Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are Hand Sanitizers Safe for Young Children?

In today's column I would like to share with you another safety alert for toddlers and preschool age children. This one is specifically about hand sanitizers, but more broadly about products such as mouthwash, hand lotions, and other common products in our homes that are "safe when used as directed".

An e-mail has been circulating about the dangers of hand sanitizers. Young children who ingested small quantities of the product from a single squirt into their hand have been poisoned and hospitalized. Hand sanitizers work because they use ethyl alcohol to kill germs. Hard liquor actually contains a lower percentage of alcohol than hand sanitizer. Some of the e-mails call for the banning of hand sanitizers. However, before throwing out this baby with the bathwater, parents should consider how they use and store other common products.

It is dangerous to ingest any household products that are not intended for human consumption. We know that all babies learn by putting things in their mouths. When old enough to imitate, toddlers copy our behavior. They see us putting clear and colored liquid in our mouths, so they do the same. Any time soaps, lotions, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizers are kept where toddlers can get to them, they will. They are driven by their curiosity to learn and try everything they can. One of our many tasks is to keep the learning environment safe.

Do not lose sight of the fact that hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed. However, remember that the best way to prevent the spread of germs is by washing your hands. Many generations of children grew into healthy adults before hand sanitizer became popular. Could it be that we are relying on this product because we are not disciplined enough to wash our hands?

The decision as to whether or not to keep hand sanitizer in your home is a personal one. If you cannot keep this product out of reach of the children in your home and you are unable to supervise its use, you probably shouldn’t have it. If this is true, I would suggest there may be other substances you need to remove from your home as well.


First you get your hands wet

And you get some soap

Rub it all around

And then rinse off the soap

Turn the water off

And then you dry your hands

Put the paper towel

Right into the trash can.

Tune: Sing a Song of Sixpence

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Safety First

For many of us, summer and winter activities in our community include things like riding lawn mowers, four-wheelers, and snowmobiles. We are using them all the time and those of us who are caring for babies and toddlers may be tempted to give them rides as we go about our chores and recreational activities on these motorized adult toys. Along with others of my generation, I see the inherent danger in holding very young children with one arm, while steering, operating the brake, and operating the gas with the other.

I have been riding my father's four-wheeler lately. The steering has no power assist; it takes my two arms to maneuver tight turns. The gas is operated with my right hand and the brake with the left. I shift between forward and reverse with the clumsy use of both hands and the strength of my whole body while negotiating the shift lever with my left foot. Where would I find two more arms to hold a young child? Could I trust the balance of the child on the narrow seat between my knees as I drive? Would I?

Car manufacturers and our laws have come a long way since my own children were babies. I drove blissfully around without car seats and seat belts to protect them. But every once in while, when a deer or cat or bunny, or another car loomed in my path, my heart caught in my throat with the realization that I could have seriously mutilated or killed my own children.

I do not hear of any laws prohibiting operators of recreational vehicles, lawn tractors, or even farm tractors from holding babies and young children in arms while driving. But I when I read about the accidents that happen, I wonder.

Thank-you to Ruth Meszaros for suggesting this timely topic and to Steve Baye for the art in today's fingerplay.

Toad House Publishing

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Turn the TV off

Most of us are not used to reading scientific literature. The title of the research is usually a few lines long, just a little daunting. Following the names of participating researchers there are abbreviations for their titles that we may not have been exposed to. We wonder why we should continue reading!

I read the synopsis of a recently published piece of research that is definitely relevant to parenting and child care environments. With the exception of a few twists in writing style and wording, the research and conclusions were easy to understand. I would like to share the research and the conclusions with you in today's column.

A group of researchers wanted to test the idea that when the sound of the television is on, there will be less talking between a parent and a young child. To do this, 329 preschool children wore digital recorders at times for a period of two years. Computer software analyzed the sounds the children heard and the sounds the children made.

It was found that each hour with the television on was associated with significant reductions in the speech of the child and there were significantly less verbal exchanges with the parent. The researchers conclude that the results may explain why children in homes where television is on a lot have delayed language development.

(Now, that was not so hard!) I would like to thank my friend, Elizabeth Beall, PhD, from Park City, Utah who sent an email with this research summary.

Toad House Publishing

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Secret Places that Children Play

I am excited about the articles I have been reading concerning play. I hope to distill some of the key points of the articles for readers and point you in the direction of these articles.

It seems every article tries to define this illusive concept. The following definition is from an article from the Alliance for Childhood: Play is a set of behaviors that are freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated. The full article, "A Playwork Primer" will be on the Bringing Up Baby website,

The article describes how secret places that children play are vanishing from their lives. Especially in cities, contrived and rigid playgrounds are the norm and play spaces where children can use their imagination, where risk taking and safety are in balance, and where children of many ages play; are disappearing from the neighborhoods.

The author describes adult designed playgrounds as being empty of playing children but areas of weeds and trees and loose debris as being a magnet for them. Through the author's observations we learn that children choose to play where they can move objects and their imaginations to create play. In creative play places, children use cardboard and sticks and bits of grass and stone to build house for fairies and dragons. Other children using the same space will role play firemen and pilots, mothers and teachers, or cops and robbers. Children will challenge themselves physically and intellectually in play spaces like this. This play can last for hours and hours and no child who has the opportunity and space to create their own play is ever "bored".

Adults who were asked to describe their favorite summer memories of childhood do not describe the summer camps or baseball or swimming lessons. They describe those times when they crawled through the tall grass to find a sheltered and secret place where they wove complex stories of challenge, beauty, and intrigue. Is there a place and time for your child to create his own play this summer?

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print