What’s the Buzz on Insect Repellant and Kids?

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Spring is in the air and we will soon see families and children enjoying time outdoors, in backyards, and in the parks.  One thing that can spoil this picture are the annoying biting insects and mosquitoes.  I wanted to know what the experts say about the safety of insect repellents on small children, and I was surprised to find out that deet is not as bad as I had thought.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that insect repellents containing deet are safe for children as young as 2 months. Bug repellents with deet come in varying strengths – some contain up to 30-percent deet. A higher concentration of deet does not mean a product is stronger, only that it lasts longer.

Another ingredient similar to deet in some repellants is Picaridin, which has been used in European countries for 10 years and is becoming more popular in products available in the U.S.  There are also natural repellants made with oils such as lemongrass and citronella.  Along with repellants, parents and caregivers can prevent insect bites by dressing children in long sleeve clothes and socks and shoes.  It is suggested that parents avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellant.  While it is good to reapply sunscreen often, it is not recommended to reapply the insect repellants.


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Parent’s Magazine highlights many of the products you can buy in their Ultimate Guide to Bug Repellant for Kids, with specific application information for each product. Check out what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says about Insect Repellant Use and Safety in Children. It is always a good idea to ask your trusted pediatrician what they would recommend for your child. The Center For Disease Control also has recommendations for Insect Repellant Use and Safety.

There are so many positive reasons to get children outdoors to play and explore.  Be informed on how you can prevent insect bites from scratching your plans.

Featured image source:


Peer Reviewed by Sarah Paulos, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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High Quality Child Care Depends of Effective Family Engagement


Creating Opportunities for Parent Partnerships

Opening the doors to meaningful contacts and connections with parents is a fundamental piece in building relationships with families.  Early childhood professionals who insure this is done well and in accordance with best practices are getting to know their families well.  They understand the backgrounds and special talents and skills that their family clientele bring with them and they work to incorporate these gifts into activities and learning in their child care homes and centers.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) outlines 6 principles of and also gives insight in to specific ways early childhood programs can meet this standard of excellence in their day to day practices.

Six Principles of Family Engagement Recognized by NAEYC:

  1. Families participate in decisions and goal setting

Invite families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their child.

This can be done through initial intake questionnaires, regular parent teacher conferences, and a consistent staff person to follow the family throughout the program.

  1. Teachers and Programs Engage Families in Two Way Communication

Face to face, written, and on-line communication that is both school and family initiated and in the family’s preferred language that invites a dialogue about the child’s educational experiences as well as what is happening in the early childhood center.

  1. Reciprocal Relationships

Staff are connecting with families to learn about their lives, communities and cultures, and work to intentionally integrate this into the curriculum and instruction.  Programs also work to help families to share some of their own special skills, talents, and knowledge and invite them to take an active role in the school environment.

  1. Learning Activities at Home and the Community

Programs are educating families about child growth and development and connecting families to other services available in the community to support their child’s education.  Many times communities have free or low cost events for families with young children.

  1. Families are involved in Program Decision Making

Family members are asked to serve on committees and boards that help make decisions to shape the policies of the program.  Families have input on hiring of personnel, admission policies, and input on menus to name a few. They can also lead the way in raising funds for special projects.

  1. Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system for family engagement

Programs are intentional in reaching out to families in a variety of ways and teachers are given support and training in effective family engagement strategies including having a diverse staff that mirrors the community in which they serve, and ensuring that the curriculum that serves as the foundation for educational experiences and environments is anti-bias and inclusive for all participants.

Check out the full article from NAEYC Effective Family Engagement

At a recent early childhood conference, I attended, the Buffet Early Childhood Institute gave this advice on creating parent partnerships:

Listening Conferences

Prior to the start of school, invite parents to do the talking at a special parent-teacher conference. The idea is to engage the family before school starts to gain valuable new information about the child and family, which can be incorporated into the learning environment.

Conference Artifact Activity

Another helpful strategy to learn about children at conferences is to invite the parents to share one artifact or special item that has a special meaning to their child. When parents share their story about the item, it gives them a voice in the meeting, and provides the teacher with important insight into who the child is.

The Buffett Institute is dedicated to research, practice, policy, and outreach initiatives to improve the early life experiences of children from birth to age eight.

What strategies are you using to engage families in your early childhood care and education programs?



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Get Back to Nature!

After 70 degree temps earlier this month, I was snowed in at home due to ice and white out conditions.  That’s nature in Nebraska.  We could think of all kinds of reasons to be negative about the weather, but I say, “Let it Snow!”  I remember as a child the many fond memories of playing in the snow with my family, and it was something to look forward to each winter season.  Sledding, making snowmen and snow forts and exploring the different types of snow (such as the kind that easily packs together for building versus the light and dryer type of snow) allows children to connect with nature and the outdoors, while at the same time building their sense of creativity, problem solving, motor skills, and social emotional development.


Last month I delivered a program to childcare center directors where we focused on spaces to learn and grow and the importance of designing outdoor spaces for children in our care to experience nature.  No matter what season it is, research indicates that children who have opportunities to experience their natural environments have the ability sustain concentration, delay gratification, and cope with stressors in their lives.  Research done in the Netherlands demonstrated the distance one lives from the nearest green space and the prevalence of many major illnesses including Anxiety disorder and depression in children under age 12. According to Louise Chawla, Professor of Planning and Urban Design from the University of Colorado, “Adults in many studies report that memories of a special place in nature experience in their childhood gives them a pool of calm on which they can draw in difficult times.”

When designing spaces for children, I advise childcare providers to include a balance of natural spaces and play equipment. Include areas with small trees, and perhaps a water feature and patches of soil to explore as well as to garden in. Play equipment that is safe for children can be interspersed within the outdoor space and the natural additions of plants and pathways can create natural barriers to define the purpose of these areas.  Check out Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature for some great before and after outdoor spaces designs in childcare settings as well as a detailed explanation to the many benefits of natural environments.


Bringing the outdoors in to the classroom or center is also essential in early childhood curriculum. Consider the many classroom centers and the possible items from nature that could inspire and challenge children’s exploration.  Classrooms can add sticks and rocks or tree cookies to the building area, or introduce seeds and leaves to the science center.  Could these items be used in the art area? If you have small group experiences, you might explore the seeds inside of a pomegranate or pumpkin.   NAEYC shows how early childhood settings can introduce nature in the classrooms and allow children to take the lead in exploring these materials by Connecting Young Children With Nature .


Children spend a good majority of their time in childcare, and therefore it is essential that we include natural outdoor learning environments and experiences to enhance their overall growth in development in all domains.

What are you doing in your childcare home or center to Get Back to Nature?


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Image: ShutterStock


Got the Urge to Splurge?

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Marketers make it easy to want “more bang for your buck” such as up-sizing your meal at the fast food restaurant or upgrading a cell phone or cable package. It is very tempting to receive “more” for what appears to be a relatively small additional cost. Resist the urge to splurge as those extras definitely add up! For instance, if a family of four eats out three days a week, the family will spend nearly $4000 a year on fast food.

Every year, families should review their communication (cable, satellite, phone, internet) service plans to see if they are fully utilizing their contracted services.

Explore the following:

  • Do you pay extra for an unlimited data plan, but only use a small amount of data every month?
  • Do you send numerous texts each month, but only have a small number included on your plan?
  • Do you have premium movie packages on your cable or satellite plan but find you do not watch any movies? If you do like to watch movies, be sure to compare the cost of adding on premium movie channels to using online streaming services.
  • Do you have a land line phone with unlimited long distance and have a cell phone with unlimited minutes? If you have an unlimited cell phone plan, you may decide to completely cut your land line or that you only need a very basic land line.
  • Do you need higher internet speeds? If you only surf the web and send emails, low bandwidth may be sufficient. If you stream high volumes of content or online gaming, you many want a higher bandwidth.
  • If you decide to switch providers for better or different services make sure you check with your current provider first. Many will have customer retention agents who will work with you to offer you a better plan or a better rate.
  • Bundling packages can be beneficial however evaluate each component of the bundle separately. For example, if you are considering a home cable, internet, and land line phone bundle, price each option separately for the exact service or product that would best meet your needs. Also, if there is a promotional pricing with the bundle, be sure and check long-term costs of the service (i.e. what will it cost when the promotion ends) and how to change your plan when the promotion ends. Be certain to mark the date on your calendar when the promotion ends so you remember to take action.

Source: https://militaryfamilies.extension.org/tag/30-days-of-savings/


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6 Tips for Savvy Online Shopping


  1. Look for coupon codes before buying. If you search the merchant’s name and “coupon code” you should be able to see the latest coupons for things like free shipping or a percentage off. Check the coupon’s expiration date and if it requires a certain dollar amount be spent before using.
  2. Consider setting up a separate email account just for coupons to go from stores where you shop. You only need to check the account when you want to make an online purchase.
  3. If you are not needing to make a purchase right away, leave the items in your virtual shopping cart. Many time, after a few days, the merchant will contact you with a coupon to encourage you to complete the purchase.
  4. Daily deals (usually for 50% off or more on retail prices) are growing in popularity. Be cautious not to click to buy just because it’s a great deal, make sure it is something you really need.
  5. Safeguard your personal information when shopping online. Be sure the website you use is secure (https) and that you are on the legitimate retailer’s site. Knock-off sites do exist and it may be hard to tell the difference from the real thing. 6. Use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, when shopping online. With credit cards there is a time period after making the purchase before you need to pay your bill (not the case with debit cards where the money comes out of your account immediately). You can use this time to settle any disputes that may arise on transactions.

Source: https://militaryfamilies.extension.org/2016/07/26/cybershopping-saving-strategies/


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It Can Take A Village to Support Breastfeeding Moms


I knew the many benefits of breastfeeding many years before having my own child. I taught education classes to soon-to-be parents about these benefits. I shared how breastfeeding is an important practice for both the baby and the mother. During these classes we talked about how breastmilk has nutritional, immunological, and psychological benefits and provides all the nutrition and sustenance a baby needs for the first six months. We talked about how the nutritional benefits continue into the second year of life and how the nutritional components of breastmilk change over time to meet the nutritional needs of the child. I shared how breastfeeding may help reduce the chance that a child becomes overweight or develops certain diseases in the future. We also discussed the benefits of breastfeeding for women. Women who exclusively breastfeed typically lose more weight after giving birth (who doesn’t want that!) than women who use formula, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, protects against osteoporosis, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Finally, breastfeeding can benefit both mother and infant by helping to create a close emotional bond.

Knowing these benefits, I was completely committed to the idea of breastfeeding when I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter. I was so excited to be able to finally have this experience with my baby. After a somewhat traumatic childbirth I was finally able to hold my newborn baby daughter and excitedly prepared to breastfeed her. Despite her “great latch” as described by the nurses, I was challenged to produce milk. I became anxious and worried. Nurses would come in and “rate” the quality of my continued attempts to breastfeed which only made me feel more anxious. A lactation consultant met with me and I cried. I felt like a failure as a new mom as I was told that I would need to supplement with formula. My husband was a great support and said, “you can keep trying and we can supplement too. You are the best mom.” Then my mom and sister visited and provided some emotional support as well.

I continued to breastfeed with my limited milk supply and extremely sore bleeding nipples. I remember crying with my toes curled under with the first latch. I would nurse for what felt like hours hoping that my daughter was getting the nutrition she needed. Soon I received in home support from a certified lactation consultant who showed me different positions to use to breastfeed. She weighed my daughter and assured me she was healthy and growing. Eventually I was able to exclusively breastfeed and my anxiety dissipated. When I returned to work after 6 months, my in home child care provider provided a quiet relaxing place for me to breastfeed my daughter which allowed me to continue breastfeeding. I was not able to pump enough milk so having the opportunity to come at breaks and for lunch was immensely helpful. I share this experience in hopes that others see the value of serving as support system to moms. I share so that others do not pass judgement on moms as we never know the possible struggles they are experiencing.

I share so that moms know breastfeeding is beneficial and may be easy for some but not for all. I share because support for breastfeeding is important and can come from many different sources, including health professionals, mothers, grandmothers, trusted friends and community members. Think of how you can serve as a support to a mom if she decides to breastfeed. You never know what that support can do for a mom and her baby.

For additional information and resources, look at:

Kelly Mom Parenting and Breastfeeding http://kellymom.com/category/bf/


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When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Press Pause


The parts of our brain that are involved in reacting to emotions can quickly hijack our ability to reason and control our intentional spotlight. Think of all the times you regret saying something because you were wound-up or overly emotional. If only you’d pressed pause to think about your reactions before blurting out your feelings. Kids need this pause space too, although it is difficult for them to recognize when they need it. Often, when our child is upset or emotional, we feel the immediate need to do something about it – to argue back, to cuddle her, to yell, or to put our face right up close to hers so that she will concentrate on what we have to say.

However, the best strategy is to press pause and wait for your child to calm down. By doing this, you give your child the opportunity to practice calming herself down. Once she has calmed down, she will be in a much better state to express what she wants. There are cues that your child will use to let you know she needs to press pause – she might back up against a wall, fold her arms, avert her eyes or run to the other side of the room. Don’t take this personally and don’t get into a battle of wills chasing your child around the room. Instead, take the opportunity to step away and take a break yourself, process your own emotions, and demonstrate a calm response for your child. A parent’s own ability to self-regulate is an important predictor of their child’s success at self-regulating.

  1. Take Five
    One simple strategy that you can model and teach your toddler is to close your eyes and take three deep breaths. For preschool-aged children, you can teach a breathing strategy called, ‘Take 5.’ Teach your child to breathe in as they slowly raise each of their fingers on one hand and then to breathe out as they close each finger.
  2. Turtle Shell Technique
    For older preschoolers, you can use the ‘Turtle Shell Technique.’ When your child is mad or over-excited, teach him to go into a quiet corner, hug himself and take a breath, then come and tell you what the problem is and how he feels about it.
  3. Hot Cocoa Breathing or Cleansing Breath
    Model to a child that you are holding a mug of hot cocoa. Then demonstrate by breathing in through your nose for three seconds, like you are smelling the delicious chocolate smell. Then breathe out of your mouth for three seconds like you are blowing to cool it down. Do this four to five times until you feel more relaxed. A child who is three may only do this a few times and will breathe in and out through his mouth. This is okay as it is helping him become aware of the power of his breathing, and begins teaching him how breathing can bring him out of a reactive, out of control feeling.

Showing your child these techniques and praising him when he uses these techniques will be more effective than getting into an escalating battle of wills. Of course, it isn’t easy for your child to remember to use these techniques when he starts to lose his cool. The key is to practice regularly when your child is calm. If you make these strategies a habit, your child will be more likely to use them when they start to spin out of control. Remember, you can’t protect your child from feeling stressed out, angry or sad. What you can do is teach him ways of managing his stress.


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Is My Child Ready For Kindergarten?


Is my child ready for kindergarten? As a childcare director, parents often asked me this question. Early childhood is an awesome time for learning. Did you know 90 percent of a child’s brain will be developed by the age of five? Did you also know young children ages 0–8 do not learn the same way as you and I?
So, how can we best help our children be prepared, while still honoring their needs as children? Here are my top five ways to help your child (and yourself) be ready for kindergarten.

  1. Call your school district to ensure they know your child’s birth date and your home address. This will put your child on their list to contact when they send out kindergarten information. This is especially important if your child was not born in the town you now live in. The Nebraska Department of Education has a “Ready for Success” booklet at www.education.ne.gov/oec/ready_for_success.html. This booklet will help families know about starting school in Nebraska.
  2. Be responsive to all areas of your child’s development. Healthy development in all areas including physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive (thinking) skills will help prepare them for school.
  3. Encourage your child’s independence. Skills such as dressing themselves, using the restroom and handwashing without constant reminders from an adult are helpful for a successful start in kindergarten. Your child may have spent the first years at home, or in a childcare setting — either way the number of adults per child is about to decrease.
  4. Read aloud to your child, everyday! Not only will this encourage language and literacy skills, but it is a great way to spend time with your child. Visit libraries, read a variety of print materials including: books, comics, poems and captions on pictures from the newspaper. Just read!
  5. Research shows the best thing we can do to get children ready for school is to develop and keep positive relationships with them. Help your child develop confidence in their learning and they will be ready to take on the world.


Related Nebraska Extension NebGuides include:
Early Literacy Checklist — In the Home
CAR — A Strategy for Learning
Brain Development and Learning in the Primary Years


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4 Tips for Handling Temper Tantrums


Ever want to just walk away from your child when he/she is throwing a fit in the middle of the grocery store and maybe ask onlookers, “Whose kid is that?” When my daughter was about two, I can vividly remember just such an experience. I got through it at the time as best as I could but have learned over the years a few more tips for dealing with tantrums. It may seem like your child is doing this just to embarrass you, but what your child needs is a connection to you. They need to learn how to deal with their emotions and parents need to help them understand how to do so. Throwing tantrums can be frightening for the child but until they learn how to deal with their anger or frustration it may be the only way they know to reach out for help.

If the tantrum has begun in a public place:

  1. Remain calm. Remember you are modeling for your child how to act in the situation.
  2. Connect and Redirect. Neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, a parenting expert, talk about how when your child is having a “temper tantrum” or is flooded with emotions trying to reason won’t work. First acknowledge the feelings of your child, (CONNECT), comfort your child. Once your child feels heard, then you can reason or be more logical. After connecting, then REDIRECT, by offering to two choices. For example, if your child is 3 years old you can ask him if he feels calm and is ready to continue eating, grocery shopping, etc. OR you ask if he wants to go outside to the car where he may continue his outburst until he is ready to be calm. Part of connection is labeling the child’s experience and giving them the words or vocabulary to describe their emotional experience. This helps build healthy self-regulation and emotional intelligence. Sometimes your response in CONNECTING is enough. If you need to respond further with action, then you can explain what the child did wrong or that they can’t have that piece of candy while checking out at the grocery store.
  3. Use Calm and Caring Responses. It is always important to wait until the child is calm enough that you can talk about what happened. You are not a horrible parent if you let your child tantrum for a long period of time (even though on-lookers may make you feel that way). Do not give in because you feel your child has continued the tantrum too long. You can say, “I’m sorry. You cannot have that now.” Remember, your child is learning a new way of dealing with feelings of frustration and anger and it will take time. It is always important to respond to your child with compassion and tell them what is expected of them in a calm caring way.
  4. Reassure the Child She is Safe and Secure. All tantrums do come to an end. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes (which may seem like an eternity). This is the time to reassure your child they are safe and secure with you and that they can talk about their frustrations/feelings with you. Continue to be consistent and provide your child with a loving, secure environment in which to grow. Now is the time to help them learn to deal with their emotions (self-regulation) so that when they become teens or adults they do not continue to throw a fit instead of calming down and dealing with their emotions.

    Learn more about dealing with temper tantrums.


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February is Children’s Dental Health Month


Image Source: Pediatrics of Florence

February may be the designated dental health month for children, but it important to address your child’s dental health each and every day.  Dental care begins at birth and lasts throughout a person’s life.  It is our role as caregivers and parents to insure healthy habits are formed early on to keep one’s teeth as long as possible.

Baby Teeth

According to the American Dental Association, Children need strong, healthy teeth to chew their food, speak and have a good-looking smile. Their first teeth also help make sure their adult teeth come in correctly. It’s important to start infants off with good oral care to help protect their teeth for decades to come.

Children will get a set of 20 primary teeth or “baby teeth” and they are already present in their jaws at birth.  That’s why it is important to start dental care before teeth appear.  As a former preschool teacher, I am familiar with a classroom full of children with silver smiles resulting from dental surgery because of Baby Bottle Tooth decay.  This decay is caused by exposing baby’s gums to sugary drinks over a prolonged time, such as putting the baby to bed with a bottle, or using the bottle as a pacifier.  This can be prevented by not offering a bottle in bed, and when the child is finished with a bottle feeding, you can wipe the gums with a clean washcloth.  When the first teeth do appear, parents can brush them with a child size toothbrush and a tiny ‘grain of rice” amount of tooth paste.  It is also recommended that caregivers do not share and eat from the same spoons as infants and toddlers as the bacteria from the adult’s mouth can be passed on to the child.

Many people wander why baby teeth matter if they are just going to fall out eventually anyway.

This public service announcement highlights the reasons why.


Babies begin teething around 6-12 months.  Parents may notice baby is fussy, irritable, has trouble sleeping and drools more than usual. Parents can offer a soft teething toy or rub gums with a clean cloth.

According to the American Dental Association

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than 2, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional. Benzocaine is an over-the-counter anesthetic, which the FDA notes are usually under the product names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Benzocaine has been associated with a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced.

In September 2016, the FDA recommended that parents stop using homeopathic teething tablets and gels. “Homeopathic teething tablets and gels have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safety or efficacy,” the FDA says. “The agency is also not aware of any proven health benefit of the products, which are labeled to relieve teething symptoms in children.”

The FDA states these products are distributed by CVS, Hyland’s and possibly others, and are sold in retail stores and online.

“Consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels,” the FDA states.

If you have any questions about how to relieve your child’s teething symptoms, talk to your dentist or pediatrician.

Nutrition for Dental Health

Kids need healthy teeth to chew food properly, to form the shape of the mouth to enable the sounds of speech, and for a healthy smile.  Children’s nutrition is important for their growth and development from head to toe including their teeth. Most of the foods we eat have sugar in them, be it natural or added sugars.  We want to encourage you to choose foods low in sugar and avoid sugary drinks.  Look at the Nutrition labels of foods before making your decision, your child’s teeth will thank you.

Parents Role in Dental Care

 For children under six, parents should do the brushing.  At age 3-4 children will want to do the brushing themselves, but parents should do the final inspection.  Make sure to reach the back of the mouth where molars will emerge. Children often miss places on their own.

Check out  Mouth Healthy, for more information on Children’s Dental Health and  The American Dental Association for information on Children’s Dental Health Month.

Keep Smiling!


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