Tag Archives: daycare

Playing it Safe

June 10, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in June 2015 Her Family.

If you come from early Omaha stock, it’s likely your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and maybe even your great-great-grandparents grew up frolicking on the City of Omaha’s playground equipment.

“The movement for playgrounds really came about in the late 1890s,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks & Recreation Department. “It all started in the inner cities to create locations for kids to actually get out and have constructive play. That way they could deter negative activities and youth crime.”

Gone, though, are many of the early playground standards. You won’t see the sheet-metal slides that sizzled in the sunshine and featured steep, narrow steps. It’s nearly impossible to find tall teeter-totters (Anyone else remember crashing to the ground when the child on the other end suddenly scooted off?) or high, slick, monkey bars positioned over a shallow layer of sand on hard ground. Oh yes—don’t forget those flat merry-go-rounds that sent children skidding off the perimeter.

As children, we wanted playground toys that were faster, higher, and more intense, but from an adult perspective, it’s safety first. Or as Stratman puts it, “Your perception of what you see on a playground drastically changes when you become a parent.”

Contemporary playgrounds still deliver the thrill, but rein in the risk for kids of all ages and abilities, says owner of Crouch Recreation Eric Crouch. As a Heisman Trophy winner for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, he knows about the unpleasantness of hitting the ground hard.

The company’s installations can be seen all over the metro area in public locations such as Benson Park, Vogel Park, and Stinson Park, as well as other sites such as SIDs, commercial daycares, and schools throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.

“Accessibility is huge and safety is one of the top factors. Quality of equipment, and sometimes design, factors into it as well,” Crouch says. “We want things to be safe, to look nice, and to stand the test of time.”

Industry standards are guided by the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Crouch says. But manufacturers have found ways to keep the old standbys (“You really miss the mark if you don’t include slides or swings”) only with safer—and sometimes more fun—options from saucer seats and wide platform slide entrances to spring supports for see saws and pliable surfacing.

“We are so safety-conscious today and we’re making improvements, but we’re seeing the throwback to what we did as kids,” Stratman says.

Larger playground structures are typically modular so clients can create one-of-a-kind arrangements with more features than ever available, Crouch says.

“Now kids will get to a park and they see something that will interest them: How do I use this? It takes a little bit of their mind and their body strength to look at a piece of equipment and interact with it,” Crouch says. “New designs stimulate creative thinking.”

Other innovative elements seen on today’s playgrounds include the use of environmentally-friendly materials, custom designs that integrate into the surroundings, shade structures, seating for parents or caregivers, stroller- and wheelchair-accessible paths, and even sports and fitness features to make parks appealing to all ages.

But one thing never changes, Stratman says. “The confidence building as well as the social skills you learn on the playground are limitless.”

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Food Allergies Abundant in a Purell Society

August 16, 2013 by

Food allergies are on the rise, and there are many theories as to why.

“We are too clean,” says Carlos Prendes, M.D., family medicine physician with Alegent Creighton Clinic. “We do not let our immune system do its job. Anything that comes in that is not a part of our routine, our body will attack and protect us against.

“Food allergies were very rare in the 1900s (and Purell did not exist). As we have developed a more antiseptic society, we are also developing more allergies. There is something to be said for a bit of dirt in your life.”

There are eight foods that are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies. The “big eight” are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.

“Many common food allergies for kids (milk, soy, wheat, and eggs) are not major allergens for adults. Adult food allergies tend to be lifelong and potentially severe. Many childhood allergies can be ‘grown out of,’ but adult allergies tend to stick,” says Dr. Prendes. “Most kids outgrow an allergy to milk and eggs by age six (this is different than being lactose intolerant).” However, he adds, this is not the case for peanuts.

“We are too clean. We do not let our immune system do its job.” – Carlos Prendes, M.D., family medicine physician with Alegent Creighton Clinic

Think you have a food allergy? “Symptoms usually begin within two hours after eating. If you develop symptoms shortly after eating a certain food, you may have a food allergy,” says Dr. Prendes. “Key symptoms of a food allergy include hives, a hoarse voice, and wheezing.” Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nausea, and stomach cramps.

“Any food allergies can be very serious,” says Dr. Prendes. “And mild reactions in the past do not always mean mild reactions in the future. If you are allergic to something, you cannot eat it; subsequent exposures can make the allergic reaction worse.”

There is a lot being done to make life with food allergies a little easier. The FDA requires by law that “the big eight” allergens are labeled on packages, even if the food does not contain any of “the big eight” but is produced in a factory that also produces any of these common allergens.

Schools and daycares are working to maintain peanut-free and milk-free zones or lunch tables, and to notify other parents that there is an allergy in the classroom.

Dr. Prendes recommends that the child takes responsibility for his or her allergy. “It is very important that the child is aware of their food allergy and cannot take a break from it. If you are at a birthday party and you are allergic to milk, you cannot have the ice cream. The sooner that they are aware of this allergy and that it is part of their life, the better off they will be.”

There are a lot of emerging ideas on how to reduce your risk of developing a food allergy. Some of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics—no cow’s milk until age 1 or peanuts until age 3—may be changing. “It is hard to tell parents to get their kids dirty more often,” says Dr. Prendes. “We have to figure out a balance to avoid developing these allergies and keeping people healthy.”

A Pet’s Paradise

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When many people think of pet boarding, they envision a city of kennels resembling a prison housing dozens of bored, cramped pets. But these days, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A growing number of pet care facilities now offer posh boarding accommodations, as well as a slew of activities and playtime options for your furry friends. Whether it be for a week-long stay or daily daycare, these pet hotels and spas provide your animal fun interaction with other four-legged friends and caring staff members who will pamper your pet just as you would. So while you and your family are vacationing this summer, don’t fret; the family pet can be taking a “vacay” all its own.

Three of the most well-known independent pet hotels and spas in the Omaha area include Cottonwood Pet Resort, Bark Avenue Grooming and Dog Daycare, and The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Guests at the The Paw Spa Pet Resort take a refreshing dip in a bone-shaped pool.

Cottonwood Pet Resort in Waterloo sits on 11 acres of land with a 10,000-square- foot indoor area. Family-owned by the Dvorak family since 1992, Cottonwood works much like a hotel—pets check in and check out of pet suites, which vary in size from modest to quite roomy. All dog accommodations provide sheepskin rugs for bedding and outdoor access to exercise yards. Some suites, like the Cabana, offer private access to an outdoor patio and include TVs tuned to the Animal Planet channel.

Cottonwood also offers a dedicated area for cats—completely separate from the dogs—where feline friends can either lounge in their individual suites or romp with other cats in the playroom. Cat areas are equipped with climbing options and perches, as well as TVs and music. Cottonwood also boards exotic pets, such as rabbits, parrots, guinea pigs, and turtles.

With 43 years in the pet grooming industry, Sue Wilke was one of the first to offer doggie daycare services in Omaha. Nine years ago, she went to Washington, D.C., to learn about dog daycare because there were very few in Omaha at the time. Today, she owns two Bark Avenue locations in town: the original location at 156th & Maple streets, which specializes in daycare and grooming; and a second at 137th and C streets, which provides long stays and boarding. The business provides complimentary transportation between its two locations for the customer’s convenience.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

Camera-shy cats hide in the playroom at The Paw Spa Pet Resort.

While visiting Bark Avenue’s C Street location, canine guests can play all day with others their own size in three different indoor playrooms or lounge in individual suites. Suites range in size from 5×5-ft. to 8×8-ft. and feature laminate walls and glass doors and fronts, which allow easy visibility and enhance cleanliness. Multi-dog suites are available if your pet has “brothers and sisters” you’d like them to stay with. The new facility also features a 2,000-sq.ft. secure, fenced outdoor area. Dogs are taken outside eight times daily for a minimum of 20 minutes each visit. Daycare playtime with staff is also available upon request.

Wilke says her business strives for socialization and minimal stress for its guests. “We want the pets’ experience to be as close to home as possible. We just want what’s best for the dog.”

The Paw Spa Pet Resort is the newest pet spa and hotel in Omaha. The facility specializes in overnights, daycare, and grooming of pets and features a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled air-circulation system, which helps to prevent airborne illnesses. The Paw Spa offers brightly colored, 9×9-ft. suites that come equipped with TVs and Kuranda beds, which are slightly elevated and chew-proof. Owners are encouraged to bring toys, blankets, or anything else that may make their pet feel more at home to leave in the suite.

Kevin Irish and Sheila Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Irish and Kusmierski in a play area at the resort.

Co-owner Kevin Irish says, “We’re animal lovers. We have three dogs and a cat,” who hang out with the animal guests to promote socialization. “I always wanted to be a vet,” he says, “and this is my second shot at a career with animals.

The Paw Spa also features a 1,000-sq.ft. indoor doggie play area for exercise and mingling, complete with palm trees, toys, and a special turf that guarantees cleanliness for animal guests. Next door is a second enclosed area for the swimmers, where canine guests can take a refreshing dip in the bone-shaped, 85-degree indoor pool (no deeper than two feet deep for safety). “We have hip-waders for the little guys,” explains Irish. “This lets them learn to swim in a controlled environment.”

Both play areas are constantly supervised by staff and are equipped with cameras so pet owners can view their animals from home or while on the road. Paw Spa’s Kitty City provides cats with condos that have separate compartments for food and bathroom breaks, and even a digital aquarium for entertainment. Cats can also hang out and climb the large, indoor structure in the Catio.

All three pet spas provide personalized attention, 24-hour monitoring by staff, on-call veterinarians, and frequent potty and playtime breaks. With accommodations like these, your beloved Fido or Fluffy will definitely be in good hands while you enjoy your summer vacation guilt-free.