By Christina Elston
This checklist of tips to safe and savvy kid-care from the American Academy of Pediatrics may seem obvious to most of us, but it's an excellent reminder of the many things we need to keep in mind when it comes to protecting and nurturing our children. Make sure you can check off on all of these:
- No hitting. Spanking or striking a child, out of anger or in the name of discipline, sends the message that violence is OK. Use positive discipline and nonviolent consequences.
- Immunize. Getting your kids vaccinated on time protects them against a host of diseases. To see a schedule of the immunizations your child needs, visit www.cispimmunize.org.
- No smoking. There's absolutely no evidence that smoking is anything but bad for your health - and your children's. Need help to quit? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and other health organizations sponsor an excellent "smoke-free" campaign. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visit www.smokefree.gov for information and tips on why to quit and how.
- Read to your kids. Open a book every day with them, starting when they're 6 months old. You'll foster a love of books, boost learning ability, and forge family togetherness - all at once!
- Be safe on wheels. Seatbelts, carseats and helmets keep your kids safer during car trips, and on bicycles, skateboards or scooters. Make it a habit to use them.
- Childproof your home. Keep poisons, objects small enough to choke on, sharp edges or knives, and firearms out of reach. Watch out for trip-and-fall hazards and electrical outlets. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission (search under "childproofing") for information on effective childproofing methods and gadgets.
- Monitor media exposure. Watch and listen to your child's movie, TV, music, computer and video game choices. And limit "screen time" of all sorts to help your kids stay active. The AAP recommends no more than two hours of quality TV and video time per day for older kids and no screen time for children under age 2.
- Feed them right. Build meals and snacks around whole foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. Use only a minimum of processed foods. For more nutrition specifics, visit the American Heart Association's Web and click on "Children's Health.
- Get involved with school. Be active in your child's education; numerous studies have shown that parent involvement and interest helps ensure a child's academic success. Volunteer if you can, and take an enthusiastic interest in what your children are learning.
- Share the love. You are your kids' first and best source of unconditional love. Let them know that you're always there with a listening ear or a helping hand.