Camping with Kids: Tips for Maintaining Safety and Sanity

Last updated on September 12th, 2015 at 10:30 pm

This summer I decided I wanted to recreate my childhood camping experiences for my 10-year old son, Elliott. We had “camped” before – but only for a couple of days and never far from home…nothing like the weeks at a lake in the wilds of northern Canada I had known in my youth. So in late July, after stocking up on essential camping gear, we headed several hours north to Traverse Bay, Michigan for a week-long camping experience. It was a great trip, but even at my “mature” age I can still learn to appreciate my parents in a whole new way!

Our camping adventure was fairly authentic: sleeping in a tent, cooking on a propane stove, hauling water from the pump, and making s’mores over the fire pit. I admit we did cheat a little from what I remember as a kid. We had air mattresses that were indispensable, and electricity in the campsite meant the smartphones could be regularly charged and the kettle quickly ready for morning coffee and tea. Nevertheless it was a fair bit of work to get food made, dishes (and campers) cleaned, dirt tamed, and garbage out of the reach of critters. And I discovered that a 10-year old boy either doesn’t want to help at all (hiding in the tent playing on his DS) or only wants to do things involving sharp objects or fire.

So it turns out that keeping kids occupied, but safe, while camping is a challenge. Here’s what I learned from our nature adventure (sometimes through trial and error):

  • Trade help with a “boring” job for the chance to do an interesting one:
    • “…If you go fill the water container you can help me cook dinner on the propane camp stove.”
    • “Help me hang the towels on the line and then you can set up the camp fire.”
  • Show them how before turning them loose:
    • “…The propane stove works differently than our stove at home. Look, here’s a trick I figured out.”
  • But if they can prove competence and responsibility, give them some freedom:
    • “…You’ve done really well setting up and lighting the fire the past 2 nights. You’ve definitely learned a lot in Cub Scouts. Tonight you can do it all on your own.”

Note: Be sure to think ahead about campfire safety tips and talk them over with your kids. Even if you have a firepit at home there are differences when camping. For example, the campsite firepit was bigger than the one we have at home and the metal sheath got hot despite an inner layer of concrete – bad for skin and soles of shoes! Camping also generates a lot of different types of garbage, most of which shouldn’t be burned due to potential release of toxins. Make sure the kids know not to put anything other than wood or paper in the fire.

  • Trade-off activities you like or want them to engage in with some that really appeal to kids:
    • “…Ok, if the 2-hour kayak trip wasn’t your idea of excitement, I guess we can go play a round of mini golf.” (at least that will boost their mood prior to evening dinner chores!)
  • Find creative ways to mix healthy foods in with vacation and camp fare:
    • “…Tonight you can have hot dogs and s’mores, but I also made a salad from the farmers market we stopped at. And while we’re getting things ready have some of these great Michigan cherries!”

And if you’re worried about your child’s digestion while on vacation, you can use convenient Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplements. They come in both chewable and packet forms and are highly recommended by pediatricians for support of healthy digestion and natural immune defenses. My son tried the chewable tablets and thought they tasted like a berry juice box – so you won’t need to worry about flavor complaints.


Disclaimer: I am participating in a sponsored campaign hosted by Culturelle® Kids. I received compensation for this post and was provided with Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplement samples. While all opinions provided are my own, I make no claims about the effectiveness or any other aspects of Culturelle® Kids Chewables or Culturelle® Kids Packets products.

Aug 11th Sensory Friendly Film is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Last updated on August 14th, 2012 at 12:40 am

Once a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! “It can be challenging enough to bring ANY child to a movie theater” says PedSafe Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves. “For a parent with a special needs child attempting an outing like this may seem overwhelming. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children”.

On Saturday August 11th at 10am local time, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming October 13th: Frankenweenie


Editor’s note: Although Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Overcoming Shyness in Children: 6 Science-backed Strategies

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 10:45 am

Playdates, birthday parties, school plays. For shy kids, activities that require interaction with strangers are torturous — if not impossible. And research shows that most shy children won’t outgrow their social anxiety.

Some kids are wired to be shy, according to Samuel Putnam, a professor of psychology at Bowdoin College who has studied shyness in children. As infants, they’re troubled by new sensations, such as sharp odors and tastes. As toddlers, new social situations are upsetting.

“It’s an innate tendency,” says Putnam. “Kids can’t help it.”

But parents can help their kids overcome social anxiety and shyness by taking the following steps, says Putnam.

Tip No. 6 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Know if they’re truly shy. There’s a difference between being introverted and being shy, says Putnam: “Some kids would rather play alone, and that’s OK. The world needs quiet people.” On the other hand, shy kids want to interact, but they get upset by it. While both types of children benefit from social interaction, shy ones need more than simple encouragement and opportunity.

Tip No. 5 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Be direct and firm. It may seem counterintuitive, but Putman’s research shows that shy kids benefit from firm, direct commands rather than gentle, subtle directions. “If they touch an outlet, don’t steer them away; say ‘No, don’t do that,’” suggests Putnam. While they may be upset in the moment, having their sensitivity aroused by a parent helps shy kids regulate their emotions. “Think of it as batting practice. They’re building tolerance in a safe environment. Being protective is almost the worst thing you can do.”

Tip No. 4 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Seek out social situations. It’s hard (and maybe embarrassing) to see your child standing apart from the group or losing it in front of other kids, but avoiding social situations robs them of the chance to build coping skills. “Take them to Chuck E. Cheese and to the playground so they’re dealing with larger groups,” says Putnam. There’s an advantage to sticking it out; maybe next time will be better.

Tip No. 3 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Come up with a game plan. Before your child enters a situation that involves interaction — a birthday party or class field trip — talk about what the experience might be like and brainstorm some coping strategies. Putnam suggests asking, “If you get a little scared or upset, what are some things you can do?”

Tip No. 2 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Avoid harsh discipline. “Yelling or doing anything that is power-assertive isn’t a good technique for any kid — especially for shy kids,” says Putnam. “If you yell or berate, they get so overwhelmed and freaked out that they miss the point of your discipline.” Shy kids tend to be more gentle and empathetic than other kids, so gentle discipline usually does the trick. “If they are mean to their little sister, point out how sad she looks and how their actions effect other kids. Reasoning is going to be more effective with shy kids.”

Tip No. 1 to Overcome Shyness in Children: Accept who they are. Dealing with shy kids can be particularly frustrating for parents who are outgoing. But it’s important to realize that your kids may not like what you like or operate the way you do. If you find yourself being critical, remember that shyness is an innate trait — and a genetic one too, according to Putnam. “Look at the characteristics of your spouse and remind yourself, ‘I love this person, and he has that trait.’”

Tolerance is key to helping kids overcome shyness. It’s important to understand that having social anxiety doesn’t mean they’ll have an unhappy future. Says Putnam: “Kids who are shy have a bunch of directions they could go in. They’re probably not going to be a Broadway star, but they will be happy and healthy.”

Child Health Safety News Roundup: 07-30-2012 to 08-05-2012

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 10:47 am

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 20 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

25 Tips to Keep Kids Safe from Abductors

The Stress-free Method to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Last updated on August 8th, 2012 at 09:42 pm

Getting kids to brush their teeth can be like pulling teeth. So how do you make polishing those pearly whites less of a chore — for both of you? “The key to good oral hygiene is to start young and make it fun,” says Judith Post, D.D.S., a dentist in Bloomfield, N.J., adding that it takes just two minutes, twice a day, to build the brushing habit.

Here’s how to make the most of those two minutes for a hassle-free nightly ritual and a healthy, shiny smile for a lifetime.

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 1: Time it right. Instead of brushing just before bed, have your child brush right after dinner or before a favorite television show or story time. “Kids can get really tired at night,” says Post. “Right after dinner, they’re more awake and agreeable, and will probably do a better job.” Just pick a time slot and keep it consistent to solidify the routine: dinner, dessert, brush teeth, Elmo.

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 2: Choose cool tools. Kids will be more invested in the process when you let them pick out the brush of their choice. “There are so many options for little kids now,” says Post. She’s in favor of the toothbrushes that look like crayons or superheroes, ones that light up, that play music — any gimmick that makes kids look forward to brushing. For some kids, electric toothbrushes and Waterpik products are high-tech toys that up the fun factor.

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 3: Pick the right paste. Kids can be sensitive to the strong mint flavor of adult toothpastes, so let them pick one in wild boo-berry or bubble gum made for children. Some kids can get excited about swooshing and gargling with a children’s fluoride rinse, especially ones that feature their favorite TV stars. (Just wait till they’re at least 6 and are able to spit out the rinse.)

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 4: Do it together. “The same way kids look forward to reading a story with you, they’ll look forward to brushing with you,” says Post. Do a thorough job when you brush, and don’t forget to floss, to set a good example. “Just like a little kid will pretend to shave with his father, so he’ll want to brush just like Daddy and Mommy do too,” she says.

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 5: Make it a game. Make “eeh” and “aah” noises while brushing, or count the teeth aloud as you brush. Finish with “Time to tickle the tongue!” to make the important step of brushing your child’s tongue more silly and fun. You can even play “Tooth Detective” to look for any leftover plaque. (If you have older kids, try playing their favorite song and challenging them to brush and floss to the beat.)

Kid Teeth-brushing Tip No. 6: Stay positive. Instead of using threats — “Your teeth will rot,” “You’ll have dragon breath” — focus on the upside of oral hygiene. Praise your child after brushing for teeth that look so shiny and sparkly. Marvel that her breath is so fresh! “Make your child feel good about having a healthy mouth,” says Post, “and she’ll want to keep up the good work.”