Summer is a time for numerous fun activities and it also presents many opportunities to teach young children about safety. Going on walks, riding bikes, going to the park and using sun protection can all provide perfect moments for teaching safety skills.

While teaching any safety skills, avoid resorting to scare tactics. If you exaggerate possible dangers a couple of different things could happen. One is that you could lose your credibility and children will dismiss your rules as they begin to believe the unlikelihood of something happening as you described. Another possibility is that children will accept the exaggerated description of what could happen and grow up believing that the world is a very scary place, with dangers everywhere. Neither of these outcomes would be helpful in learning safety skills.

iStock 175622348Whether you’re walking to the neighborhood park or down the street to a friend’s house use these moments to teach children about street safety. Show children how to look both ways, in front and behind for cars. Always use sidewalks to walk as far away from traffic as possible, use cross walks and traffic signals. Teach children to look for cars pulling in or out of driveways and not assume that the driver of the car can see them. Being the adult you will do these things automatically, but it is also good to point out what you are doing and why so children have an opportunity to learn their own set of safety skills.

Riding bicycles, tricycles and big wheels is all part of summer fun. Right along with that fun comes teaching bicycle safety. Wearing a bike helmet is a great way to stay safe while doing any type of wheeled activity. Teach children how to ride safely around others and be aware of their surroundings. Setting up a simple obstacle course with cones to go around can help children learn how to steer their bikes and go around objects that might be in their way. Place a few stop signs around or hold up red and green stop and go signs to teach some “rules of the road” right in your own driveway.

Summer is a great time to teach about sun safety as children continue to ask, “Why do I have to wear sunscreen?” Set up this simple experiment with your children to show how sunscreen counteracts the effects of the sun and its harmful rays. Fold a piece of colored construction paper in half and then open it up so you can see the fold line down the middle. Spread sunscreen on one half of the paper and on the other half do nothing. Then leave the paper outside in the sun for a few hours. Go check on the paper and observe the changes that have occurred. Discuss with the children any changes to the paper. What happened to the side without the sunscreen protection? How are the two sides different now?

As caregivers it is very important to remember how fast the interior of a car can heat up on a warm day. It takes only 20 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 120 degrees on a 70 degree day. Infants and children left in this situation are very vulnerable to dehydration and getting over heated. Never, ever leave an infant or child alone in the car, keep them safe and always take them with you.

Enjoy the summer and teach your children a few things about summer safety along the way.

A diet high in processed foods and sugar often leads to chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. To avoid this, and to enjoy optimal health, a healthy body weight, energy, and vitality, avoid packaged foods as much as possible and buy real, whole foods. The less a food has been processed the more it benefits your health because none of its nutrients have been removed in processing.

To accomplish this, we need to cook and prepare our own meals and avoid “convenience” foods. The food industry has convinced us that we don’t have time to make homemade meals, or that it’s difficult, but we can eat well for less money by making simple, whole, fresh food. It isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be time consuming. A simple dinner for a family of four consisting of roast chicken, vegetables, and salad can cost about half of what dinner out at a fast food restaurant costs and can take less time than going out or ordering in!

Helpful guidelines to follow:

  • Read labels, not just for calories, but for the list of ingredients. There are 10,000 ingredients that can be added to our food. Eat food that’s just food. And buy organic whenever possible.
  • Avoid foods with labels stating health claims, such as “no trans fats” or “reduced sugar”. These are often marketing ploys to make you think these foods are healthy.
  • Focus on the ingredients list: the most abundant ingredient is listed first, the rest follow in descending order by weight.
  • Stick to the 5 ingredient rule: Choose foods with less than 5 ingredients and all things you recognize and know are real food, such as tomatoes, water, or salt. Or if there are more than 5, make sure they’re all food or spices.
  • Buy only packaged foods with ingredients you can pronounce or recognize. Avoid packaged foods that contain ingredients you wouldn’t have in your own kitchen.
  • Avoid preservatives, additives, colorings, natural flavorings. Watch for ingredients you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce.
  • Be aware that food manufacturers don’t have to list ingredients that appear in trace amounts, so be vigilant when selecting multi-ingredient packaged foods. Stick with organic brands or simple products.
  • Limit sugar as much as possible. Remember sugar has many names, such as maltodextrin, xanthan gum, cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, and molasses.
  • Avoid other sweeteners such as aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols – any word that ends with “ol” such as xylitol or sorbitol.
  • Stevia is better than aspartame but only in the form of a whole-plant extract, not Pure Via or Truvia, which are made by soda companies and are chemical extracts of stevia.
  • Any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, store belly fat, and can even change your gut bacteria from those that make you thin to those that make you fat. So it’s best to stay away from sweeteners altogether.
  • Avoid bad fats such as hydrogenated fat (another name for trans fat) because they raise “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol levels which helps contribute to heart disease. Purchase healthy extra virgin olive oil, walnut, sesame, grapeseed, flax, or avocado.
  • Buy organic as much as possible. When not possible, avoid the “Dirty Dozen” which include the following and buy these foods organically grown: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes. These are most important to buy organically grown because they have the highest pesticide count.
  • If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce it’s okay to purchase “The Clean 15” conventionally, not organically, grown because these retain fewer pesticides: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
  • Fresh Meats and Proteins: As much as possible, limit your exposure to excessive hormones, antibiotics, and grain-fed meat by selecting wild meat, grass-fed when possible, and organic poultry and organic, omega-3 enriched eggs. Since these are usually more expensive, eat smaller portions of meat and serve them with larger vegetable and side dish portions. If you have a freezer, buying organic meat in bulk is a big savings.
  • Purchase wild or sustainably farmed low-mercury seafood such as clams, crab, flounder, herring, oyster, perch, pollock, salmon, sardines, shrimp, sole, squid, trout, and whitefish. Avoid high-mercury fish such as tuna, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass. Go to the National Resources Defense Council site for their Sustainable Seafood Guide to choosing fish lowest in mercury.
  • Buy organic, whole forms of non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) soy food, such as tofu, tempeh, and miso.
  • Buy nut butters such as almond, cashew, macadamia, or walnut; nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and macadamias; seeds such as hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, and sesame; and tahini (sesame seed paste) Apple cider vinega.
  • For healthy homemade salad dressings apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • For healthy seasonings try tamari (naturally fermented soy sauce); low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock; and dried herbs and spices.
  • If you’re on a budget, buy frozen foods in large quantities. Frozen berries, cherries, seafood, and vegetables are far less expensive than fresh and have the same nutritional content. Or buy food in bulk from warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam’s. Just avoid the many processed foods there. Or you might benefit from joining a CSA or community-supported agriculture. These are usually small farmers that deliver often organic produce as well as meats locally and you might find prices lower. Go to to find a CSA in your area. Sometimes you can work a few hours a week in exchange for discounts and access to a variety of fresh, organic foods.

Here are some simple steps to begin getting more whole foods in your diet:

As you and your family get used to these, it will be easier to avoid processed foods more and more and enjoy a healthier diet and life:

  • Choose products with 100% whole grains whenever possible rather than refined grains.
  • Replace half the white flour called for in your baking recipes with whole-wheat flour. Also, use half the amount of sweetener when you can.
  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits.
  • Include beans in your meals and snacks more often. They are a great source of plant protein, fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients.
  • Eat fewer convenience and processed foods. They’re often loaded with added fat, sugar, salt, and additives.
  • Don’t forget your beverages. Go for unsweetened options such as water, mineral water, green tea (iced or hot), and low fat milk.
  • Eat fruits, vegetables, and beans in place of supplements to provide the fiber and vitamins they contain.

Take It In Steps

This seems like a Herculean task. Lisa Leake from 100 Days of Real Food recommends eliminating processed foods in 6 weeks to make it easier and less overwhelming:

  • Week 1: Eat no fast food or deep fried foods.
  • Week 2: Focus on increasing fruits and vegetables
  • Week 3: Eat 100% whole grain rich foods
  • Week 4: Consume no refined or artificial sweeteners
  • Week 5: Eat nothing artificial
  • Week 6: Follow the five ingredient rule


  • Hyman, Mark. The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet Cookbook: More than 150 Recipes to Help You Lose Weight and Stay Healthy for Life. Little, Brown and Company, 2015.
  • LEAKE, LISA. 100 DAYS OF REAL FOOD: on a Budget. WILLIAM MORROW, 2018.
  • Masley, Steven. Better Brain Solution. Random House Usa Inc, 2018.
  • Hari, Vani. The Food Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days! Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
  • Katzen, Mollie, and Walter C. Willett. Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less: a Flexible and Delicious Way to Shrink Your Waist without Going Hungry. Hyperion, 2006.
  • Lair, Cynthia, and Peggy O'Mara. Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole Foods ; Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents. Sasquatch Books, 2008

It has a ladybug head, face.. without the dots
Yeah, but it looks like it has....
It's some sort of beetle

Children ran from stump to stump flipping them on their side then squatting down softly brushing mulch and dirt to the side, sifting through the earth until they saw signs of life.. a wiggle of a worm, a hole leading to the home of a cluster of ants, the rapid scurry of a centipede escaping the light. The excitement is thick in the air, so thick you can feel it as they run with such purpose seeming to be deeply engulfed in the mission to discover life; foreign or familiar each discovery is exciting and celebrated.1pic1

As the children experience the traits of the different life they find, I notice that they have collected data, compiled beliefs and examined theories, each time storing this new knowledge to use as a reference for the next bug encounter.

A natural tendency to sort and classify data unfolds. If you don't watch closely, their keen ability to file and store this new found data could go unnoticed. I am not even convinced that they know they do it. It's second nature as they play with and explore topics of interest.

The interwoven thoughts and understanding that each child shares only serves as an additional resource through which the children collect and investigate their ways of thinking. As they explore they openly share ideas, think out loud and contribute to the bank of thought acting as a member of a community of learners.

1pic2Through this process new thinking is developed, old thinking is debunked or confirmed. Children are in a state of flexibility, welcoming new ways of thinking new perspectives and letting go of old ways of thinking. Play and exploration provoke such an open-mindedness that allows new learning to plant seeds that grow over time into concrete learning that stays with the child into adulthood.

This process is all the more valuable when we allow natural curiosity to be the spark, catalyst, and conduit for learning.

This organic process can not be planned or recreated artificially because the true seed is born out of authentic interest. This deep connection to the experience is born the moment the child or children seek it out and fill the space where curiosity lives in their soul.1pic3

No paper bug project will grow this seed, it will only serve as a disconnection from the real thing. No plastic bug will water this seed, it will only serve as an experience once removed from the real thing thus pulling them further from the experience. No adult providing facts will shine light on this seed, it will only serve as a damper on the flame of their innermost urges to discover, explore, examine, think, hypothesize, conclude, question, test, re-think and repeat.

Keeping the Seed of Inquiry Alive

  1. Allow time, space, and permission for play.
  2. Do not hijack play. ( 
  3. Allow learning to unfold at the pace of the individual child.
  4. Only enter when invited or needed.
  5. Welcome ideas and processes of learning that may not feel comfortable or look like your own.
  6. Provide materials to support children as they deepen their understanding and question their thinking.
  7. Support, don't solve. Support the children through the process of solving their own problems do not solve their problems for them. Forgoing the process robs them of the opportunity to learn from it.
  8. Be present, engaged, and live in the spirit of inquiry in your daily work with children.
  9. Allow repeated exposure without rushing the child to the next phase, allow the timeline to be theirs.
  10. Accept all ideas as valuable.

Reprinted with permission:
Reid, Kisha. “A Seed Of Inquiry.” Play Empowers, 1 June 2017,

It is doubtful that anyone would deny that parenting is hard work. When parents and caregivers are busy working, paying bills, keeping food on the table and managing a household, keeping track of developmental milestones in our young children can be challenging.

The hard work of parenting comes with immeasurable rewards as our young children grow, learn and become unique individuals full of personality. We know children develop skills and reach milestones at their own pace and thrive naturally when given the proper support, but how can we be sure our children are developing in a healthy way and reaching important developmental milestones?

During the most precious stage of early brain development, parents and caregivers can ensure children are reaching those milestones through regular developmental screening. Parents and caregivers can gain a clear understanding of a child’s strengths, what to look forward to in their development, and what support services a child might need in order to ensure healthy development and school readiness.

The Ages & Stages Questionnaire® (ASQ) is a highly researched, valid and reliable tool for parents and caregivers to get a snapshot of a child’s development in communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal-social skills. The ASQ takes about 10-15 minutes to fill out and can be administered at any time from birth to age 5 ½ years. Based on responses, results will help determine if a child’s developmental progress is on time and/or alert parents and caregivers to any potential concerns that can be shared with the child’s health care provider.

Developmental screening can help parents and caregivers:

  • Learn more about their child’s growth and development
  • Learn about their child’s strengths
  • Address any questions or concerns about behavior, growth and development
  • Identify if there are any areas of development that need more support
  • Get connected with local resources for children and families

4-C is pleased to offer free and confidential ASQ developmental screening for all children birth to 5 1/2 years old residing in Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Jefferson, Rock, Sauk and Walworth counties.

The ASQ can be filled out by parents or primary caregivers online or paper versions of the ASQ can be requested from 4-C at any time by email, phone or mail to:

4-C Early Intervention Specialist
5 Odana Court Madison, WI 53719
608-271-9181 x7029

We encourage you to take 10–15 minutes to check in with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire®. The sooner a developmental delay or special need is addressed, the better long-term success can be expected for a child’s overall well-being.

Page 6 of 10