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Fond Memories of the Spirit of Christmas

Long View: Princess of Christmas Past

As a child, my favorite time of year was Christmastime. It was not just Christmas day, but the whole season surrounding it. The spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring was something I thought should exist all year long.

The spirit of giving was my favorite of all. Everyone felt like a prince or princess waiting to receive their heart’s desire. It gave me joy to give someone a gift and see the expression on their face when they opened it, especially when it was thoughtful or something they really needed or always wanted.

The season also came with beautiful and vibrant decorations. Some of my favorites were the candy canes and stockings. I remember the candy-filled, clear plastic candy canes with the solid red hook. They could be filled with any kind of candy, from gumballs to M&M’s or even Sweet Tarts or jelly beans.

I also remember the red see-through netted stockings filled with both candy and small toys. I thought to myself, “Why would they make a stocking where I can see the goodies in it but then tell me I can’t open it until Christmas?” It was too tempting to not try and sneak some candy out of it ahead of time. Although I was anxious to open it, the wait built patience. And patience is a virtue.

More of my favorite memories include choosing our real, live Christmas trees. My daddy insisted that we get a real tree and not an artificial one. “Nothing can replace the scent of fresh pine in the house,” he explained. 

Our tree was even more special because it was decorated with not only store-bought decorations of lights, bulbs, and tinsel, but also ornaments I had made at school. And the tree had to be as tall as the ceiling with either a shining start or an angel on top.

My most memorable times at Christmas were when my family came together at my grandma’s and granddaddy’s house on Christmas Eve. I got to see all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Of course there was lots of food. My favorites were the turkey, dressing, and peach cobbler.  Everything was homemade, and I could tell it was made with love.

It’s my goal to carry the spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring into the present and the future. With or without the candy canes, stockings, or decorations, the memories of family and love are most important to me.

The material things pass away. The candy is consumed.  The stockings are thrown away. The light bulbs eventually burn out. The tinsel gets tangled, and the pine needles on the real tree dry out. But memories of family love will continue to live in our hearts.

Everyone here at Health Alliance wishes you and your family a joyous holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Share your memories with someone you love, especially those older princes or princesses in your family who have years and years of fond memories on their minds this time of year.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Your Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Travel with Kids

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, after Thanksgiving, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period is among the busiest travel periods of the year. During this time of year, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23% compared to the rest of the year’s average. We can help your family have smooth travels with our ultimate guide to holiday travel with kids.

Traveling during such busy times is usually stressful, especially if you add children into the mix. Whether you’re planning a long drive to the grandparents or traveling across time zones this holiday season, these suggestions from Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, will keep your family safe, sound, and sane.

Entertainment

  • Apps – Make sure you download kid-friendly apps before the journey.
  • Toys – Coloring books, finger puppets, stacking cups, magic markers, make-believe computer or phone, and sticker books are great options.
  • Games – Our favorites include Bananagrams, Spot It, Mad Libs, Rubberneckers, Melissa and Doug Travel Hangman, and Travel Blurt.
  • Headphone Splitters – Headphones splitters allow two kids to share a device. They’re very practical in situations where it’s inappropriate to use speakers, like on a plane.

Safety and Comfort

  • Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes – Kids get dirty very easily when traveling. Eliminate these germs fast by being prepared with wipes and sanitizer, and improve your chances of avoiding a holiday bug.
  • Child Locator – Busy airports and train stations can quickly turn into a nightmare if your child gets lost. Many companies offer small tracking devices and smartwatches to help you locate them quickly in such a situation.
  • Medicine and First Aid Kit – It’s very important to be able to attend to your child quickly when they’re hurt or sick. Make sure you’re prepared before you leave by putting together a first aid kit and packing must-have medicine.
  • Ease Ear Pain – During takeoff and landing, give your kids a gummy candy, chewy food, chewing gum (if they’re old enough), or a drink to get their jaw moving and ease their ear pain.
  • Temperature – Layers are essential for the comfort of your children, especially on the plane where it can often be cold.

Planning

  • Passports – Keep in mind, children’s passport expiration periods are different than adult passports. Make sure you renew them 6 months before you plan to travel.
  • Monitor What Your Children Pack – Chances are they’ll want to bring many unnecessary things, which will make traveling uncomfortable for everyone.
  • Carry-On Tips – Pack at least one extra outfit for each child in case an accident happens. If you lose your luggage, the extra outfits will also help you avoid buying new clothes for the entire family. In the meantime, remember that Assist America can help you locate and retrieve your lost luggage. Finally, plan on bringing snacks like granola bars, cheerios, individual cheese and crackers packs, applesauce, or individual hummus cups.
  • Bring Surprises – Children love surprises and unwrapping things, and an early holiday gift could be used as a reward for good behavior.

About Assist America

Our plans include Assist America, a unique global emergency assistance program. They serve more than 40 million members worldwide. Their services include medical and non-medical services, like medical evacuations and repatriations, prescription assistance, medical referral, lost luggage assistance, and pre-trip information. Visit AssistAmerica.com or download the Assist America Mobile App on the Apple App Store or Google Play to access a wide range of travel assistance services directly from your phone.

Well-Child Visits

Well-Child Visits – Ages 1 to 4

Getting your kids to their well-child visits helps them be their healthiest. These visits with your doctor are for a full checkup to make sure they’re healthy and developing normally. This is different from other visits for sickness or injury.

Your child needs to go to these visits at:

  • 12 months old
  • 15 months old (1 year and 3 months old)
  • 18 months old (1 year and 6 months old)
  • 2 years old
  • 2 years and 6 months old
  • 3 years old
  • 4 years old

What Happens at Well-Child Visits

Your child needs to have regular well-child visits with their doctor to focus on their development, health, and wellness. At the appointment, some of the basics your doctor will cover are:

  • Checking that your child is developing at a healthy rate and tracking their history
  • Getting a physical exam
  • Staying up to date with their preventive care
  • Getting education and counseling
  • If needed, setting health goals

Your Child’s Development

Your child’s doctor can help you keep track of your child’s key developmental milestones, which can include physical, mental, social, and language skills.

At each visit, your doctor will ask you questions to help make sure your child is reaching milestones on schedule. This can help them recognize signs of problems early on, and put your mind at ease.

Each child grows differently. Some kids take longer to start talking than others. Most of these aren’t a sign that something’s wrong. Your doctor can help you understand what differences could be because of something serious.

By 12 months, most kids:

  • Have started to get their teeth in
  • Stand up by pulling on furniture
  • Walk with help or on their own
  • Copy animal noises
  • Say mama and dad and maybe a few other words
  • Can follow simple directions

See more milestones for 12-month-olds.

By 15 months, most kids:

  • Bend to the floor without falling
  • Can put blocks in a container
  • Make scribbles
  • Bring and show toys to you
  • Listen to stories and look at pictures

By 18 months, most kids:

  • Walk up steps
  • Run or try to run
  • Climb onto low furniture or chairs without help
  • Build short block towers
  • Use spoons and cups
  • Take off socks and hats
  • Point towards things they want
  • Play simple pretend, like feeding a doll

See more milestones for 18-month-olds.

By 2 years, most kids:

  • Have 16 or more teeth
  • Stand on tiptoe
  • Kick a ball
  • Can tell you they’re hungry or thirsty
  • Understand instructions with 2 steps
  • Copy others
  • Name things in a picture book

See more milestones for 2-year-olds.

By 2 years and 6 months, most kids:

  • Can point to different body parts when asked
  • Play simple games with other kids
  • Brush their teeth with help
  • Jump up and down in place
  • Put on clothing, although they may still need help

By 3 years, most kids:

  • Have all 20 of their baby teeth
  • Use the toilet during the day
  • Can copy simple shapes while drawing
  • Put one foot on each step to walk up the stairs
  • Speak in short sentences
  • Ask questions
  • Know their name, age, and if they’re a boy or girl

See more milestones for 3-year-olds.

By 4 years, most kids:

  • Hop on one foot or balance for a short time
  • Can use child-safe scissors
  • Count to 4 or higher
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Play with imaginary friends
  • Can name some colors
  • Play simple board and card games

See more milestones for 4-year-olds.

Health Information & History

At well-child visits, your doctor will ask you to answer some questions about your kid’s health, and maybe even your family history.

  • Health questions, like:

    • Do they ever complain of headaches, stomachaches, or other kinds of pain?
    • Do they have trouble breathing?

  • Eating habit questions, like:

    • What do they eat on a normal day?

  • Activity questions, like:

    • Do they play pretend and how?

  • Safety questions, like:

    • Do they ride in a car seat?

  • And family questions, like:

    • Have there been any changes in the family, like a new sibling?

Physical Exam

At your child’s appointments, you can expect their doctor to:

  • Measure their height, weight, and blood pressure
  • Check their body and limbs
  • Take their temperature
  • Check their vision
  • Give them any shots or screenings they need

Education, Counseling & Health Goals

Your child’s doctor can help you with important information about caring for your child, managing any conditions or diseases they might have, and preventing future problems.

Their doctor might have valuable handouts, websites, and advice to help or might want to refer you to a specialist who can help with specific issues further.

Their doctor can also help you set health goals to maintain or improve your child’s health, like maintaining a healthy weight.

Prepare for Well-Child Visits

Preparing yourself with questions to ask and answers to your doctor’s questions can help you make the most of your well-child visits.

Know Your Family and Child’s History

Make sure you bring any medical records you have that the doctor might not, especially to a first appointment with a new doctor, like a record of shots and screening results.

You should also make a list of any important changes in your child’s life, like being sick or hurt, changing caregivers, or starting daycare.

Your family’s history of health and wellness is also an important part of your child’s health record. Histories of illness and disease can help doctors look out for issues that run in families and more.

This family health history tool can help you track your family’s health, so that you’re always organized to talk to your child’s doctor. Not sure about your family history? Filling this out is the perfect time to talk to family members for firsthand details.

Talk to Your Doctor

Prepare for your well-child visits by knowing any questions or issues you want to talk about ahead of time. Some things you might want to ask about:

  • Worries about their development
  • Growth and normal development
  • Sleep schedule
  • Getting enough physical activity
  • Healthy weight
  • Getting them to try different foods
  • Getting siblings to get along
  • Disciplining them
  • Screen time
  • Preventive care they need
  • What to do if they get sick

Know What’s Covered

Learn more about what immunizations are covered for your children. And log in to Your Health Alliance or search by your or your child’s member number to see what children’s preventive care your family’s plan covers.

You can use our general preventive care guidelines and prescription drugs to get an idea of what our plans cover.

If you’re not sure what’s covered and what you’ll need a preauthorization for, you can check your coverage and preauthorization lists at Your Health Alliance.

Now that you’re ready for your children’s physicals, log in to Your Health Alliance if you need to set a Primary Care Provider (PCP) for your child or start searching for doctors in our network.

Give Back Christmas Wishes

Give Back for the Holidays

This week, we’re helping you find ways to give back this holiday season.

Donate a homemade scarf to the Orphan Foundation of America’s Red Scarf Project and give foster teens in college a way to stay warm.

Donate a Red Scarf

 

Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped, or your homemade toys to give to kids in need. Find a drop-off center.

Donate new, gently used, or homemade coats to those who need them with the Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Coat Drive.

Giving Warmth

 

Send a thoughtful holiday card to American service members, veterans, and their families with the American Red Cross’s Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

Reaching Out for the Holidays

 

Fill a shoe box with handmade or bought gifts to send a personalized present to a child in need through Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program.

Give a Personalized Gift

 

Donate your old cell phone to Cell Phones for Soldiers and give the gift of communication to our troops and their families.

Give Your Old Phone

 

Give the gift of a good holiday meal to a family that might otherwise go without through a food bank near you.

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Happy Kids from Safe Toys and Gifts Month

Safe Toys and Gifts Month

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so we had tips each day to keep the little ones in your life safe this holiday season.

Make sure you check all of the gifts your kids get for age, skill level, and developmental level before they play with them.

Right Gift for the Right Age

 

Look for toy labels that say ASTM, which means it met the American Society for Testing and Materials safety standards.

Toy Labels

 

If you give sports equipment, give protective gear with it, like a skateboard with a helmet.

Safety with Sports Gear

 

AblePlay can help you choose toys that appeal to different senses like sound, movement, and texture with research and reviews.

Smart and Safe Gifts for Kids

 

Be careful with balloons, which kids can choke or suffocate on when they break and deflate.

Playing with Balloons Safely

 

Throw away plastic wrapping after gifts are opened, which can be a dangerous for little ones.

Always supervise battery charging and read the warnings on chargers to prevent burns or electric shock.

Supervision When Needed

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