Let’s End the Epidemic of Child Drowning

It’s the saddest news we hear in the Valley every year: a toddler or child drowning.

As of this writing, six people have drowned in Phoenix this year. In all there have been 11 incidents in the city. Statewide, there were 26 water-related incidents, according to Children’s Safety Zone. Three of the fatalities and 11 incidents were among children under age five.

It’s not that parents aren’t alert. Many do all they can. But just losing sight for a moment, through distraction or a blocked view, is long enough for a child to begin drowning.

So what can you do to prevent accidental drownings?

Child Drowning Can Happen in Any Body of Water

Even a bucket of water is enough to cause a drowning.
Supervise young children playing in or even around water.

Children don’t just drown in pools. Any body of water is dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children ages one to four, after death caused by birth defects. While most of these accidents happen in pools, the number of drownings outside pools rises with age, CDC says.

Overall, drowning is the second-leading cause of death for children ages one to 14, after motor vehicle crashes.

Here is Arizona, children, teens, and adults drown in canals, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Young children also drown in bathtubs and buckets, in plastic and blow-up pools, and in sinks and toilets.

Watch your child when he’s in the tub and on the toilet. Don’t let him or her use the bathroom or kitchen sink unsupervised. Let the phone ring or text messages buzz: nothing is more important than the safety of your child or the child you’re watching.

If There’s Water, You Need a Barrier to Protect Younger Kids

When there’s water and kids, you need a barrier.

For pools, this means a safety fence required in all Arizona homes with one or more children under age 6. Here’s a link to these requirements. Grandparents would be well-advised to install one in their yards.

What about other bodies of water? You can only put up barriers in places you control. So outside your home, you have to be the barrier or provide one.

Occupy the kids with non-water activities. This means making sure someone is really watching the kid(s). It’s impossible to do this if you’re also setting up food and other events. So plan ahead of time for at least one responsible adult (and that means one who’s abstaining from alcohol) or teenager to watch the little ones and engage in activities with them.

Bring balls, balloons, digging toys—whatever is appropriate to keep kids occupied outside of water—while you’re busy with other tasks.

Life vests can be worn over swimsuits as children learn to swim.
Wearing a life vest can help kids learn to stay afloat.

Buy a life vest for your child. If swimming is part of your plans, get a kid-size life vest for your child. We often have them in our store; we also occasionally get life vests that are part of a swimming outfit.

There are a lot of opinions about floaties. Some kids are motivated by them to learn to swim, which is a necessary life skill. Just be careful that you don’t take them, or lifejackets for that matter, as a substitute for supervising children in water.

Finally, if you really want to enjoy the day and take time off from childcare, hire a sitter. Decide if the sitter and kids should come with you or stay home. There’s no shame in wanting time off to socialize. Raising kids is fun but tiring; all parents need time to relax and recharge.

Preventing Child Drowning Inside the Home

Young children can drown in just small amount of water. Toddlers are especially top-heavy and tend to fall head-first and struggle to get back up from that position.

Bathrooms are rife with potential water dangers. Here are some tips for making them little-kid-safe:

  • Many of us have small steps or stools to help little ones reach the sink to wash their hands. Stay in the bathroom to supervise them during this step; you’re already in there if you’re potty-training. And it’s always good to ensure they know proper hand washing.
  • Put the toilet seat down after each use. Many parents even install toilet seat locks to keep it down until it’s needed.
  • Faucet safety locks are available for the tub as well.
  • Use doorknob covers to close off access to powder rooms, other bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

Outside your home, make sure your empty any buckets after a rain or seal them with a cover. If you have a plastic pool, be sure to empty it after you’re done using it. These steps are also essential to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs around your home.

Above all, make sure someone is really watching the kids around water or their access to it is blocked. Check out this list from Child Safety Zone to assess the drowning risks in your own personal situation. Knowledge and action can prevent an accidental drowning!

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Kids and Arizona Heat

Those of us who grew up here in the Phoenix are understand the Arizona heat. Transplants learn, but Arizona kids need extra protection.

Arizona Heat is Part of Life Here

Display of kids' sunglasses.
Kids’ eyes need protection from the fierce Arizona sun.

Arizona heat is part of our lives. If recent summers are any indication of what to expect, we should anticipate hotter weather arriving sooner and heat waves lasting longer.

These key items must be part of your lifestyle, particularly if you have kids with you:

  • Several bottles of water
  • Sunscreen
  • Hats

Keep water in all of your vehicles for drinking and car emergencies, including an overheated engine, radiator, or water pump. Tuck a bottle of sunscreen into a seat pocket, and throw a few hats in the trunk, too.

Dress your kids for the weather. Put them in loose, light-colored clothing that lets their skin breathe and catch whatever breezes come their way.

Give them sunglasses, too. The Arizona sun is as bright as it’s hot. We sell kid-size glasses for boys and girls, made of safe, shatter-proof plastic. They’re water-friendly, too.

Special Heat Considerations for Kids

Most people know that the hours between 10 am and 2 pm are when the sun is strongest. It’s also when anything left outside and in an unshaded car or truck heat up, too. This includes car seats, toys, and playground equipment.

If you live in Arizona, you probably have your windows tinted and shades to protect your steering wheel. Be sure you have sunshades for your backseat passengers, too.

If you can’t park your car in a garage or shaded area, drape a towel or blanket over car seats and boosters to block out the worst of the rays. Even better, invest in car seat sunshades that provide extra protection over the car seats and boosters.

There are also rollers you can install on side windows, but as The Car Seat Lady points out, these can peel off (the sun does a number on any number of stick-on products) and fall on an unsuspecting passenger.

Splash Pads: Safe Relief from the Arizona Heat!

Just about every outdoor venue in Arizona, from shopping centers to parks, have embraced spraying water all around. Splash pads are a favorite way for Arizona kids to cool off.

What Arizona kid doesn’t have memories of splash around at Tempe Marketplace, Desert Ridge, and other venues where there’s ice cream nearby? Almost all  parks have them, too–Scottsdale’s Agua Linda down the street from us has a couple that are pretty much on all the time when kids are there in weather over 90º.

If you have a yard or patio where kids play, consider installing water misters to make sure they stay cool. It also makes it more pleasant when you or a sitter is outside with the kids. Even in the shade, it’s still hot!

Keep Arizona Kids Safe at the Pool

Arizona law requires homes with pools to install pool barriers that prevent little ones from entering the pool. This only applies to homeowners whose residents include children under six years of age.

However, if you have grandchildren or other kids who frequently visit, please consider installing barriers at  your pool, too.

If you need help paying for such a barrier, the United Phoenix Firefighters and the Valley of the Sun United Way have pooled resources to provide assistance to Maricopa County residents who qualify. Check out their application and learn more about how to support this valuable program.

Finally, be sure your kids, grandkids, and other young friends know how to swim. Every town in the Valley offers low-cost swim lessons and many will waive fees altogether for low-income families.

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Textbooks for Homeschooled Kids

The number of children who are homeschooled has grown slowly over the years but shows no sign of dropping. The last reliable statistics from 2013 say 1.7 million children who would be in any grade K-12 are home schooled. This is about 3.4% of the school age population.

Requirements to Homeschool in Arizona

Homeschooling statistics in Arizona count children between the ages of six and 16 as of September 1, according to the website A2Z, which I highly recommend you visit if you’re considering home schooling your child. Parents can pretty much create their own curricula for children under age eight, but they must follow a state curriculum when their children turn eight.

school textbooks
We sell textbooks for homeschooled kids.

The curriculum covers these subjects:

  • Reading
  • Grammar
  • Math
  • Social Studies
  • Science

We carry a number of textbooks to support homeschooled students. Most of these texts are for students in the equivalent of grade (primary) school, including kindergarten and pre-K. Some of them are comprehensive grade workbooks, while others focus on topics like science and language arts.

They’re also useful for parents who want to provide additional instruction to kids who need extra help or who want them to retain what they’ve learned during the school year over the summer break.

We carry other educational tools including flashcards, LeapFrog and VTech accessories, and science kits. Call us and we’ll be glad to tell you what’s currently in stock.

bookcases of childrens books
We also have bookcases stuffed with books, DVDs, and even VHS tapes.

Why are People Homeschooling Their Kids?

The National Center for Education Statistics asked parents this question in 2013. The environment of the local school was the leading reason.

This doesn’t tell you much. I did a little more investigating and found the Office of Non-Public Education in the US Department of Education. They’ve asked this question over the past several years. Here are the leading reasons in 2012, after concern about the school environment, cited by 91% of parents:

  • Desire to provide moral instruction (77%)*
  • Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at local schools (74%)
  • Desire to provide religious instruction (64)*
  • Desire to provide a nontraditional approach to education (44%)
  • Child has special needs (17%)
  • Child has physical or mental health issue (15%)
  • Other reasons (37%) (family time together, distance from school, finances)

*This question was split out for the 2011 – 2012 survey from “desire to provide religious instruction.”

College-Bound Homeschooled High Schoolers are Equal or Better than Peers

I thought more parents sent their kids to middle and high school after homeschooling in the early years but the Department of Education statistics don’t bear this out. Middle school and high school students dominate homeschooling statistics by about 2 to 1.

So how are homeschooled high schoolers doing compared to their formally schooled peers? There’s not a lot of data out there. I found one study cited over and over that was published in 2010 by Michael Cogan, a professor at St. Thomas College in Minnesota. Cogan’s research found the kids are all right (to steal a phrase from The Who):

  • They consistently outscored public, private, and Catholic high school students on the GPAs, ACT scores, and in the number of credits accepted for transfer and GPA for those credits.
  • While their ACT math scores equalled those of Catholic high school graduates and were slightly lower than those at other private schools and public schools, they blew away the competition in English and reading ACT scores, scoring a full two points or more.
  • Their science ACT scores were higher than students at all other types of schools.

But these are students going to college. I didn’t find anything on the percent of homeschooled kids who do go to college. And it would be interesting to see more recent research than Cogan’s.


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Are Crib Bumpers Dangerous?

Dr. Oz has called for a ban on crib bumpers, citing some grim statistics on their use. He’s asking people to spread the word through social media.

In the past, many of us put bumpers in our babies’ cribs. But with Oz’s involvement, the movement to ban them is growing.

The advice I see most often today is to simply leave the crib bare and make sure that sheet is securely tucked around the bottom of the mattress. That said, I am no longer selling or accepting crib bumpers for consignment.

Most experts say to remove crib bumpers and leave the crib bare.
Call the police! Someone ripped off my crib bumpers!

What Oz and Others Say About Crib Bumpers

Dr. Oz cites rising statistics indicating that crib bumpers have been a factor in infant deaths. They’ve tripled, he says, and have no benefits, only risks. Here’s his video.

The American Academy of Pediatrics called for a ban, too, back in 2011. It found that bumpers raise the risk for trapping a baby and cause suffocation.

The Government Has Not Banned Crib Bumpers

The U.S. Government has not issued a ban on crib bumpers at this time. If it does so, it will be through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. We subscribe to CPSC notifications and remove products it bans from our shelves. We also do all we can to contact customers who have purchased products from us prior to a ban.

Many crib bedding packages include bumpers. Ultimately, it’s up to parents to decide if they should be used. One argument against banning them is that parents will simply use other, less stable materials to prevent babies from bumping their heads, such as pillows or rolled-up towels.

If you really love the way bumpers look, I suppose you can tie them around the outside of the crib—but take ’em down once Junior figures out s/he can tug on them.

Why Do Parents Use Bumpers?

Many parents use crib bumpers to lessen the impact from a head against crib rails. Some babies are just more mobile than others. They can, and do, move about in their sleep.

Several years ago, crib manufacturers began putting more slats in cribs to prevent babies from getting their heads trapped between the slats. Many parents saw bumpers as an effective way to cushion head impacts and to prevent limbs from getting trapped between slats.

Bumpers were removed once an infant was able to grasp and pull, to prevent him/her from getting tangled in bumper ties.

Some parents swear by mesh bumpers, which achieve the goal of softening contact with slats and are more breathable than traditional bumpers. Babies can still get tangled in them, though, one of the dangers Oz and others cite in their call for a ban.

Watch your baby sleep and observe any changes in movement. If s/he is pretty still—nothing beyond the usual jerks and twitches most babies do when sleeping—bumpers are definitely unnecessary. If there is a lot of movement—well, that’s why people liked bumpers.

If you decide to use them, make sure they are placed correctly and checked every day so that they’re secure and not easily untied or lifted. Take them out once your baby can grasp and pull on them.

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Should You Dress Your Twins Alike?

If you’re the parent of twins, you’ve probably had an earful about whether you should dress your twins alike.

People notice when siblings of different ages are dressed alike. But dress your twins in matching outfits, and you’re in for a lot of comments, including compliments. There are a lot of opinions on whether regularly dressing twins in identical outfits is good for them or harmful to their development.

Lots of Experts Say Don’t Dress Your Twins Alike

Recently, a customer came in with twin girls. Do you dress them in matching outfits, I asked.

Never! she replied. Children need their individuality. In our home, these girls aren’t twins, they’re sisters. They are individuals and we don’t want them to grow up thinking they’re the same person.

A double stroller is the best gift for parents of twins!

Good news for me. I don’t often have matching twin outfits in my resale shop. But I listened closely to her reasoning, which is backed up by sources like BrainChild and TwinsBlog.

  • Twins share enough things out of their control like birthdays, the first day of school, graduations, and religious events like confirmation and bar mitzvahs.
  • Dressing twins alike can interfere with their abilities to make friends and meet other goals on their own.
  • Twins get enough attention anyway—including from strangers—without adding the additional attraction of dressing them identically.

Dressing Twins Alike Won’t Actually Hurt Them

Dressing your twins alike won’t harm them if you can manage to accomplish this.

As TwinsBlog points out, babies put out a lot of body fluids. Frequent clothing changes are inevitable. What they start out wearing in the morning is rarely still on by early afternoon.

Plus, smart parents pick and choose their fights: who wants to regularly battle multiple toddlers who don’t want to wear a particular outfit?

Fears that the kids will lose their individual identity when they are dressed alike are probably overblown. Kids in healthy families will be treated as individuals no matter what. It’s only when they are lumped together as “the twins” and treated as a single unit that things can get weird. It’s parents’ responsibilities to ensure that other family members, teachers, friends, etc., recognize that their children are individuals who need and deserve individual recognition.

True, dressing kids alike will blur the line. But as any parent knows, children show personality pretty quickly, even multiples. One will be more or less likely to cry or be fussy. One will eagerly eat all his food while the other picks at it. One will love the dog, while the other ignores it. And so on.

I have a friend who’s the aunt of identical triplets, literally a one-in-three-million occurrence. (I know you’re wondering: they were not the result of fertility treatment.)

Now in their 30s, these sisters weren’t frequently dressed alike but they did share many preferences until their teens when individual traits came out. They participated in their high school’s marching band but played different instruments.  They maintain a very strong bond, my friend tells me. And while style their hair and dress quite differently, they remain obviously identical.

Unless it’s a special occasion like a family picture, there’s really no reason to require multiples to dress the same.

Help People Figure Out Which Twin is Which

You can dress your twins in similar outfits but let their own identities shine through.

If you have same-sex multiples, remember that most people will need clues to remember who’s who, particularly if they’re identical. Put different colored baby bracelets on them. Ask for and buy personalized t-shirts. Emphasize each kid’s likes when people ask what to buy “the twins” for their birthday.

Most of all, let kids choose some of their clothing. Socks and underwear are easy choices. When you shop with them, let them do a little browsing on their own to see who likes what and buy accordingly!


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