse them.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Creating a Baby Registry

By Christina VanGinkel

If you find yourself expecting a little one, and then discover that, your friends would like to host a baby shower for you, to help you gather all the needed and wanted gear for your impending little bundle of joy, join a registry, or two.

Registering at several of your favorite shops is a great way to let everyone know just what they could get you. It is simple to do, yet can greatly reduce the time you will spend returning and exchanging unwanted and duplicate gifts. If you happen to have quite a few of the essentials already, a registry is a good way to let your friends know that there are still quite a few items that you are in need of, or to let them know what fun and frivolous gifts you would love to be given.

Both large retailers and many small shops offer registries for expecting parents. Some even offer what is referred to as an essential list from which to build on. The list includes all of a typical first year needs when it comes to raising a newborn, such as diapers, crib sheets, high chair, or maybe a stroller. You can simply go over the list, add, and subtract from it. By starting with a pre-made list such as this, it can often help you identify your needs, especially if you yourself are not truly sure of what you will all want and need.

Other stores may offer guidelines by breaking the registry into sections, such as nursery, layette, feeding, and toys. Again, a list such as this is a good way to provide a new to be parent with suggestions of what they may want and need. In addition, others will offer just a blank sheet for the parents to start with.

If you are in fact unsure, of what to list on a baby registry, you could ask a close friend or two that have had children, to go with you to help you choose. It can be a relaxing and fun way to spend a couple of hours, and looking at all of the baby gear and clothing is a great way to rev you up for the impending birth. If you will be heading out by yourself, or with a friend that is as unsure as you are of what to buy, try to create a list before you go. Sit down with a baby book or two, or browse online for some recommended guidelines for baby's first months as to what you will need, and create your list from there.

If you are not up to an afternoon of shopping, maybe you found out about the shower late in your pregnancy and you are not doing much beyond going to work, taking care of the basics, and getting home and putting up your feet, several online services exist that allow you to register at many small shops nationwide. Large retailers often offer their registry's online for both the receivers and the givers. You can register, build your list, and even check back to see what items might have been chosen. Wal-Mart's Baby Registry even allows you to go back after initially creating the list to remove or add items. They also offer a Tips and Tools section with Checklists, Expert Questions and Answers, Buying Guides, Pregnancy, Baby Tips, and Toddler Tips guides. The Expert Questions and Answers offers questions that many pregnant women have but may not know who to ask, with answers by experts such as doctors who deal with pregnant women all of the time. Questions such as whether it is safe to eat fish when pregnant, color your hair, or fly, and if lack of sleep will affect your pregnancy and baby.

Their Buying Guides though are truly, what the registry is all about, and they have information on the following gear:

Bassinet or Cradle
Bouncer
Breast pumps
Carrier
Car Seat
Changing Table
Choosing a Thermometer
Choosing bottles and nipples
Choosing Childproofing Products
Cribs
Highchair
Mattress
Monitors
Play Yard
Safety Gate
Strollers
Swing
Walker/Entertainer

A registry is a great way to help friends who may not have a clue what to get you, or those who might have an idea, but do not want to get you something that somebody else already did, so be sure to register at your favorite stores if a baby shower is in your future!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keeping Kids Safe at the Beach and Playground

By Christina VanGinkel

With summer fast approaching, keeping your little ones safe at the park and beach are concerns that you should not take lightly. While these places are overflowing with fun, there are also dangers lurking. The best way to keep the fun at the forefront, and the dangers at bay, is being aware of what many of the dangers are, and taking simple precautions to keep them from becoming issues.

Put sunscreen on your child as needed, make use of a large umbrella when appropriate, and be sure to keep them hydrated. Sunburn and heatstroke can happen quickly. A bit of prevention goes a long way towards avoiding these two hazards.

Always make sure your little ones are wearing shoes when at a park or the beach. Broken glass and other debris are of course concerns, but so are natural objects such as sharp stones, ground bees, and other insects. Shoes are your little one's best defense against issues such as these.

Just because something is at a park or beach, does not mean that it is safe. For example, bike racks are often heavy, unstable objects that are just accidents waiting to happen. While many new ones are secure, and not likely to fall over, many old ones are near collapse, or no longer, if ever, secured to anything. Do not let children crawl on or around anything that might topple over and cause harm.

Look for play areas that have soft material such as wood chips beneath the playground equipment. Ground, grass, asphalt, cement, etc., below and around the play area are common causes of injuries. Also, be sure that the soft ground cover extends out from the playground equipment far enough that if a child falls, they will land on the soft area, and not on harder ground. My young grandson recently went down an innocuous looking slide. The pants he was wearing were great for sliding, almost too well, and he went flying off the end. He luckily landed on a scattering of wood chips, though not thick enough to cushion the fall completely. He was not hurt seriously, but it was a painful reminder to take the issue of ground cover, and how far it extends out from the equipment, to heart each and every time we visit any park or play area in the future.

Avoid dressing kids in sweaters or sweatshirts that have cords around the neck area. They can become tangled in slides and other playground equipment causing a risk of strangulation. While this might seem like an extreme statement, sadly, it has occurred and there is no way to sugarcoat it.

Strangers are of course always a concern in the world we live in, and with beaches and parks being such serene places, we can too easily let our guard down. Letting young children run to a snack stand alone, or to the restrooms or changing rooms, should never be allowed, even if it is just around a corner. Always keep them in your sight. It is just not worth the risk.

Never allow young children to play in or near the water's edge unless you are right next to them. Waves can be erratic, and there is always a chance of a current or undertow sweeping a person in the water away. Because conditions can change quickly with water, so be sure you know when it is safe to wade, and or swim, and take all safety precautions available, including a swimmers vest. However, never rely on a vest to save your child's life. Although a swimming vest is definitely something that you should invest in for your young child, do not think that it is a babysitter. It should only be used with adult supervision. While lifeguards are definitely an asset to a beach, do not rely on them to watch your children. You are still the adult in charge where your own kids are a concern.

Teach kids that it is never safe to dive into shallow water. Diving should only be done under proper supervision, and only in depths that are deep enough that a person does not accidentally hit the bottom.

Having fun at a playground or the beach is one of summer's greatest pleasures, especially for kids. So keep the fun factor at the top by making sure safety comes first.