Child care

Child Health - Germiest Places Your Kids Visit

You already know that germs lurk everywhere, but the greatest places that kids get exposed to germs may surprise you. According to Charles Gerba, Ph.D. of the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, the playground ranks among the top germiest places for kids. 

Dr. Gerba says that practically every child gets major bacteria--including fecal--all over his hands after playing on the playground. Ewww! That's because they've spent time playing on the monkey bars, holding the chains of swing sets, and hand rails of slides. And, since kids don't always use the healthiest of hygiene practices--especially at playground restrooms, which sometimes are only porta-potties--germs resulting from improper hygiene after using the bathroom may be in especially high abundance.

Other places that top the list for where kids get germs include shopping carts, elevator buttons, your child's classroom, common-use computer centers, and shared classroom supplies. A recent study even found that 80 percent of shopping carts sampled had E. coli. Since you can't realistic avoid exposure to germs, you can require kids to do a thorough job of constantly washing their hands and then following up with hand sanitizer. Hand washing and hand sanitizer used together can be even more effective in combating germs. 
[br Finally, talk to your kids about avoiding touching their faces and prevent them from touching their eyes, nose, or putting fingers in their mouth. Unfortunately, these are common habits among younger kids, but have been proven to be one of the fastest ways to spread germs and become exposed to illnesses such as the flu (seasonal and swine), strep throat, common colds, pinkeye, and other contagious childhood ailments.

Afterschool Child Care - Number of Kids Home Alone After School Has Risen

Millions of school-age kids are going home to an empty house after school, and the number of kids home alone has actually increased over the past five years even as afterschool care is more plentiful. 

The Afterschool Alliance conducted a national household survey of early 30,000 families in 2009 to learn how many children participate in afterschool programs, how many are unsupervised after school, and how these numbers compare to five years ago. The America After 3PM study sponsored by the JC Penney Afterschool Fund essentially found that while afterschool programs today are serving significantly more children than in 2004, more children today are home alone after school, and that the demand for safe, quality and affordable options is higher than ever.

Key findings

About 26 percent of America's school-aged children are on their own after the school day ends until a parent returns home from work. The percentage of children left on their own in the afternoons has increased in the past five years from 14.3 million in 2004 to 15.1 million in 2009.

There is a growing awareness that children are at particular risk during the afternoon hours from a safety and "poor choices" point of view. In addition, kids who are home alone and remaining inside the house (which most are directed to do) often spend the time eating junk food, watching television, and not participating in any physically-active or academic work during these hours. A lack of healthy eating and physical exercise is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic, which is starting at an earlier age than ever before.

Today, 30 percent of middle school students (3,722,219) and 4 percent of elementary school children (1,133,989) are unsupervised after school. Increasingly, older-age children may be responsible for caring for their younger siblings after the end of the school day. 
The availability of afterschool programs has improved in the past five years. This is another example of how child care trends are changing across the nation. But the report indicates that there are still not enough programs to keep pace with rising needs. Some program directors say it is a juggling act to provide safe and affordable after-school care with activities that are enticing to the middle-school age with enough participants to make it cost effective.

Fifteen percent of children currently participate in afterschool programs, a 4 percent increase from 2004. Parents of 18.5 million children not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to stem--a significant increase from the 30 percent who responded similarly in 2004.

Cost, especially during today's tough economic times, makes paying for afterschool child care programs more challenging. Some parents don't put their kids in afterschool care programs--even though they know it would keep their kids more safe--because they simply can't afford to do so. On average, parents who pay for afterschool programs pay $67 per week, up from an average of $44 per child per week five years ago.


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