Keeping Kids Burn and Bug Free

pexels-photo-61129Summer is in full swing and the temperatures are soaring, which makes it the perfect time to enjoy the long, lazy days of summer. In the pool, camping, at the beach or just in the backyard enjoying a BBQ and family time, now is the time to help kids play and explore in the outdoors. But, with fun must come protection.  Skin needs to be protected from the burning, harmful rays of the sun and the bites of potentially disease carrying mosquitoes and ticks.  Nothing ruins a fun day more than a painful sunburn and arms and legs covered with itchy mosquito bites.

What’s safe to use on kids? What’s effective? How much should you use and how frequently should you reapply?  Here are some guidelines to follow:

Separate but equal.  Never use a combination sunscreen and insect repellent.  Sunscreen should be reapplied, especially after water activity, and insect repellent should only be used once per day. In addition, insect repellent should not be used directly on the face and hands. Little hands can easily make their way into the mouth, and no insect repellent should ever be ingested. Use sunscreen and insect repellent as separate products.

DEET details. The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved DEET insect repellent as safe for children over 2 months.  Choose a repellent with up to 30 percent DEET, which repels both mosquitoes and ticks. The higher percentage doesn’t mean it has more DEET, only that it last longer. If you’re hiking or exposing young children to wooded areas where ticks are likely present, keep in mind DEET is the most effective FDA-approved repellant for ticks. If you decide to use a natural repellant with plant based oils, remember they need to be applied much more often.  Keep in mind oil of lemon eucalyptus products should not be used on children under 3.

Sunscreen Safety. Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ on the label. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, which is sufficient to block 93 percent of UVB rays (UVB rays cause burn, but UVA rays penetrate deeper, which can be just as cancer-causing). The best way to apply sunscreen is to apply liberally at least 30 minutes before going outside and more every hour or after water activity.

Keep in mind. Sunscreen and insect repellent are just part of the solution.  Other ways to protect include keeping kids out the sun when it’s at its peak (mid-day) and wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved swim shirts and hats. For bugs, the same is true.  Dusk and dawn are good times to keep kids inside (when mosquitoes are most active) and long sleeves and pants help protect them against bites, too.

Let’s Play! – Why Playtime is so Important for Your Preschooler

Prodigy Academie Children Playing

Did you know the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has included play as a criteria in its accreditation process for programs for young children?  There’s a reason why play is so important. They are developing critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence and reasoning. Play will help children become better students, develop socialization skills and prepare them for life in our ever-changing, complicated and fascinating world.

There are four basic types of play: dramatic, manipulative, physical and creative. Let’s look at why each of these are so important and how each can be fostered and encouraged in young children:

  • Dramatic. Dramatic play is just what it sounds like…drama! Kids act out fantasies by playing ‘roles,’ whether alone or with other children (or adults). They create imaginary settings and scenarios to act out as if they were adult roles. What’s the best way to encourage dramatic play? Play dress up and let their imaginations run free. Do they want to pretend the blue living room carpet is an ocean? Go for it. Jump on the couch and pretend it’s a boat! Let your child ‘direct’ you in their game.
  • Manipulative. This type of play is very important for helping children build fine motor skills. Their little hands and fingers work to pinch, hold, grab and manipulate small toys, blocks, Legos and other items. Puzzles are a great manipulative toys. When children get older, get them engaged in simple crafts like cutting with safety scissors and even beads (added bonus: beads can teach them basic counting).
  • Physical. Gross motor skills are developed through physical play. When children use their bodies to run, jump, skip, hop, play with balls and jump rope, they’re helping build muscle and coordination. To help children develop through physical play, take them to the local park with a jungle gym, teach them to ride a bike or scooter and just let them run around and have fun in the backyard! As they get older, organized team sports like soccer and basketball are fantastic ways to help them play through sports.
  • Creative. This type of play is less about the end product, like a picture or a craft, and more about the materials they use to make it. Children learn different objects can be used in different ways (clay is a great example) and it also teaches them about color and texture. A way to encourage creative play is by designating an area, or a time of day, to put all types of pencils, paint, clay, markers, glue, yarn, stickers, etc. (making sure everything is age appropriate) and letting them create anything their minds can imagine.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way for a child to play. Children build self-confidence and self-esteem when play is safe but free and unstructured. Spend an afternoon or even an hour playing with your child and watch their little mind grow!