Learn the Valuable Impact of Assistive Technology

In today’s technological age, we get to do so many things. We can drive, we can access the internet at the tip of our fingers – we can even talk to our phones and computers and have them talk back! We take the ability to drive, to pick up a phone, to type an email, and a variety of other things as granted.  But for some people they aren’t.  There are those of us who for any reason cannot see, cannot hear, cannot walk, cannot talk, or may even be unable to move their limbs.  Before, these people were often left without the ability to do certain things on their own. They relied on others for so many things that we take for granted every day! We don’t realize just how much Technology can help people. Here a few ways to see just how useful it is!

  1. Orally Controlled objects.

This is a really amazing new piece of technology that is meant for quadriplegics. This technology allows a quadriplegic to control things by using their mouths and any head movement they have.  For example, if someone unable to use their hands or feet wanted to surf the internet – previously, they would have needed to get help for this task to click buttons, etc. Now, with an orally controlled mouse, they are able to do this independently. Similar technology allows them to drive their own wheelchair, or dial a phone. It gives them some of their independence back!

assistive technology

  1. Vocal and Auditory cues.

This is probably one of my favorites.  For those who cannot see, or cannot move limbs – this is also amazingly helpful.  We take voice dial for granted on our phones.  However, with the glass screens of modern phones, a blind person may not be able to use a phone like that if not for voice commands and Spoken responses. With this, you can know who is calling, tell a phone who you want to call, look something up, etc.   It’s even great when people need to make a call on the road! In addition, this same principal can be applied to a computer as well.  It may take a program download or some settings changes, but once it is set up, these people are good to go!

  1. Light aids.

For those who cannot hear, life can be difficult.  This isn’t because deafness is a debilitating disability.  In many ways, it is one of the most easily functional disabilities.  People with hearing loss are still able to cook by themselves, still able to drive, still able to participate in class.  Instead, it has different hardships – social isolation because of lack of hearing, possibly scary incidences when trying to follow directions in a busy place, not being able to hear things and being made fun of – deafness is not an easy disability to live with either and requires help too.  They have technology to allow house lights to flash at the sound of a doorbell.  Conversations can be converted into text on a phone, or video calling is a perfect option. Signs at crosswalks letting pedestrians know to walk – any type of assistive technology not only makes our lives easier, but can make a world of difference to those who use them every day.

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Fun and Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Finding games that are quick, easy, and will be fun for everyone can be a challenge.  Something that is too long may be hard for the younger ones to keep track of.  Ones involving a lot of running may not work for guests with asthma – so how do you ever find games that are not only fun for everyone, but also easy to create? It isn’t a simple feat.  Here are a few ideas to make your foray into party planning just a little less hectic!

Obstacle course

This can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it.  Whether you set up a whole course in your backyard or use a series of chairs, ribbons, and clothes, you can make a team game that everyone can enjoy! Make sure that you have enough room for at least 2 teams.  If you have a large backyard, create one long course and do a relay style.  If not, do a game with a consistent relay style for each team member.  For example, the first team members have to run to a large paper roll, run around it three times, then put on a new pair of shoes.  Next person has to run to the paper roll, run around it three times, but put on a shirt!  Whatever you choose to do, this is a fun option that will let you get creative and have some fun while you are at it!

Easy Games for your Kid’s Party

Balloon relay races

This game is especially funny when older kids are doing it.  To play this game, you must run with a balloon between your legs to your teammate, and pass the balloon off to them for their leg.  Whoever completes this task to the finish line first, wins!

Pin the tail on the donkey

A classic, this one is a lot of fun for younger kiddos.  Using Velcro or tape, have the kids try to pin the tail onto the right spot on the donkey. The closest ones get a prize – everyone else gets candy!

A scavenger hunt!

This activity is a great way to use time. Create a hunt that will send them all over, and give you some time to either set up a new game, or kick back and relax for a little while!  Split the kids into two teams, and then give them a beginning clue list. As they move throughout the hints, give clues to each item.  All items should be following a certain theme, and should lead to an ultimate item, theme, or compilation.  This also allows you to use complete creativity and have some fun.  You can also let your child in on the fun – let them pick the theme, and have some say in how many clues there should be, etc. Even with the surprise of what you ultimately pick, they can know that it will be something everyone can enjoy!  Whatever you pick, these simple activities can make a good party great!

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How to Choose a Backpack

It happens every year: back to school shopping. Tons of stores, tons of choices, lots of money spent. One of the most important purchases you'll make for your child is a backpack, assuming you pick a new one every few years. With rows and rows of options at several different stores, how should you go about picking a good one?

Consider the Age and Opinion of Your Child

How old is your child? Some kids want a say in what their backpack looks like, because it can be a fun or exciting thing (especially for the younger ones). Always ask to see if your kid even cares, and if they do, involve them in shopping. For younger children (say, third grade and younger), select several that meet your criteria below and then allow them a handful to choose from. For older children, allow them to help you in your research and to present you with backpacks that they like that meet your budget and other requirements.

How to Choose a Backpack

Consider the Contents

Depending on how old your child is, this backpack will either be filled with a couple of worksheets and maybe a few markers, or it'll be jam-packed with books and binders. What will your kid be carrying to and from school on a daily basis? Are there enough pockets and space to accommodate the contents?

Consider the Support

Once kids get old enough to cart text books back and forth, you'll want to start considering some back support in the way of adjustable straps and engineered materials. Kids will end up carrying 10-20 pounds on their backs every day when they get into middle and high school, so neglecting to think about how this bag wil support their backs could be a huge medical mistake.

Consider its Durability

Backpacks can be expensive, so looking at the durability should be a requirement. Trendy backpacks may not be built well, but may cost more money because of the trend. Try to set milestones for the backpacks: the first one should last from pre-school to first grade. The second one should last from second grade to fourth grade. The third one should last from fifth grade to eighth grade, and so on and so forth. Avoid backpacks that will have you buying a new one every single year.

Consider the Deal

Given that this purchase isn't like buying a new binder, it's ok to splurge a little if it's in your budget. Your budget should correlate to exactly how many years you'd like to get out of your purchase, understanding that the more you spend, the better the brand, the more use you'll get out of it.

Before you blindly purchase a bag from Target, do your research. Consider the deal, the durability, the contents, the back support and your child's opinion, and you'll be happy with your purchase.

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How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy

Choosing toys for your kids presents some unique challenges. You want something stimulating and educational, and you want it to be age-appropriate. Here are some tips on how to choose and electronic educational toy.

Battery Power

There’s been a recent groundswell of support for non-mechanized toys for kids. The resurgence of wood blocks, plush toys and dolls might have you shying away from electronics. However, keep in mind that there are some truly incredible, electronic educational toys available today. And it’s not all about lights and bells: there are toys that provide great stimulation and entertainment for kids of all ages.

Age Appropriate

Most children’s toys come with an age recommendation to inform consumers of the ages for which the toy is appropriate. This is a great guide – particularly if you don’t have little ones at home – to provide a general idea of the suitability of the toy you’re choosing for its intended recipient. Keep in mind this age range recommendation is simply a guide. You’ll need to consider the individual preferences of the child in determining if the toy is appropriate for their age and developmental stage.

Electronic Educational Toy

Be Careful with Noise

For toys that produce sounds, opt for ones with multiple volume settings. Many will have a low and high volumes, making them better suited to kids who may be hearing impaired or have sensory issues that make loud noises unpleasant.

Multi-Function Toys

The best bet with electronic educational toys is something that can also be played with and enjoyed without the batteries. Examples include toy fire trucks or tractors, which can be played with as a push toy even if the lights and sounds are off.

Evaluate Three Areas

When choosing an electronic toy, consider its potential in three key areas: skill building, entertainment and promoting active play. Try to pick a toy that provides benefits in all three areas. The ideal toy should teach a new skill to the player, provide a fun and entertaining experience, and encourage active (rather than passive) play for the child.

Toy Preferences are Individual

There’s a reason today’s toy market is a multi-billion dollar industry: kids like many different kinds of toys. So, even though you’ve researched and chosen the perfect educational electronic toy, there’s a decent chance that the child won’t like it. Or, they may love it. It all depends on the individual interests and preferences of the child. To be safe, you may want to discuss ideas with your child’s teacher or day care provider. They may have observed the child playing with a specific type of electronic educational toy and can offer some ideas.

Electronic educational toys present the opportunity to engage children and make learning fun in new and exciting ways. Remember to look for toys which build skills, entertain the user, and provide for active play, problem solving or creativity. The result will be a great toy that captures the imagination and attention of your child and becomes a favorite toy at playtime.

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5 Great Bedtime Stories for Kids

The Power of Words

There is no doubt that stories can stay with us and shape our lives.  In fact, they can teach us how to live.  I grew up with books and stories, some of which linger in my mind to this day.  Here are 5 terrific bedtime stories for young children that could have an impact on them even decades from now.

The Frog Prince

Not only does our society place enormous value on physical appearance, it seems to begin this indoctrination at very young ages.  It is important to teach children that beauty is not everything, no matter what the media tries to make one believe.  A wonderful story to teach children that looks are not everything is the Brothers Grimm classic The Frog Prince.  This story also teaches the moral of keeping a promise.

Bedtime Stories for Kids

The Gift of the Magi

This beautiful story by O’Henry is appropriate for audiences of all ages with the timeless message it delivers.  A young and very poor married couple sell the only things they have of value to buy each other a perfect Christmas gift.  When they arrive home, the things they sold were related to the gifts they purchased for each other for those very items.  With utter simplicity this story personifies love and sacrifice.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

This parable is an excellent lesson to what might happen if one decides to lie.  In Aesop’s classic fable a shepherd boy decides to call out for help from his village as he falsely claims that a wolf is attacking his flock.  The boy raises a false alarm so many times that on the day a wolf actually does appear and attack the sheep, no one answers the boy’s cries for help.  This is a very effective cautionary tale which can be applied in several aspects of life.

Cinderella

Far beyond the Disney princess, this is another classic fairy tale with a strong message.  Turned into a servant and treated abysmally by her stepmother and stepsisters, the gentle and gracious Cinderella wins the heart of a prince and forgives those who wronged her for many years.  This story teaches us that grace and kindness are admirable qualities in a person and priceless qualities to have.  It also teaches us about strength and remaining a good person even under unfortunate circumstances.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

There is no doubt that the legends of Arthur and his knights are among the most well-known and well-loved in the world.  These tales of romance and chivalry have stood the test of time and still enthrall audiences both young and old.  These stories of heroes, chivalry, love, magic, and brotherhood are parables of the many faces of humanity.  The tales can also be used to teach some historical aspects and make learning enjoyable.

Other Sources

Please do not stop with these five stories but further explore the classic works of Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Aesop’s Fables, and Charles Perrault.  These beautiful works of literature are guaranteed to provide years of stories and scores of life lessons for young children.

No clue what to read to your kids?  Go back to tried and true classics for bedtime stories and bring timeless tales to life.  Give your kids a start to literature.

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Why Video Games for Kids Are a Good Idea

Video Games for Kids

Video games in moderation can be a very good idea for kids. Notice we mentioned moderation.

We’re not advocating hours of play nor do we think that violent games are appropriate, especially for younger children.

Motor Skills

We’ve all tried to play a video game with our kids and have had them beat the pants off us. Why? Their game playing has helped them hone their fine motor skills.

It’s that old eye/hand coordination thing that we had to master when we were kids ourselves. Video games help increase those skills in your kids – and they get to play at the same time.

Team Work

Besides sports, kids can learn the value of team work if they are playing with friends or even involved in an MMORPG. That’s a mouthful, huh? It stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game and it’s very popular.

Problem Solving Skills

Games that require kids to solve particular problems help with logic skills which will serve them well in the future. Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning to make choices and not being hemmed in by those choices. It’s okay to change your mind and a game that encourages kids to make different choices will elevate their confidence.

These kinds of logic skills will also help children when they get to the point in school where homework is online and may involve problem solving. College testing involves a lot of problem solving and video games can help get them in shape.

Keep the Console in a Public Place

One thing that will help give you some peace of mind is by keeping the computer console in a place where you can see it like the living or family room.

That way you will be able to see what they are playing and shut down anything you think isn’t age appropriate.

Strategy and Creativity

This section goes along with the prior section on problem solving. Certain video games can increase fact finding, critical thinking and creativity skills that will help your kids be better stewards of information in the age of everything online.

And from players often comes developers and programmers. Your child may turn out to be the next computer game revolutionary all because you allowed her to play games.

Women are now taking a much bigger role in game design and coding thanks to being influenced by video games at a young age.

Talk About It

If you’re concerned about your child’s video game playing, talk to them. Find out what they like about it and see if you can learn to play with them.

Understanding what draws them to a particular type of game will help you understand their motivation in wanting to play. It may be that they have formed some great alliances around the globe as a result of playing with other kids in Europe or Asia.

A recent study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics found that kids who play video games for about an hour a day are less hyperactive and much more social than those who did not play at all.

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Toy Safety

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Buying toys for kids is one of the perks of being a mom, but there are some basics that are important to remember when choosing toys for younger children. Toy safety is an important issue that everyone should be aware of. Finding the best playthings for your child begins with knowing which toys are appropriate for your child based on their age.

Labels and Examinations

Labels are a good resource for choosing age-appropriate toys for kids. Most companies today put an age indicator right on the box or tag. If you find something that doesn't indicate which age it has been designed for, however, you will need to examine the toy carefully. Anything with a sharp edge, loose parts, magnets or unsecured batteries are particularly dangerous for young children. Skip those toys in favor of safer options. You should also check stuffed animals and other soft toys carefully to ensure eyes and other features are secured properly before giving it to your young child.

Gifts and Secondhand Items

When your child receives a gift, it is important to make sure it is safe. Gifts from grandparents and others that you know well can be planned in advance if you discuss the importance of toy safety with those closest to you. You may want to show grandparents and others what to look for when making purchases for your child, or provide other caregivers with a safety checklist to make purchasing toys simpler. You can also share the tips found at Safe Kids, online at www.safekids.org.

Secondhand items should always be inspected carefully to ensure the toy is safe. Toys can become damaged through normal play. Anything with small or loose parts, for instance, should be discarded. It is normal for other parents to want to pass their secondhand toys on to someone else after their child has outgrown or no longer plays with them, but if you are uncomfortable with this type of gift it is perfectly fine to say no. If you do accept secondhand toys, make sure they are safe by checking the official recall list. You can learn more about toy recalls at the Consumer Protection Safety Commission, which can be found online at www.cpsc.gov. With some simple steps, you can prevent injuries and accidents caused by recalled or damaged products.

 

Back to School Tees…on the Cheap

cheap-tees...back to school tees - on the cheap. 😉 Check out what we made today using fabric pens and these really fun "doodle-pop" embellishments at Michaels.

http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayArticle?articleNum=as0293

So simple - yet so cute.

The bright colored embelishments were actually iron-on embroidered art doodles.  I just used one white, and one black fabric pen and added some of the backfround designs.  (Swirls, stars, hearts, little buildings...honestly - anyone can do it!)

They also have some "flocked" matching iron ons that you can use to add detail (see the octopus photo).

Everything, including the transfers, tees, and pens cost me less than $20!

Click the link above for more information...and don't forget to grab your online Michaels coupon!

Mom Review: Bleach Baths for Eczema…Do they Work?

eczemaMy daughter has severe eczema.  So severe that she referred to herself as "polka-dotted" when someone commented on her tan. "Boy are you tan..."..."no, I'm just polka-dotted".  Thankfully, she's only six and the "polka-dots" caused by dry skin are still somewhat funny to her...

Lately her condition has worsened and it is no longer funny to either of us.  While I had hoped that the humidity of summer would improve the problem it has aggravated it.  (I am suspect that the 3X daily dose of sunscreen or seasonal allergies is making it worse).

I've tried just about everything to treat her eczema - from slathering on Hydrocortisone creams to trying the "as seen on TV" skin care remedies and while her condition improves somewhat (off and on) nothing has eliminated it.   During my monthly search for the "next best thing" I came across numerous websites that suggested adding a small amount of bleach to a child's bath water will help treat eczema.  Yes - bleach. Like many of you reading this, my initial reaction was, "are you kidding me?". Why would I put bleach in my child's bath water?   So I continued to search and realized that the bleach treatment was actually featured in numerous reputable magazines and websites including Time, WebMD, and ABC News.com.

From Time Magazine....

When treating children for chronic eczema, pediatricians may want to look in the laundry room, according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics. The study reports that adding a small amount of household bleach to a child's bathwater can dramatically reduce the itching, rashes and discomfort caused by eczema.

The treatment sounds harsh, but the findings confirm what many pediatric dermatologists have seen anecdotally for years. The theory is that the antimicrobial properties of bleach help relieve symptoms of eczema not by acting directly on that skin condition, but by improving children's skin infections of staph bacteria — a common co-occurrence that exacerbates the irritating symptoms of eczema.

Last year  my husband (who also suffers from eczema) nearly wound up in the hospital after contracting a severe MRSA (anti-biotic resistant) strain of staph infection, therefore, I've been especially concerned about my daughter's condition.   While the "bleach bath" treatment sounds harsh, there is nothing worse than watching a loved one suffer from a staph infection and not knowing what antibiotics (or even *if* antibiotics) will help.

So I'm giving it a try and will post the results (after a few weeks) here.  She had her first bath tonight and so far, so good!  🙂  I used 1/4 cup of bleach in our full tub.   Her hair is the same color...her skin is the same color...and she didn't seem bothered by the smell.  (She actually liked it..."it smells like a pool in here".  Oh...and the tub is bright white and looks AWESOME.  🙂

I'm planning to give her a 10 minute bleach bath nightly followed by a slathering of Aveeno oatmeal lotion (recommended by our neighborhood pharmacist).  Bookmark this post and I will share my review in a few weeks.

(This is just my personal opinion and review - please consult your pediatrician or dermatologist before trying this treatment).

Not a Fan: Old Navy Little Girls’ Jeans

jeansToday was back to school shopping day.  Let me start by saying that I was *thrilled with the deals!  $10.00 Jeans at Old Navy...$10-$12.00 Jeans at Kohls.   I felt like I hit a gold mine.

I bought 4 pairs of girls Jeans at Kohls - and three more pairs at Old Navy for a total of $$65.00  I felt like I'd hit the jackpot.

...and then - fitting time.

I unloaded my bags and had my six year old daughter try on her jeans.  The first pair (from Kohls) was from the "Jumping Beans" line.  One of my all time favorites.

Cute, stylish...yet still "childish" - elastic waistband...cute detailing including little "heart" pockets.  Perfect.  I spent $7.00 - cha-ching!

Next, we tried the "SO" Kohls brand jeans 2 for $22.00.  Again, cute...simple - adjustable waistband...again - perfect.

Finally, the Old Navy brand jeans.  I bought one "boot cut" pair, and another "flare leg" in size 6.

....Not a fan.  My six year old daughter literally had to "jump" up and down to get the jeans to her waist.  If that wasn't horrifying enough...they were skin tight on the thighs and extremely low-waisted.

...I am not a prude (by any stretch of the imagination)  - but why in the world would a little girl need to "hop" into her jeans?  ....and why so tight?  My daughter is average-sized (a little slim) and these jeans were tighter than tight around the thighs and bottom...and "low-rise" enough that if she bent over to pick up a crayon...her bottom would be showing.

Do we really need to "show-off" the figures of little girls? Do they even have a figure yet?

Mind you, I am a huge fan of Old Navy for myself - but I will no longer be shopping there for anything but graphic tees for my little girl.

I just don't get it...