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7 ways to prevent lice from coming home with your child from school or day care

When the dreaded "lice alert" flyer comes home in your child's backpack, here's what to do.

How to detect and prevent lice

Every parent dreads getting the "lice alert" flyer in their child's backpack. If it seems like head lice have been particularly active in your child's classroom or day care this school year, you're definitely not imagining things. Lice outbreaks have been reported across the country and unfortunately, head lice is a common affliction of childhood. Outbreaks happen even in the cleanest, most spic-and-span classrooms.

It's never too early to start teaching your preschooler or grade schooler some basic lice prevention tricks. Most kids are eager to get on board the lice prevention train, especially after first-hand experience with the itchy buggers. And the good news is that some of the most effective ways to prevent lice are simple enough for kids to grasp easily.

Here are tips to prevent lice from coming home with your child from school or day care—plus how to tell if your child has lice.

1. When it comes to lice prevention, not sharing is best.

Teach children not to share combs, brushes, hats, helmets or hair ties. Doing this will get kids in the habit of not sharing hair tools that make it easy for lice to spread. If a lice outbreak does happen, keep hats, coats, combs and other personal items separate to prevent lice from spreading.

2. Style your child's hair up and out of the way.

Keep long hair in a ponytail, or better yet, a braid. This helps make the hair harder for lice to attach to. For shorter hair, try styling the hair up and away from the ears and nape with gel or spray.

3. Use a lice repellent spray daily.

Repellent sprays containing tea tree, citronella, lavender and geranium oils may help prevent the spread of head lice. Spray your child's hair each morning, liberally applying to lice "hot spots," such as the back of the neck, behind the ears and along part lines. Spray can be used on coats, backpacks and hats as well.

4. Keep children's coats separated.

As seasoned teachers and day care providers know, when lice appear in the classroom, it's time to make sure children's coats and jackets are stored separately to help prevent the spread of lice. Why? Lice don't fly or jump, they walk—and they can easily walk from one child's coat to another when coats are hung together in a closet. If your child's classroom or day care doesn't have a separate cubby for each child, bring a plastic bag or garment bag to store your child's coat in during the day.

5. Clean frequently-used items.

To prevent the spread of lice, thoroughly clean items that children tend to share on a regular basis, like blankets, stuffed animals, headphones, and dress-up costumes.

6. Keep nap mats sealed + separated.

If your child's day care or preschool uses mats or pillows at nap time, work with your child's teacher to help make sure that nap mats are kept separated in large, sealed bags when not in use.

7. Soak hair care items.

Soak brushes, combs, hair ties and other hair care products in a warm solution of water and medicated lice shampoo at least once a week.

How can you tell if your child has lice?

An itchy scalp is the hallmark symptom of a case of head lice. However, the itching may not always start immediately and may sometimes be delayed for weeks as a case of head lice develops.

If you suspect your child may have been exposed, check for lice and nits using a fine-tooth comb on the scalp, behind the ears and around the nape of the neck. A magnifying glass and bright light may help as well. Since nits can take 10 days to hatch, you do need to recheck your child's hair nightly using a good lice comb, such as the Fairy Tales Terminator Comb. Natural products such as yeast enzymes, salt and water can dissolve the body of the bug and help remove the stubborn nit glue.

Follow these steps when checking for lice:

  • Seat your child in a brightly-lit room.
  • Part hair and examine the scalp one section at a time. Look for crawling lice and nits on your child's scalp, especially behind the ears or at the nape of the neck.
  • Note that live lice are hard to find—they avoid light and move quickly.
  • Nits will look like small white or yellow-brown specks, firmly attached to the hair near the scalp. The easiest place to find them is at the hairline at the back of the neck or behind the ears. Nits can be confused with many other things such as dandruff, dirt particles or hair spray droplets. The difference is that nits are firmly attached to hair, while dandruff, dirt or other particles are not.

If you do discover lice, don't feel bad, mama. Lice is a common (and increasingly hard to avoid) problem, and can be handled with diligent treatment, and a healthy dose of prevention.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

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Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

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Sand play set

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Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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