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4 Tips for Backpack Safety

September 20, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Tips for Backpack Safety | AOTA's National School Backpack Awareness Day: Pack it light, wear it right! The AOTA dinosaur wears his backpack right.

Did you know that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight? Think about that for a moment: 

  • A 50-pound child’s backpack should only be five pounds.
  • An 80-pound child’s backpack should only be eight pounds.
  • A 120-pound teen’s backpack should only be 12 pounds.

How heavy is your child’s backpack with all of those books, notebooks, and supplies?

September 21st is the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day and a great opportunity for teachers and parents to ensure students are carrying the lightest loads possible and in the most efficient manner.

Here are four tips to packing and wearing a backpack to evenly distribute weight and prevent injuries:

  1. Pack the heaviest items to the back and center of the pack.
  2. Keep sharp tools away from your child’s back.
  3. Use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight on your child’s back.
  4. Keep the straps tight so the backpack is even with your child’s shoulders on top and doesn’t droop below the hipbones on bottom.

Read through AOTA’s infographic for more backpack fitting tips.

If you notice your child has back pain, see his or her pediatrician or doctor. Bring the backpack to the appointment so the doctor can see how your child wears it and how heavy it is. If the backpack is more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight, talk to his or her teacher about bringing home fewer books each night.

How heavy is your child’s backpack? Weigh it on the scale and tell us in the comments below.


Family Activity: Sunday Meal Prep

August 9, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Family Activity: Sunday Meal Prep | This is a great activity and weekly tradition that you can start doing with your family. | A mother and daughter prepare dinner together.

A colleague recently told me about an activity she started doing with her son every weekend and I want to pass it along:

My son and I started planning our meals for the week on Sundays. After breakfast, we sit down and talk about what we want for dinner that week. He helps me write down the ingredients he remembers and I add the items he forgets.

Then, we go to the grocery store and pick out everything on the list. For him, it’s a shopping bonanza! He gets to choose his box of cereal, help me pick out the produce while learning what to look for—I let him softly squeeze tomatoes to see if they’re ripe and have showed him how to choose a good pineapple.

That afternoon, we start preparing food for the week. We’ll cut up carrots and celery for lunchbox snacks and sometimes we’ll bake bran muffins with fruit in them for breakfast on-the-go or after-school snacks. And we always make Sunday dinner together.

Now that we’ve started this tradition, he gets really excited for Sundays because it’s a day of shopping, cooking, and eating! I’m just glad he enjoys helping and I get a chance to teach him little lessons, like how to measure and pick out fruit and veggies. He values his food more now that he gets to participate in the process.

This is a great activity and weekly tradition that you can start doing with your family. My colleague’s son is four years old, so he can help with basic things like recalling ingredients in favorite recipes, measuring ingredients, and mixing ingredients by hand, but the older your child is, the more responsibility he or she can take on. For example, an 11-year-old could make the salad while a 15-year-old cooks the main course.

Try this activity this weekend and let us know how it goes in the comments below. Will you use it as an opportunity to teach measuring and math skills, or will you focus on the life skills like picking the right avocado and budgeting for your grocery run? Whatever lessons or skills you teach, this activity is also a bonding experience for your family, so have fun and bon appetit!


How to Manage Food Allergies

July 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

How to Manage Food Allergies | Did you know that one in 13 children has a food allergy? | A peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bowl of macaroni and cheese can be deadly for someone allergic to peanuts or dairy.

Did you know that one in 13 children has a food allergy? According to Kids with Food Allergies, the following foods cause the most allergic reactions in the U.S.:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (like walnuts or pecans)
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish (like shrimp, lobster, crab)
  • Fish

With so many common foods and ingredients, it may seem impossible to either diagnose your child’s food allergy or cook for a friend with a food allergy. But there are ways to manage it.

Diagnosing Food Allergies
If you suspect your child has food allergies, speak to his or her pediatrician immediately. The doctor can run tests and diagnose the food allergy.

Some signs to look for include: rashes, itching, swollen lips or tongue, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and trouble breathing.

If your child’s doctor diagnoses him or her with a food allergy, follow the doctor’s directions to avoid future allergic reactions. Refer to’s parent resources for helpful information.

Some changes will include:

  • Adjusting the way your family eats by eliminating the foods your child is allergic to.
  • Learning to read food labels, looking for any ingredient that may contain the allergen.
  • Teaching your child to manage the allergy and cook with other foods as he or she gets older.
  • Alerting friends, family, teachers, and school administration about your child’s food allergy and how to avoid putting your child in contact with the allergen. Use this publication from to help educate the school on your child’s allergy.

Cooking for Your Child’s Friends with Allergies
If your child’s classmates or friends have food allergies, you might first find it frustrating to have to make so many accommodations. While your feelings are valid, try to put yourself in the child’s shoes.

You can accommodate your child’s friends’ allergies by starting with these efforts:

  1. Avoid cooking with the allergen.
    Refer to the top of this article for a list of the most common food allergens and ask a teacher or the child’s parents what the child is allergic to. You can also ask the child’s parents for recipes and tips for preparing his or her favorite foods.
  2. Avoid cross-contact when preparing foods.
    Say you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for your son. Normally, you might wipe the peanut butter off the knife before dipping it in the jelly. That method is fine for a child without peanut allergies, but could be fatal for a child with peanut allergies.

    Instead, you would use a new knife for the jelly (and make sure no one in your house has ever dipped an unclean knife in the jelly) before giving a child with a peanut allergy a jelly sandwich.

    Think of it like preparing food for a strict vegetarian. You wouldn’t use the same knife to cut a juicy ham and then cut tofu with it. Nor would you pick chicken out of a salad. You would make a separate salad for the vegetarian, washing all of the tools used on the chicken salad with hot soap and water, washing your hands between preparations, etc.

Remember, food allergies can be fatal. Take them seriously and educate anyone who cooks for your child about his or her needs. If a friend has the allergy, ask his or her parents for advice on how to cook for the child. Information is the best way to prevent any accidents.

Tags :  physicalhealth

3 Sex and Pregnancy Topics You Must Cover with Your Teenager

May 10, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Prep Teens For the Future | 3 Sex and Pregnancy Topics You Must Cover with Your Teenager

It’s the part of parenting you dread: the sex talk. Yes, you have to do it. No, sex ed at school is not enough.

Your teenager needs to know your expectations of them regarding sex. Even if they disagree with your stance, they need to know it. Do you discourage sex at a certain age or life stage? Will you help your daughter get on birth control if she asks?

They especially need to know how to protect themselves and their partners. Because if we know anything about teenagers, we know they don’t always listen to their parents, but they care about themselves a lot.

Appeal to those selfish qualities as you educate your teen about:

  • Respect for themselves and for their partners, both in body and mind.
  • Protection for themselves and for their partners
  • Myths about sex and protection.

When it comes to any kind of sexual activity, from kissing to intercourse, your teen needs to respect themself and their partner. That means not doing anything they’re uncomfortable with and not doing anything their partner is uncomfortable with.

How can you encourage this respectful behavior in your teenager? Talk to them about what they want in life. What kind of job or home do they want? Do they want a family? Then talk to them about how they can achieve those goals.

They’ll need an education and to work hard to have the career and home they want. And they’ll need to wait to start a family until they have reached certain milestones in getting those other things. Putting life in perspective may help them shift their priorities.

Waiting to start a family leads us to protection. Birth control and condoms are critical when anyone is engaging in sexual activities; birth control helps prevent pregnancy and condoms help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.

While it may be uncomfortable talking about protection with your teenager, it’s important to teach them the importance of protecting themselves and their partners. That protection is part of respecting themselves and their partners. Talk to your daughter about protecting herself from pregnancy and STIs and talk to your son about protecting himself from STIs and getting a female partner pregnant.

While teenagers have access to more information via the internet than their parents ever did, rumors still hold strong. Here are some popular myths that have stood the test of time:

When you talk to your teenager about the myths of protection and sex, present the facts so they are properly educated. If they won’t listen to you, you can always share the above links and ask them to research these facts on their own.

While an uncomfortable conversation, educating your teen on respect, protection, and sexual myths is an important parenting step. After all, it will greatly impact their present and their future.


Plant a Tree for Earth Day 2016

April 19, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Plant a Tree for Earth Day 2016 | A group of teens plant a tree.

As your family watches the plants, trees, and flowers wake up this spring, say thank you by celebrating Earth Day on the 22nd.

This year, Earth Day’s global theme is Trees for the Earth, as they are working toward a goal to plant nearly 8 billion trees by Earth Day 2020—the 50th anniversary of the day.

Rally your family to help Earth Day reach its 2020 goal by planting one or more trees this year. Not only is it great for the environment—after all, it takes about 96 trees to remove the carbon dioxide produced by one person in a year—it’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about the benefits of trees while watching it grow over the years.

After checking to see what trees will grow best in your area, let your kids pick one out from your local nursery or home improvement store. If you have the space, choose a small one to maximize the growth your children will see over the years. My family planted a small tree when I was in middle school and that tree is over 30 feet tall now. Every time I visit, I’m amazed by its magnitude. That small tree grew so much in size while I was growing up and becoming an adult.

While you’re planting your tree (and creating your own memories), teach your kids about the value of trees with these facts from

Your family will also get a good workout by digging the hole for the tree and planting it, so celebrate afterward with lots of liquids and a delicious meal!

If you’re planting a tree for Earth Day this year, snap a few photos and share them with us on Facebook or Twitter. We want to see the beautiful trees your family chose!

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