Gifts for Dad ➔

It was one of the longest nights that we had encountered since becoming parents. Our newly one-year-old girl was vomiting all night long. (My husband and I joined her shortly after.) It was her first big illness and we were terrified. We called the on-call pediatrician several times that night. We monitored her urine output and worked diligently to help her increase her fluid intake but we still felt helpless. As parents, we didn’t want to see our child in pain or discomfort and it was especially difficult because there wasn’t much that we could do to make it any easier on her.

While we sat up that night, drenched in worry, I tried to figure out where she could have possibly caught this bug. Eventually, I determined that the culprit had to be the new play place that we had just started going to a few weeks prior. It had mini trampolines for jumping, foam stairs for climbing, a beam for balancing, and a ball pit for playing. Back when I was a child, my mother would question the cleanliness of the ball pits when we went to fast food restaurants or play places.

As my daughter was throwing up, I was scolding myself for allowing her in such a potentially unsanitary environment. It was adorable watching her play in there, exploring her new environment in a sea of rainbow. What’s not as adorable is that ball pits are a fantastic breeding ground for illnesses like E.coli, rotavirus, and salmonella, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, worried parents, and sleepless nights.

The place I took her to was pretty clean and I never saw any dirty diapers or syringes in the ball pit but that doesn’t mean that it is free from danger. According to an article on WebMD, some manufacturers of ball pits recommend cleaning them at least once a week. Chances are, most places with ball pits do not follow this advice. As a matter of fact, on our first visit to this particular play place, my daughter spit up on the foam slope that goes into the ball pit. (Luckily it didn’t get on the balls.) The employee gave me a wet cloth to wipe it up. I’m not sure what sanitation measures they take beyond that but I doubt that they go through the trouble of removing and washing hundreds of plastic balls once a week. WebMD even suggests that parents ask facilities with ball pits if the pits are “spot cleaned at least once a day.” I never asked that. I didn’t think to question the sanitary practices of a somewhat prestigious facility that appeared to be very clean…but looks can be deceiving.

An article on Parents explains that playgrounds are actually filthier than public restrooms because, unlike some playgrounds, restrooms are frequently maintained. In the article, Kelly Reynolds, PhD, associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Public Health, in Tucson was quoted saying, “Restrooms tend to get disinfected often, but playground equipment almost never gets cleaned.” From mucus on the monkey bars to saliva on the slide, playgrounds are covered in icky stuff. Whether it’s a toddler in a leaky diaper or a kindergartener using their hand as a tissue, kids share more than just toys. They also share those pesky things called germs.

Erin Carr-Jordan, a child psychologist and mom of four, decided to do some investigative work of her own after visiting a McDonald’s play area with her son. She took samples from various indoor playgrounds in 11 states and with the help of a microbiologist and an analytical lab, she had the samples tested. The samples she took were both from chains and independently owned facilities. They were in varying socioeconomic areas but the results did not discriminate. They were horrifying.

According to Erin Carr-Jordan, “The microbial results revealed pathogens that cause meningitis, food-borne illness, skin, hair, eye infections, and more.” She found over 13 types of disease-causing pathogens. “Among my bacterial findings: Staph aureus, Pseudomonas, E. coli, Bacillus cereus and Coliforms. These can cause everything from nausea and vomiting, to skin infections, meningitis and death,” wrote Carr-Jordan. As a result of her research, Carr-Jordan teamed up with Dr. Annissa Furr to create the non-profit organization, Kids Play Safe, which uses microbiological testing to increase awareness in an attempt to bring about change and influence legislation.

As tempting as it may be, we can’t live in fear and try to shield our children from ever encountering a germ. They should live full lives and be given the opportunity to build their immune systems but there are things that we can do to protect them. The Kids Play Safe website has a list of locations which they have certified. There are also things that you can do to protect your children in non-certified locations. WebMD suggests that children take a bath after going in ball pits. Parents suggests cleaning your children’s hands with an alcohol-based hand-gel at the park when the kids are done playing. Also, while they’re playing be sure to tell them to avoid touching their mouths, noses, or eyes. The mouth, nose, and eyes allow germs easy access into the body. There’s no need to invest in child-sized hazmat suits just yet. As parents, it is our responsibility to find a balance between keeping our kids safe but still allowing our kids to be kids. I suppose one day we’ll return to that play place but I’ll be sure to bring some hand sanitizer and run a bath when we get home.

Megan Whitty

Megan is a stay-at-home mom and wife. Before she became a stay-at-home mom, she was a certified pharmacy technician. Her opportunity to stay home with her daughter has allowed her to pursue her passion for writing. She writes for Her View from Home and is also a Spoke Contributor on Red Tricycle. When Megan isn't writing, she's hanging out with her one year old, trying out new craft ideas from Pinterest, and experimenting with toddler-approved recipes.

Oh, How I’ll Miss Little You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child standing in leaves, looking up, color photo

Oh, my sweet little child, I wish you could stay this little forever. I wish these days would never end. They are busy, loud, and chaotic—but, oh, how I love them! They make my life feel whole. Complete. I don’t know what I will do when these days are gone. I will miss your sweet little face looking up at me. The innocence in your eyes. Your sweet little grin. I will miss how your face lights up when you see me. How your little arms manage to give me the biggest hugs. How I can make everything better with...

Keep Reading

There’s Just Something about a 4-Year-Old

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
4 year old girl smiling outside

There’s just something about a 4-year-old. The way their bubbly laughs and sweet little faces still have some traces of babyhood while they’re transforming into more and more of their own unique person right before your eyes.  The way they ask questions about everything under the sun, listen wide-eyed to your clumsy answers, and believe every single word you say. It’s so innocent (and scary) the way they believe absolutely anything you tell them—just because you’re “mommy.”  The way their still-a-little-chubby hand finds yours. And the way they still come running to you for a hug and kiss when they’re hurt. Or...

Keep Reading

Find the People Who Will Root for You

In: Friendship, Kids, Motherhood
Empty sports field, color photo

My son participated in tryouts out for a new travel soccer team at the end of a recreational fall soccer season one chilly evening in November. He has been playing recreational soccer since he was three years old when we started with the local club. He has been asking about joining a travel team since kindergarten. In recent seasons, I watched him struggle in the recreational league. I watched him wanting a little bit more in the sport as he developed his passion—he was ready to grow.  We knew he loved soccer, and it was something he had always wanted...

Keep Reading

You Don’t Raise Your Babies to Be Little Forever, but I Thought I’d Have More Time

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Little boy peeking over wooden fence, color photo

I can see the yellow blur of the school bus passing in front of my window. Soon my little boy will excitedly burst through the front door with his picture of a giraffe from art class. His big brown eyes will meet mine as I get a toothless “I missed you, Mom” grin. He will tell me everything he had on his tray for lunch, recount the whole soccer game at recess, and share all about that hilarious thing his friend said on the bus. He will then sit on my lap as he takes each school paper out of...

Keep Reading

No Man in a Girl’s Life Holds More Influence than Her Dad

In: Kids, Marriage, Motherhood
Father and daughter on amusement ride, color photo

As I sat outside Walmart watching my husband of nearly 16 years walk in with my 9-year-old daughter to buy me a box of tampons, I realized how blessed I am.  This is real life. Not only does he not care about running into the store and picking up these items, he asks our girls if they want to join him, and they use this time to talk. They talk about real-life—about growing up, changing bodies, what tampons are even for, how they can wait years and years before they need to start dating, how he will be waiting outside...

Keep Reading

My Little Girl Has Big, Brave Dreams

In: Kids, Motherhood
School paper with little girl's handwriting, color photo

My 6-year-old daughter wants to be a soldier.   When we heard from the ultrasound tech that we were having another girl, that was not exactly the career path that popped into our heads.   There’s something absolutely terrifying knowing your child wants to do something big like this. I’m sure I’d be petrified if I had a son with the same ambition, but there’s something extra scary about it being your little girl. There’s something weighty about raising a daughter who wants to be a soldier. But honestly, it’s not a surprise at all. RELATED: God Has Filled Your...

Keep Reading

As My Children Grow, I Miss It All—Even the Sick Days

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler on mom's shoulder

I whisk my daughter through the doors of urgent care and cradle her head as I stand behind three other mamas clinging to their babies. We’re each rocking in different ways but moving nonetheless. The silent, comforting rhythm of motherhood. I see sad, sick eyes from the babies with their heads nestled into the necks of their mama. I’m tired from the sleepless night, and I shift from foot to foot. There is hushing and humming and back-patting. A pacifier drops to the floor. All of a sudden my daughter feels heavy. A vague sinking feeling comes over me, like...

Keep Reading

Life with Autism Is Full of Ticking Time Bombs

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother, father, teen daughter, color photo

Many of us who live with autism are familiar with the comings and goings of the ticking time bomb—one that disappears for periods of time, so much so that we might forget about it. Then, suddenly, this bomb drops at our doorstep in the form of a returning or new obstacle, so intense that it causes us to pause our lives, alter our plans, maybe even change our current paths. For our family, the new challenge has been sudden, piercing, sporadic screams. Not constant, not even often, thankfully, but jolting nonetheless. So here we were, in the midst of our...

Keep Reading

Youth Sports Build Strong Kids

In: Kids
Young girl with gymnastics medal, color photo

My kids are heavily involved in sports. My son plays for an elite basketball team and my daughter competes on an Xcel gymnastics team. It takes up a lot of our time and a lot of our money. Even though prioritizing youth sports seems to be an American norm, we still sometimes receive criticism and judgment as to why we would spend so much of our time and resources on it. (“Don’t you know the chances of your child going pro is less than 1%?”) As I sat at my daughter’s gymnastics meet, listening to the parents cheer so excitedly...

Keep Reading

Don’t Let Anyone Rush You, Mama

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother with two kids at home relaxing

From the moment our children are born, other people make it challenging to stay in the present moment—they start asking questions that look forward instead of at the now we are in. Can you believe how big she’s getting, where did your newborn go? Oh my goodness, he’ll be walking any day now! Are you thinking about preschool? What will you do when they’re both in school? What will you do when your baby goes to college? While these questions may come with good intentions, they’re not helpful at all. We moms need to be allowed to be fully in...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids


Proven techniques to build REAL connections