Monday, July 27, 2009

Firefly Fun and Craft

There’s nothing that says a summer night like the blinking lights of fireflies in the darkness. When people think of summertime activities they did as children, odds are they caught lightning bugs or fireflies. This morning on WUSA9 News Now Peggy Fox and Liz McConville (our Resource Editor) talked about fireflies and how much fun it is to catch them. Peggy’s children were on to show how to make a firefly jar.

What are fireflies?

Something that people may not know is that fireflies are actually beetles. There are about 2,000 species of fireflies in the world and tend to live in a variety of warm and mostly humid environments. However they can be found in drier areas but they tend to be found around damp areas.

What makes fireflies glow?

They have special organs under their abdomens. When the fireflies take in oxygen inside special cells, it combines with a substance called luciferin that produces the light with almost no heat. This light is used mostly to attract mates but can also be used to communicate with each other, defend territory and warn predators.

What’s the best way to catch a firefly?

Fireflies can be found during summer months in fields or forests or even in your yard. When you want to catch them, make sure to turn off your exterior house lights since that can distract them. You can use a flashlight to mimic their light patterns. Use a net if you have one, you can catch them in your hands also but be very careful since fireflies are very fragile.

What we’re making today are the containers you put the fireflies in. It can be any kind of container but a clear plastic or glass jar lets you see what you catch. You can decorate your jar with paint pens, stickers and all sorts of art supplies.

Make sure the top of the jar is well ventilated and place a damp paper towel inside the jar to keep the air humid. This way, they will be able to breathe and won’t dry out. Once caught, don’t keep them for longer than two days and let them go at night. Treat the fireflies carefully, their numbers are dwindling due to various causes like light pollution.

To find out more about fireflies check out: or

Hope you are having a great summer. If you have other summer activities that are fun for kids, send them along. We will share them with other moms.

Happy Parenting, Brenda

Monday, July 20, 2009

Best Playgrounds and Playground Safety

Now is the time of year when we are all taking advantage of the wonderful recreational facilities that we have in the Washington Region including some great parks for kids.

However, according to the National Program for Playground Safety, each year over 205,000 preschool and elementary children receive emergency department care for injuries that occur in parks.

Where are the great parks?

Every year in our Best for Families survey we ask parents where their favorite park or playground is. Our Best for Families is an annual survey of parents about resources in the Washington area and it appears in our July magazine. As you can imagine, it is EXTREMELY popular.

This year there were over 4,000 nominees in our Best for Families Survey. There were many, many playgrounds and parks nominated but the top three are favorites of mine. Here is a link to the Best for Families Winner Page. You can also find detailed descriptions of many of these parks inside the FAMILY Magazine WEB EXTRAS (here is the link). The number one playground or park in the Best for Families survey was Clemyjontri Park in McLean. Here is some information about Clemyjontri as well as the next two most favorite playgrounds.

Clemyjontri Park
6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101
Features a unique playground where children of all abilities can play side-by-side. It is a playground where every child is welcome. Children who use wheelchairs, walkers or braces, or who have sensory or developmental disabilities, can have a parallel playground experience. At Clemyjontri ramps connect structures, swings have high backs, arm rests and special safety features, rubber surfacing allows wheelchairs to roll easily, lowered monkey bars provide easy access, equipment is designed to be sensory rich so all children can participate with peers, & wider openings allows easy access to play structures. Other features include a carousel and a picnic pavilion. The entrance road leads to an 81-space parking area and a drop-off zone for vehicles whose passengers need close access. Future development will include other amenities in the surrounding 10 acres of space.

Clemyjontri is located on Georgetown Pike in McLean. It was opened in 2006 with funding donated by Mrs. Adele Lebowitz who envisioned an oasis for youngsters – especially those with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. The name “CLEMYJONTRI” is derived from the four Lebowitz children’s names.

Cabin John Regional Park
7400 Tuckerman Lane
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 299-0024
Huge park with lots of climbing structures, slides, mazes, play houses, swings, Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, airplane, and cars. Other features include miniature train, snack bar, rest rooms, hiking trails, picnic areas, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, ice skating rink, Locust Grove Nature Center, the Cabin John Amphitheatre and lighted athletic fields. Plenty of shade. During the summer months, evening concerts are offered to the public free of charge.

The park has --
* 1 Baseball Field (lighted)
* 5 softball Fields (one lighted)
* 4 Tennis Practice Walls (lighted)
* 9 Tennis Courts (lighted)
* Pee-Wee Soccer Field
* 4 Single Wall Handball Courts
* 1 Volley Court

Burke Lake Park
7315 Ox Road,
Fairfax Station, VA
A 218-acre lake with fishing, boating, rowboat rental, camping, a miniature train, a carousel, outdoor volleyball courts, open fields, an 18-hole par 3 golf course, clubhouse with snack bar and driving range, disk golf, horse shoe pits, an ice cream parlor, picnic areas with grills, 3 playgrounds, trails, amphitheater, and a brand new miniature golf course. Swimming and windsurfing are prohibited.

For a list with pictures of area parks from our resource editor, Liz McConville’s list of area parks and playgrounds CLICK HERE. (

For the Best for Families survey results, CLICK HERE.

National Program for Playground Safety says that each year over 205,000 preschool and elementary children receive emergency department care for injuries that occur on playground equipment.

* 76% of the injuries happened on public playground equipment
* 23% occurred on home playground equipment

15% of these injuries were classified as severe and 49% were injuries to the head or face.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in a recent study of U.S. hospital emergency rooms, the majority of playground accidents (79%) resulted from falls from equipment. has a great article about playground safety and what you can do to make sure the playground you go to is a safe place for your children. Here are some excerpts from their article.

The most important factors in evaluating the safety of any playground are surface, design and spacing, and equipment inspection and maintenance.


A proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing injuries — and the severity of injuries — that occur when kids fall from equipment. The surface under the playground equipment should be soft enough and thick enough to soften the impact of a child's fall.

Here are some things to consider:

* Concrete, asphalt, and blacktop are unsafe and unacceptable. Grass, soil, and packed-earth surfaces are also unsafe because weather and wear can reduce their capacities to cushion a child's fall.
* The playground surface should be free of standing water and debris that could cause kids to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps, and tree roots.
* There should be no dangerous materials, like broken glass or twisted metal.
* The surfaces may be loosely filled with materials like wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or shredded rubber.
* Surfacing mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials are also safe.
* Rubber mats and wood chips allow the best access for people in wheelchairs.
* Loose-fill surface materials 12 inches deep should be used for equipment up to 8 feet high. The material should not be packed down because this will reduce any cushioning effect.
* No surfacing materials are considered safe if the combined height of playground and the child (standing on the highest platform) is higher than 12 feet.
* The cushioned surface should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment. Additional coverage may be needed, depending on how high a slide is or how long a swing is.
* If there is loose-fill over a hard surface (like asphalt or concrete), there should be 3-6 inches of loose-fill like gravel, a layer of geo-textile cloth, a layer of loose-fill surfacing material, and then impact mats under the playground equipment.

Keep in mind that even proper surfacing can't prevent all injuries. Also, the greater the height of the equipment, the more likely kids are to get injured if they fall from it.

Design and Spacing

Playground equipment should be designed for three different age groups: infants and toddlers under 2, 2- to 5-year-olds (preschoolers), and 5- to 12-year-olds (school-age kids).

In the safest playgrounds, play areas for younger children are separated from those meant for older kids and signs clearly designate each area to prevent confusion.

Younger children should not play on equipment designed for older kids because the equipment sizes and proportions won't be right for small kids, and this can lead to injury. Likewise, older kids shouldn't play on equipment designed for younger ones. Smaller equipment and spaces can cause problems for bigger kids.

Maintenance and Inspection

Whether your kids play on a home or public playground, it's important for you to take a general look at the equipment to make sure that it is clean and well maintained.

Check for objects (like hardware, S-shaped hooks, bolts, and sharp or unfinished edges) that stick out on equipment and could cut a child or cause clothing to become entangled.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blog Endorsements

Do you read blog reviews of products and then buy the product? Recently I came across an article about the liability parenting blogs may have when it comes to product endorsements. I guess I had not given any thought to the importance of these endorsements. Have you ever purchased an item because you read a blog about it?Have you ever considered blogging about a product? I know some moms who have done this. There is even a web site where you can sign up to become involved in word-of-mouth marketing. Business Week Magazine recently ran an article describing how companies can to pitch to mommy bloggers.Apparently there is a regulatory review process underway by the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether reviews by bloggers may be in violation of good business practices. Maria Bailey of BSM Media says that moms spend $2.1 trillion annually and that this is expected to go up to $3 trillion by 2012. Her data states that 80 percent of moms buy a product at the recommendation of another mother and 87 percent of mothers read blogs.Do you think this is true? Anyone have an idea of how we can verify this data?Marketing to moms through blogs appears to be big business! Brenda

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Fun Ideas

With summer in full swing, you might be asking yourself, “What can I do with the kids today?”

Today Amy Bevins, Assistant Editor for Washington FAMILY Magazine, was on WUSA9 to share some ideas for places to go and things to do with your kids this summer.

Here are a few of her favorites?

This year, money is on everyone’s mind, so why not take the kids to see where money comes from. At the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, kids can see money being printed, stacked, cut and examined for defects.

And while you are in DC, be sure to check out the National Aquarium. It is tucked in the bottom of the Commerce Building and is home to over 200 different species including alligators, piranha and sharks. Her kids love exploring all it has to offer.

Looking for suggestions of things to do if you are looking to keep costs down this summer? There are so many low-cost or no-cost options in this area.

Amy suggests spending the summer going on a playground hunt. Whether you search out neighborhood parks, mall play places or regional playgrounds, involve the whole family in seeing how many new play places you can find. Try packing a picnic lunch once a week and having a playground adventure. You can even set up a rating scale for the playgrounds you visit and vote for your family favorites at the end of the summer.

Do you have kids fascinated by history, science or nature?

Here in the DC Metro area we have nineteen National Parks and Monuments that offer kids ages 6-14 the opportunity to earn a Junior Ranger Badge. At places like the C&O Canal, Manassas Battlefields, Great Falls National Park and the Korean War Memorial kids complete activities, games and projects that teach them more about the park or monument so they really get an in depth knowledge about the park.

If your kids are in to science or dinosaurs or just spending the day in the outdoors, they might love hunting for prehistoric sharks’ teeth. Amy’s family found dozens of sharks’ teeth at Purse State Park in Maryland. Both there and at the more well-known Calvert Cliffs, you can find sharks teeth and ray plates along the shore that are millions of years old.

If your kids are in to sports, we’re so lucky to have several options in this area. We have three minor league baseball teams in the Metro area where you can get all of the enjoyment of a ball game with a reduced price tag. We are also home to the Washington Glory, a women’s fast pitch softball team and Washington Freedom, the new professional women’s soccer team.

And what if, even with all these great things to do, your kids still hit you with the classic, “I’m bored!”

Amy suggests, “Let them be bored.” Set out a few puzzles, craft supplies or books and let them learn to entertain themselves. They may even surprise themselves with the creative things they come up with.

You can find more summer things to do and places to go on the Washington FAMILY Magazine web site Amy’s article, “50 Days of Summer Fun,” lists places to go and things to do.