A drowning investigator's plea to parents about water safety goes viral

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[Editor's note: Natalie Livingston has been in the aquatics industry for decades, training lifeguards and investigating aquatic accidents and drowning deaths. She is passionate about preventing the kinds of accidents she investigates, and that is why a Facebook post she wrote is now going viral. The following post was republished with her permission.]

I investigate drownings. I understand the realities of what can happen, often so quickly and quietly. I read a lot about water safety and tips telling parents to pay attention to their children and not be distracted, which is so important. We see so many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but a lot of the advice isn't practical and just highlights the problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help.

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Here is a list of 10 random things I do to keep my own kids safe in the water.

1. Give safety briefings

This actually started with a swim lesson procedure of making sure they always asked permission before entering the water. I have expanded it by having a little meeting about expectations. My kids now know to wait (sometimes impatiently continually asking me, "Mom, what do we need to know…can we go yet?!?!?") until I give my briefing.

I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in and anything else safety-related. A great time to do this is while applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they don't follow the safety rules.

These meetings are a way for me to teach my kids respect for the water. They obviously know it is dangerous, knowing what I do for work, but sometimes aquatic centers, water parks, beaches and pools look so fun and enticing that it is easy to forget.

I think as parents we need to be just as concerned with the safety as we are with the fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but I know rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety.

I also love including my children in the safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do they see as dangerous? They have some amazing insights too and sometimes see things I didn't think of right away!

2. Depths of water vs. height

My kids know depths of water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means related to their height. My 6-year-old knows that 4 ft of water is over his head, and 3 1/2 ft of water is up to his eyes, which is still over his airway. My 8-year-old daughter knows that 4f t of water is at her eyes and she will need to tread and can't have her airway out at this depth.

This piece of knowledge helps them make good decisions and helps them understand how water depths are different for each person. Their taller friend may have no problem in the 4ft area, while they would need to tread or have trouble touching. Awareness of depth in relation to their body is important. This keeps me away from the, "But mom, Jayden gets to go over there…" Yes, he does, he is also 6" taller than you are, buddy!

3. How to get away

I jumped in last weekend fully clothed with my phone in my hand at my 8-year-old daughter's all-star softball hotel swim session after a tournament. It was instinct—a 5-year-old boy panicked and grabbed onto a 4-year-old girl and they were both struggling. He was holding her down and trying to keep himself above the water. In I went and scooped both of them out.

They were both naturally scared, and a little burping of water/air, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events, swimmers who are okay on their own, have someone grab onto them because they are struggling and they can't get away.

I have taught, and I am still teaching my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still don't think she can tread water and keep her and another kid above the waterline. I've taught them to suck, duck, tuck:

  • Suck in air if you can (get a breath)
  • Duck under the water (the struggling person doesn't want to go there)
  • Tuck (use your arms and legs to push away)—and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person

I've also taught them to be very careful of who they touch/grab onto in a pool. Even adults can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on. Personal space is key.

4. Distraction reminders

I ask my kids to keep me accountable. They know either myself or my husband should be watching them at all times. We have told them that if we aren't watching them, they need to get our attention and help us because as humans we get distracted naturally.

I try to stay involved in their activity and also tried to keep my phone away, but I was still distracted with other kids, food, talking, you name it…life is full of distractions. I changed my tactic and downloaded a reminder app, and I set reminders for every minute.

I turn my phone into airplane mode and then use the app. Every minute it alerts me and I have the notification say "Kids Breathing" so I confirm my kids are okay and then clear the notification. Obviously, my goal is constant supervision, but sometimes my brain starts to wander to something I am thinking about and the notification checks me back in.

There are tons of campaigns about designating a "water watcher" with a specific tag indicating you have the responsibility of watching the water. I think these are great tools, and we also need to make sure the water watcher is not distracted.

Alerts can keep you focused as long as you stay off your phone for all other purposes. I put my phone in airplane mode, but you can still have the tendency to look at. Be aware of your distractions both internal and external. If the phone is a distraction all together, maybe alerts aren't for you. Find what works to keep you focused and stick with it for the entire swim time.

5. Designate breaks

We swim for a designated time, usually 30 minutes, but it varies depending on where we are and the activity taking place. Regardless, we always have breaks. I need these breaks more than my kids. They would swim endlessly for hours if I let them, but they need to rest and so do I.

As a lifeguard, we would rotate every 20-30 minutes with the premise being to give our minds a break and so we could stay fresh. The same thing applies to parental supervision. I need to use the restroom, I need to do other things, I need a break too! So, we give time warnings and take swim breaks. Sometimes the breaks are also unscheduled, if I have to make an emergency restroom visit or answer the door, everyone gets out, every time.

6. Limited trust

This may sound harsh, but I don't trust other people to watch my kids in the pool. It is me or my husband, that is it. If they are swimming at Grandma's they have to wear a lifejacket. If they are going in the water at the beach on a board with their cousin, they have to wear a lifejacket.

I see so many events where trust was placed in another person, watch my kids while I go do XYZ, or grandpa took them to the pool, or a neighbor invited them over. I may love these people, and they may love my children, but I don't trust them, nor do I want them to have to own that responsibility if something were to happen to one of my kids in their care. It just isn't worth it.

Do my kids whine, yep. Do I care? Nope! They know the other option is they just don't go. Same goes for school pool parties and camps with water activities, it just isn't worth it for me. Same goes for lifeguarded swimming areas. I know I am my kids' primary source of supervision and the lifeguard(s) are there for back up and emergencies.

I do not rely on them for basic supervision. I only have two children and I can supervise them much more closely than a lifeguard who has divided attention between 25 or more people.

7. Life jackets are cool

Culturally we seem to have a negative attitude towards life jackets. I don't think there is anything wrong with life jackets, in fact, there are so many games and activities you can do with them. We just need to make them cool again.

If there are a bunch of kids I'm watching, I'd rather have everyone be in a life jacket. It can be a cousin life jacket pool party. Having everyone in one makes it much "cooler" and doesn't embarrass the littler kids or weaker swimmers. When I ran camps, even the counselors would wear them, be cool like them!

Having rolling log challenges in the life jackets, water balloon tossing contests, have relays to pass rings from your toes..the games are endless, and the safety is higher with everyone in a life jacket. Now there are times that my kids will even say they would rather just be in a life jacket. Awesome.

**Just an added side note that when referring to "life jacket" I am referring to a USCG approved life jacket (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, Inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety-related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe.

We see countless videos of kids who flip over in an inflatable ring and can't right themselves and are stuck underwater upside down, or are in arm floaties and can't get their head out of the water because their arms aren't strong enough, or who lose purchase of a kickboard they were holding onto for floatation. Even in a lifejacket, you need to diligently and constantly supervise as children can get in positions that can still obstruct their airway especially if they are younger or weaker.

8. Educate

My kids know what drowning can look like. They know water is dangerous. They know good swimmers can drown. They know medical events can happen without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly.

I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are. They know they can't breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks from swimming, they know why they enter the water feet first, they know why we don't play breath-holding games or activities. It isn't just because I said so, I try to give them real reasons to my rules. A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.

9. "Hey, watch this…"

Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" usually are the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy about to take place. This is a kid's way of announcing they are pushing the boundaries or are going to show-off, and I take these phrases as a time to talk about danger and pushing boundaries.

Are they just showing me something or are they about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions around the water. Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" are ways to cue into other people's behaviors and intentions. They now alert me when others use these types of phrases too. I always say we can have fun without being dumb.

10. See something, say something

My kids are part of my safety team. They are buddy watchers for each other and I ask them to look out for other kids. I'll often ask my son where his sister is, or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are okay, to know what they are doing.

My daughter the other day said, "Mom, I almost called you…that boy was under the water and I counted from 5…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but he popped up again before I got to 2." I asked her, what would you do if he was still underwater when you got to one, and she said "I'd say something to you or an adult until you responded". Perfect.

Kids are an additional layer of protection and they have good instincts. My kids know not to assume someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting. So often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don't do anything.

They assume they are okay, they assume they are playing, they assume they are doing it on purpose. Don't assume. Teach them the 5-second rule (check out Mel Robbins book on the topic) and if they see something to say something.

Other Water Safety Tips:

I hope this helps and gives you some practical tips to improving safety during your water related activities. Share this information to hopefully prevent any more drownings. Stay safe and vigilant!

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Creating your baby registry is one of the most exciting getting-ready-for-baby tasks a mama takes part in (other than, you know, growing a life). But even though sorting through adorably teeny this and itsy bitsy that can be loads of fun, that doesn't change the fact that there are SO many products from which to choose—not to mention slight variations in version for each. And how do parents know if you even need that *very specific* item to begin with, since each baby's likes are so different? It helps to have an expert guiding you through the what's-actually-worth-it process, whether it's veteran parents in your life who will likely offer up suggestions, or stores like buybuy BABY that handpick the must-have options and make registry building super easy for you.

From strollers to car seats and swings (because you'll definitely be needing a swing at some point), here are our top picks for first-time parents of the items you'll be glad you put on your baby registry, trust us.

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

UPPAbaby VISTA stroller

The best recommendation is the one from someone you trust and if you ask around, it won't take long for you to learn that UPPAbaby® is one of the most beloved stroller brands by new and seasoned moms alike. The VISTA is their crème de la crème, and it comes with all sorts of high quality features (think an ultra-sturdy frame and all-wheel suspension to help absorb all those bumps on the road) that will keep your babe comfortable no matter where your walk takes you. Plus, it comes in a bunch of great colors and transitions to a double as your family grows.

$959.99

Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat

ChiccoKeyFitcarseat

When it comes to keeping your little one safe, a car seat is probably the most important piece of gear you'll buy. While you'll hopefully never need to test it out, the KeyFit® seat keeps your little peanut extra secure with things like side impact protection—plus, thanks to handy bubble indicators, installing it correctly doesn't require a rocket scientist[JS9] . It's all about making your life easier while helping you breathe easier, too!

$199.99

4moms mamaRoo classic infant seat

4momsmamaRooswing

All hail the infant swing 🙌. Whether your cute new bundle is generally calm or has more of a defiant streak, chances are there'll be a time when you need some hands-free soothing. Enter the mamaRoo, a beyond useful swing that looks as cozy as it is. Strap the nugget in, choose one of five distinct motion patterns, and let yourself enjoy that moment of solitude on the couch (without leaving baby unsupervised, of course).

$219.19

HALO Bassinest premier series swivel sleeper

HALOsleeper

Being a new mom is all about snuggles and, if we're being honest, surviving those sleepless nights. And since the American Association of Pediatrics' current recommendation is to have your baby sleep in your room for at least the first 6 months of life anyway, why not have your little one spend his or her early nights snoozing in a bedside bassinet to save some time in the middle of the night? The HALO Bassinest is designed to nuzzle right up next to your bed, too, so you won't even have to get out from under the comforter during those 3am feedings.

Graco Table2Table premier fold 7-in1 convertible high chair

Gracohighchair

Spoiler alert: Your little babe is going to grow up fast. While it may seem like they'll be in that just-learning-how-to-eat phase forever, they'll outgrow the full-fledged high chair in a blink. While you can definitely buy a variety of different seating apparatuses for them, you can also buy one that'll last with your growing baby. With seven different configurations ranging from an infant reclining high chair to a toddler table and little chair, this is the only one you'll ever need.

$169.99

Fisher-Price 4-in-1 sling 'n seat bath tub

Fisher-Pricebath

Bath time is arguably one of the cutest elements of parenthood. So rather than concentrating on holding your slippery little baby safely in the sink while also, you know, washing them, do yourself a favor and invest in an infant tub with an adjustable sling. It'll help make the bonding time fun of bath time more secure so you can focus on enjoying those beautiful sudsy moments.

$39.99

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine night light + time-to-rise

HatchBabyRestsoundmachine

Technology has brought us a lot of advantages, but one of the best? The ability to comfort your little one without ever leaving bed. The Hatch Baby Rest offers sound- and light-control from your smartphone so you can use the power of noise to help them back to sleep if they fuss in the middle of the night without requiring you to drag your tired self out of bed. Plus, when the toddler years come around, it doubles as a time-to-rise clock so that ball of energy knows when it's appropriate to barrel into your room.

$59.99

Fridababy baby basics kit

fridababybasics

Fridababy has made a name for itself with its cheeky (but incredibly practical) products like the congestion-fighting NoseFrida® and the less-than-pleasant Windi. With this basics bundle, you can get four of their most popular—for nose, behind, scalp and nails—in one convenient package. It's not glamorous, mamas, but it's parenting at its finest.

$39.99

Graco 4Ever all-in-one convertible car seat

Gracocarseat

Whether or not you choose to purchase an infant car seat for the first months, you will eventually need a convertible car seat as your kiddo gets bigger, and the best options will grow with them. The Graco® 4Ever All-in-1 accommodates children up to 40 pounds facing backwards and up to 65 pounds facing forward. Plus, it can be used as a booster seat up through the age of 10. One less thing to buy until then, mama!

Skip*Hop explore + more 3-stage activity center

SkipHopActivityCenter

Insider parenting tip: Invest in a few great toys that serve as a great way to help your baby learn and explore and stay safe (read: unable to crawl away when you turn your head for a split second). An activity center serves both of those purposes—keeps them entertained and contained fabulously. Even better, the SKIP*HOP® Explore & More 3-Stage has an extra-long shelf life as it converts to an activity table when they outgrow the harness. Plus, there's a snack bowl attachment, and as every mama knows, snacks mean victory.

$129.99

This article was sponsored by buybuy BABY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support mamas and Motherly.

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There are less just two weeks left until the end of the month—and the decade. We're in shock here at Motherly and we're sure you are too. It feels like it just snuck up on us this year!

Well we're with you on the endless to-do list that usually pops up at this time of year (or, let's be honest—any time of year when you're a parent). It's a lot, but trust us when we say you've got this, mama.

If you've been missing the news this week while you run around trying to get everything done don't worry...we're keeping an eye on all the headlines you need to see.

Take a moment for yourself today and check out the headlines that are making us smile this week:

This mama edited her deployed husband into her Christmas card 

Danielle Cobo is a mama to twin boys and a proud military spouse. Her husband is currently serving overseas on a year-long deployment. He wasn't home for this year's Christmas card photo shoot, so Cobo's photographer, Shannon Sturgeon, did some photoshop magic to get the whole family in frame and the resulting picture is going viral.

"I am extremely proud of him and grateful for what he's doing because I think there's a purpose greater than our own," Cobo told Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA. "This year's deployment has been the toughest. By the time he returns, my husband will have missed half of our twins' lives. With that said, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm so proud of him."

When the card went viral, Cobo started getting messages from all over the United States from people who could relate to how she is feeling this holiday season. "I love the holidays," Cobo told WTVT. "I love Christmas cards. I save Christmas cards. It's just a way of showing people that though we are apart, we are a family."

Baby girl goes viral for adorable 'mean-mugging' photos 

Newborn photos are supposed to be adorable but this baby is looking adorably angry in hers. Baby Luna is taking over the internet thanks to the hilarious expression captured during her professional photoshoot.

"She's been mean-mugging since day one," Luna's dad Christian Musa told Good Morning America. "She's either mean-mugging non-stop, or just unimpressed."

Photographer Justine Tuhy says that while Luna (who was born November 15) was totally content during their photo session, "She just gave me the stare down the entire time as well."

This mom went viral for loving Christmas (and Wawa) too much

Mary Katherine Backstrom is the mom and writer behind MomBabble's website and social media accounts, and this week she went viral for the most hilarious reason.

Going live from her car in the parking lot of a Wawa gas station, Backstrom cry-laughed into her phone's camera as she explained how embarrassingly carried away with the holiday spirit she'd become. She was in the Wawa and saw the woman in line next to her only had a ginger ale, so she offered to pay for it to pay the Christmas spirit forward. Then, she came out of the gas station and saw a man washing her car's windshield.

"'This is my favorite part of humanity! I love Christmas so much, thank you for doing this,'" Backstrom recalls saying to the guy. "And I gave him a hug."

The problem? It wasn't her car. It was that dude's car. She just hugged and thanked him for cleaning his own car. 😂

She was so embarrassed that she just walked to her own car and pretended like nothing happened, then recorded her video and now the whole world knows about it.

Keep spreading the holiday magic Mary Katherine! You're hilarious.

Viral PSA reminds us to be kind to retail workers this time of year 

Whitney Fleming is the mom and writer behind "Playdates on Friday" and this week she's going viral for reminding the world to be nice to retail workers this time of year.

In a post that has been shared over 10,000 times, Fleming recalls a recent trip to Target. While chatting with her cashier she learned he'd had a pretty rough shift, as some moms who were stressed out during their Christmas shopping had taken it out on him.

"As the young man handed me my receipt, I handed over the gift card. 'Have a frappuccino on me. It's for dealing with all of us crazy, stressed-out moms.'

'Oh, no, ma'am. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything,' he stammered. You could see he was nervous about getting in trouble.

'No, I'm sorry, I told him. 'Have a great holiday.'"

Thanks for the reminder, Whitney.

Viral deal alert: Get a dozen Krispy Kremes for $1 today! 

Krispy Kreme is giving customers an early Christmas present this week.

If you're reading this on Thursday, December 12 you should swing by Krispy Kreme ASAP and get a dozen original glazed doughnuts for the low price of $1 when you buy a dozen specialty doughnuts.

They're practically giving the glazed doughnuts away at that price and the internet is going wild about this because the deal even applies when you buy the Instagram-worthy holiday-themed donuts!

So you can show up to work, school or the Christmas party with a dozen festive treats and still have 12 delicious original glazed doughnuts that you can keep for yourself!

This is happening in participating stores in the USA and ALL the stores in Canada.

News

At Motherly we know that mothers can and do balance business needs with the needs of their children every day. We do it every day, and we know that mothers at other companies are doing it every day, too—but this balancing act often isn't talked about.

This week a COO and father, Seth Morales, went viral for drawing attention to how hard his wife, and all working moms, work outside of regular business hours and outside offices.

Morales posted a photo of his wife comforting their child in a hospital bed, writing, "I took this picture of my wife and son this morning. Too often working moms don't get enough credit. I'm sharing this because I want people to know it's possible. You can be great at work and at home."

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He continues: "But sacrifices need to be made before/after normal working hours. The idea of working 40+ hours in the office isn't realistic. You'd be surprised at how productive my wife is from her smartphone while running errands. But she constantly thinks she's falling short with everything. Balancing life is messy and difficult. For all you working parents out there please have grace for yourself, it's a process."

Morales is right about many things: 40 hours of butt-in-seat office work is not realistic for many parents. Our kids have needs Monday through Friday, 9-5 that we need to be there for sometimes. Clearly, Morales' child was in need of medical attention and that's the kind of thing that parents need to be able to give their attention to, whether it happens during regular business hours or not. And Morales is also right that parents are making sacrifices, working before and after traditional office hours and making the most of small pockets of time. It sound like Morales' wife is multitasking a lot of time time, running her work from her "smartphone while running errands."

It's great that this powerful COO is sharing the struggles that working parents face and that a working mother's spouse is recognizing her efforts on a personal level. But we would challenge partners like Morales: If you see your partner trying so hard to do everything and feeling like she's never doing enough, perhaps it is time to ask yourself if YOU are doing enough.

Research shows that among heterosexual couples, women simply do more of the unpaid work of child-rearing than men do, and it hurts our careers, our families and our relationships (and that if men did just 50 minutes more labor at home every day we could close the gender gap.)

We would also challenge business leaders like Morales: If you see your employees are making the sacrifices that he mentions here, working before and after working hours and feeling like they are merely surviving, not thriving, maybe your culture needs to catch up with the needs of employees.

And finally, we challenge any working mother who "constantly thinks she's falling short with everything" to drop some balls and delegate at home. Get the store-bought muffins and share the load of managing your family load with your partner.

Morales is right, we can be great at work and at home, but not if we're not supported at work and at home.

News

There's nothing Beyoncé can't do, at least as far as we can see. From dropping record-breaking albums to starring in movies to dominating stadium tours, the woman seems almost superhuman. But even Beyoncé can admit that working motherhood is really, really hard. She recently opened up about her struggles—and we never thought we'd say this—but we kind of feel like we can relate to Beyoncé.

The superstar recently opened up about everything from body image to hitting up Target in a brand new interview. But here's what we're taking away form the conversation: Beyoncé's raw, confessional comments about juggling motherhood and career.

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"I think the most stressful thing for me is balancing work and life," Beyoncé tells Elle when asked what stresses her out. "Making sure I am present for my kids—dropping Blue off at school, taking Rumi and Sir to their activities, making time for date nights with my husband, and being home in time to have dinner with my family—all while running a company can be challenging."

Say it louder, Beyoncé! It's crazy to hear that even the most iconic celebrity of all worries about things like school drop off. Admittedly, we don't know exactly what Bey's juggle looks like. We have no idea what it feels like to be trailed by the paparazzi or sell out stadiums or have access to absolutely everything money can buy. But here's what we do understand: The incredible pressure that comes with trying to fit too many things into too few hours, and the feeling that we wish we could be multiple places at once.

Something else we can relate to? Beyoncé's feelings about her body and its evolution over the years. "If someone told me 15 years ago that my body would go through so many changes and fluctuations, and that I would feel more womanly and secure with my curves, I would not have believed them," she says. "But children and maturity have taught me to value myself beyond my physical appearance and really understand that I am more than enough no matter what stage I'm at in life."

Amen to that, Mama!

And most relatable of all is this answer she provided. When a fan asked, "With all the hats you wear (chairwoman, global entertainer) and all the titles we give you (Queen, Yoncé), which brings you the greatest joy?" via email, here's what Queen B had to say: "Being Blue, Rumi, and Sir's mom."

We feel this so hard. And it's so gratifying to see that even Beyoncé—with all the massive, unprecedented things she's accomplished—knows that when it comes right down to it, nothing compares to being a mama.

News

Sometimes it's hard for kids (and adults) to understand things that can't see. That's why some creative teachers are using bread to show kids just how germy their hands can get.

"We did a science project in class this last month as flu season was starting. We took fresh bread and touched it. We did one slice untouched. One with unwashed hands. One with hand sanitizer. One with washed hands with warm water and soap. Then we decided to rub a piece on all our classroom Chromebooks," teacher Jaralee Annice Metcalf writes in a now-viral Facebook post.

When the bread was left in sealed plastic bags the slices that had been exposed to more bacteria via laptops and unwashed hands grew the most mold.

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The bread that had been rubbed on those Chromebooks might be the grossest piece of bread we've ever seen, and really underscores Jaralee's point: "As somebody who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands! And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands!"

The CDC agrees with this elementary school teacher: Handwashing reduces the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses (basically the bugs kids seem to be magnets for) so it's a good idea to teach kids to do it properly and often.

Jaralee isn't the first teacher to go viral for incorporating this experiment into her classroom and she probably won't be the last. Full instructions for this project are listed on the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital website and are easy to replicate at home.

Her Facebook post has been criticized by people questioning the conditions of her experiment, but as she notes on her Facebook page, they're kind of missing the point: "We are an elementary school. Not a fancy CDC lab, so relax a little and WASH YOUR HANDS."

It's good advice from a caring teacher and a reminder to wash our hands (and sanitize our laptops!)

News
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