Get Going on Childproofing Before Your Kid is on the Go


By Double Duty Mama

When my first son was born, we didn’t rush around trying to childproof our home. We figured, since all he did was lie there gurgling and pooping, we had plenty of time to make our place safe for him — and from him. Then, one day, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, he was on the move.

And into everything!

The DVD player, the cat food, the pots and pans cabinet, the toilet … everything he’d been eyeing from the safety of our arms and the bouncy seat was suddenly his to explore.

The first weekend after he learned to crawl, we found ourselves in the Babies R Us childproofing aisle, feeling absolutely overwhelmed. What was all this stuff? Did we really need it all?

We decided on what we hoped was a practical approach to safety, and bought electric socket covers, door stoppers, locks for the cabinets and the toilet, two baby gates and rubber bumpers for the sharp edges of our entertainment unit. My husband spent the rest of the weekend, electric drill in hand, fastening and screwing tight anything that moved. We used one gate to block the hallway from the main living area and the other, a multi-piece play yard, was wrapped around the other end of the living room to separate it from the kitchen.

We plopped him inside what became known as the Baby Zone and felt assured.

For about five minutes.

Because that’s how long it took him to figure out that he could use his head as a battering ram to move the play yard gates and get to the pebble-sized, choking-hazard cat food.

When I was pregnant with our second son, we remodeled the kitchen. After, I thought through where to put things, and made sure that anything in reach of a crawler and a toddler was safe. So, the cleaning fluids were behind locks, but my sons could play with the plastic mixing bowls and containers all they wanted.

Considering how active and curious my boys seemed, we were pretty lucky that we never had any major safety scares. Like most busy parents, my husband and I tend to be lazy and easily lose patience with things like complicated toilet locks; but we knew it was important to remain vigilant for our kids’ safety. You can’t put them in a bubble, but there are certainly easy steps you can take to ensure they stay safe in the place where they should be the most secure — your home.

Here are some tips to keep your house safe for your little ones:

  • Take a new look at your house from your baby’s level. Clear all surfaces at or below your chest.
  • Remove rubber tips from door stops. The small pieces are a common cause of choking in babies.
  • Drape cloth diapers over the door top to keep baby from shutting his or her  fingers  (or other limbs) in the door.
  • Keep pillows and loose blankets out of the crib until your baby is a year old.
  • Small children can easily drown in a toilet; invest in a toilet latch.
  • When running bath water, turn off hot water first so if baby turns on the faucet he won’t be burned by leftover water.
  • Things that can fit through a toilet paper tube can cause a young child to choke. Keep small items and hard foods or candy out of sight and reach.

For more tips and information on how to keep your kids safe at home, visit the Home Safety Council.


Grieving Assistance Centers – Los Angeles County


Sometimes natural coping skills may not provide the relief needed after a major loss. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms such as extreme depression, difficulty moving forward or returning to daily routines, withdrawal from life, or suicidal thoughts, it may be due to a condition known as complicated grief. The following centers in Los Angeles County may be able to provide counseling and further assistance:

Kaiser-Permanente Hospice
12200 Bellflower Blvd.
Downey, CA 90242
(562) 622-4317

Miller Children’s Hospital and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center
Todd Cancer Institute
2801 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, CA  90801

New Hope Grief Support Community
3443 San Anseline Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90808
(562) 429-0075

Hospice of the Conejo
80 E. Hillcrest #204
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
(805) 495-2145

ICAN National Center for Child Fatality Review
4024 Durfee Avenue
El Monte, CA 91732
(626) 455-4585

The Gathering Place
514 North Prospect Avenue #19
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 374-6323

Grief Recovery Institute
PO Box 6061-382
Sherman Oaks, CA 91413
(818) 907-9600

CHANGES: Grief Support for Grieving Children & Families
Pathways Hospice
3701 Michelson Street
Lakewood, CA 90712
(562) 531-3031

The Center for Grief and Loss for Children
924 West 70th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90044
(866) 74GRIEF

The Arnold C. Yoder Survivors Foundation
264 S La Cienega Blvd., #1007
Beverly Hills, CA  90211
(310) 684-3964

OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center*
1663 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-1511
Click here to read more about OUR HOUSE

Gary A. Garcia Foundation*
302 North Laveta Terrace
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 482-8500


Childhood Grief: Parenting Tips for Coping with Loss


The first time my kids experienced death was when their preschool teacher passed away from cancer. She was very private about her health – none of us even knew she was sick, other than the chronic back pain she clearly suffered with on a daily basis. She was a wonderful woman: loving, warm, friendly and all the things a teacher should be. She always lent an ear to listen to our troubles, a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on. She reminded me of my mother, a figure of safety and comfort. Plus, she was only in her 60s — it seemed like she had the whole world ahead of her.

So, when I received a text from another mom stating that the teacher was in the hospital and not expected to make it, the shock and sting sent tears to my eyes. I immediately sat my kids down and explained her condition. My kids responded differently. The oldest, who was five years old at the time, was clearly more sympathetic than my youngest, who seemed unfazed. Nevertheless, I made a special effort to make sure they felt safe and secure, letting them know that if they had any questions, they could ask me. The most important thing was that they knew I was there for them.

The teacher died a few days later. When the call finally came in, I was more prepared for the loss, although it is never easy to respond to it once it’s real. I choked up and, through tears, told my kids the news. That’s when my son did something completely surprising: he said he was sorry, hugged me and patted my back. I wondered how a 5-year old could be so mature. I made sure to talk with them in depth about the teacher, recalling the great things about her and how blessed we were to have her in our lives. My kids found comfort in knowing she was not suffering or in pain any longer.

“Parents need to know it’s okay to show their emotions in front of their children,” said Liz Hopkins, a Clinical Manager/Social Worker at a children’s mental health agency in Ontario, Canada. “They are role modeling that it is okay to express and show feelings.  This allows children to open up and share their feelings too.  Parents sometimes worry if they get too distraught, their children will feel they are out of control, and not be able to be there for the children.”

Grief is a normal emotional state.  Depending on a child’s age and developmental stage, they may not have the words or experience to express how they are feeling, and may show grief in different ways.

Whether it is a pet dying, a friend moving away or the loss of a family member, the following are recommendations for parents when their child has experienced a loss:

1. Pay attention to your child. Be there for them, pay attention to their feelings and encourage them to share their feelings. Let them know you are there for them anytime (they may not be ready to talk when you ask, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to talk at some point).

2. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. You may be surprised by what they would like help with. It may be as simple as just holding them, staying in their room until they fall asleep, helping them draw pictures or write a memorial story.

3. Encourage them to talk openly about their feelings and memories. Without any pressure, assure them that you are there for them whenever they need you.

4. Allow the child the opportunity to share their feelings. Sharing feelings does not have to be just through conversation. For example, your child could write a story, make a memory box or photo album, or draw pictures. Children need an avenue that works for them to get their feelings out — and talking doesn’t always work for everyone.

5. Encourage, allow and support the child’s involvement in any ceremony or celebration of the pet/person with whom they have lost.  Depending on the situation, it’s important to let them attend a funeral, a memorial service, church service, reception or even a tree planting. Trying to shelter children from the reality of death is not healthy or helpful. This is part of the normal grieving process and most children adjust better when allowed to participate in ‘goodbyes.’ Not including a child in this part of the process can leave them confused, upset, left out or angry.

Suggestions of what parents are encouraged not to do:

1. Omit unnecessary platitudes such as, “Oh don’t worry, everything will be ok; you will get through this we all do; we will get you a new pet; your grandma lived a good long life; there is no point in crying – that can’t bring your cat back.”  Those kinds of statements are not helpful to most children or people in general.

2. Don’t try pretending everything is fine or that it will ‘blow over’ as a way to help children forget the loss.

Some children adjust to loss with the support and help of family, friends or caregivers. Others can benefit from therapy, grief counseling or involvement in a bereavement group with other children who have had similar loss issues. The reality is that grief lasts for varying times for children.

Regardless of the type of loss, parents need to appreciate how deeply their children can feel and to let them express it in their own way, in their own time.  It can include crying, yelling, acting out or withdrawing.  There is no real right way to grieve, there are just many ways children express their feelings.  Kids can be incredibly resilient, but don’t mistake that for not grieving.


March is “Child Safety Month” at Ready. Set. Grow!


Now that February’s focus on oral health is wrapped up, we’re tackling two important issues in March: grieving and child safety.

Death is a subject we seldom like to talk about, and it tends to enter our lives without warning. Whether the loss is a friend, family member or pet, death can be a very confusing and mystifying time for young children. In partnership with Sesame Street’s When Families Grieve” campaign, we’ll give you resources and strategies to support, educate and guide your child, and your family, through the healing process.

Keeping children safe from abuse and neglect is another First 5 LA goal, as outlined in our Strategic Plan. This month, we’ll deliver tips and advice on household safety, baby proofing and injury prevention, as well as resources and information on post-partum depression and mental health issues.

Keep your eyes on our blog, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages, for daily tips, news and links to local and online and support.


How To Get Kids to Eat Bruised Fruit­­


By Mama Love

When we busy moms head to the store to replenish our pantries with groceries, a visit through the produce section is a must. We know that fruit is healthy and necessary for the development and growth of our little ones. Fruits are low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and contain many vitamins and minerals that kids need.  They are an important part of their daily diet.

Going to farmers markets are a fantastic way to pick out fresh fruits, get the kids outside and support local farmers. Much of the produce coming from the local farms is also organic and can be less expensive as well. To access a list of local farmers markets in the Los Angeles area, visit the Parent Resource section of Ready, Set, Grow.

Luckily, my little ones love fruit of all sorts: apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe.You name it, they eat it.

I usually don’t have any problem getting them to eat it…

Unless it’s bruised.

Sunkist oranges, bananas, pears, apples, and a...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I said it. Bruised.  Bananas get dinged and squished; apples get tumbled around; apricots and grapes brown. I’m sorry to report that bruised fruit doesn’t stand a chance in our house and I have a feeling I’m not alone here.

“Ugh!” they’ll gawk and dismiss the lonely piece of bruised fruit, looking for any other possible piece of fruit around. And if they can’t find a perfect piece of fruit, one with no dings, dents or bruises, they just won’t eat it.

Enter mom.

Moms can get creative when it comes to getting our kids to eat what their bodies need. So here are some tips on how to get kids to eat bruised fruit:

  1. Don’t, under any circumstances, let your kid see the bruised fruit. If your kid sees the fruit, take it away and ask them to go into the other room while you prepare the food.
  1. Cut out the bruise from the fruit. If your kid asks what happened to the fruit or why a big chunk is missing, you can tell them that it was simply ‘mom-tested and approved’.
  1. Cut the fruit into pieces and simply eliminate the isolated bruised part, then serve.
  1. Make fruit salad. If the piece of fruit has many bruises, consider gathering up its other bruised counterparts in the fruit bowl and make fruit salad
  1. Smoothie party. If your fruit is severely bruised, dented or dinged, consider throwing it in the blender to create a fantastic smoothie and invite the kids in the kitchen for a big smoothie party!
  1. Fruit shish kabobs. After you cut up the fruit into cubes, prepare it on a shish kabob stick or have your kids help you put the fruit on the stick.

By inviting your kids to participate in helping you prepare fruit in fun and creative ways gives them confidence and can be a simple but fun activity. It can also open up conversation about why fruit is important and necessary.

You can even talk to them about creating a compost pile with some of the rinds from the fruit such as watermelon or cantaloupe.

All of these above methods have worked for me at some point in time and I hope they give you some ideas and alternatives to simply throwing out bruised or dinged up fruit. If you have something that works for you, please feel free to leave us a comment!


Where Adults Get Exercise, Too!


We all know that exercise is good for us and our kids — but who has the time? Going to the gym can be costly and time consuming. An invigorating walk is a great idea, but one that is easily thwarted by a dawdling 2-year-old who refuses to ride in the stroller, then shuffles her feet and stops to inspect every dandelion.

The answer can be found at many Los Angeles County parks that offer adult exercise equipment. Parents and caregivers can use the resistance machines to pump-up or get in shape, while their children play nearby. Everybody’s happy, and getting the physical activity we all need!

Here are L.A. County Parks that offer adult exercise equipment:



(South Agency Sites)

•          Alondra Park                 3850 Manhattan Beach Lawndale, CA 90260

•          Athens Park                  12603 S. Broadway Ave.  Los Angeles, CA 90061

•          Washington Park           8908 S. Maie Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90002

•          Cerritos Park                 19700 S. Bloomfield Ave. Cerritos, CA 90701

•          Carolyn Rosas Park       18500 E. Farjardo St. Rowland Heights, CA 91748

•          Steinmetz Park              1545 S. Stimson Ave. Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

•          Pathfinder Park              18150 E. Pathfinder Rd. Rowland Heights, CA 91748

•          Adventure Park              10160 S. Gunn Ave. Whittier, CA 90605


(East Agency Sites)

•          Belvedere Park              4914 E. Cesar Chavez Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90022

•          Obregon Park                4021 E. First St. Los Angeles, CA 90063

•          Salazar Park                 3864 E. Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023

•          Roosevelt Park              7600 Graham Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90001

•          Rimgrove Park               747 N. Rimgrove Ave La Puente, CA 91744

•          Sunshine Park               515 S. Deepmead Ave. La Puente, CA 91744

•          San Angelo Park            245 S. San Angelo La Puente, CA 91746

•          Allen J. Martin Park        14830 S. N. 92nd St. La Puente, CA 91744

•          Mayberry Park               13201 E. Meyer Rd. Whittier, CA 90605

•          Dalton Park                   18867 E. Armstead St. Azusa, CA 91702


(North Agency)

•          Castaic Sports Complex 31230 N. Castaic Rd. Castaic, CA 91384

•          Charles White Park: 77 Mountain View Street    Altadena, CA. 91001

•          El Cariso Park:  13100 Hubbard Street    Sylmar, CA. 91342

•          Jackie Robinson Park: 9773 E. Avenue R    Littlerock, CA. 93543


For more information about L.A. County Parks, visit



True Tales from the Tooth Doctor


by Auntie Em

This month we’ve shared a few stories about what happens when they take their children to visit the dentist.  Now let’s hear from a tooth doctor:

The following giggle-worthy stories are from Dr. Arshia Shingler, a pediatric dentist in Gainesville, VA,

Sugar Bug

It is common verbiage in our practice to call cavities “sugar bugs”. When trying to explain the process of decay removal to children under five, I will often talk about chasing the “sugar bug”. During a routine filling appointment I had a laugh-out-loud moment when a three-year-old patient asked me if the sugar bug had an angry face?  I took his lead and spent the next few minutes distracting him with my description of the ‘evil’ sugar bug I was chasing away.

Tooth fairy

The normal age range of losing a first tooth is between 4-7 years of age. Years ago, I had a four-year old patient lose his first tooth in our office during a routine cleaning appointment. During his exam, I began telling him about the tooth fairy coming to his house that night, thinking this would be very exciting news. Unfortunately, I got the complete opposite reaction. The patient began sobbing uncontrollably because he did not want the tooth fairy to take his first tooth away. Later we remedied the situation by telling him he could write the tooth fairy a letter asking to keep his tooth.


A few months ago a very independent 5-year old patient asked if she could come back to the treatment room by herself. Before I brought her back I asked the mom if she had any special concerns. I guess the patient thought I was talking to her, because she immediately responded: “When am I getting “bracelets” like my older sister?” I looked to the mom for an explanation and she informed me that her sister had recently gotten braces.

Do you have any funny stories to share about your kids and their teeth? Share with us in the comments! Our favorite story wins a free kids dental kit + a copy of Brush Brush Brush!

*Entries must be received by Friday, Feb 25th at 5PM PST, Los Angeles County residents only


Taking Your Kid to the Dentist? Set Your Expectations Low


by Double Duty Mama

When my youngest son was 18 months old, he fell at daycare and hit his chin on a door jam – knocking out one tooth and chipping three others. I was still there dropping him off, and saw tooth fragments and blood pouring out of his screaming mouth.

That day was the first time he visited a dentist. I don’t know if it is just who he is or the memory of that very stressful and painful experience, but from that day forward, he was the worst dental patient ever.

I took him to a pediatric dentist, who had all the toys, bells and whistles on hand that a good pediatric dentist needs to distract a child in the chair. My kid was having none of it, though. When a nurse brought out a funny stuffed monkey with a big, toothy grin, my kid was too busy writhing around in my arms, pushing everyone away and screaming to notice.

After a couple more visits with the pediatric dentist, it was clear we were all impatient with the gimmicks. I wanted her to just put down the darn blown-up rubber glove that she drew a face on with a black Sharpie and get to the business of examining and cleaning my kid’s teeth while I had a good grip on him.

When he was 3, we decided to try the dentist my husband, my older son and I have seen for years. A quick word here about my older son: Best. Dental. Patient. Ever. Sure, he was a little anxious the first time, but he followed the dentist’s instructions, kept his mouth open and his squirming to a minimum. He just held on tight to his stuffed hippo and surrendered.

I thought the comparatively calm, no-nonsense atmosphere of our dentist would be a better match for my younger son.

I was wrong.

He wouldn’t let the dentist see inside his mouth, let alone clean his teeth. The appointment ended after 45 minutes of me and the entire staff unsuccessfully trying to cajole, bribe, trick and scare him into the exam.

My husband and I are sticklers when it comes to our sons’ health, and follow all the medical pediatric guidelines, including that everyone goes to the dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings. But, for this kid, I decided to buck the norm and wait an entire year before bringing him back, assuming (hoping?) a whole year would give him the maturity he needed to cooperate.

A few months ago, I brought him with me for his older brother’s appointment so he could see it wasn’t a big deal, didn’t hurt and that he could be a big boy like his brother. For a couple weeks after, he kept asking when it was his turn.

That day came late last month. It was a day filled with success, but still had its share of frustrations. I was amazed at how well he did during the X-rays – holding still and following instructions to bite the film. He stuck one hand behind his head, elbow out, while the dentist poked around in his mouth with that horrible metal hooky thing. He was excited to play with “Mr. Thirsty.” Everything was going well, until about half-way through the cleaning. That’s when he decided “it hurts” and showed real displeasure at the gritty texture of the dentist’s toothpaste.

And, that was it. No amount of cajoling, bribes or tricks would get him to open his mouth again. He wouldn’t even let her do the much-needed “bubble bath” of fluoride foam.

I left feeling like the visit was a failure. But later, after calming down, I looked back and saw how far he had come in a year. Never before had he done X-rays or any kind of cleaning without either my husband or I holding him down. I was proud of him for coming as far as he did. I know that, in six months, we’ll get even farther.


Valentine’s Day and Kids: Say I Love You Without the Junk


By Mama Love

February is a month where our thoughts turn to love and hearts. First, there’s Valentine’s Day – a special day dedicated to honoring the patron saint of romantic causes, St. Valentine (or, as we like to think of it, a fun day filled with candy and flowers). Also, appropriately, the American Heart Association designated February as American Heart Month, and reminds us that heart disease is the number one killer of American women.

An heart-shaped tomato.

Image via Wikipedia

As staggering as that information is, it is a good reminder that there are many ways we can keep ourselves and our families healthy, like showing our children that Valentine’s Day is really about giving love, not candy. An organic, natural offering or homemade craft doesn’t have to be dull, either.

“Making something together or giving them something you made especially for them has long-lasting effects that go way past a sugar high,” says Carolyn Graham, editor of L.A. Parent.

Believe it or not, there are many ways to say ‘I love you’ on Valentine’s Day without associating the day with sweets.

  • Read a book about love. One of my all time favorite books to read to my kids is “I Love You With All of My Heart” by Noris Kern. I still can’t get through it without shedding a tear.
    heart sandwiches

    Image by o&poecormier via Flickr

  • Make heart-shaped sandwiches. Put that heart-shaped cookie cutter to use, but instead of cutting cookies, cut out a PB&J for your little snacker.
  • Write a poem to your child. Tell your little love what they mean to you in a poem. Be sure to sign and date it, and this will become a perfect keepsake for your tiny tot (and you, too!).
  • Prepare custom-made heart-shaped pancakes. Serve with banana eyes, a strawberry nose, blueberry mouth and plenty of love. My mom did this for me when I was growing up and it always reminded me how much she loved me.
  • Sing a love song. Pick out a song about love and sing it with your child in the car or at bedtime. “A Love Song” by Loggins and Messina is one I have rocked my little ones to sleep with many-a-time.
  • Make a heart frame. Insert a picture of you and your child. Your child will love looking at it everyday.
  • Serve up a love lunch. See how much love your tot can spoon with fun, heart-shaped pasta.
  • Take a special walk together. Call it your “love walk” and take the opportunity to talk about about the things you love, like nature or each other.
  • Go red for the day. Wearing red not only tells the world you’re honoring the day of love with your wardrobe selection, but the bright color will boost your spirits and confidence.
  • Collect wildflowers in your backyard. Not only is this a fun scavenger-hunt type of activity to do together, but you can also reap the rewards with a fresh bouquet on your dinner table for the whole family to enjoy.

In your household, if having something sweet is somehow unavoidable on this special day, consider alternatives like sugar-free, organic or other natural choices.

Avoiding junk food on Valentine’s Day can be easier than you think. By trying some of these tips, parents can get kids on track to a healthy lifestyle. This way, everyone gets to enjoy a long life filled with lots of sweet things –like kisses, hugs and lots of “I love yous!”


Oral Health Care for Young Children: What Dentists Don’t Tell You


By Double Duty Mama

There are lots of places to get great tips on caring for your kids’ teeth, including here on the Ready. Set. Grow! Oral Health Campaign web hub. But, let’s be honest: It’s really easy for the experts in the white coats to tell you what you should be doing to keep your kids’ teeth shiny and bright. And they’re right. But what no one tell you is how amazingly hard it is to follow their directions when faced with an infant who won’t open her mouth, a toddler who won’t hold still or a preschooler who insists he can do it himself – but then spends several minutes making faces in the mirror without a bristle touching his teeth.

I’ve run the gamut over the years when it comes to my attitude toward teeth brushing time at my house. Sometimes, I’m so intent on winning the battle over the brush, I’ve resorted to holding down a thrashing child just for a victorious swipe or two at the innards of his mouth. Other times, I’m completely blasé and, when met with lips that won’t separate, have thrown the toothbrush back on the sink and walked away – but not without first getting in a parting, guilt-inducing shot along the lines of: “They’re your teeth. What do I care if they fall out or not?”

I’m not proud of myself for handling challenging circumstances either way. Actually, it’s downright embarrassing to admit I’ve lost my cool like that. More than once. I credit the fact that I care so much about my kids, their health and everything associated with it to explain my lack of judgment. Because, seriously, I know how important oral health care is. Uncared for teeth and gums can lead to pain, missed school and, let’s face it, expensive emergency treatments.

Image by Gunjan Karun via Flickrmissed

So, while you should take the advice from those dental experts, I’ll add a few tips from my oral health care war chest:

  • Resist power struggles at tooth brushing times. It’s better to skip or postpone than force a brush into a stubborn toddler’s mouth.
  • Let your child brush while you sing a song. When it’s over, it’s your turn to brush for one more tune.
  • Always keep a spare toothbrush on hand for your child – you never know when it will be dropped or thrown into the toilet. Seriously.
  • Don’t waste an opportunity – brushing the open mouth of a crying or screaming toddler is totally okay.
  • The best 99 cents I ever spent was for a toothbrush with a blinking light. It’s a one-minute timer that thwarts arguments over whose turn it is.