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Your Child

Teaching Kids About the Meaning of Memorial Day

2:00

For many kids, Memorial Day is just another three-day weekend celebrated with family bar-b-cues, a visit to the lake or pool, watching the latest action movie or any other of the numerous ways people spend the beginning of warm weather and a holiday. This year it falls on May 29th.

What is often lost in the celebrations is the meaning of Memorial Day and why it is an important reminder of sacrifice and service. Talking to your child about the history of Memorial Day and what it stands for can help them learn about the immeasurable cost of the freedoms they enjoy.

The preamble to Memorial Day was Decoration Day, established in 1868 – three years after the Civil War ended. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Local ceremonies were also held across the northern and southern parts of the United States, honoring union and confederate soldiers.  It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

In December 2000,  “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” was passed to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance asks all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Memorial Day doesn’t have to be only a day of remembrance for our veterans, but also a day to think about and celebrate the lives of family and friends that have been lost.

Most children learn why we celebrate Christmas and other religious holidays. They learn early about what the July 4th holiday is all about. Many a child’s first play is the re-enactment of the pilgrims and Native American Indians gathering to share food on Thanksgiving. But Memorial Day is sometimes given a vague description or is scrambled in commercials promoting holiday savings.

Enjoy this 3-day holiday break from the stress of school and work but also take a little time to talk about the meaning of Memorial Day with your child. And perhaps, stop for a moment of silence at 3:00 pm in remembrance of those who have lost their lives because of their service to our country.

Story source: https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

 

 

Your Child

Crypto in Swimming Pools Doubles in 2 Years

2:00

Many kids and adults won’t be waiting till the first official day of summer before cooling off in a waterpark or pool. Unfortunately, the chance of getting a pool-linked infection has doubled in the last year.

At least 32 outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis were reported in 2016, compared with 16 outbreaks in 2014, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as "Crypto."

While this parasite can be spread in several different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common way to spread the parasite.

Crypto is spread when people come in contact with the feces of an infected person, the CDC says. Not a pleasant thought.

Otherwise healthy people can be sick for up to three weeks with watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, the CDC warns. The infection can become life-threatening in people with compromised immune systems.

The cause? Adults or children sick with crypto-caused diarrhea are swimming in public pools despite their illness and further spreading the parasite, said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the CDC's Healthy Swimming Program.

Not only do humans spread the parasite, but also infected animals. Swimming in ponds or “swimming holes,” or anywhere animals have access, is not a good idea.

You can become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite. Crypto may be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals. Crypto is not spread by contact with blood.

Once infected, people with decreased immunity are most at risk for severe disease. 

People also can contaminate pool water with crypto through just physical contact, said Lilly Kan, senior director of infectious disease and informatics with the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO).

For example, parents might spread the parasite if they change a child's crypto-contaminated diaper and then hop in the water without properly washing their hands, Kan said.

Hlavsa explained that crypto is resistant to chlorine, and can survive up to 10 days in even properly chlorinated pool water.

Parents should take kids on bathroom breaks often, and shouldn't count on swim diapers protecting other swimmers from exposure to a child's diarrhea, Hlavsa added.

"Swim diapers do not contain diarrhea," she said. "If water is getting into that diaper, then water is getting out."

To protect themselves, swimmers should avoid swallowing any pool water, and make sure that kids don't have pool toys that encourage swallowing the water, Hlavsa said.

While home pools are safer, because of the fewer number of people sharing the water, they are not fool proof. Make sure that no one with diarrhea or a stomach illness has been in the pool before you allow your kids to jump in a friend or family member’s pool. And it goes without saying, make sure your own kids stay out of your pool if they’ve had or have diarrhea. Crypto can easily spread to family and friends.

Good hygiene and common sense should help make this summer’s pool party a special one - where everyone just has a good time and no one goes home with an unwelcomed guest inside them.

Story sources: Dennis Thompson, https://consumer.healthday.com/gastrointestinal-information-15/diarrhea-health-news-186/the-water-s-not-fine-u-s-pool-linked-infection-doubles-in-2-years-722869.html

Https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto/infection-sources.html

Your Child

What’s the Best Way to Teach Children How to Read?

2:00

For many years, there’s been an intense debate on the best way to teach a child to read. A research group in London decided to find the answer to the argument; which is a more effective learning process for kids – teaching “whole-word meanings” or sounding out words (phonics)?

The findings found that the phonics method was the clear winner.  

In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans.

Professor Kathy Rastle, from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said, "The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and our MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading."

Children learning to read in the United Kingdom are required to use the phonics system. The impact of phonics is measured through a screening check administered to children in Year 1 of school. The results of this screening check have shown year-on-year gains in the percentage of children reaching an expected standard -- from 58% in 2012 to 81% in 2016.

Critics of the phonics only system say, while this method may help children read better aloud, it doesn’t necessarily promote reading comprehension. Some educators suggest combining the two methods to help children read aloud well and increase comprehension.

However, the study’s authors say teaching phonics is the most effective.

"There is a long history of debate over which method, or mix of methods, should be used to teach reading," continued Professor Rastle "Some people continue to advocate using a variety of meaning-based cues, such as pictures and sentence context, to guess the meanings of words. However, our research is clear that reading instruction that focuses on teaching the relationship between spelling and sound is most effective. Phonics works."

The paper describes how people who are taught the meanings of whole words don't have any better reading comprehension skills than those who are primarily taught using phonics. In fact, those using phonics are just as good at comprehension, and are significantly better at reading aloud, researchers noted.

The researchers say they will continue investigating how reading expertise develops in the brain.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Story source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420094107.htm

Your Child

Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries

1:30

The school year is about to wind down and it won’t be long before many kids will be signing up for summer sports programs.

If you’re child loves sports, there’s not a season where he or she can’t find one to participate in. Sports often help children stay in better physical shape, feel good about them selves and with team sports, enjoy social interaction and competition.

However, all sports have a certain amount of risks associated with them - some more than others. The more contact the sport provides, the greater the risk for a traumatic injury. Fortunately, traumatic injuries are rare and most sport injuries to young athletes are due to overuse.

The most common sport-related injuries are sprains (ligament injuries) , stress fractures( bone injuries)  and strains (muscle injuries).Since children’s bodies are still developing, any tenderness over a bone should be evaluated further by a medical provider even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to help reduce serious injuries in younger athletes:

•       Time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week from a particular sport to allow the body to recover. 

•       Wear the right gear.  Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear. Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will always protect them when performing more dangerous or risky activities.

•       Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises during practice strengthens muscles used in play. 

•       Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises before and after games or practice can increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.

•       Use the proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season. 

•       Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.  

•       Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), and spearing (football) should be enforced. 

•       Stop the activity if there is pain.

•       Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing. 

While physical injuries are easier to see, sports-related emotional stress can also cause problems for some children. The pressure to win at all costs can add a lot of emotional stress to children who are more interested in playing than always being first.

Not every team is going to win every game, and there will be times when kids involved in more singular sports won’t have a good day. It happens to everyone at some time or another; ask any pro athlete. Young athletes should be judged on effort, sportsmanship and hard work. They should be rewarded for trying hard and for improving their skills rather than punished or criticized for losing a game or competition.  The main goal should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.

There are numerous sports that children can engage in and each one offers its own benefits. As parents, it’s important to encourage our children and keep them as healthy as possible.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Tips-for-Sports-Injury-Prevention.aspx

Parenting

Teaching Your Child Healthy Hair Care Habits

1:45

Teaching your child good hair care practices can help him or her maintain healthy and shiny locks throughout their life. It can also help prevent hair damage and skin conditions such as dandruff.

You’ve probably been washing your hair more years than you can remember by now, but there was a time when you had to learn what to do with shampoo and water.

If your child has reached the age where he or she can start washing their own hair, here are some tips to help them develop good hair care habits.

You’d be surprised how many kids think that washing their hair means just that – washing only their hair. Healthy skin and hair requires washing the scalp and the hair.

How often should your child wash his or her hair? The answer to that question depends on several factors. For example, during the summer, when kids are more likely to be playing outdoors or involved in sports, they may need to wash their hair as often as every other day. In the drier winter months when kids typically spend more time indoors, the schedule may be pushed back a day or two.

You also have to consider your child’s hair type. Does it tend to be dry or oily? Is it fine, curly, thick, thin or coarse? Different hair types require different care programs.

On an average, kids around 12 years old or who have started puberty and have fine, straight or thin hair, might need to shampoo as often as every other day. At this age, many kids are beginning to experience hormonal changes, causing their hair and scalp to be a little oilier.

For younger children, once or twice a week is sufficient – again, if they haven’t been doing something that would cause their hair to be excessively dirty.

For children with dry, curly or very coarse hair, washing their hair too often can be drying to the scalp and the hair. African American children often have at least a couple of these hair types. Washing their hair once a week or once every two weeks is sufficient if their hair isn’t too dirty. They may also benefit from using a moisturizing shampoo made especially for their hair type as well as a conditioner.

Healthy hair care begins with learning how to wash the hair without damaging it. When your child is ready to start shampooing, follow these steps to help your child develop healthy hair-care habits.

•       Wet hair and scalp with warm water. Shampoo works best on wet heads and hair.

•       Pour a quarter-size drop of shampoo in the palm of your child’s hand. Putting the shampoo in the hand first makes it easier to apply.

•       Tell your child to massage the shampoo gently into the scalp. When shampooing, it’s important to wash the scalp rather than the entire length of the hair. Washing only the hair often leads to flyaway hair that is dull and coarse. Rubbing shampoo into the hair can break hairs, leading to unhealthy looking hair.

•       Rinse well with warm water until the hair is suds-free. Rinsing well washes away shampoo and dirt.

•       Cover hair with a towel. Help your child wrap a towel around the wet hair. This helps to absorb the water. Rubbing hair dry with a towel can damage the hair, causing it to break.

•       Comb out damp hair gently. Use a wide-tooth comb, especially on curly hair. Don’t yank or pull the comb through the hair because that can pull out hair or break the hair.

•       Sometimes a de-tangling spray can help smooth out the hair and keep it from forming little tight knots.

To help kids develop good hair-care habits that help prevent hair damage, dermatologists give parents the following tips:

•       Make braids and ponytails loose and use covered rubber bands.

•       Consider styles that don’t require heat and chemical treatments.

•       When using heat on the hair, lower the heat.

•       Understand that chemicals in relaxers, dyes, and other hairstyling products often damage the hair. The longer the time between treatments, the better it is for your hair. 

•       After your child swims, make sure to wash away pool chemicals. If your child’s hair is normal to oily, shampooing works best. Children who have very dry or African American hair should rinse well and apply conditioner. Pool chemicals that are not washed away can damage hair.

•       Use a wide-tooth comb more often than a brush.

•       When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the scalp and hair from the sun.

All hair needs to be treated gently, especially when it’s wet. Brushing or combing hair too frequently or in the wrong way (such as using a fine-toothed comb on very thick, curly hair or teasing hair) can lead to breakage. Hair extensions and braids can also cause breakage. Leaving them in too long or pulling them out without professional help can cause hair and scalp damage or even hair loss.

The condition of our hair can also tell us about our general health. Sometimes hair breakage and dry, brittle hair are signs of a medical problem, such as hypothyroidism or an eating disorder. If your child’s hair is breaking or falling out, even though he or she doesn’t treat it with chemicals or other styling products, tell your pediatrician.

Healthy hair doesn’t just happen; it’s the result of proper care and maintenance. Starting your child on healthy hair care habits early will most likely be how they think about and care for their scalp and hair the rest of their lives.

Story sources: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/hair-care/healthy-hair-habits-for-kids

http://naturalhairkids.com/basic-regimen/

 

Your Child

Never Use Q-Tips to Clean Your Child’s Ears

1:45

Parents and caregivers seem compelled to clean their child’s ears with a cotton swab. Despite repeated warnings to not put anything smaller than one’s elbow inside a child’s ear, more than 263,000 U.S. children had to be treated in emergency rooms for ear injuries related to cotton-tip applicators between 1990 and 2010, according to a new study.

Almost three-quarters of the cases — 73 percent — involved ear cleaning. About two-thirds of the patients in the study were younger than 8.

"There's this misconception that people need to clean their ears in the home setting and that this is the product to do that with," Dr. Kris Jatana, senior author of the study and a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told TODAY.

"The ears themselves are typically self-cleaning... It is risky to use cotton-tip applicators in the ear canal across all age groups, and certainly we are seeing way too many injuries as a result of this practice."

The most common incident in the ER was the presence of a foreign body, such as part of the cotton swab and a perforated eardrum, researchers said.

"It's difficult for people to gauge how deep they're putting [the swab]," Jatana said. "Sometimes, it just takes a small movement to puncture the ear drum."

Physicians specializing in ear and throat diseases say that Q-tips and similar products should never be used for cleaning the ears. Not only can they cause ear canal injuries, but can also push ear wax deeper into the canal causing it to become trapped.

Studies have found 90 percent of people believe ears should be cleaned and say they regularly clean their ears or their children’s ears, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Kids also apparently learn to stick Q-tips into their ears by watching their parents: about 77 percent of the injuries in the study happened when the child was handling the swab himself.

If you see earwax on the outer part of your child’s ear, you can clean it with a washcloth or wipe, Jatana suggests. In most cases, earwax is actually beneficial for the ear. It protects, lubricates and cleans the ear canal. Occasionally, children and adults have excessive wax build-up, but a doctor should be consulted about removal.

Hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in the ear or ear pain are symptoms that should be checked out. An ear, nose and throat doctor can remove more stubborn excess wax.

Story source, A. Pawlowski, http://www.today.com/health/cotton-swabs-are-causing-ear-injuries-thousands-kids-t111296

 

Parenting

Parents, Encourage Your Child to Stand Up to Bullying!

2:00

We’ve all read the stories about how a crowd of bystanders have not intervened or called the police for help, as someone was being bullied, attacked or beaten. It’s a horrible thought that if you need assistance, no one will respond.

When children grow up in a home that encourages standing up to bullying, they are more likely to step up to the challenge than kids who’ve been taught to stay out of it, according to a recent U.S. study.

About one in 10 children are victims of bullying, and many anti-bullying programs are focused on getting bystanders to intervene, researchers note in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. While previous research has linked certain parenting practices to higher odds that kids will be victims or perpetrators of bullying, less is known about how parents impact what children do as bystanders.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,400 fourth and fifth graders about how their classmates responded in a bullying situation. On average, the kids participating in the study were 11 years old.

They also interviewed parents at home and gave them hypothetical bullying scenarios, asking them how they would advise their children to respond.

In school, kids whose classmates said they might intervene to stop bullies and to comfort victims were more likely to have parents at home who told them getting involved was the right thing to do, the study found. At the same time, kids whose parents told them to stay out of it were both less likely to help victims and more likely to become perpetrators. 

“We were surprised to find that when parents told children not to get involved, children were actually more likely to join in the bullying,” said lead study author Stevie Grassetti, a psychology researcher at the University of Delaware. 

Based on the study results, it makes sense for school anti-bullying efforts to involve parents and endeavor to give children consistent messages about prevention in both settings, the authors conclude.

One limitation of the study is that during school visits; researchers didn’t define what constitutes bullying the authors noted. With home visits, researchers assumed parents gave kids the same advice about the hypothetical incidents that they would offer in real life, which might not always be the case, the researchers also point out.

Parents are role models for how children learn to respond to life’s unpredictable situations. They see and absorb everything their parents say and do. To teach your child compassion and courage, start by being a good example of both and letting them know that standing by and doing nothing to remedy the situation is not an option.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-bullying-parents-idUSK...

Your Child

July 4th Food and Fireworks Safety Tips

2:00

This July 4th may be even more special than usual for a lot of families. Besides the excitement and patriotic fervor of celebrating our country’s official Independence Day, it may finally stop raining long enough for people to enjoy being outside.

However the day unfolds, you can bet there will be plenty of families and friends celebrating with good food!

Grilling is particularly popular on the Fourth as well as picnics. To make sure that the food you prepare is safe and stays safe for consumption, the USDA and the FDA offers these food preparation tips:

•       Clean: Make sure you clean all surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water.

•       Separate: When grilling, use separate plates and utensils for raw meat and cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods (like raw vegetables) to avoid cross-contamination.

•       Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer. 

•       Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.

•       Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler - including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and vegetables that are labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.

•       Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer. That’s the only way to know it’s a safe temperature.

•       Remember: Ground beef and egg dishes should be cooked to 160°F. Steaks, roasts, pork and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees F, and Chicken breast and whole poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Shrimp, lobster, and crabs  cook until pearly and opaque. Clams, oysters, and mussels cook until the shells are open

•       Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly if not consuming after cooking. You shouldn’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F), so if you’re away from home, make sure you bring a cooler to store those leftovers.

Warm weather events present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly. Safe food handling and cooking when eating outdoors is critical for your family’s health.

Most cities have banned fireworks within the city limits except for controlled displays. However, rural and unincorporated areas still allow the sale and use of fireworks by citizens.

Fireworks are now much more sophisticated and larger than mere firecrackers and sparklers; injuries associated with fireworks can be devestating. 

In 2013, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2014 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 38% were to the head. The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 0-4, followed by children 10-14.

On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends these fireworks handling safety tips:

•       Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

•       Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

•       Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.

•       Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

•       Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.

•       Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

•       Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

•       Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.

•       Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

•       After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

•       Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

The Fourth of July is definitely one of the most treasured holidays for Americans, make sure your family has a safe one!

Sources: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Fireworks/

 http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/holidays/fireworks

 

 

Your Child

Kids: Safe Lawn Care

2:00

This is the time of year when kids are most likely to be playing in the yard. Daylight hours are longer and winter’s chill is fading fast or gone.  It’s also the time when insects and weeds make an appearance, demanding some type of control.

All pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides are toxic on some level. Along with killing pests and weeds, they can also harm you, your children, your pets, and any wildlife on your lawn.

Researchers have noted that young children are especially at risk from pesticides. Their bodies and immune systems are still developing. They are also more likely to spend time outside on the lawn, playing or crawling and coming in contact with any pesticides used there.

As population growth and sub-division building increases, these chemicals have increased in usage.

 However, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides are not the only ways to have a welcoming lawn and insect control. If you must use some pesticides, you can help keep your family safe by using them with care, and only when needed.

Lawn care starts with the basics. When your lawn is healthy, there’s less of a chance for weeds and pests. Pests often mean that the soil is lacking nutrients. Without healthy soil, grass and other plants have a harder time growing and staying healthy. A soil test will tell you what the pH level is and whether your soil needs extra nutrients. Most grasses do best in a soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. If you find that your soil needs help or a pH adjustment, you can add nutrients as needed.

Compost is a healthier option for adding nutrients than many chemical fertilizers. Most lawns can use a good fertilizing at least once a year. You can top-dress with a quarter- to a half-inch of compost. Or look for fertilizer that's labeled "slow release" or "natural organic" fertilizer.

A soil test will tell you what the pH level is and whether your soil needs extra nutrients. Most grasses do best in a soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. If you find that your soil needs help or a pH adjustment, you can add nutrients as needed.

You can also do online research about what kind of grass grows best in your part of the country. County extension offices often have an abundance of material on grasses, flowers and tree types that your area is compatible with and need less watering.

Mowing can have a dramatic effect on lawns. By leaving your grass a little longer -- usually between 2 ½ and 3 ½ inches -- you can usually improve your lawn's health. This is because the leaves of longer grass have more access to sunlight, which helps the grass grow thicker and create deeper roots.

Longer grass is better for your soil, since it provides more shade and helps the soil retain moisture. It also makes it more difficult for weeds to grow.

When pests appear, many experts agree that integrated pest management (IPM) is the most effective and environmentally friendly way to control pests. Basically, this means using holistic ways to treat pests when possible, such as mowing your lawn higher to shade out weeds or planting more disease-resistant types of grasses or plants, and only using pesticides when needed.

Here are a few suggestions to try before you reach for the pesticide:

- Give nature a little time to work. Damaged parts of your lawn may bounce back over time. And most lawn and garden pests have natural enemies that will help control pests. For example, ladybugs and praying mantises eat other bugs while not damaging your lawn or garden.

- Pull out weeds using a long-handled weed puller. It's usually easier than by hand.

- Vinegar can also be used to kill weeds.

- Mulch garden beds to prevent weeds.

- Remove diseased plants so the problem doesn't spread.

If you do decide to use a pesticide, follow these guidelines to help keep your family safe:

- Make sure you know what kind of pest you're dealing with so you can choose the right type of pesticide. Your local extension agent or other local lawn expert can help you identify the problem. There are also organic lawn and pest care companies.

- Don't treat the whole lawn if it’s unnecessary. Use pesticides just where you have the problem.

- Read the label on the pesticide carefully and follow the instructions.

- Wear gloves, and long pants and sleeves while using the pesticide to protect your skin. Wash clothing separately before wearing them again.

- Keep children and pets away from the area for the time recommended on the label.

- If you hire a lawn care service, find one that uses an IPM approach to lawn care or uses organic or chemical-free processes.

Fleas and ticks are some of the most annoying pests during summer and can be difficult to control. 

Fleas and ticks prefer a moist environment. Overwatering is an invitation to these pests. One of the safest ways to treat your yard is the application of Diatomaceous Earth (often just called DE). Diatomaceous earth, which is available at garden centers, is crushed rock that contains the fossilized remains of diatoms, an alga. The hard-shelled alga grates against the fleas and kills them mechanically, not chemically. Don’t buy the DE that is intended for pools; it has been chemically treated and isn’t for use around pets. DE is easy to use by sprinkling areas in the yard where fleas are likely to congregate, such as your dog’s favorite hangouts. Wear a filter mask when spreading the fine powder and keep your dog inside while treating the yard.

Another natural way to treat your yard is by using beneficial nematodes, microscopic round worms that are safe for your family and your pets. Along with fleas, nematodes kill weevils, crane flies, grubs, corn borers, and other vegetable garden pests. The nematodes are microscopic so you won’t see them; you’ll purchase them on a small sponge that contains about one million live nematodes, enough for about 3,000 square feet of yard space.

After soaking the sponge in water, you’ll spray the yard with the mixture. You can purchase the nematodes as far in advance as about a week prior to the yard application; just keep the package in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Organic lawn care can be a little more laborious at the beginning, but as your soil becomes healthier– less and less time is needed to maintain it.

Having a safer lawn may mean that you learn to live with a weed or two. But even healthy lawns have a few weeds and pests. Knowing that your kids are safe when playing hide-and-seek or leapfrog should make any weeds that do pop up a little easier to tolerate.

Story sources: http://www.webmd.com/children/lawn-care#1

Paris Permenter, John Bigley http://www.petsafe.net/learn/10-ways-to-prevent-pests-naturally

 

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