Vehicle Travel Preparedness for Parents

As the summer travel season draws to a close in much of the United States, many parents cannot help but reflect on their various vacation attempts and accomplishments over the past few months.  Fortunately for Seattleites, King County’s departments, agencies and offices (http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts.aspx) have also worked to provide easily implementable solutions to lessen citizen concerns about regular traveling, especially during an unexpected vehicle emergency.

This blog focuses on advice relating to the preparation and storage of necessary supplies during a potentially stressful travel-related event (e.g., car accident, traffic gridlock, non-functioning vehicle).  Co-op parent, Lisa McCluskey, not only relates her personal experiences below when creating a “Travel Preparedness Kit,” but also hopes that the steps outline in this article will assist other parents in feeling confident to tackle this often challenging topic.

Research industry best practices of personal/family travel.  On three separate occasions during my son’s inaugural year of co-op preschool, I found myself in unexpected emergency situations: twice when my SUV was hit by another driver (see image included in this blog) and once when he needed to go to the emergency room after tripping at a local holiday celebration.  Because of this, I always keep a personal backpack full of items we would both need if a travel-related emergency occurred plus, I store a smaller purse-sized tote in a second accessible place (in case I am unable to use my primary supplies).

King County’s website offers all of us a variety of helpful planning options in case of an emergency (MakeItThrough.org).  As a first line of personal vehicle preparedness, all drivers should thoroughly service their car, truck, RV and/or trailer regularly before hitting the road.  In addition, every individual that would be potentially riding in your vehicle (humans and pets) not only should always be completely secured per federal, state and local laws, but also have had emergency supplies packed for them in advance of travel.

What items have you chosen to include in own household’s “Travel Preparedness Kit”? I have included in this blog a list detailing the items in our family’s supply backpack that is kept with us at all times and/or independently stored in our vehicle:

  • water and non-perishable snacks;
  • games, books and crayons;
  • first aid kit, medications and sunscreen;
  • cleaner, disinfectant and towel;
  • electronic device chargers/cords; AND a
  • complete change of weather-resistant clothes.

All items fit in a standard 25-30L (Liter) foldable outdoor daypack (suitable for light hiking, backpacking, running and camping).  I replace it due to wear a few times per year and have never paid more than $20 for any one I am currently using.  Additionally, depending on your own family’s travel plans, you may wish to also consider always having quick access to:

  • extra cash (in local currency),
  • roadside emergency reflectors,
  • basic tools (e.g., screwdriver, adjustable wrench, pliers),
  • jumper cables, car jack, and spare tire.

Be safe, organized and aware of your surroundings when out and about daily.  For more information on what King County, WA recommends regarding personal and family travel preparedness (including for adults, kids and pets), please visit: http://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/emergency-management.aspx

Car

Creating a “Comfort Kit” for Emergencies

As our kids get older, they spend more and more time at Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool (QACP) without their parent or caregiver. This growth is great for kids and parents alike. In the event of an unxpected emergency, however, this could result in your child experiencing a temporary separation from mom and/or dad during a stressful time. QACP members have worked to identify easily implementable solutions to help parents provide means of comfort in such unusual events. This blog post focuses on when we as parents would not be able to be with our children during a stressful event (e.g., natural disaster, classroom or daycare lockdown, personal/work-related illness or injury).  Co-op parent Lisa McCluskey offers the following advice on creating a “Comfort Kit” to leave with your child’s caregiver and to help parents feel confident in addressing this safety topic with family, friends, and within their own communities.

Research the policies/practices of the individuals caring for your children regularly.  My son, Yuli, spends a significant amount of his time at QACP as he is there almost every day either in the main or multi-age classroom (MAC).  I have familiarized myself with the policies of QACP in the event of an emergency.  Additionally, if my son needs to be in the care of another adult during that time frame, I have also accounted for “common practices” of the co-op plus instances that may be unique to my family’s own requirements/culture/situation.  

QACP implements a variety of emergency plans in case of a natural disaster, classroom lockdown or sudden parental illness.  Our school’s budget also has provided for the supplies necessary to care for the individuals that may find themselves at the co-op when an unexpected emergency occurs.  I have considered those items when I chose to make my son his own “Comfort Kit” to avoid duplication.  Yuli’s personal kit was created to care for him until I am to be safely reunited with him.  It cost about $50.00.

What items have you chosen to include in your child’s “Comfort Kit”?  I have included in this blog a photo showing the items in my son’s comfort kit that is kept at his preschool.  All items fit in a water resistant, one gallon, zip top style eco-friendly labeled plastic bag (see image).  QACP will provide the necessary personal products and foodstuffs for multiple days along with prudent tools (flashlight, whistle, can-opener, thermal blanket, etc.) for each member in the classroom.  I chose to add for Yuli:

  1. Soft, pull-on hat
  2. Adjustable aqua shoes
  3. Extra diaper
  4. Pack of tissues
  5. Personal letter with stickers and family photo
  6. Change of clothes (onesie, long-sleeved shirt, stretchy pants)
  7. Lightweight and thicker socks
  8. Take-n-toss sippy cup
  9. Soft, hug-able toy
  10. Small board book

Observe safety and implement best practices when out and about daily.  Despite the fact that I have left a “Comfort Kit” in each of my son’s QACP class tote bags in the co-op classroom, I also always keep a personal backpack full of items we would both need if disaster suddenly struck.  Additionally, I store a smaller diaper bag-sized tote in a second place in case I am unable to access my primary supplies.   Doing this has already been beneficial to us on three separate occasions this year: twice when my SUV was hit by another driver and once when Yuli suddenly needed to go to urgent care and eventually the emergency room.

For more information on what King County, WA recommends regarding personal preparedness, your kids and creating comfort kits for use during an emergency, please visit: http://www.kingcounty.gov/safety/prepare/residents-business/PersonalPreparedness/Kids/ComfortKits.aspx

CareKit

Kids & K-9s: Interpreting an Animal’s Body Language

Queen Anne is a popular neighborhood in Seattle for dog owners and many QACP families count a pet as at least one of their family members.  Co-op parent and certified professional dog trainer/behavior consultant, Lisa McCluskey, offers the following tips on canine body language to help parents feel confident in addressing this important safety topic with their children.

We hear what dogs are telling us with our eyes.  Consider how as a parent you would describe to your children the skill of observing animal body language.  Picture in your own “mind’s eye” what you feel a friendly, safe, well-behaved dog looks like when he/she is wanting to interact with small children.  

Ask yourself questions about energy level, attentiveness to the owner (versus environment) and the level of relaxation you feel the dog should be displaying at that moment in time.  What would a dog need to be doing (or not doing) in order for you to feel fine about allowing your children to pet him/her?  Realize this would be the dog of a complete stranger and take into account that you may never see the dog or human under consideration ever again.

Next, mentally list various nonverbal cues demonstrated by the “safe” dog you are envisioning in your mind.  What could any caretaker of your child point out to kids for consideration/education in a situation including a possible dog interaction?  These should be notes an adult is easily able to store as talking points before any attempt is made by the children to touch an animal owned by someone else.  

After you feel that you have a solid vision in mind for what you hope would be a good dog experience for your children, personally test your hypothesis out in your community without children being present.  Then, disseminate your results.  Were you correct on which dogs ended up being “friendly”?  

Additionally, how would the dogs you met have done if you were also accompanied by one or more children at the same time?  Best practices would dictate troubleshooting the common problems you encountered when out alone meeting the dogs of others BEFORE adding children you are caring for into the mix.

Many misconceptions exist in our culture when interpreting an animal’s behavior towards encountering humans (adults and children).  At the very least, a dog that you introduce to your children should have the wholehearted permission of the person holding the animal’s leash to do so.  Children should wait until their caretaker gives an “all clear” to meet a dog.  Permission to interact with a pet must include simple, age-appropriate instructions for the child/children to carry out at the beginning, middle and end of the interaction.  

Generally speaking, professional dog trainers and behavior consultants recommend when putting kids and dogs together, “If in doubt, don’t.”  There are a lot dogs in Seattle.  Consider the fact that in the course of one day, there will be innumerable humans that may not be in a position to stop and interact with you.  Therefore, we could also estimate that there would be a similar magnitude of dogs out being walked in the same position and of identical persuasion.  

Observe safety and implement best practices when allowing your children to interact with animals.  Learning to understand and process information about body language is an invaluable tool for building empathetic and powerful adult communication skills.  Dogs are able to be phenomenal teachers both up close and at a distance for our children.  Encourage the power of observation (before action) when introducing animal awareness education every day to kids and the benefits will be immeasurable.  For more information on fostering healthy relationships between children and dogs, please visit https://www.aspca.org/parents.

 

Tips for long haul flights with a toddler

Community Member Alina Metjie of the 2’s class wrote this post for us earlier this year to share her experience:

I recently traveled alone with my 3-year-old son from Seattle to South Africa and Namibia via Europe, which included eight flights, four of which were long haul flights. I thought some parents might benefit from my experience, so here are a few tips to make the trip easier for your child and yourself.

Travel route

I had two long haul flights in each direction (9 and 11 hours) with a 6-hour layover in London. I booked a hotel room at the airport for the layover, which I found helpful as my son could run around, bath, and sleep and was in a much better mood afterwards. Some big airports (like Heathrow) have Jungle gyms, which can be very helpful during waiting times. Check out the airports online before you get there.

Car seat

Since my child needed his own plane ticket and seat (from 2 years onwards) and we needed a car seat at our destination, we had the option to bring our own car seat on the plane. Bringing your own, a seat you are familiar with and know how to use, is the safe option, and most children can sleep much better in their own car seat anyway. Here are some links about FAA recommendations:

http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/

Leaving on a Jet Plane – The CSFTL Guide to Safe Air Travel with Children

The issue is how to transport the car seat on the long ways at the airport, especially if you’re the only adult and have to carry all the hand luggage too. Note, you don’t pay for extra hand luggage when taking the car seat on the plane. There are lots of different options available e.g. using a car seat travel cart, connecting your toddler’s car seat to your rolling carry-on suitcase or using the stroller for the car seat. Below some links of the most popular options:

http://goo.gl/1K06KR
http://goo.gl/P829Dc
http://goo.gl/ku1v5C
http://goo.gl/JuuqAT
http://goo.gl/iDlkLe

Packing hand luggage wisely

I had a small rolling suitcase and an extra backpack as hand luggage. I stored the suitcase in the locker above me and put the backpack underneath the seat in front of me. I made sure I had everything I needed for my son for the whole flight packed in the backpack and easily accessible at all times. Our backpack included snacks, spare clothes, a travel potty (see below), wet wipes, an iPad, a bottle and formula. My son still drinks warm milk out of a bottle when he wakes up and since there is usually no milk available on planes, besides the small tins you get for your coffee, I bought some formula just for the trip and checked at home if he would drink it.

Travel potty

My son doesn’t wear diapers anymore but sometimes he refuses to use public toilets, so I was worried if he would use the plane toilet and if we would both fit into the small bathroom. Further, waiting times at gates can become tricky since there are not always bathrooms nearby. A travel potty was the perfect solution. I purchased http://goo.gl/Y4RHKC and was extremely happy with it.

My son could wee anywhere he needed to. I would either take him to the bathroom or look for quiet corners at the airport. On the plane I even used it in front of our seats without anyone noticing. You can just knot the plastic bag afterwards and throw it away. It saved me when he needed to wee urgently after the plane landed.

We even used the travel potty at our destination so we didn’t need to buy or carry an extra toilet seat ring (which we usually use at home). There is an extra inlay available, so you don’t have to use plastic bags at your destination. The potty looks quite small and I was at first concerned if my son would be able to ‘aim’ right and not make a mess, but I tried it at home first and it worked fine for him.

Entertainment on the plane

I found travelling with my 3 year old much easier than when he was 2 years old as he could keep himself busy for quite long stretches. I took an iPad with and, very important, a headset for his iPad. We bought http://goo.gl/dqpI55, which has a volume limit cable to limit audio volume. For the first time my son was also interested in the on plane movies.

The headphones they have on the planes are usually poor quality and not suitable for children so I would strongly recommend bringing your own. The best ones are active noise cancelling headphones. There are many different types and price ranges available. I got one free, so have no idea how expensive it was. They are extremely comfortable (the cheap plane headphones really made my ears hurt after about an hour) and reduce environmental noise (especially the noise from the plane itself) a lot, so one can watch a movie properly. I even ended up sleeping with them as the plane noise bothered me.

And lastly

Always stay calm and don’t stress about a melt down. Every so often, you see a travel article about people who think babies and kids should be banned from air travel or moved to a separate section of a plane. These curmudgeonly business travelers assert their right to a library-silent, no-wails-allowed flight. But your child is just acting it’s age and you can expect adult fellow passengers to act theirs. I luckily never had really bad experiences, but I usually just ignore child unfriendly passengers.

Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool is a Great Community for Parents and Children. This is our blog.

When I was in high school, I volunteered at the local hospital as a candy striper. This gave me a lot of varied experiences, and I loved to tell stories about my time there. One day I was hanging out with my mom and grandma and describing an afternoon when I’d gotten lost delivering something to the prenatal ward and running into the locked door of the psych ward instead. My mother said, “wait, the nursery and the psych ward are right next to each other?” And my grandmother, who had raised four boys as a stay at home mom, said almost absent mindedly, “well, one thing does lead to another.”

That was years before I learned how much becoming a parent can stretch a person, including their sanity, what with the famously late hours, the uncertainty and worry, the rapid shifts from totally adorable moments of love and connection to bewildering moments expressing toddler and preschooler frustration and outrage.

The only thing that made all of these sanity-stretching childhood challenges worse for a parent, I have found, is isolation.

I moved with my family to Seattle for my partner’s job when my older son was 9 months old, and we didn’t know anyone in the area. In finding Queen Anne Cooperative Preschool I found a community my son and I desperately needed. Not everyone who comes to coop is as isolated as we were, but ours is a very open and laid-back community in which it is easy for both children and parents to find friends and community.

I think it’s easy to take our community for granted, and forget how great it is to work with such dedicated teachers, such engaged parents and caregivers, and with parent educators with so much experience and passion. Our school is a great place to learn to be a better parent, to learn about how kids learn, and to learn about ourselves and our own children as well. I can’t be the first parent who discovered their child behaved quite differently in a classroom than the way they behaved at home. For everything my sons learn at coop, I learn too, and the things I have learned have saved my sanity in some challenging moments.

This community runs on volunteers, it is fed and watered by people who have the time and the expertise to contribute in various ways to keep things going. Not every member takes on a lot of responsibility, but every member has a vote and has certain obligations in order to keep things running smoothly. The main purpose of this blog is to keep members up to date with events going on in the coop and to notify members of any changes or announcements the coop board might make.

This post, in addition to introducing the blog, is also an open call for anyone else who would like to share their writing with the community, be it a recipe or craft, an original article, a link, or anything else. We will occasionally post updates from our various classes and announcements from our board, and any member of the coop who would like to add something is welcome to do so. Any community or group is effected and enhanced by what you’re willing to put into it, so feel free to contact Kate Friend at hello@queenannecoop.org.