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.

Campfire Safety


Most camping brochures feature a picture of adults and kids sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and telling stories. But, a campfire requires following safety guidelines if campers are to be safe and the campground protected against fire.

The following campfire safety tips are from Idaho Firewise.

Most campgrounds already have preexisting fire rings to use. Unless the fire ring is in a dangerous spot, you should build your fire there. The campground owners have likely already deemed this as a safe location to build a campfire. The fire ring will help contain sparks and prevent your fire from spreading.

If your campsite does not have a fire ring, you will need to create one. First find a spot that meets these criteria:

  • Downwind at least 15 feet away from your tent and firewood
  • Away from trees, bushes, logs, stumps and overhanging branches
  • Away from dry grass and forest debris
  • Away from any other flammable items

If your campsite does have a fire ring already, check if it meets the above criteria too. The landscape around your campsite could have changed since the fire ring was initially built. There might now be a branch that overhangs the current fire ring. For example, now there might be branches overhanging the old fire ring.

Once you have chosen where to build your campfire, you need to ensure the area is completely clear of any combustible material that could possibly ignite. It is best to clear the ground right down to the soil, and out five (5) feet from the fire pit. Fires can spread underground through root systems or decaying material. Surrounding twigs and dry leaves can easily catch fire from a wayward spark.

After the ground has been cleared, dig a shallow pit about two (2) feet across and encircle this pit with a ring of medium-sized rocks. These rocks should be tightly placed together, without any gaps where sparks could fly through. Remove any small, loose stones from the pit that could potentially explode from the fire’s heat.

Before you begin building the campfire, make sure you have equipment on hand to extinguish a fire. A responsible camper will not light the first match until he or she is sure there is a bucket of water or sand nearby to douse unruly flames in the event of an emergency. You will need a large bucket of water and a shovel. Keep these things close enough to the fire pit that they are quickly accessible in an emergency.

Avoid using lighter fluid, or any other chemicals, to start your fire. These fuels are dangerous to use in the wilderness. They can unexpectedly flare-up and catch your clothing on fire. Always use a lighter or match to ignite the kindling. Do not discard any used matches until they are cool to the touch.

While your campfire is burning, never leave it unattended. Despite safety precautions, the campfire could spread from your fire pit. You need to remain in the area to ensure your campfire doesn’t spread.

Be careful what you burn in a campfire. Try to stick to manageable pieces of firewood that easily fit within your fire pit. It is not a good idea to burn large logs that stick out past the fire pit. Also, avoid burning fresh branches that give off excess sparks.

Before you go to sleep, or when you leave the campsite, you must fully extinguish your campfire. First, douse the flames by pouring water on the fire. However, you are not done yet. Just because you can’t see flames, does not mean the fire cannot re-ignite. Hot embers will continue smoldering for hours. To deal with the embers, stir the coals and add more water. Then cover the coals with dirt or sand. Feel the ashes with your hand to make sure there are no hot coals left.

It is far too easy for a campfire to spread and become a forest fire. When you are camping, it is your responsibility to protect the forest from your campfire. Follow these simple campfire safety rules and use common sense. Sometimes, it simply is not safe to have a campfire at all.

Down in the Coal Mine at Age 9


On my recent tour of the Lackawanna Coal Mine, I saw many young children touring with their families. The children were visibly excited and involved in what they were seeing. At a few points along the tour, the focus is on the many boys that worked in coal mines, years ago, as mule drivers, messengers, nippers, and of course, as a breaker boy sorting slate from the coal. The children I saw were amazed to learn about children as young as 9 years old working in a coal mine.

A2 rail sled cage in coal mine

The Coal Mine Tour is in the very lovely McDade Park, in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, which was created in the 1970s from reclaimed coal mining terrain. It has many activities to offer including the Boundless Playground that is a large inclusive play structure that serves children of all abilities and needs.

Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour


Quick Facts

The temperature in the Lackawanna Coal Mine is 53° year-round. Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended. A light jacket can be borrowed for anyone who has not brought their own.

The descent down the slope takes 3-4 minutes. The walking portion of the coal mine tour is approximately a 1/2 mile and lasts one hour.

Video Link to Coal Mine Tour

Breaker Boys

breaker boys working in coal mine

Video Links for Breaker Boys

Be sure to check out a children’s story, “Down in the Coal Mines at Age 9” on the Kids Blog!

 Ned Campbell, authorNed M Campbell is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches United States history at a public high school in Brooklyn, NY. He is a published writer, and a volunteer contributor to “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in the “Can Do” Street program.




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, 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.


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.


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

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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