Creative Holiday Crafts for Kids

Celebrate the season with these easy projects that kids will love to make.

Dino-Mite Dinosaurs

It’s easy to turn plastic toys into Jurassic jewels. For each, twist a 1/4-inch screw eye into a small plastic dinosaur. Brush the dino with tacky glue, sprinkle with fine glitter to cover, then set it on waxed paper to dry. Add a length of string for hanging.

Petite Gumball Machines

Add a bit of sweetness to your holiday with this tiny version of a childhood favorite. Roll a 3/4- by 5-inch strip of card stock into a 1 1/4-inch-diameter tube and secure it with tacky glue (clamp it with a clothespin until the glue dries). Glue one end of a small rectangle of silver glitter card stock to the tube. Fill a 1 1/2-inch-diameter clear glass ball ornament with small beads. For the base, glue the tube to a large button (ours has a 1 1/2-inch diameter), then glue the ornament in place.

Nutty Buddies

Put a gaggle of these guys on your tree for sure smiles. To make one, adhere a mini pinecone to a wooden bead with tacky glue. Once dry, glue an acorn cap to the top of the bead. Add a velvet ribbonscarf and secure it with glue. Use fine-point permanent markers to add eyes and a mouth, then tie on a length of string for hanging.

kids christmas


Ways to Keep Your Kids Cold-Free

Chicken soup really works, antibiotics aren’t the answer, and other key info you need to survive the coughing and sneezing season.


Why Kids Are Such Cold Magnets

On average, kids under age 3 catch six to eight colds a year. “We think that since most children are encountering viruses for the first time, their immune systems aren’t able to kill them as quickly as when they encounter them again,” says Carol J. Baker, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. What’s more, because kids aren’t overly concerned about having a runny nose, the virus tends to end up on their hands, clothing, and toys—where it can live for 30 minutes. When another child touches an infected toy and then rubs her nose or eyes, she can catch the cold.

However, having lots of sniffles early in life may protect kids later on. Researchers have found that children who develop frequent colds in preschool catch fewer colds during their school years—presumably because their immune systems have learned to recognize and fight off the bugs. And a German study has found that babies who have more than one cold before their first birthday are less likely to develop asthma by age 7.

Symptom Tracker

Colds typically last 6 to 14 days—longer than many parents think they’re supposed to. “They’re most contagious during the first three days of symptoms, but you can still catch a cold from someone who’s had it for two weeks,” says David Jaffe, M.D., director of emergency medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Rotavirus & Stomach Flu

Officially called gastroenteritis, stomach flu is an infection of the digestive system — and is totally unrelated to the regular flu (influenza), which affects the respiratory system. Stomach flu is the second most common illness kids get, after respiratory infections like colds. Although unpleasant, stomach flu is usually not serious. It’s usually caused by viruses, but can also come from bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, as well as some parasites.

Stomach flu causes inflammation of a child’s stomach and digestive tract, usually triggering vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. “Babies and young children are especially prone to infection because their immune systems are still forming, so they haven’t yet built up the antibodies to fight off germs,” says Rita Steffen, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.


What Is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is one type of bug that causes stomach flu and may make children sicker than other types (like adenovirus, enterovirus, astrovirus, and Norwalk virus). Until recently, most children had been infected with rotavirus once by age 2 and nearly all had had at least one bout by age 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This particular bug is responsible for about 400,000 doctor visits and 200,000 emergency room trips in the U.S. every year. However, a new rotavirus vaccine may drastically decrease the number of cases once it becomes widely used.

Your child’s most likely to get infected with rotavirus between November and May, especially if he’s regularly exposed to lots of other kids in situations such as daycare or playgroups. Rotavirus is very contagious and can easily spread among kids and teachers. As with other viruses, there’s no quick treatment — you have to let the bug run its course. Keeping your child hydrated is the best way to help him feel better. In severe cases, a baby can become dehydrated in as little as six hours.

What Are the Main Symptoms of Stomach Flu?

The early signs of stomach flu can be easy to miss, especially in babies and toddlers. Be on the lookout for these red flags:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting (more volume than usual everyday spit-up)
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Fussiness or irritability
  • Acting more tired and sluggish than usual
  • Decreased appetite

Older children may also complain of tummy cramps, muscle aches, and headaches. Symptoms generally set in one to three days after your kid’s been exposed to the bug, and can last anywhere from a day or two up to 10. The main risks from stomach flu are not from the symptoms themselves (although unpleasant), but the fact that upset stomach can make your child very dehydrated.

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Vitamin D May Be the Key to Fewer Colds

A familiar refrain has been growing among moms in my Northern New Jersey community: When will winter be over? Because we are all so sick of, well, our kids (and sometimes us!) getting sick.

Now a new study published in the British Medical Journal says there may be an OTC vitamin we can take to prevent colds and respiratory infections from hijacking our lives from November through March. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not vitamin C (although taking that certainly won’t hurt!).

girl taking vitamin D

Researchers looked at 11,000 people across 14 different countries, and found that beefing up on vitamin D can reduce one’s risk of getting a cold by 12 percent. As a mom who has been back and forth to the pediatrician more times than I care to think about recently, I’ll take those odds!


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How to Tell If It’s an Ear Infection

Learn the symptoms, causes, and treatments for this common childhood ailment.


How Common Are Ear Infections?

Recently, I noticed my 8-month-old son tugging on his right ear. That, combined with his unusual crankiness, got my attention. Was he teething? Just discovering his ear? Or could he be signaling that he was suffering from an ear infection? He was just getting over a cold, so I decided to call the pediatrician’s office. The nurse suggested bringing him in for a quick peek at his ears. The verdict: no ear infection! While I was relieved, the incident did get me thinking. Did I have to drag him in every time he pulled at his ear? That seemed a little extreme. But what if I was too laid back and missed a real ear infection? I decided it was time to learn a little bit more about this common childhood ailment. Here’s what I found out.

“Next to the common cold, ear infections are the most common disorder in children,” says Margaretha Casselbrant, MD, PhD, chief of the division of pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The painful facts are that more than 80 percent of children will be diagnosed with an ear infection by the time they celebrate their third birthday, almost half of these kids will have suffered from three or more ear infections by age 3, and the prime time for ear infections is between 6 and 24 months.

Why Are Kids Prone to Ear Infections?

First a quick explanation: ear infections occur when fluid gets trapped in the middle ear (an air-filled space located behind the eardrum) and becomes infected by bacteria or a virus. This is most likely to happen when the eustachian tube (a narrow passageway that connects the throat to the middle ear) becomes blocked. Typically, this blockage is caused by swelling or congestion from a cold, which is why an ear infection often develops on the heels of a cold. Allergies can also cause inflammation that obstructs the eustachian tubes.

Anatomy is a contributing factor as well. A child’s eustachian tubes are shorter, less angled, and floppier than an adult’s, which means that both fluid and germs are more likely to get trapped in the middle ear. In addition, a child’s immune system is still developing, so she has a tougher time than an adult in fighting off viruses and bacteria.

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Things Parents Can Do to Protect Sporty Kids From Injuries

Help prevent sports injuries in kids by paying attention to their recovery—and avoiding specializing in one activity too early.

On any given weekend every athletic field across the country is blanketed with kids of all ages chasing soccer balls and throwing pitches. The pools are filled with budding competitive swimmers. The gyms are at capacity with tiny tumblers.

Inevitably during the week, sports medicine offices are equally filled with the same children in need of physical therapy or a knee brace. The pediatric injuries that pile up across all sports are increasing, experts say, as more kids become serious about their athletic endeavors at earlier ages.

The most common problems that parents are up against aren’t usually the acute injuries like broken bones or concussions (though, unfortunately, those also happen on the playing fields)—they are the kinds of injuries caused by using the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments over and over again.


1. Don’t specialize in one sport too early. Your child may exhibit exceptional talent for gymnastics or soccer, but concentrating on one activity too early in their lives will lead to the most common injuries, which are repetitive stress and overuse problems. Doing one sport also stunts coordination and neurodevelopment because kids don’t have the opportunity to use multiple muscle groups in different ways.

“During the early stages as kids are still growing, we want to make sure they are developing their motor skills in many different ways,” says Michelle Cappello, a physical therapist and clinical director at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Sports Medicine Center for Young Athletes. “That way, they will play sports longer and live healthier lifestyles.”

When is it safe to pick just one sport? After a child has reached puberty. If your little athlete can’t wait, parents should make sure their children get three months away from the sport each year. The break not only shields kids from getting hurt, but it also can prevent mental burnout.

“Kids are being pushed to specialize by parents and coaches who say, ‘Oh, you’ll never get that scholarship if you don’t focus,'” says Dr. Cardone, who is also the chief medical officer of New York City Public Schools Athletic League. “We know for sure that is not the right thing to do.”

2. Check out the coach and program. Many youth programs are led by well-meaning parents who don’t necessarily have expertise in how to coach. Before registering a child for a particular team, ask around. Good coaches, who care about all the participants and give each child equal attention, usually get rave reviews. Typically children get hurt in programs that are focused mostly on winning over teaching the game and having fun. A big red flag is if a coach overplays the most-talented or strongest kids—seeing too much game time often results in injuries.

“Kids can play in a park with their friends—with no adult around—from sun-up to sundown and really not have any overuse injuries,” says Dr. Cardone. “Put a parent or coach in the mix directing them and that’s when they start to get hurt.”

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