This blog is a place where parents and teachers of children 3-7 years of age can find information about topics specific to children in this age group, share ideas and access free resources for home and the classroom.

Are You Ready for a Hurricane?

hurricaneA Hurricane is a real happening in many parts of the U.S. The season is here and we need to be prepared.

Some of the measures the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends taking before a hurricane hits your area are:

  • Put together a kit with emergency supplies and a family communications plan
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property in preparation for a hurricane:

  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, visit the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (NFIP) Web site,www.floodsmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419. For more detailed information on how you can protect your property, view NFIP’s printer-friendly handout Avoiding Hurricane Damage.

During a hurricane, FEMA advises you to:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

You should evacuate if you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions for hurricane evacuation.

Source: fema.gov.

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Family Friendly Cruising on the Norwegian Jade

cruising on the Norwegian Jade

The Norwegian Jade is all about family friendly cruising, offering activities for each member of the family as well as family activities.

Imagine several days of cruising during which you get up each morning, and you and your family head to the dining room where all of you choose from a variety of breakfast foods prepared to order. After breakfast, you accompany your children to the complementary youth programs in the Splash Academy.

youth programs

In Splash Academy’s, well equipped, modern, comfortable recreation areas children participate in age appropriate activities led by a professional staff, each of whom speaks a minimum of 3 languages, and has an educational background in child development and recreation services.

Groups include:

Guppies –Ages 6 months to 3 years. Parents can bring their children to the Guppies Playroom, which is equipped with books and toys that parents can use to interact with their children for sensory play, music and movement, ball play and building with blocks.

Children 3-17 can participate in staff led and supervised activities appropriate for their age group:

  • Turtles-Ages 3-5 years. Programs take place in the main Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Arts and crafts, painting, games, sensory play, storytelling, developmental activities, parades and treasure hunts.
  • SealsAges 6-9 years. Programs are held in the Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Circus Skills and Show (Scarf Juggling, Plate Spinning, Devil Sticks, and Rope Spinning) theme nights, painting, sports and games, parades, treasure hunts, and video games.
  • Dolphins-Ages 10-12 years. Programs are in Splash Academy recreation areas and include: Entourage Takeover, Circus skills and Show (Stilts, Ball Juggling, Chinese Yo-Yo, Plate Spinner and Devil Sticks) scavenger hunts, sports and team building, theme nights, and video games.
  • Entourage-Ages 13-17 years. Teens socialize with other teens their age, in supervised teen centers around the ship playing video games, seeing movies, enjoying  music, and sports.

Children with special needs are integrated into daily programs at Splash Academy. Children can bring iPads and other learning aids as needed.

A late Night Fun Zone is available from 10:30 PM to 1:30 AM. The Fun Zone is a fee based program at the rate of $6 per hour for the first child, and $4 for each additional child, per hour.

When the ship is in port, complimentary programming in Splash Academy is available. A small fee of $6 per child covers the cost of supervision during meal times. If your children prefer to remain on board and not participate in one of the many shore excursions offered by Norwegian, they can remain in Splash Academy, and have lunch and dinner with other campers and staff. This service enables parents to take a several hour shore excursion knowing that their children are being well cared for and having an enjoyable day.

pool DeckWhile your children participate in activities and are making new friends at the Splash Academy, you and your husband can enjoy one of the many daily activities on board that make cruising such a unique occasion. When you return to your cabin, beds are made, the bathroom is clean, and the room is neat.

Each day that your children participate in Splash Academy they can join you for lunch and family activities from noon to 2 PM.  You can choose to eat in the dining room with waiter service, or at the buffet in the Garden Cafe, or have hamburgers and hot dogs poolside.

At 2 PM, when Splash Academy opens for the afternoon session, you can choose to pamper yourself in the spa, or you and your husband can attend one of the many activities being offered throughout the ship such as an art exhibit, lectures, dance classes, or poolside games.

theater

From 5-7 PM, the family can come together for dinner and make an evening of family activities including shuffleboard, volleyball, board games and table tennis, or the children can return to  the Splash Academy and stay from  7 to 10:30 PM. Splash Academy evening activities include movies, group games, and video games. While they are enjoying being out with new friends,  you and your husband can catch a show in the theater, listen to live music in any one of the several lounge areas, or enjoying a romantic dinner for 2 at one of the several specialty restaurants which include an Asian and a Brazilian restaurant, as well as a  French Bistro, a Steak House, and an Italian Cucina.

When you return to your cabin, at the end of the day, there will be chocolates on your pillow and a towel in the shape of zoo animal on the bed.  You can put your laundry outside your cabin door and it will be picked up, washed and pressed and returned to your cabin within 2 days.

Enjoying family friendly cruising starts with choosing a ship that offers a lifestyle while on board that is comfortable for parents and offers interesting, fun activities for each member of the family.

Cruising from Tampa, Florida to ports in Europe, on the Norwegian Jade, I got to see, first hand, what family friendly cruising is all about. As a parent, a former preschool teacher and camp director, I was anxious to see how the Jade staff made cruising an adventure for children and a much appreciated time out for parents. As someone who chooses cruising over land vacations 3 times a year, I can report cruising is a dream vacation. From the time you step on the ship till the time you disembark most activities of daily living are done for you.

Cruising is a cost effective way to travel, less expensive than staying at a land resort. All meals, with the exception of specialty dining, are complimentary. Coffee, tea, and juices are available throughout the day and evening at no cost, as is soft serve ice cream by the cup or cone. There is a charge for soda and alcohol.

Jade Dining roomEvery dining room has high chairs and booster seats. Children can order from a child friendly menu and they are served first. After they eat, while parents enjoy their meals, the children are given coloring materials. They can also use any handheld devices, they might have at the dining table.The dining room wait staff can and will accommodate the needs of adults and children with special dietary needs, and those that have food allergies.

Should any member of the family require medical attention while cruising, the medical department is open daily, and staff are available by phone in the off hours.

Cribs are available for parents with infants. All cabins are equipped with refrigerators where parents can store infant bottles as well as other items that need refrigeration.

When I spoke to some of the families cruising on the Jade, they had high praise for the Splash Academy. They appreciated the attention that wait staff paid their children at each meal. Those with young children found it easy to care for and keep them contented on board. Teens shared that the Entourage programs  gave them the opportunity to do their own thing, independent of the family, with new friends. All agreed that the Jade provided them with a family friendly cruising experience that exceeded their expectations. 

 

Sources: Elizabeth Lytle, Public Relations Coordinator, Norwegian Cruise Line; Norwegian Jade: Roberto De Pasquale, Cruise Director;  Janette Augustin, Shore Excursion Director; Cholette Hayag, Group Service Director, Shunyu Huang Joel, Group Service Director; Sharon Viljoen, Splash Academy Manager, Iulia Vlad, Assistant Maitre D; Boris Kojic, Maitre D Hotel; Omar O’Besso, Concierge, and Swaroop Bannange, Asst. Maitre D at Alizar restaurant;Alfren Cruz, wait staff; Anil Chennadasar, wait staff.

Photos: All photos are courtesy of NCL

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Let’s Hear it for Popcorn!

popcornAccording to a study by the American Chemical Society in San Diego, if you want a healthy, whole grain treat make it popcorn.

Their Researchers found that popcorn has more healthy for you antioxidants called polyphenols than some fruits or vegetables. In every serving of popcorn there are 300 milligrams of polyphenols compared to 114 mg per serving of sweet corn and 160 mg per serving for all fruits. A big difference!

The study demonstrated that the levels of polyphenols in popcorn are higher than previously thought. The levels are similar to those levels found in a serving of  nuts and 15 times higher that the levels found in whole-grain tortilla chips.

The highest concentrations of polyphenols and fiber are found in the hulls of the popcorn; you know…those annoying little bits that get caught in teeth.

“Of course adding butter, salt and other calorie-laden flavorings can turn this snack from healthy into unhealthy. Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories,” one of the researchers reported. He added, “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”

The study makes a point of stressing that one is not suggesting eating popcorn instead of fruits and vegetables, as popcorn lacks the vitamins and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that are essential for good health.

The study continues to promote popcorn as a snack as it is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day. Eating popcorn could fill that gap in a way that most of us would enjoy.

The study was not funded by the food industry.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society

 

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Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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Another Reason for Kids Eating Less Fast Foods

Fast foods

We know that a diet high in fast foods tend to put weight on children and teens, but did you know that fast food consumption is also tied to an increased risk of certain health conditions?

A study coming out of New Zealand found that:

  • Children and teens eating fast foods a number of times each week are at an increased risk for severe asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, and eczema.
  • Fruit eaten three or more times a week provide children and teens with a protective effect against severe asthma.

According to Philippa Ellwood, DDN, DPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and her colleagues, eating fast foods three or more times a week is associated with a 39% increased risk of severe asthma and a 70% increased risk of severe eczema among teens.In addition, children who eat fast foods with the same frequency have an increased risk of rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema.

The study article, published in journal Thorax, went on to report that reducing consumption of fast foods to two times a week, or less, reduced the incidence of wheezing and severe asthma in children. Ellwood and colleagues also found that eating fruit three or more times a week, among children and teens, offered a protective effect against severe asthma.

The authors stated,  “If the associations found in this study are causal, the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,”

The authors noted that earlier research had found diets with high intake of cereal, rice, and nut and cereal protein showed decreased prevalence of the allergic conditions and a protective effect against the conditions with elevated fruit consumption. Similarly, other research has shown a harmful effect of linolenic acid and trans fatty acid consumption.

The researchers gathered symptom prevalence data on types of food intake and symptom prevalence of asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, wheezing, and eczema from 319,196 teens, ages 13 and 14, from 51 countries, and 181,631 children, ages 6 and 7, from 31 countries through the third phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). The latter is a multi-center, multi-country, multiphase cross-sectional study.

Teen participants, or parents of young children, were administered questionnaires that looked at symptoms and symptom frequency over the 12 months prior to the study. Questions about food intake looked at types of foods and whether foods were eaten once, twice, or three or more times weekly.

Milk consumption was inversely associated with current wheeze at once or twice weekly, severe asthma three or more times weekly, and severe rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema once or twice a week in teens.

Consumptions of eggs, fruit, meat, and milk three or more times a week protected against “all three conditions, current or severe” among children.

“The positive associations with severe disease suggest that fast foods are a predictor of disease severity rather than disease occurrence, although it is difficult to separate out the two in this study,” researchers concluded.

Study researchers also shared that the protective association between fruit and vegetables and the three conditions need to  be further explored at country and regional levels.

The researchers found the study was limited by a number of factors, including self-report biases or classification errors, socioeconomic status’ effect on food consumption, and missing temporal data on disease outcome relative to diet.

 

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