Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to School: Keeping Safety Top of Mind!

With kids heading back to school within the next few weeks, it seemed like a great time to share a few important safety tips!  Many of the helpful hints below are well known by most children, but with the excitement and confusion of returing to school it can be easy for kids to forget, or to be more inclined to inadvertantly put themselves into situations that could be dangerous.  Offering  these simple reminders may help keep safety fresh in their minds as they head off!

image courtesy of anankkml/
 Getting To and From School:
  • For younger students, parents should always provide supervision to help ensure their safe arrival to and from school.  It is not safe for young children to walk to and from school, even in groups. If your children wait for a bus, wait with them or make arrangements for other trusted adults to provide supervision at the bus stop.
  • For older students, if they take the bus, be certain they know which bus is theirs and remind them to stay with a group while standing at the bus stop.  If they walk or ride a bike to school, remind them to always take a friend with them when walking or biking.  Walk the route to and from school with your children before the start of the year and point out safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. Teach them never to take short-cuts; to avoid parks, vacant lots, and fields; and to always stay in well-lit areas.
  • All children taking the bus should be taught and reminded to: stay seated at all times, keep their heads and arms inside the bus, and keep their seatbelts fastened during the trip. When exiting the bus, they should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit from the front using the handrail to avoid falls, and cross the street far enough in front of the bus that they can make eye contact with the driver.
  • Students who ride a bicycle or scooter to school should wear an approved safety helmet and should be taught to obey all traffic signals, signs, and traffic officers. Remind them to be extra careful in bad weather.
Stranger Danger:
  • Let your children know that if anyone harasses them or makes them feel scared or uncomfortable that they should trust their feelings and immediately get away from that person and tell a trusted adult. Impress upon them that it is ok to be rude to people who make them uncomfortable and that it is ok to say "no."
  • Teach your children if anyone tries to take them somewhere they should resist by hitting, kicking, and screaming.  Advise them to try to run away and call as much attention to themselves as possible by kicking and screaming “Fire!" or “You are not my father/mother!”
  • Remind your children never to accept a ride, money, candy, or gift from a stanger. Let them know that if anyone follows them in a vehicle they should turn around, put as much distance between themselves and that vehicle as possible, and run to a trusted adult (or the home of a trusted adult) and ask for help.
  • Be sure your children know that grownups should never approach a child to ask for directions, they should ask other adults.  Reassure them that it is ok to ignore a stranger trying to get them to approach a vehicle by attempting to solicit their help. 
Lines of Communication:
  • Be sure the school has current and accurate emergency contact information on file for your children and confirm names of those authorized.
  • Always know where your children will be. Teach your children to always check with you before changing their plans before or after school. Teach your children to never leave school, with anyone unless they ok it with you or another trusted adult, even if someone tells them it is an emergency.
  • Be sure your children know their home phone number and address, your cell number, the number of another trusted adult, and how to call 911 for emergencies.
Safe and happy Back-to-School!
-Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

De-Stressing Back to School!

To help ease back-to-school apprehension, try to ease kids into a consistent school night routine  before the beginning of the school year.  In particular, be sure they:
  • get enough sleep and eat a healthy breakfast (set a reasonable bedtime to ensure they are well-rested, and help keep them alert with a balanced, low-sugar breakfast)
  • compile a list of need-to-know information to help them remember important details (i.e., class schedule, classroom numbers, teachers' names, bus drivers' names, and bus number, etc.)
  • simplify by using a calendar - record all assignment and project due dates, test dates, extracurricular activities, gym days, etc.
  • get organized and encourage them to set out everything they need the night before (completed homework and books should be placed in backpacks and clothes should be laid out for the next morning before bedtime)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Travel-Tot: Stay Safe As Home, Wherever You Roam!

image courtesy of stock images/
Traveling is one of life’s greatest joys; and, while sharing the traveling experience with your child can certainly add to the thrill of the journey, it can also be stressful. Investing just a bit of time to make certain that your accommodations will be safe for your child helps ensure as relaxing and enjoyable a trip as possible for everyone.

It can be a real challenge to be removed from the controlled environment of a home living space. Hotel rooms, cruise ship cabins, rental properties, and even family member’s homes often lack the basic child-proofing measures to which parents have become accustomed in their own homes. Moreover, because cleaning standards vary from place to place, there is no guarantee that objects or surfaces that the guests preceding you may have handled were properly disinfected, which could result in you or your children catching someone else’s cold, or worse.  So what can you bring along to help make your room more child-friendly?

You can easily provide a basic level of protection from many of these hazards in just minutes' time with a few simple items (like those conveniently provided in the Travel-Tot Childproofing Kit!) including; outlet covers, doorknob protectors, cord guards, door pinch guards, and safety latches.  If you don't mind investing a bit more time, tools such as sanitizing wipes, a bath thermometer, and portable gates or guard rails can help provide additional protection from common hazards.

The bottom line is that when you are traveling with a toddler, a little planning goes a long way; it could be the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a travel nightmare.

10 Simple Child-Proofing Measures For On-The-Go!
Here are some simple steps you can take to make your home-away-from-home safe and relaxing:
  1. Get down on your hands and knees and explore the room from your toddler’s perspective; be sure to thoroughly check under beds and furniture for stray pills, buttons, pins, or other items that could pose a poisoning or choking hazard.
  2. Arrange furniture away from windows or doors to prevent accidental escapes or falls.
  3. Use guards to tie up electrical and blind cords which can pose a choking hazard to your little explorer.
  4. Secure low cabinet doors shut with pinch guards to reduce risk of injury.
  5. Ensure that all locks and latches on exterior doors are in working order and secure them to prevent unsupervised access to stairs, balconies, and terraces.
  6. If your little traveler is curious about the toilet, be sure to place a doorknob protector on the handle to prevent unsupervised access.
  7. Sanitize surfaces, door handles, faucets, remotes, phone handsets, light switches, and any other object from which your toddler could potentially contract germs with disinfecting wipes.
  8. Check water temperatures before you give your child a bath; the water may be hotter than what you are accustomed to at home and could pose a burn hazard.
  9. If your toddler is a restless sleeper or is new to sleeping in a “big bed,” you may want to pack a portable guard-rail, or move the bed against a wall and use a chair along the open side to prevent a fall.
  10. Finally, be sure to arrange the furniture in a way that allows for some play space; a room full of “no-nos” will result in a bored and irritated toddler, which will lead to a stressed and anxious parent!
- Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Apps We Love: Queen Bee in Paris!

image used with permission from Happy Dandelion
If you've ever dreamed of taking your kids on a European adventure, but just haven't managed to make it a financial reality, we have a great way to prepare their minds, hearts, and spirits for all that awaits them when they get there! From the creative minds at Happy Dandelion, comes the next installment in their captivating Tiny Tourist series: the Queen Bee in Paris app (don't miss their Little Lamb in Amsterdam app for an equally beautiful overview of that city!). This interactive, extraordinarily executed e-book provides little minds with a spectacular overview of the iconic images, culture, and history of France. At 26 pages, this e-book is an engrossing collection of adorable, animated illustrations, with snippets of some of the most famous masterpieces featured in the city's famed museums. 

While the app is perfect for children of any age, it bears mentioning that even adults will find it entertaining (look for nods to such historical figures as Marie Antoinette and the more contemporary Je Suis Charlie). Be sure to take advantage of the brief historical lessons available by swiping on each of the pages, and consider setting the app to the French language option to share the joy of a foreign tongue with your curious little learner! 

We just love this app, and can't recommend it highly enough!  So do yourself (and your child!) a favor and check it out today! You can download Queen Bee in Paris (iOS or Android) for only $4.99 - a total steal for this masterpiece in it's own right!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Destination: Plymouth, MA!

This past week, my family was fortunate to spend a long weekend visiting relatives up near Cape Cod. We try to visit at least once a year and always enjoy spending time with cousins, swimming, playing, eating and just catching up! This year, we were able to stay a little longer than normal and decided to check out some of the local historical and natural sights in the area, and with so many to choose from, that was no small feat!

Mayflower II, Plymouth Harbor
After much discussion, we decided to explore the Plimoth Plantation, a living museum boasting a re-creation of a Native American Homesite as well as a 17th century English Village and Craft House. The homesite featured actual Native persons demonstrating everyday tasks such as: canoe making, cooking, and weaving, all while fielding visitors' questions. Similarly, the village had costumed role-players who showed the tasks of everyday life in the 17th century and answered questions all while conducting their chores, which included everything from grinding grain to repairing perimeter fences to protect the village,  In the Craft House, artists demonstrated English lottery making, wood working and baking.  There is also normally a tour of a re-creation of the ship which brought the Pilgrims to the area, the Mayflower (called the Mayflower II); however, this particular weekend the ship was out for repairs. The whole experience was a delightful walking tour with something for everyone!

Humpback Whale
We also decided to go on our very first Whale Watch! We took a four-hour trip out of Plymouth Harbor on the Tails of the Sea; the ship was operated by Captain John's Whale Watching and Fishing Tours and offered two trips daily. We went in the afternoon and were astonished when we encountered a humpback mother and calf who were curious about the boat and who played and swam just off the bow for an hour! It was a truly beautiful experience, and one I know my daughter will never forget.  After the whale watch we were rushing to meet family for dinner, so we did not get to see the famed Plymouth Rock; but it is located right in Plymouth Harbor.

In all, the trip was a ton of fun, and while the Whale Watch might be tough with children under age 5, I would highly recommend it for those traveling with school-aged children. For both excursions, we brought a lot of sunscreen and water, and were glad to have both.  Also, unless it is the peak of summer, a light jacket will help keep passengers (particularly children) warm on the boat, which can get cool and breezy as you head out of the harbor. 

Safe and happy travels!
-Destination Mom

Friday, August 7, 2015

The 411 on Carseats!

image courtesy of Keerati/
It's no secret that we at Travel-Tot feel strongly about childproofing hotel rooms and other away-from-home lodging accommodations; but what about keeping your child safe while you are in transit?  Often families get so caught up in the planning, packing, and preparations for a family getaway that they don't remember that their mode of transportation may not already be child-safe.  Airplanes, taxis, and loaner vehicles are rarely equipped with properly installed safety devices; so what is a parent to do?

Bringing your own car seat or booster is the best option!  Thankfully, there have been great strides made in developing safety seats that can be easily transported when not in use.  For example, The Car Seat Lady recommends several fabulous options ranging from infant carriers that easily snap to compact strollers to combination stroller car seat/booster options.  These are great because they not only offer a safer seating option for flights or other vehicular transport, but they can be rolled (with a child it in!) through expansive airports or along sidewalks to taxi or bus depots; freeing up parental hands, and saving backs and sanity! 

A last resort if you forget or cannot bring your own car seat or booster, is a rental car seat.  Because it is impossible to know for certain if a rental seat has sustained an impact in a crash, it is always best to bring your child's own car seat; but a rental is better than nothing at all!  If the taxi or rental car agency offers to provide a safety restraint seat for your child, be certain to check that it is appropriate for your child's age, weight, and height.  Also be certain it is properly installed and that it is in working order with no broken straps or latches.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website provides a fabulous page with age-appropriate safety seat guidelines if you are unsure of what type of seat to request.

The emergency-only option for families travelling with a child is to use whatever safety feature is available (usually a lap and/or shoulder belt).  While it is true that any restraint is better than no restraint at all, using a safety belt alone on a young child is a last resort option and should never be done if an appropriate car seat or booster seat can be obtained.  If you are in a situation where there is no option other than to use a standard seat belt, there are several important steps you can take to ensure that the restraint offers the best protection it can:
  • Never buckle more than one person into a car seat belt.  Buckling more than once person into a car seat presents the risk of the top person being fatally crushed in the event of a crash. 
  • Never put the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm of a passenger.
  • Be vigilant about seat belt use for everyone riding in the vehicle; studies have shown that restrained passengers are 4 times more likely to die if someone else in the car is not restrained.
Used properly, car seats and seat belts save lives... a little planning and research can provide you with the knowledge you need to determine which option will best suit your unique needs. Safe travels!

- Destination Mom

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The "Plane" Truth About Germs!

These fantastic tips come to you courtesy of our friends at Clorox®:

Researchers from Auburn University recently confirmed what we suspected all along – airplanes are crawling with nasty germs. In addition to common bacteria and viruses, airplanes can also harbor pathogens like E. coli, which can survive for hours, even days, on various parts of an airplane cabin.

Now before you panic and swear off air travel altogether, take a deep breath and remember there are ways to limit your exposure to bacteria and viruses on airplanes:
  1. Wash your hands. Often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of travel, washing your hands is one of the easiest things you can do to minimize exposure to pathogens.
  2. Pack Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes On the Go. They are the perfect size to bring in your purse or carry-on bag. Use them on your armrests, tray table and in the lavatory. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe down that window shade, you don’t know whose face was leaning up against it on the flight before yours!
  3. Don’t forget about the travel pillow. When you arrive home from vacation, be sure to spray your travel pillow with some Clorox® 4 in One Disinfecting Spray, which effectively sanitizes soft surfaces and reduces allergens such as dust mites (ew!).