Discover useful parenting resources, links and important tips to stay well-informed about the health, safety and educational developments that impact your family. These brief articles provide information on a range of topics and links to other sites where you can learn more.
Be a part of our first webinar!
Highlights High Five Editor Kathleen Hayes will help you learn how to maximize your "reading together time" and set your preschool child on a joyous path to reading success.
To join the NACCRRA seminar, go to: www.ccaparentnetwork.org.
The seminar will be held October 13, 2009 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM EDT.
Want to make this Father's Day extra special?
Read what Christine French Clark, Editor-in-Chief of Highlights learned about her homemade father's day gifts. Go to www.galvnews.com.
Have fun playing, learning, and creating at the National Postal Museum's Activity Zone.
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's a good time to pay attention to stamps! If you can't get to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, you can visit their Web site. They have an activity zone where you and your kids can learn, play, and create. Check it out at: www.postalmuseum.si.edu.
Tips for Preventing Injuries
Indoors and Outdoors—Preventable Mishaps
Informed parents can protect kids from a range of accidents and injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Indoors A recent study revealed that toppling televisions and other furniture sometimes cause serious injuries. It is dangerous for children to climb on, lean against, or pull themselves up by handles, knobs, or shelves of unsecured pieces. The CPSC identified tipping furniture as one of the "top five hidden home hazards."
The CPSC recommends setting televisions on wide, stable bases and securing furniture to walls and floors. They also remind parents to keep electrical cords out of children's reach and to prevent children from playing near stoves and ovens.
Outdoors When it comes to outdoor safety, it's essential that children wear helmets for all sports that pose a risk of head injuries. These activities include biking, snowboarding, downhill sledding, snowmobiling, inline skating, playing ice hockey, football, and lacrosse.
The CPSC suggests that a helmet makes a good gift. Explain to your child why a helmet is a "must" to prevent head injuries, and insist that your child don the helmet for fast-action outdoor play.
To find out what the right type of helmet is for each activity—and how to get the right fit—go to: Which Helmet for Which Activity?
For safety tips designed for kids, go to: www.cpsc.gov.
Screening Kids for Vision and Hearing Problems:
Early Detection and Treatment Can Make All the Difference
Children's vision and hearing problems often go undetected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Studies reveal that only 21% of preschoolers in the United States are screened for vision problems, and even fewer receive a full vision exam. Every day, 33 babies are born with some hearing loss, which can impact language acquisition and learning.
Early identification and treatment of hearing and vision difficulties is key—just ask any kid who gets glasses and can suddenly see the blackboard. So often, kids deemed to be inattentive or exhibiting learning or behavior problems may actually be experiencing undiagnosed impairment. Parents need to make sure a pediatrician or school nurse checks vision and hearing.
Remember that an impaired child is not usually aware that his own way of seeing or hearing is different from that of others. For him, that's just the way it is. And children find ways of compensating—from lip-reading to squinting.
Hearing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that hearing tests be given to newborns. Children's hearing needs to be checked regularly during preschool years and beyond. Early detection will enable kids with temporary or permanent hearing loss to receive appropriate interventions.
Vision. It's recommended that kids be screened for vision problems as newborns, at six months, and every year from five years onward. Each eye needs to be examined separately. Parents should alert the doctor if kids aren't making eye contact, have difficulty tracking moving objects, or if their eyes don't seem to be moving in unison.
To learn more about the availability of vision tests for preschoolers, go to: www.healthyvision2010.nei.nih.gov.
To learn more about what should be included in a wellness visit, go to: brightfutures.aap.org.
Finding Afterschool Programs in Your Community
See What to Look For and Learn How to Start One
The Afterschool Alliance is a great resource if you're looking for an afterschool program near you.
For tips on finding a program, and for links to 4-H, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Camp Fire Boys and Girls, and many other programs, go to AfterSchoolAlliance.org. You'll also learn how to start a program if none exists in your community.
To find local referral resources and to discover how your state is addressing its afterschool challenge, go to nccic.acf.hhs.gov.
Keeping Beach Adventures Fun . . . and Safe
Tips to keep your beach adventure 100% enjoyable.
It's great fun to build sandcastles, collect shells, and splash in the waves! However, since nobody wants to come home with blisters, sunburn, or a scary water experience, practice these tips to keep your beach adventure 100% enjoyable.
Use sun protection. Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and clothing provide needed protection from blazing rays. Use them even on hazy days. Seek shade under umbrellas and trees, and keep babies out of direct sunlight.
Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated by drinking good old H2O. Remember that caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages are dehydrating.
Swim near the lifeguard. Make certain that the lifeguard is aware of you and your kids in the water. Avoid swimming in areas where there are no lifeguards present.
Stay near your kids. Kids need to be supervised in the water, so remain within reaching, and not just shouting, distance. Don't rely on floatation devices, and remember that even strong swimmers can be swept by rip currents.
Dive only in familiar waters. A headlong plunge requires that you know where you are headed. If you or your kids dive, make sure you are certain of the depth of the water, and teach your kids to dive only in places designated safe for diving.
For more information about beach safety and other types of water safety, go to www.redcross.org.
If you'd like to find information about swimming classes near you, go to www.redcross.org/services.
Cell Phone Awareness:
Guidelines for "Best Practices"
While there are clear benefits to the use of cell phones, some parents answering our Highlights Parents Poll raised concerns about using cell phones while driving, their possible health risks, and the irresponsible use of phones. Here are a few suggestions that we hope address some of these concerns.
Tips for the healthy and responsible use of cell phones:
Research on the effects of cell phones on developing and adult brains is considered inconclusive. Stay aware of new findings. Play it safe by limiting your use and your kids' use of cell phones. Use land lines when possible.
Program kids' cell phones to only reach approved numbers. Include 911 and other important family contact numbers.
Talk to your kids about the appropriate use of phones with friends, and discuss the negative consequences of revealing too much ("over-sharing") and "cyberbullying."
Create clear guidelines to prevent interruptions at family meals and other gatherings.
Safety tips for cell phone use in the car:
Consider using a cell phone in the car for emergencies only.
If you must make or receive a call, pull off the road.
If you expect to use your phone, keep it within reach to avoid fumbling.
Never send or receive text messages while driving.
Set clear guidelines and a good example for your teen driver. Some states ban handheld cell phones while driving, since there's evidence that distractions increase the risk of car accidents.
For more information, go to:www.cellphonesafety.org (created by the National Consumer Advocacy Commission).
Read what parents told us on our Cell Phone.
The Scoop on Breakfast—Check Out New Recipes
New studies indicate why our grandmothers were right about starting the day with a healthy meal.
There's evidence that eating breakfast improves children's cognitive functioning, memory, test grades, and school attendance. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
To read tips on how to make time for breakfast, go to Parents’ Poll: Is There Time for Breakfast?.
For a host of ways to prepare eggs: www.incredibleegg.org.
For recipes for healthy French toast, muffins, banana bread, and omelets: www.texaschildrens.org.
To find recipes with an ethnic flair: docs.schoolnutrition.org.
To find out more about what makes a healthy breakfast, go to: www.mayoclinic.com (To the pizza-for-breakfast eaters who took the HighlightsParents.com breakfast poll: Note that cold veggie pizza is on the list!)
Kids Vote on Favorite Authors, Illustrators, and Books
Kids from around the country voted in a program co-sponsored by the Children's Book Council and the International Reading Association. The awards celebrate Children's Book Week.
The Children's Choice Book Awards 2008 Winners
- Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer
- Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year Big Cats by Elaine Landau
- Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee
- Illustrator of the Year Award Ian Falconer, Olivia Helps with Christmas
- Author of the Year Award J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The 2008 nominees included authors Jeff Kinney, J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Anthony Horowitz, and Erin Hunter. Illustrators nominated were Robin Preiss Glasser, Mo Willems, Ian Falconer, Brian Selznick, and Jan Brett. To learn more go to www.cbcbooks.org
Explore the Children's Museums Near You!
There are hundreds of children's museums around the country. Some specialize in science, history, or local culture. Many encourage children to participate in hands-on activities and offer children's classes and other programs.
To find one near you (or near your next vacation destination), visit the Association of Children's Museums website. You'll find information and links to children's museums throughout the U.S.
If you're already a member of a children's museum, you'll be pleased to know that many participate in a reciprocal program that offers free admission when you visit another children's museum.
An Update on Kids and Their Teeth!
Did you know that dental cavities are considered the "most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States"? The number of preschoolers with cavities has actually increased in the past few years, in part because of the widespread use of sippy cups. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you use them only for water, especially before naps and bedtime.
To support children's dental health, the AAPD makes the following recommendations:
- Find and visit a dentist before your child's first tooth emerges. Regular visits ensure early detection and treatment.
- Use fluoride. Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride if your kids drink bottled water.
- Help your child develop healthy eating habits.
For more information, go to www.aapd.org.
Healthy Hearts for Valentine's Day
What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than by including new heart-healthy routines into your family life? While heart disease is declining among older Americans, today's children are at an increased risk for future heart-related problems.
The American Heart Association makes the following recommendations:
- Set a good example by being physically active—and eating mindfully.
- Limit TV and other sedentary activities.
- Help your child find forms of exercise that are enjoyable.
- Plan and eat meals together as a family.
- Find non-food ways to reward your kids.
- Explore ways of celebrating special occasions that don't make food the focus.
- Make sure health professionals monitor your child's cholesterol level, blood pressure, and body mass index.
For more information, go to www.americanheart.org.
Sleep Deprivation: A Wake-Up Call!
Sleep deprivation has been associated with traffic accidents, learning difficulties and, most recently, obesity. There's little doubt that kids—and parents—need to get a good night's rest in order to function well.
How can you tell if your child is sleep-deprived? According to the University of Michigan Health Systems, the following may be indications that your son or daughter needs more rest.
- Your child frequently falls asleep in the car.
- You have to awaken your child most mornings.
- Your child is cranky, aggressive, over-emotional, or hyperactive.
- Your child often "crashes" before his usual bedtime.
The recommendation is that school-age children get 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Kids require extra sleep during growth spurts—and everyone needs extra rest during times of stress and illness.
For valuable tips about handling child and adult sleep issues, go to
When we polled parents on "Is Bedtime a Nightmare in Your Household?" over 25% of the parents said their kids didn't get enough sleep and over 25% said that they didn't either. The HighlightsParents.com poll offers parents' suggestions for handling bedtime.
Hints for a Healthy Holiday
To keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy during this festive season follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dressing for the Outdoors
- In colder climates, dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Clothing for children should consist of thermal long johns, turtlenecks, one or two shirts, pants, sweater, coat, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.
- The sun's rays can still cause sunburn in the winter, especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child's exposed skin with sunscreen.
- Before lighting a fire, remove all greens, papers, and other decorations from the fireplace area and make sure the flue is open.
- Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. Wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely, raising the danger of a flash fire.
- Always thaw meats in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
- To avoid spreading bacteria to foods, wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.
- Never put a spoon used to taste-test back into the food without washing it first.
- Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to avoid potential shocks. (If your electrical outlets do not have a permanent GFCI, look for extension cords combined with a GFCI.)
- Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
- Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
Parties and Visiting
- Traveling, shopping, visiting family members, and receiving presents can all increase your child's stress level. Try to stick to your child's usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps.
- The homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye on your kids, and an eye out for danger spots.
- Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco. Also discard string, ribbon, and any sharp or potentially dangerous wrapping materials.
- Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children. Abide by the age indications on the packaging.
- If purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant."
- When buying a live tree, check for freshness. Its needles should be green, hard to pull from branches and bend between your fingers without breaking.
- Be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Heated rooms can dry out live trees rapidly.
Kids Better Nourished by Family Meals
A recent study reports that eating meals together as a family has important health benefits for kids.
Project EAT, a study conducted by the Minnesota School of Public Health, found that children who dined with their families consumed more nutritious meals than kids who ate separately. It also found that the greatest benefits came when families ate together and turned off the TV.
Boys who ate while watching TV drank more soda and ate fewer veggies and grains than those who weren't viewing the tube. Girls skimped on dark green vegetables and ate more fried foods.
The family connection seems key, since kids whose parents kept the TV on during meals still fared better eating with family than kids who ate on their own.
Dianne Neumark Sztainer, Ph.D., the principal investigator for Project EAT study, concludes: "...whenever possible, eat family meals and try to keep television viewing to a minimum. Use the time to catch up with your children on whatever is going on in their lives."
The results of the Project EAT study were reported in the September/October 2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
For more information, go to www.ahc.umn.edu.
Fire Prevention Week--Practice Your Plan
Fire drills are as important at home as they are in school. This year's Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, focuses on practicing a family escape plan. If you don't have a plan yet, now is a good time to create one.
The National Fire Protection Association offers these potentially life-saving reminders:
- Place smoke alarms near bedrooms and on each level of your home.
- Locate two possible exits out of each room in your home.
- Alert kids to the seriousness of fire.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of your children's reach.
- Supervise children's cooking activities.
- Never make fire a source of amusement.
Go to the U.S. Fire Association's web site, www.usfa.dhs.gov, for fire-safety activities that you can do with your kids.
Packing a Healthy Lunch Box
As parents, we face the challenge of ensuring that kids refuel at lunchtime with food that's nutritious and appealing. Kids' tastes sometimes change abruptly so that even once-favored foods may be disdained or traded. The good news is that growing kids can actually learn to notice that wholesome choices help them sustain their energy levels and focus more readily.
Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends including a protein, vegetable, low-calorie treat, and water in the lunch box, along with a fun greeting from home. For specific recommendations, go to health.yahoo.com.
For lunch box ideas and guidelines developed in Britain, where the government has made child nutrition a priority, go to www.healthylunchbox.co.uk.
Literature includes novels, short stories, and poetry or drama in any format (including those found on the Internet and in magazines). And yes, mysteries, science fiction, romance novels, and Harry Potter all count. According to census figures, Americans are reading less literature now than in the past. The biggest decline is among 18- to 24-year-olds. In an effort to counteract this trend, the National Endowment for the Arts is sponsoring The Big Read, a program designed to unite communities by encouraging people to read the same books, talk together about what they've read, and rediscover the pleasure of reading literature. To see if your community is involved, go to www.neabigread.org.
Free Books--Near You!
Seeing you reading encourages your kids to read.
Go online to rediscover your local library! Use this great online resource to find the public library branch nearest you and learn everything you need to know about local programs, events, and hours. Libraries are amazing resources for books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, and more! Most have a summer reading program designed to encourage your kids to read all summer long. So make sure your kids and you have library cards. Check it out at lists.webjunction.org.
Conserving Energy—Summer Reminders
During warm summer days it's healthy to find ways to conserve our kids' energy and our own. Encourage your kids to follow these tips:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid strenuous tasks on the hottest days.
- Stay in the shade or indoors between 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.
We can also help the environment and save money by reducing our energy consumption.
- Unplug electronic devices when not in use, or use power strips (and turn off power to the strip) for all remote-controlled devices.
- Turn off lights when you're not in a room.
- Keep air conditioners at 78 degrees.
- Close shades to keep rooms cool.
- Wait for full loads to run washing machines and dishwashers.
For more summer tips from The Alliance to Save Energy, go to www.ase.org.
Sun Safety Reminders
With summer here, the American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that children should be encouraged to play in the shade, especially during the peak sun hours of 10 to 4. To protect kids from sun damage, the AAP recommends hats with forward brims, sunglasses with 99-100% UV protection, and sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Babies under six months old need to be kept out of direct sunlight altogether.
For more information, go to www.aap.org.
Mother's Day and Father's Day: The Backstory
Have you ever wondered how these holidays began? No, they weren't created by the greeting-card companies. Both were initiated by determined women.
Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," wanted to find a way to unite women in peace after the turbulent years of the American Civil War. In the same spirit, Anna Jarvis was instrumental in having Mother's Day declared a national holiday in 1914.
Sonora Smart Dodd thought that fathers deserved a day as well. She especially wanted to honor her own father, who had raised his six children alone after his wife died in childbirth. She created a celebration in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Father's Day was gradually accepted elsewhere but wasn't designated an official national holiday until 1972.
Do you want your children to learn to swim? Want to improve your own stroke or discover the latest techniques in water safety? If so, check out the new American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim classes, structured to help people of all ages develop specific swimming skills and enjoy the water. The six levels of classes start by making students feel comfortable in the water, and eventually progress to such advanced levels as Lifeguard Readiness and Diving. Generations of kids have learned to swim in Red Cross classes. To learn more and find a program near you, go to www.redcross.org.
Looking for "good reads" for your kids this summer? The American Library Association recommends books for children of different ages and provides lists of award-winning titles. The coming months are a great time for children to read for pleasure by immersing themselves in books that capture their imaginations and expand their knowledge. The ALA suggests that children select their own reading material, but parents can help.To learn more, go to www.ala.org.
Keeping Schools Safe
With safety on every parent's mind, the National Education Association offers measures that can be taken to help make schools more secure. One step is to improve communication between students, teachers, and administrators. Other measures include providing appropriate intervention and treatment to troubled students and enforcing policies to prevent bullying. To learn more, go to www.nea.org.
Because the perpetrators of violence are so often students who feel marginalized, the family of a victim of the Columbine shooting formed an organization called Rachel's Challenge. They have created an assembly program that encourages students to reach out with kindness, respect, and acceptance toward classmates who may feel alienated. To learn more, go to www.rachelschallenge.com.
Since kids have just one set of adult teeth to last a lifetime, they need to learn how to take care of those pearly whites that begin emerging around age six. The American Dental Hygienists' Association provides kids with information about their new teeth and tips for how to keep them in good shape. You might want to encourage your child to visit www.adha.org.
For everything you might want to know about caring for your baby's or children's teeth, go to www.nlm.nih.gov.
The Importance of the Arts
Most parents feel that kids benefit from exposure to dance, visual art, music, and drama. However, according to the National Arts Education Awareness Campaign, the majority of kids spend more time standing at their lockers than participating in arts classes.
Visit www.americansforthearts.org to learn how you can encourage your child's school to provide arts programs. You can also learn how to make the arts a part of your kids' lives outside of school. The NAEAC suggests keeping basic art supplies such as paper and crayons readily available, sharing familiar songs and music with your child, and encouraging your child to learn to play a musical instrument.
Today's Parents Spend More Time Focused on Their Kids
According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland, kids are the prime focus of Moms' attention for an average of just over 14 hours a week. This is an almost 40% increase over the 10.2 hours mothers focused on their children in 1965. Moms have gained time with kids by doing less housework, sleeping less, and, no surprise, having less free time. Dads spend three times as much time with their kids as the dads of 40 years ago. The results may surprise and reassure many parents, especially moms, who feel guilty for not engaging in more quality-time activities with their children.
New Study Asks—Where Are the Veggies?
A study just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 90% of the food commercials American children watch each year are for junk food. The extensive study found that two- to seven-year-olds saw an average of 12 food commercials a day, teenagers saw an average of 17, and preteens saw a whopping 21 each day. The ads (34% for candy and snacks, 29% for cereals) run directly counter to what health professionals advocate. Pediatricians encourage families to serve more vegetables and provide nutritious, low-fat food choices. They would also like to see kids get more exercise and watch less TV. The study is seen as a wake-up call to parents as well as advertisers.
Find Out About Health Insurance Programs for Children
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Academy of Pediatrics want to spread the word that families may be able to obtain free or low-cost health insurance for their children. To learn more about eligibility for programs available in your state, call toll free 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669) or go to www.insurekidsnow.gov.
Added Funding for Early-Childhood Programs
State funding has increased for pre-kindergarten programs, according to a recent study by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Many studies have found that pre-K programs provide both cognitive and social benefits to kids, and the estimate is that in addition to other preschool options, approximately 20% of four-year-olds are in state-funded pre-K programs. Besides the immediate advantages to children, recent research suggests that high-quality child-care programs also provide long-term economic benefits to both the children and society. For more information, go to www.ced.org.
Keep Kids Learning
The National Center for Learning Disabilities offers information and suggestions for parents and teachers of children in kindergarten through 8th grade who are struggling to learn. Many very accomplished adults have grappled with learning disabilities, and the site provides support and success stories as well as practical tips and resources. For more information, go to www.ncld.org.
Sing "Happy Birthday" Twice to Prevent Colds
One of the most effective ways to limit the spread of cold and flu germs is to wash your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. So as not to rush the process, encourage your children to find or make up a song that helps them scrub for that amount of time. The Center for Disease Control suggests that singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice also fits the bill. For other suggestions from the Center for Disease Control, go to www.cdc.gov/flu/school.
Naps for Moms and Dads!
Children may not be the only ones who benefit from midday siestas. A study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that men and women, ages 20 to 80, who snooze a few afternoons a week were less likely to die from heart disease. So the next time you put the kids down for a nap, consider taking one yourself. The laundry can wait, and it will do your heart good!
Fire Safety Reminders
According to the United States Fire Administration, in case of fire, a smoke alarm serves as an "early warning system, and reduces the risk of dying by nearly 50%."
When was the last time you changed your smoke-detector batteries? The start of the year is a good time to replace batteries in smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors. Both need to be kept in working order to remain effective. You and your family also need to go over plans for leaving your home quickly in case of a fire. To get more information about fire safety, you can visit www.usfa.dhs.gov.
There Are Many Ways to Be Smart
Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor who has explored several different types of intelligences, says that each person has a unique combination of abilities that can be applied to real-life problem solving. Besides linguistic and mathematical intelligences, people may be specially skilled in music, movement, spatial understanding, nature, self-awareness, interpersonal relationships, or in posing existential questions about truth and reality.
Kids See Approximately 40,000 Ads a Year
In a newly released report, the American Academy of Pediatrics describes children under eight as "defenseless against advertising." AAP's recommendations include stricter rules for broadcasters and greater efforts to "immunize" kids against advertising by making them more discerning about media messages. Find out more by visiting aap.org.
Whatever Happened to the Class of 1993?
A newly released report reveals that just over half of the people who graduated from college in 1992-1993 were parents 10 years later. A decade after receiving their bachelor's degrees, 21% had one child, 22% had two kids, and 9% had three or more. The findings are part of a longitudinal study, conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics, that also looked at employment, wages, and graduate studies. For more information, go to http://nces.ed.gov.
The Largest Volunteer Child Advocacy Organization
The PTA is the largest child advocacy volunteer organization in the United States. It claims over 6 million members nationwide and provides a way for parents to become involved in their children's educations. While many dads are now members, the organization, started in 1897, was originally called the National Congress of Mothers. For more information, go to www.pta.org/about_pta.html.
Blocks Build Basics
Young children who play with blocks have an advantage when it comes to acquiring language, according to a new study conducted at the University of Washington. Block building has long been known to encourage social interaction and imaginative play. High Five, Highlights' new magazine for preschoolers, features block-play activities designed to engage young children.
Winter Sports Safety Tips
Skating, sledding, and snowboarding present a slew of seasonal safety challenges. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests ways to keep kids out of harm's way while they participate in winter sports. For more information, go to www.healthychildren.org.
Play Is Essential, Says New Report
"Free and unstructured play is healthy and—in fact—essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient," according to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The report says "true toys," such as blocks and dolls, provide opportunities for children to fully use their imaginations. For more information, go to www.aap.org/pressroom/play-public.htm.
Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences
Whether your child is in kindergarten or 6th grade, parent-teacher conferences can feel stressful. It helps to be prepared. The National Education Association suggests jotting down points you'd like to share about your child's interests and questions regarding your child's participation, progress, and classroom activities. For more on the National Education Association's suggested questions, go to www.nea.org/parents/ptconf.html.
The National Safety Belt Coalition reminds parents that children are safest in the rear seat and that child car seats need to be properly installed and used to maximize safety. They report that many parents aren't using car seats correctly. For more information, go to www.nsc.org/traf/sbc/sbcchild.htm.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents that children must always be supervised near water. Kids need to apply sunscreen (SPF15 or higher) at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Flower prints and bright colors may attract bugs and increase the chances of your child being stung. The AAP also warns parents that it is not safe for children under 12 to mow the lawn using any kind of mower. Read more at aap.org/advocacy/releases/summertips.htm.
Nothing to Sneeze At
One out of every five Americans has an allergy of one type or another, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergies often run in families, but may take different forms in various family members.
Walking for half an hour burns about 140 calories in a person weighing 154 pounds, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Hiking for that length of time burns 185 calories; playing basketball, 220; and bike riding, 145. Staying physically active keeps parents and kids healthy, and is a great way for families to share time together.