School is just around the corner

I saw a blog post from the Science of Parenting Blog at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach a few days ago. Reading that post and visiting with my daughters about the preparations underway for the new school year ahead got me thinking about preparing the grandsons for school.

We think and talk a lot about routine this time of year. It is best if you can begin to establish the type of routine necessary once school starts a few weeks before the actual start day. Of course, if kids have been attending daycare all summer, the morning routine may have changed very little from the school year. The biggest change may be in the bedtime routine. Homework, packing a lunch, or laying out clothing for the next day may be important considerations. Also, fall sports and activities will be starting. Now may be the time to have a conversation about what activities interest your child. You may have expectations for music lessons, dance, or chores that should be discussed with the child.

If catching a school bus or walking to school will be new experiences for your child, you will want to prepare them in advance. Many schools have trial bus rides for new kindergarteners or back to school nights for the entire family.

You may want to discuss school lunches with your child. Will she or he be packing a lunch every day or will they need to know how to buy school lunch? If packing his or her lunch be a common occurrence, you will want to review what options are available. Will you be buying prepackaged treats to accompany a sandwich? Will you be baking some treats and putting individual packages of the treat into the freezer? Is your child old enough to choose items for his or her lunch box? You may want to have a food safety discussion with the child.

There should be enough time before the school year starts to ease your family back into the routine. Remember if AnswerLine can help answer any questions we would love to help.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Keep Kids Safe in the Bathroom

A friend’s grandchild slipped in the bathroom and crashed into the sink causing a bad bump on the lip and a lot of bleeding. If you have a child that has been recently potty trained that is now spending a lot more time in the bathroom, you may want to take some steps to child proof your bathroom.


  • You can try installing a latch on the door to prevent entry without an adult but that can be a bit counterproductive if the child has just been potty trained. You should be sure that the child cannot lock themselves in the room or at least be sure that the key is easily accessible if the child does lock the door.


  • Remember that it only takes a few inches of water for a child to drown so never leave children alone while bathing. You may also want to ensure that children cannot fill the bathtub when they are unsupervised. It only takes a moment for an accident to occur. It is a good practice to have everything you will need when bathing a young child ready before putting them into the bathtub. Then you will not need to turn your back on the child for even a minute.


  • Even locking the toilet lid shut is a good idea for curious toddlers. They are top-heavy and if a toddler falls into the toilet, she may not be able to get herself out by herself.


  • Falls in the bathtub can be minimized if you use the no-slip strips on the bottom of the tub. You may want to remove throw rugs from the bathroom if the floor is a bit slippery. That could prevent a child from taking a hard fall against the bathtub, sink, or toilet.


  • Prevent scalds or burns by adjusting your water heater so that the hottest water available from the tap is no hotter than 120. Always test the bath water to be sure it feels warm and not hot. If your child runs the water by himself, teach him to turn the cold water on first.


  • All medicine should be placed out of reach for small children. Even if the bottles are out of reach, they still should have child-proof tops. Toothpaste, shampoo, and soap should also be kept out of sight or on a high storage shelf.


  • Electric appliances like shavers, radios, electric toothbrush chargers should be stored inside a cabinet; preferably a locked cabinet. Curious toddlers could easily place them into a tub or sink of water. Electricity and water do not mix. You will also want to be sure you have GFI circuits installed in your bathroom. The circuit breaker for the bathroom should also be GFI.


These are just a few basic ideas to keep your family safe in the bathroom. Let us know if you have any other suggestions.

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Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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First Aid tips for kids

A friend’s grandchild was recently injured in a fall. Since the wound was to the mouth, there was a lot of blood involved. Accidents happen so quickly and sometimes adults are not present at the scene of the accident. As summer begins, it may be a good idea to review some basic first aid tips with your child.

A really important skill for a child is the ability to call 911 effectively. The child needs to know their numbers, in order to recognize 9-1-1. You can also pre-program the number into your phone but make sure the child understands how to use the pre-programmed feature of your phone. The child also needs to be able to speak to the operator and describe the problem. It is even better if the child knows their address or the address of the accident.

For young children accidents often involve bleeding. Whether a scraped knee, nosebleed, or a cut, bleeding can be a bit frightening for younger children. Teach them that when they see blood, they should apply pressure. Then they are likely to stop the bleeding before an adult can help. Teach them to use a clean cloth, if available, but if not available a bare hand will work. If they have the injured friend apply the pressure to themselves then your child will be free to go for help.

Teach the child that treating a burn means getting to some water to cool the burn. They should run cool water over the burn. Later, an adult can clean the wound and bandage it if necessary.

Review these first aid techniques with your child or grandchild so they will be prepared for the bumps and bruises of summer.





Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Chores for Kids

It seems that summer will be here before we know it. On campus at Iowa State University, it is summer already.  My own grandchildren will be out of school soon and that change means that the kids will have a bit more time on their hands.  This makes me think back to when my own five children were out of school for the summer.  With a large family, that often meant reassigning some chores for the summer.

There are several schools of thought about children and chores around the house. One side thinks that since everyone is part of the family, all members should do things that contribute to the good of the family.  Everyone might be responsible for putting their own dirty dishes into the dishwasher or emptying the trash from their own bedroom before garbage collection day.  Others think that a good way to teach children the value of a dollar or the value of work is to pay them to do regular chores around the house.

Both sides make good points about teaching children and working together. The current research tends to support not tying allowance or pay with chores.  That being said, there should still be some sort of consequences for chores left undone.

Kids can gain a lot by performing chores around the house. If the chore truly contributes to the wellbeing of the family, a child will tend to feel more connected to the family group.  Completing a job gives a great sense of pride and accomplishment.  These chores can also teach life skills; eventually, everyone needs to know how to do the laundry or clean their home.  The ability to perform these chores successfully will also be a boost to the child’s confidence and self-esteem.

Additionally, requiring the kids to do chores frees up some time for the parents. It can also help provide some structure and routine in the life of the family.  Research has demonstrated that children thrive on structure and routine.

Parents must remember to assign chores that are developmentally appropriate. Of course children are all different but this list will provide some suggestions.  Younger children will require a bit more supervision, at least at first.  Resist the urge to redo chores that perhaps don’t meet your standards.  If you redo a chore you will undermine the child’s sense of accomplishment.  Over time, you can help the child improve their skills and you will both benefit.

Now is a great time to make some plans for this summer.


Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Visit an Iowa Farm

Photo courtesy of and permission by Bloomsbury Farm, Atkins, Ia

Would your family enjoy visiting an operating farm?  A farm visit can be a tremendous learning experience and also great family fun.  Seeing how a farm operates and the effort that goes into growing crops or raising livestock provides appreciation for the food we consume daily or becomes an eye-opening experience on seeing non-traditional crops being grown.  Further its a great opportunity to try new products, foods and beverages produced from those crops.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, check out Visit Iowa Farms at where you will find a listing of farms across the state willing to host visitors.  The Visit Iowa Farms program is administered by the Value Added Agriculture Program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Users of the site can find a farm by adventure type, county, or distance from a specific location.  Agritourism has continued to grow in Iowa and according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were 275 farms in the state open to the public.  Agritourism in Iowa has been growing steadily.

The site is also useful to farmers wanting to list their operation on the Visit Iowa Farms website.  Besides registering, there are also resources for business planning, marketing, and legal and regulation considerations as they set up and publicize their agritourism operation.

For more on what to do and see in rural Iowa, download the Iowa Tour Guide (2015) which gives many ideas and even planned tours through the state to see agriculture in many different forms.  Agritourism is all about connecting travelers or curiosity seekers to life down on the farm.  Check out the opportunities!  You’ll be amazed!

Photo courtesy of Jean Marie Martin and provided with permission by Loess Hills Lavender Farm, Missouri Valley, IA
Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Baby Proofing for Cameron

Our grandson has just turned one and is starting to walk more. As exciting as that is, it also reminds me that I need to do even more babyproofing to our house!  With the help of several wonderful Extension publications these are the steps that I have taken so far:

  • I have purchased baby gates for the stairs going both up and down. Even with a door that closes it could still be opened by a toddler. The basement baby gate can be moved to the bottom of the basement stairs when we are playing in the basement.
  • Latches have been attached to my kitchen and bathroom closets where I keep cleaning supplies.
  • Medications have been moved from a lower drawer in my bathroom to a high cabinet.
  • Furniture has been moved away from windows.
  • Cords for the computer, television, phone chargers etc. are out of reach. This includes keeping the baby monitor far enough away from the crib that it can’t be grabbed.
  • The cords on the blinds have been securely attached to the wall.
  • I discarded the car seats that I had stored in our attic from our kids. They now come with expiration dates and are made much safer! That was the same for the crib that we used raising our kids. The slats were too far apart so I opted for a new portable crib that is easy to set up.
  • I keep my purse off the floor when I am babysitting so there is no risk of getting into medication I keep in there.

One thing that really helped me was to look through the house at a toddler level. By getting on your hands and knees you can see things that might interest a toddler that you don’t notice when you are standing up.  I want to have a child friendly house where our kids feel comfortable leaving our grandson with us and they know that we have done everything we can to keep him safe.  Here are some resources with even more ideas for babyproofing.


Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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New Guidelines for Screen Time

Screen timeMany children probably received gifts with screens on them last Christmas. Digital media can have both positive and negative effects on healthy development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced new recommendations for children’s media use. Research is still too new on the devices and their content, however educational, and how they could affect a young brain’s emotional and cognitive development but there are some basic guidelines to consider. What is most important is that parents monitor the media use and talk to children about it.

Here are the basics of the new recommendations:

Under 18 months ~ limit screen time to “video chatting” with family and friends and with a parent present

18 months to 5 years ~ One hour of “high quality” programing per day. It is best to have parent involvement watching along with their child to reinforce what they are seeing on the screen

6 years plus ~ balance media use with other healthy behaviors

Problems arise when children are allowed screen time in place of other activities such as physical activity, social face-to-face interaction, and sleeping. Communication and role modeling are key to the healthy use of screen time for children.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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dairy-freeI am hearing more and more these days about people having specific food allergies or intolerances. Most schools are now “peanut free zones” and there are so many more products on the market that are gluten-free than ever before. I recently had a question about a dairy-free diet for a child. According to the National Food Service Management Institute, milk allergies are found in two to five percent of children under the age of three. Cow’s milk allergy is the most common cause of allergic reactions in young children. This allergy is usually outgrown in the first few years of life but not always. And many people, as they get older, find it more difficult to digest dairy products.

Although many proteins in milk can cause an allergic reaction, the two main proteins in milk are Casein (found in the solid part) and Whey ( found in the liquid part). Avoiding milk and cheese on a dairy-free diet is what is expected but beware as many non-dairy products and processed foods contain casein and whey. In addition, the term “dairy-free” does not have an FDA-regulated definition, so there is no assurance the product does not contain milk proteins. It is important to always read labels. Even some brands of soy-based products may contain casein or are made in production facilities on equipment shared with dairy.

So, what can you substitute for various dairy products in cooking and baking? Water or fruit juice along with any of the commercially-produced cow’s milk alternatives (i.e. soy, rice, almond, coconut) can be substituted in equal amounts. Goat’s milk however should not be used as a substitute.

If substituting for butter in baked goods, use a dairy-free margarine with a low water content and a high fat content. Stick margarine usually contains less water than tub. If substituting for butter as a spread, I have had good results with the Earth Balance brand.

Cheeses are sometimes more difficult to find an agreeable substitute for as they do not taste or melt the same as traditional cheeses. Although there continues to be more milk-free cheeses available from different brands.

If your recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk, you can make your own. Start by making evaporated milk which means the milk has had it’s water content reduced by 60%. Three cups of soy or rice milk simmered down to one cup will work for evaporated milk. To make sweetened condensed milk, add one and one-fourth cups sugar to that one cup of evaporated milk and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, simply add one tablespoon vinegar to one cup of milk alternative.

Regardless of which food allergy or intolerance you or someone you are caring for may have, there are many options available to fit into your lifestyle/diet.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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School Safety Tips

School picture1This time of year, our focus is on getting kids ready to go back to school. We give a lot of thought to buying just the right school supplies, reestablishing our school day routine, and packing a safe school lunches. We should also be teaching or reminding kids of tips for staying safe while traveling to and from school.

Remind your child that if they are walking to school, they should:

  • Always walk on the sidewalk.
  • Choose the sidewalk on the side of the street that allows them to face traffic.
  • Of course, always look both ways before crossing.
  • Don’t run out from between parked cars.
  • If possible, have an adult walk them to school

If your child will be biking to school:

  • Make sure your child has a helmet that fits well and that they wear the helmet
  • Always stop before coming into an intersection
  • Teach your kids the rules of the road for riding a bike

If your child rides the school bus:

  • Make sure your child knows the proper way to get on and off of a school bus.
  • Let them know that they need to be able to see the bus driver at all times if they need to cross in front of the bus. That crossing should be 10 feet ahead of the bus.
  • Tell them to stand at least 6 feet away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.

You may want to make a practice trip to the school with younger children who will be walking or biking to school. School will be here before we know it; the first day of school is next week for all of my grandchildren.

These tips courtesy of Mississippi State Extension Service.



Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Prevent Burns!

Even the AnswerLine staff is not immune to accidents in the kitchen. I thought that I was being careful while draining a pan of sweet potatoes. I was using two silicone pot holders and thought I was gripping the pan well while draining off the cooking water. Unfortunately, I had cut the potatoes into Burnsmall pieces and I was trying to make the opening between the pan and the lid a little narrower to avoid losing some of the potatoes in the sink. In a split second, the boiling water came streaming over my hand, scalding the back of it. I immediately ran the burn under cold water and iced the spot for a while. The burn was not a terribly deep or painful one, but it has been a great reminder to follow safe practices to avoid another burn in the future.

Here are some tips for avoiding burns from the US Fire Administration and FEMA:

    • Prevent spills by using the back burner when possible. Always turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
    • All appliance cords need to be kept coiled and away from counter edges.
    • Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens, or stovetops. Never use wet oven mitts or potholders as they can cause scald burns.
    • Replace old or worn oven mitts.
    • Young children are at high risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove.
    • Never hold a child while cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
    • When children are old enough, teach them to cook safely. Supervise them closely.

I do try to follow these tips when I’m cooking; because I have grandchildren that are often at my home. Taking a few minutes to review safety procedures is smart.  It only took a split second of carelessness on my part to get a painful burn.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website


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