Friday, December 4, 2009

Hocus Focus: The Healing Power of Magic

Dayton Children's was so happy to welcome Kevin Spencer and his assistant, Alan, for a presentation of Hocus Focus: The Healing Power of Magic - a unique interactive series of workshops associated with the Victoria Theater's Young At Heart presentation of Spencer’s Theatre of Illusion. Families were invited to share the afternoon with Mr. Spencer to learn magic tricks to help with motor skill development.  Participants learned the healing power of magic as they explored tricks with household objects including rope, rubber bands, paperclips and even dollar bills.  Here are some photos from our afternoon!

Tying a knot without letting go of the rope end

Great technique to get little fingers moving - switching the rubber band from two fingers to two other fingers

It's amazing how fun a dollar and two paperclips can be!

For more about Keven Spencer visit his website and blog.

Safe Kids Walk This Way Coloring Contest Winners

In October, Safe Kids Greater Dayton, an organization dedicated to preventing childhood injury led by Dayton Children's, held a coloring contest for the Safe Kids Walk This Way program. Children were asked to draw pictures relating to key pedestrian safety tips including walking in the crosswalk, walking at least ten feet in front of a school bus, making eye contact with drivers before crossing the street and many others. Over 150 children participated in the contest.

Here is a list of our winners.  Congratulations to all of our winners and everyone who participated.  To learn more about how your school or organization can get involved with Safe Kids Greater Dayton visit our website.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Failure can be good for kids

“What can we do to prevent our son from failing in English?” asked the parents of a high school freshman. Getting an “F” in any class meant that their son would be unable to play high school sports for a semester. “Failure is not an option,” remarked the dad, repeating an inspirational quote from the Apollo 13 movie.

I met with their son Jack for an hour and then reviewed his academic record. My meeting with Jack and his parents was not what they expected.

“Failure is the best option for your son,” I declared. There was an uneasy silence in the room. My recommendation went against every instinct of these dedicated parents and was incomprehensible to their overprotected son.

Isn’t our job as parents to protect our kids from harm? We do everything we can to ensure our children’s physical health, having them wear seat belts in cars, exercise on padded surfaces at playgrounds, and send them to school with bottles of hand sanitizer.

Shouldn’t we be just as concerned about our kids’ psychological health as we are about their physical safety?

Why is failure more important than football for Jack?

Personal responsibility. Jack’s overprotective parents have always been there for him, rescuing him from his own irresponsibility. In the real world, there is a relationship between what you do and what happens to you. Although 14-years-old, Jack has yet to learn that connection. His parents have been a buffer from life’s disappointments and rejections.

Coping skills. Life is a journey filled with occasions of great happiness interspersed with unpredictable times of frustrations, rejections, and conflict. How we navigate those tough times defines who we really are. Positive coping behaviors are critically important for our kids. Such skills include keeping a positive attitude, reaching out to friends for support, looking for creative solutions to problems, and getting enough sleep and exercise. Kids can’t learn those skills if they never have to deal with any significant rejection or disappointment. Kids who are hooked on success have a hard time with failure. These young adults may turn to drugs, alcohol, and even become depressed when dealing with frustration.

Persistence. One of the world’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison, was also one of the greatest failures of his generation. He tested and was wrong over 6,000 times with various materials for the filament of the electric light bulb. One of Edison’s greatest attributes was his relentless persistence. “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” remarked Edison.

Failing English may be the best thing for Jack’s psychological health. He’ll learn that his parents will not always be there to rescue him from his own irresponsible behavior. He may learn something about more efficient study habits. Perhaps he’ll even get excited about some of the assigned literature that he never bothered to read.

Unlike Apollo 13, failure may indeed be the best option for Jack.

Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Injury Prevention for Children With Special Needs

Special considerations: Children with special needs

If your child has a special need consider these additional safety tips from Dayton Children’s and Safe Kids Greater Dayton:

  • Beware of common dangers: Parents don’t realize that young children can drown in less than inch of water, that drinking mouthwash can cause a young child to fall into an alcohol coma, or that children can fall out of a window that is only opened 5 inches. Make sure your child’s environment is as safe as possible.
  • Use visuals reminders: The "Mr. Yuk" stickers from poison prevention centers prevent many tragedies for preschoolers and their parents. This same strategy can work for older children with ADHD, who tend to be developmentally immature and have poor memories. Use stickers with phrases such as "Don't Touch!" and "Off Limits!" Put them on the power tools, the attic door, the stove, the knife drawer or any other potential source of injury.
  • Make rules specific and clear: Give specific instructions instead: "Before crossing the street, look left, look right, then look left again. When there are no cars, cross the street and keep looking until you reach the other side." Establish exactly what's off limits: the quarry, the roof, the windowsill, the pool, the oak tree. Make a chart of specific safety rules and post it in your child's room and in the kitchen as a daily reminder.
  • Role play and rehearse: Develop and role-play risky scenarios with your kids Go over situations such as: "What do you do when the ball rolls into the street? What do you do when someone starts a fight with you on the playground?" Play out several options and review their possible consequences: "If you do that, what do you think might happen? What if you did this instead?" Help children be prepared for the dangerous situations they may encounter.
  • Arrange for supervision: Supervising ADHD kids is critical. Don't pair them with other ADHD kids and send them off to the park; send them with responsible older kids who can serve as role models and mentors. If you or another adult can't be around after school, enroll your kids in supervised activities such as music lessons and team sports.
Visit our Kohl's "A Minute for Kids" Campaign to learn more about injury prevention.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tips for Healthy Holidays

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year; however it is easy to neglect healthy eating habits when temptations are everywhere. Planning ahead during the holidays can help your family stay healthy, while keeping the fun in your festivities.

“As the holidays approach, it’s important to plan special, yet healthy, meals and a mix of activity in your child’s routine,” says Rachel Riddiford, manager of clinical dietetics at Dayton Children’s.

  • Portion control. Watching portion sizes will help a child eat healthier and avoid adding extra pounds. Use moderation when choosing foods that are special to the holidays, like cookies, pies and fudge. Choose these holiday specials over candy, soft drinks, and snack cakes to help satisfy a sweet tooth without sending blood sugar levels too high or adding unnecessary calories.
  • Change recipes. Keep a grip on seasonal calories by extra healthy eating in-between the holiday eating events. If desired, minor modifications of traditional holiday dishes makes the season healthier for the entire family. Consider fat-free or light sour cream in recipes or as a garnish. Try steaming vegetables rather than cooking in butter. Reduce sugar by half in dessert recipes.
  • Monitor kids’ access to food. Help a child resist temptation and overeating by encouraging them to eat small snacks throughout the day so they don’t feel hungry. Select foods carefully and don’t eat at the buffet table. Start the day with a small meal that includes whole grains, fruits, dairy foods and protein.
  • Plan active family events. Spend some holiday together time with active outings such as hiking or sledding, visits to the zoo or museums, trying out an indoor rock climbing wall, visiting an indoor pool together or going skating. If you don’t have time for a big outing, just go outside together to play games like tag, jump rope or build a snowman. Park your car and walk neighborhoods or downtown to see holiday decorations.
  • Buy gifts that promote being active. Include at least one gift for each child that will help them enjoy being active, such as a new bike, skates, or balls. A gift for the whole family, like a badminton set or snow skis, can create a new opportunity for everyone to enjoy the double benefits of play and physical activity. Remember to purchase safety equipment such as helmets or knee pads as well if recommended.
About our expert Rachel Riddiford, MS, RD, LD.

Rachel has been an employee of Dayton Children's since 2004. She is currently the Manager of Clinical Dietetics and works as an eating disorder specialist in the Nutrition Clinic. Rachel completed her BS in Dietetics at Western Michigan University, Master's degree at University of Dayton, and dietetic internship at Indiana University/Purdue University. She has also completed an American Dietetic Association Pediatric and Adolescent Weight Management Certificate.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Growth and Development Linked to Injury Risk

The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton and Kohl’s Department Stores, as a part of the Kohl’s “A Minute for Kids” Campaign, encourage parents to take a moment and learn more about ways to protect their children from accidental injury. A crucial part of protecting your child from injury is understanding more about their growth and development.

“Growth and development includes not only the physical changes that occur from infancy to early teens, but also some of the changes in emotions, personality, behavior, thinking and speech that children develop as they begin to understand and interact with the world around them,” says Eileen Kasten, MD, medical director of developmental pediatrics at Dayton Children’s.

Understanding your infant and toddler’s development is especially important because children in these age groups have a poor understanding of risks and danger. Their natural curiosity and impulsiveness, failure to appreciate danger and limited ability to handle more than one stimulus at a time puts them at increased risk for injury.

“Young children between 0 to 4 years are particularly susceptible to injury because they lack experience, strength and physical skill,” says Dr. Kasten. “Children at this age are impulsive and don’t have fear. They also tend to disappear quickly from a parent’s view.”

Dayton Children’s and Kohl’s Department Stores offer these tips to help protect your infant or toddler from accidental injury:

Infancy (children 0 to 12 months)

Motor Vehicle Crashes
Use a rear-facing car seat until at least age 1 and a weight of 20 lbs. This is the safest option to support an infant’s weak head, neck and back and prevent spinal cord injuries. Use a rear-facing car seat longer if the seat has a higher weight and height limits.

Supervise children at all times when they are near water. A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child. Infants can die in less than one inch of water. Never leave your baby unattended in or near water, even for a second.

Unsafe Sleep Practices
Practice the ABCs of Safe Sleep. Infants should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib. Make sure the crib is free from blankets, bumper pads, and stuffed animals and meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s guidelines.

Shaken Baby Syndrome
Have a plan. Infants will cry, sometimes for prolonged periods of time, and it’s important to plan how you will stay calm if you’ve tried everything and your baby is still crying. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Calming activities that can be part of your plan include breathing, going for a walk with your baby and talking to someone.

Early childhood (children 1 to 4 years old)

Motor Vehicle Crashes
Use a forward-facing car seat until the harness no longer fits. The five-point harness will protect small children and keep them in place. Children’s behavior in the car may also become distracting to the driver because they want to ride like older children or get bored.

Supervise children at all time when they are near water. A supervised child is in sight at all times with your undivided attention focused on the child. Don’t leave toys in or near the pool, where they could attract unsupervised kids. For extra protection, consider a pool alarm and alarms on the doors, windows and gates leading to the pool.

Make the kitchen a child-free zone when someone is cooking. Children want to stay close to their parents, but their cognitive skills are not developed to recognize the danger of hot items or control their impulses. As children grow in height, they can reach the counter and front burners, but can’t see what’s in them. A child’s skin burns deeper and quicker at lower temperatures than adult’s skin.

Install stair and door gates. A toddler’s increased mobility and active lifestyle put him/her at risk of falling down a staircase or wandering into areas of the home that are not child-safe.