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Thursday, January 23, 2020

9 Essential Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe in the Snow

Photo by: Ebowalker (pixaby)

During the cold months of winter and early spring, it is, of course, still important that our pets get fresh air and exercise, but it is equally important that we take all measures to properly care for our pets and protect them against the unique challenges of winter. There are nine simple things that we can do as pet owners to help our furry friends stay healthy and comfortable in the cold.

1. Clear the Way

Shovel a clear path to a designated potty spot for your pet. Doing this will help keep them most comfortable and out of deep snow. It may also speed up the process in cold weather as, with training, they understand the purpose of the outing and get on with their business quickly to get back to cozier indoors.

2. Take Care to Remove Rock Salt from Paws

Ingesting rock salt can be harmful and upset your pet's stomach. After a walk on treated surfaces, pet parents can remove salt from their dog's paws by dunking them in warm water and gently wiping them clean. If there's a small amount of rock salt, a wet cloth could work well enough. Note that if you have a walkway or driveway that is treated with rock salt, there are pet-safe varieties that are recommended and available to pet owners.

3. Avoid Contact with Antifreeze

Antifreeze is needed by many during the cold and snowy months, but those caring for pets should be aware that it is toxic and harmful to animals. It has a sweet smell that might pique a pet's curiosity. Always make sure to properly dispose of antifreeze containers, don't leave them in places they could be gotten into by any pets.

4. Don't Forget Our Pets May Need Layers Too

Once the cold weather rolls in, many of us pull out the winter gear for our families. Along with the coats, hats, gloves, and scarves that we bundle our families in, it is important that we consider our family pets and their cold-weather comfort. If you have a smaller dog or one with a light coat, consider outfitting them for winter with an extra layer. Fleece coats and covers come in all sizes, accommodating dogs both big and small.

5. Bundle Up

After a walk in the dog park in cold weather, pet parents may do well to wrap their pets in a warm towel or blanket in an effort to bring their temperature back up. A hairdryer may also come in handy. When needing to warm up chilly paws, use a hairdryer on a low setting and a bit of a distance so as to avoid burning the paws.

6. Condition Dry and Cracked Paws

Moisturizing a dog's paws during the winter can go a long way in helping them stay comfortable. Cracked skin can become painful and bleed if left untreated. Using Vaseline, generously coat the paws and covering them with booties can help condition their skin to better withstand the wet and cold weather of winter.

7. Avoid Walking on the Ice

When out for walks, do not allow your pet to walk on frozen bodies of water. It's hard to tell from a distance how thick the frozen ice may be and it's simply safest to avoid it. Thin ice can crack and break easily under a dog's weight, increasing the risk of a drowning incident.

8. Properly Trim Hair or Fur on the Feet

Untrimmed foot fuzz can cause ice and snow to cling to our pets, collecting as packed snow and ice between the toes and pads of the feet. Properly trimming a pet's fur about their feet and toes to be even with the surface of the paw can help to avoid the snow clumping. This is especially important for long-haired pets.

9. Stay In

Maybe the simplest tip of all, but as with people, our pets are only meant to handle so much cold, even with their coats. Take all proper care of your pets and follow all local cold weather advisories, limiting exposure to the elements. Be aware of the signs of hypothermia in dogs and take care to avoid putting a pet in an unsafe position.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Get Your Playground in Shape for the New Year

It’s a New Year, time for new changes! Add proper playground maintenance to your list of resolutions this year to ensure the health of your playground, and most importantly, the safety of the children who play there. Small changes to your playground can lead to big improvements in the overall play experience. This creates positive results that include safe, happy children, a grateful community and a lovely playground.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention each year 200,000 children are admitted into the United States emergency rooms for playground related injuries. These injuries include fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations and amputations. Proper maintenance ensures a safe play experience, protects your playground and limits liability if injuries occur.

Inspections and maintenance should be done on a regular basis: daily, weekly or monthly. Now is the perfect time to create a maintenance plan for the new year. Having a plan keeps you accountable and makes maintenance easier throughout the year.

Start small. Look for hazards that seem small but can turn into big issues in the future if not addressed. This includes broken glass, trash, vandalism, exposed tree roots and sharp rocks. These things can not only affect the look of your playground but can impede the fun for children.

Check surfacing for hazards. Make sure that surfacing is at the appropriate depth for the fall height, so that children have soft landing areas. Rubber mulch and engineered wood fiber may need to be raked back into place and refilled. Check Poured-in-Place surfacing for holes or scratches for which you will need to contact your installer for repairs.

Now for the big stuff. Carefully inspect your structure for any potential hazards that can harm the users of the playground. It is important that all equipment meets Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards. Make sure all moving parts such as trapeze rings, swings, bridges or tunnels are secured and are not an entanglement hazard for children. Deterioration can happen over time in the form of rust or corrosion on metal or cracks and breakage on plastic. When these things occur try your best to replace the parts in the affected area. If these are not addressed, it can lead to bigger issues that can be expensive to fix. Also, check for properly tightened and/or missing bolts and clamps and check all barriers and panels and replace them if necessary. Be sure to check out the CPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook for more information!

Like any resolution, its best to track and record your progress. Follow your inspection and maintenance routine by writing detailed notes of your findings. Keep a record of when issues were found and when they were repaired or replaced. Keeping a record makes maintenance even easier for the future, and keeps you covered in the event of an injury.

If you need help jumpstarting your new goal, AAA State of Play offers maintenance services that are specific to your playground needs. We have multiple Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI) on staff who can help with your maintenance. Contact us to take advantage of our maintenance care specialists.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Monday, January 13, 2020

10 Benefits of Playing Outside in the Winter for Kids

Photo by: Free-Photos (pixaby)

As the weather outside is frightful and the fire looks delightful, it can be so easy to get lost in the rut of the indoors. Rather than venturing outdoors into the cold, many choose to hunker down in their warm bunkers at home. But there are so many reasons why it's worth digging out your winter gear and enjoying the winter wonderland outside. Before you get out to enjoy the unique experiences of winter, it is important to make sure that you and your family have the proper gear: warm hats, water-proof gloves, snow pants, warm socks, boots, and full-coverage face masks are all important winter clothing items that should be worn when playing outdoors for an extended period of time. In addition to proper clothing, it is also important to practice proper winter safety, keeping a close eye on children and other adults for signs that it may be time to retire back to the fire. Intense shivering, stiff muscles, and shallow breathing are only a few signs of hypothermia to be aware of. 

Beating Seasonal Depression - Playing outside in the winter can help dispel winter blues in both children and adults. Being active and enjoying nature are key parts of this.

Winter Fun and Risk Management - Children learn to access and handle risks better as they encounter slippery surfaces, frozen water, etc.

Cold Weather Exercise - Winter play can be more physically challenging as children push through snow, carry around snow, etc. This helps build physical health and wellbeing. It's great exercise.

Building Emotional Resilience - It helps children develop emotional resilience as they make the most of every environment and every season. 

It boosts the immune system  - It is easy for many to fall back on the "you'll catch your death of cold" excuse for not playing outside in the cold but, in fact, getting out into the fresh air and vitamin D can help children strengthen our children's immune systems.

Unique Sensory Experiences - Playing out in the snow and ice offers the children a special opportunity to enjoy and manipulate their environment. Using touch and playing with snow, children can learn and explore in a way that is unique to winter. 

Breathing Fresh Air - Breathing cold, fresh air helps to invigorate and strengthen the body, especially the lungs. Exposing the body to cold air supports respiratory health. Free of seasonal allergens, it offers us the opportunity for allergy sufferers the chance to get out and breathe clean air into their system.

Stimulating the Imagination - The unique elements of winter offer children opportunities that can't be found in any other season. Whether it's building with snow or playing with water and ice, winter play can be a fun seasonal solution for kids cooped up indoors. 

Problem Solving Skills - Navigating deep snow and slippery surfaces present challenges in seasonal play. Challenging kids to come up with their own solutions to these problems can empower them to make decisions and exercise their problem-solving skills, both 

Built-in Environmental Learning Opportunities - Fun lessons about earth science and weather can be done outside during the colder months and offer hands-on opportunities to learn and play at the same time. 

Find more about the author: Kim Hart