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Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys

February 7, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Easy Ways to Clean Your Child's Toys | A young girl plays with soft, plastic blocks on the floor.

If you're a parent and you're online, you've seen the news about Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, Sophie can develop mold on the inside if your teething child drools into the air hole, or if you ignore the manufacturer's cleaning tips and immerse it in water (even if that water is soapy or part bleach).

This news has sparked a bit of panic in parents—and rightfully so—as many people are allergic to mold and we want our kids to be healthy.

So how can you best keep those toys clean and prevent green fuzzy spores from forming on and inside them? These tips will get you started.

Good, Old Fashioned Cleaning Solutions
Use a clean sponge or cloth soaked in hot water and soap to wipe down the surfaces of your child's toys and play areas.

If they need a stronger scrubbing, make a paste out of baking soda and water to scrub, and add vinegar for extra power.

You can even create a mild bleach solution. To be safe, confirm the proper ratio of bleach to water with your pediatrician. I have read that one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water should be fine, as long as you allow the solution to dry before giving the toy back to your child.

Let The Machines Do The Work
Plastic or rubber toys that don't have an air hole can usually go in the dishwasher on the top rack. If the toys are smaller, put them in a mesh bag first and tie it up tight so they won't get loose.

The mesh bag method also works in the washing machine, especially with Legos and other smaller toys. Instead of wiping each block down by hand, you can clean them at once one load.

Follow The Instructions
When in doubt, look at the manufacturer's cleaning tips on the box or online to see what they recommend. Some fabric toys can be tossed in the washing machine, but some should be spot-treated. Wood toys should be wiped down but not put in the dishwasher, as the heat may dry out or splinter the wood.

In the case of Sophie the Giraffe, the manufacturer recommends wiping her off, but not soaking her in water. Since Sophie has an air hole, water can get trapped inside and turn to mold. Keep that in mind when washing any toy and make sure you drain and dry it properly.

Do you have any toys that you've found tough to clean? Tell us in the comments below or email us at and we'll help you find a safe way to clean them.

Tags :  healthbabyinfanttoddlersafety

What’s the story behind the Baby on Board sign?

September 6, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What’s the story behind the Baby on Board sign? | A graphic in yellow with a black triangle reading, "Caution! Baby on Board"

You see them on every type of car: SUVs, minivans, compact cars. You might even have one on your car: the Baby on Board sign. But do you know the original reason these signs were created?

While there are legends about tragic car accidents, the truth is much more inspiring. According to several interviews and websites, including Snopes, the sign’s creator, Michael Learner, was driving his baby nephew home one day. Drivers were cutting him off and tailing him, which became all the more frightening when he knew what precious cargo he was carrying.

As you may remember the first time you drove your baby home, or even a niece or nephew before you were a parent, suddenly every driver on the road seems dangerous and getting the child home safely is the most important goal you’ve ever had.

So Learner created the sign as a way to alert other drivers to slow down, avoid tailing or cutting cars off, and generally be better drivers, because sometimes we forget how our hurried actions on the road could have a devastating impact not only on adults, but on the babies in those cars.

The rest, of course, is history. If you want to know more about Learner and how that sign sparked a profitable baby safety business, read this article from Quartz.

Do you have a Baby on Board sign? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags :  safety

Fireworks Alternatives

July 2, 2015

Fireworks Alternatives | If you have young children or animals, fireworks might be too intense for them this year. Instead, try these homemade noisemakers.

If you have young kids or animals, fireworks could a bit too much for them this year. The noises alone can frighten them and if they’re too close, can cause hearing damage or burns.

For a more family-friendly 4th of July celebration, try homemade noisemakers. The noise level is more appropriate for youngsters and it won’t send your animals running for the hills. Noisemakers are a safe and easy way for your kids to participate in the ruckus without harming anyone. Here are some ideas:

  • Put uncooked rice in an empty plastic bottle, tightening the cap, and shake.
  • Give the kids a box of macaroni and cheese that you haven’t opened yet.
  • Tape one end of a toilet paper tube, pour in rice or candy, and then tape up the other side. Let your kids decorate the tubes with colorful markers and glitter.

You would be surprised how fun shaking these bottles and boxes can be for a young child.

Do you have another fireworks alternative we should try? Share in the comments below. Happy 4th of July!

Tags :  family funholidayssafety

When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior

May 12, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

When Mom and Dad Are Smokers: Modeling Behavior | When you become a parent, lifestyle choices matter. Firsthand, secondhand, and thirdhand smoke affect kids in ways you might not even realize, like frequent sickness and asthma. Quitting smoking will model a positive behavior with your children. | A boy shakes his finger at his dad, who is about to light a cigarette.

What was once a status symbol is now a stubborn habit you wish you didn’t have. Smoking, while it may have seemed like the cool thing to do back in high school, is anything but that today. The constant pressure to lead healthy lives combined with bans on smoking in many public spaces such as restaurants and bars have caused smokers to become part of the minority.

Aside from new laws or the negative stigma that may convince some smokers to quit, becoming a parent is another reason to stop. Although it is a tough habit to kick, doing so helps parents create an all-around healthy environment for their children.

Lifestyle Choices Matter
Whether you are buying groceries, exercising, talking to a friend, or having a smoke, each activity has an impact on your son or daughter. Your children model their behavior based on yours. For example:

  • If the items in your grocery cart are unhealthy, your son or daughter may adopt the same habit of eating unwholesome food.
  • If your children constantly see you taking part in physical activity and enjoying it, they will soon want to join you in this positive experience.
  • If your language is negative and derogatory when they hear you talk to a friend or a stranger, they will believe it is acceptable to use swear words.
  • Whether you smoke in front of your children or step outside, your son or daughter may subconsciously accept smoking as a natural part of life.

The good news is that parents can take a holistic approach by making overall smart lifestyle choices and in effect, positively affect their children.

Avoid Sickness
Some of the reasons to not smoke around your son or daughter are the direct effects of any form of the smoke. This includes secondhand smoke, which is a combination of the smoke that emits directly from the cigarette and from the smoker’s mouth. Thirdhand smoke is that which settles on furniture and clothing that later makes its way into a child’s mouth and skin.

These indirect forms of smoke contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and cause cancer. If a child suffers from asthma, the secondhand smoke can make breathing even more difficult. Whether a child suffers from asthma or not, cigarette smoke causes the airways to become swollen, narrow, and filled with a sticky mucus.

Tobacco smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections in babies every year. In addition, it causes a higher rate of preventable throat and ear infections. Up to 26,000 new cases of childhood asthma are reported each year because of tobacco smoke.

Another reason to stop altogether is to make sure you will be around longer for your children. Some of the fatal illnesses that affect adults who smoke are coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Be Their Hero
In today’s information-saturated society with images flooding the Internet and television, children seek someone to look up to and emulate. Whether they pretend to be princesses or monsters, chances are your sons or daughters first learned this behavior from their environment and the media. You, as your child’s first teacher, can also be their first role model.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to make an impact on your son or daughter. You may struggle to quit smoking, to eat healthy, or just to complete a project at home. Whichever it may be, demonstrating your stamina and overall joy in getting it done will make a lasting impression on your children. It’s easy to take these little moments for granted, but often they are the most striking on young, impressionable minds.

Learn how to model positive behavior for your child in our our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

Where to Find Immunizations on a Budget

April 16, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

Where to Find Immunizations on a Budget | Where to find low-cost or free vaccines for your child. | National Infant Immunization Week: Immunization. Power to Protect.

April 18 marks the beginning of National Infant Immunization Week, an annual observance highlighting the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases. It also celebrates the achievements of immunization programs thus far. This recognition might not seem like something big to celebrate, but think of all the diseases we are now able to better manage because of the available vaccines—measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and polio, just to name a few.

It is very important to have up-to-date vaccines for children, especially newborns. Unfortunately, doctor visits and immunizations can be expensive—even more so if the sole provider does not have the insurance to cover the child. If you are providing for a bigger family, the costs could be more than half of your paycheck. Thankfully, there are two great websites that provide multiple options for inexpensive vaccines.

Immunize for Good
This website lists the different shots both you and your child need depending on age. It has a wonderful resource page that explains different types of free or low-cost vaccine programs, like Vaccines for Children (VFC), which provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Children 19 years old and younger are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native, or have no health insurance.
On this website, you can find great information on necessary vaccines for everyone from newborns to teenagers to seniors. It provides the latest vaccine resources and requirements from federal agencies for all ages.

If you’re seeking insurance on a budget, visit the Health Insurance Marketplace. Find out if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage available through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Most Americans are eligible to use the Marketplace.

Children can receive over 30 vaccines by the time they are four years old. That’s a lot to keep a child healthy! Check out school-based health centers, community-funded clinics, and your state’s healthcare and family services for other low-cost immunization options.

Take a few moments to research the proper places that provide free or low-cost vaccines for your child. If you opt out of vaccinating him or her, you risk multiple doctor visits, hospitalizations, and in some cases even premature death. Sick children can also cause parents to lose time from work. It’s worth the research and the vaccinations to prevent these issues, and in turn give your child the best chance for success throughout his or her life.

Learn more about immunizations and well-baby checkups in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, which help parents from birth through high school graduation and beyond. Now available on Amazon

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