Making Safety A Priority In Your Christmas Toy Shopping Endeavors

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

As soon as we have our fill of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, many of us make our plans for Black Friday and the 26 additional shopping days to follow. On the top of many people’s lists is the must-have, latest sensations in toys! Something that many fail to keep in mind while shopping is safety. The search for the perfect gift to place under the tree can quickly be tarnished by safety recalls and hidden hazards! Of all recalled children’s items in recent years, toys have been the largest category.

Most toys today do come with safety warnings on the packaging, including where the product is made, as well as labeling as to age-appropriateness of the toy. However, in the hustle & bustle of checking off our list and getting the items before they are out of stock, many do not take the time to research these essential key warnings. In addition to dangers from choking hazards due to small pieces or faulty construction, there is the worry of lead paint and other deadly chemicals being used. Most times it is not who makes the toys that matters, but how they are manufactured. As we have seen in the past, many big name brands can still have issues with safety recalls.

Before you start making your toy list and checking it twice, be sure to follow this checklist to avoid problems down the road:

  1. Make sure the toy is age-appropriate by reading the label.
  2. Check for small, loose parts that could be swallowed by young children.
  3. Infants & toddlers love to chew on toys, so make sure no parts on the toy could easily be bitten off and swallowed.
  4. For younger children, avoid items with string, straps or ribbons longer than seven inches to evade strangulation. Also, any toys with throwing or shooting projectiles should be avoided for children under the age of eight to prevent eye-related injuries.
  5. Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant. Electrical toys with batteries or electric plugs pose a burn hazard so they should be avoided for kids under eight.
  6. Avoid puzzles, figures, and dolls with powerful magnets, as they can be fatal if swallowed by children.
  7. Look carefully for points, edges, and breakable parts that could be sharp and injury a child.
  8. If you purchase items for a child to ride on (scooter, bicycle, roller skates, etc…), make sure it is sturdy & stable and follow-up with good safety equipment like knee pads, elbow pads, & helmets.
  9. Make sure the toys have a non-toxic, durable finish and be sure they contain no unhealthy chemicals (Phthalates, lead, etc…).
  10. Before you wrap it up, check to make sure the toy has not already been recalled. With the hottest toys of today becoming the most terrifying of tomorrow, concerned parents can keep up-to-date with all the recall notifications by signing up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at The website is also a great resource to use in identifying recalls of current toys your child might have. If your child has outgrown a toy and you want to donate to a thrift shop or daycare, help save the life of another child by looking into the product’s safety before it leaves your house.

Additionally, sometimes it is not necessarily the toy, but the packaging that can pose a danger to your child. Hard plastic packaging can present a hazard when opening and potentially cut a child. It is always best to leave the opening of a package and its assembly to a responsible adult. Also, it is always recommended to supervise children carefully when they play with their toys. Sometimes toys that seem safe can be dangerous if used incorrectly. If you have both older and younger children in the house, it is important to separate toys and keep potentially dangerous toys out of the reach of younger children.

Now some of this may seem like you are being overly-protective in selecting the perfect toy for your child, but you can never be too careful! According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children also died from toy-related injuries that same year. More than 170 million units of jewelry — most made in China and marketed to children in this country — have been recalled since 2004, according to Scott Wolfson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Hopefully by following these simple tips and researching children’s toys before you make your final purchase, you will be embarking on a safe, healthy, & happy holiday season!

Halloween Safety Tips

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

From dressing up like pirates and princesses to ghosts and goblins, Halloween is a fun and exciting time for many children. Each year, children look forward to parties, haunted houses & hayrides, and of course adventuring through the neighborhood, door-to-door in search of candy. Trick or treat dates and times may be different in each town, but one thing that should remain constant is making safety a priority!  Here are some safety tips to ensure your child continues to have good memories and enjoy Halloween for years to come.

  1. Young children should never go trick or treating alone! They should always be accompanied by a parent or a responsible and trusted adult.
  2. For older children, they should always go trick or treating in groups and stick together at all times. If your child would happen to get lost, encourage them to stay in well-lit areas and go to a familiar residence they know is safe to ask for help (of if they have a cell phone use it to call home). Planning a trick or treating route in advance is perfect for knowing where your child is expected to be at all times.
  3. Walk, don’t run from house to house! Be sure to use sidewalks whenever possible and look both ways before crossing the street.
  4. Follow the trick or treating guidelines set forth by your community and keep track of the time. Many residents in the community will be expecting children to be out trick or treating between a designated time period and will be looking out for their safety during that time. After the time has lapsed and in dark conditions, there is a greater chance for incidents and accidents to occur.
  5. Children should wear reflectors or reflective tape on their costumes & treat bags, as well as carry a flashlight or a glow stick. This will help make them more visible to others and vehicles on the road.
  6. Encourage your children to hold off eating any of their candy & treats until they are properly inspected by you. Never eat anything that is not completely sealed or is unwrapped. Children should also avoid eating homemade treats from anyone they do not know.
  7. Children should never go into the home or car of stranger. This may seem appealing to a child in adverse weather conditions where they may be cold or wet due to rain; therefore, it is important to remind them not to do so, even if you think they know better.
  8. Children should stay close to home and trick or treat in neighborhoods they are familiar with.
  9. Sometimes the biggest safety concern can be the costume itself. Make sure costumes are flame resistant and not too long to avoid tripping. Accessories like toy swords & knives should be soft and flexible. Make sure masks don’t impair vision and shoes are comfortable and safe for walking.
  10. Halloween does not necessarily have to be unhealthy! Walking during trick or treating is a great form of exercise. Also, you can pledge to give healthier snacks or non-food items to help children that may have food allergies. Painting a pumpkin teal and setting in on your front porch, alerts parents that your home is safe for a child with food allergies.

These Halloween safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more about the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program at

T or T

Personal Safety is as Important for Adults as it is Children

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

We often tell our children to beware of strangers and give them helpful advice on protecting themselves if left home alone or faced with a potentially dangerous situation; however, how often do we take our own advice? For many of us, we feel safe in our homes and our neighborhoods. We watch the news reports and think to ourselves, “that would never happen here” or “that would never happen to me!” Unfortunately, just like accidents, incidents of crime can happen when you least expect it! It is always best to prepare yourself and do your part to keep you and your family safe!

Adopting a few simple day-to-day safety practices can help keep you stay protected.

  • Remember to Lock-up: Before we go to bed each evening, we usually check to make sure the front door to our home is locked; however, we sometimes forget to secure that windows and other entrances are locked. It is worth taking a few extra minutes each evening to double check the security of your home, so you can go to bed with peace of mind.
  • Use a Buddy System: We always talk to our children about safety in numbers and going places in pairs; however, as adults we put ourselves in dangerous situations walking by ourselves late at night to get home or to our car. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust to walk with you. Keeping pepper spray and a flashlight with you is a good idea. Keep your car keys in your hand as you approach your vehicle, so you can set off the alarms to scare off any potential culprits if you feel unsafe. Staying alert, walking with confidence, avoiding the use of headphones, and planning your route ahead of time can aid in your safety.
  • Share Schedules: We have likely all been in a situation where someone we care about is running late. We call their cell phone, but it goes straight to voice-mail due to a dead battery or being in a limited service area. By sharing schedules with your family and friends, our loved ones can know where we are and we can know where they are. This can help in tracking someone down in the event of an emergency and although we don’t want to think about it, can aid in helping authorities if someone went missing.
  • Who’s at the Door?: In the same way we tell our children not to answer the door for strangers, we need to do the same! We can be too trusting and are quick to open the door as soon as we hear a knock or the doorbell. It is ok to ask someone to identify themselves before you open the door if you do not have a good visual of the person.

These personal safety tips are examples of what children & families learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more about the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program at

Kick-off the Fall Season with a Fail Safe Fire Plan

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Each and every one of us know a friend, neighbor, or family member that has been impacted by a fire. Whether it was a house, garage, barn, or even gas grill fire, families have likely experienced great losses including their home, valued possessions, animals or pets, and even more devastating beloved family members. As we get ready for the fall season and celebrate National Fire Prevention Week next month, here are a few important tips to help prepare your family in the event of a fire:

  • Establish a Fire Safety Plan – Work as a family to develop an escape plan in the event of a home or barn fire. Instead of just creating a fire safety plan, put it to the test and demonstrate exactly what you would do if a fire occurred. Take a note from the schools and have random fire drills at various times throughout the year. Determine the best escape route. Depending on where the fire is occurring you should try and identify more than one way to vacate. Practice where you would meet as a family to assure everyone’s safety and what you should say when calling 911 or the fire department. Keep those important numbers stored as a contact in your cell phone, as well as written down and placed in a central location that can easily be found by all in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  • Install Smoke Alarms – A smoke alarm can sometimes be your first alert to a fire and can ultimately save your life! Make sure a smoke alarm is installed on every floor of your home and replace them every 10 years. Also, don’t forget to check the batteries! On a monthly basis, check to assure smoke alarm batteries are working properly and change the batteries each year.
  • Know the Proper Use of a Fire Extinguisher – Many of us know what a fire extinguisher is; however, many of us our guilty of not knowing how to properly use it. As a family, learn about the different types of fire extinguishers and practice how to use them properly. Keep fire extinguishers in an easily accessible place and check gauges regularly to make sure they are in working condition if need to be used in an emergency.

Fire safety is one of the most popular topics taught at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®. Last year alone, 58% of our 396 Safety Days held a station on fire safety. These fire safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, which are held each year throughout North America. Learn more about the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® program at

Fire Safety Picture

A participant learns the correct way to use a fire extinguisher at a 2014 Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® held in Eastern Iowa.

Back to School Safety Tips

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Notebooks…check, pens & pencils…check, new clothes…check, safety…wait what? For many families, this is a very busy time of year! Just likes it seems to do every year, summer went by too fast and those three little words most kids dread to hear “BACK TO SCHOOL” are being echoed around the country. Over the past few weeks, we tried squeezing in our last family getaways and headed out to the stores for all the last minute back to school necessities, but as we officially kick-off another school year it is important to discuss SAFETY! Here are a few quick tips to assure your child is starting the school year off right:

  • When back to school shopping, be sure to select a backpack that is ergonomically designed. Remind your child to not over-stuff their backpack, they should not weigh more that 10%-20% of your child’s weight. Also, encourage them to use both straps to evenly distribute weight.
  • Getting back in the school routine after summer break can be challenging, but by assuring your child is getting a good night sleep, get in their vitamin C, and starting of each morning with a healthy breakfast, they will be better equip to fight off the germs, prevent illness, and will be more alert during the school day.
  • Encourage your children to always walk on sidewalks. If there isn’t one, they should walk on the left side of the road facing the oncoming traffic.
  • The U.S. National Safety Council offers these suggestions regarding bus safety: Walk your child to the bus stop on the first day of school and show the child the appropriate ways to board and exit the bus. Tell your child to stand at least 6 feet back from the curb while waiting for the bus. If your child must cross in front of the bus, teach him or her to walk on the curb until he or she is 12 feet ahead of the bus. Make sure your child knows that he or she should always be able to see the bus driver, and that the bus driver should always be able to see the child.
  • If you are driving your child to and from school, always make sure your child wears a seat belt and children 12 & under should sit in the backseat. Depending on the size and weight of your child, a booster seat may still be needed.
  • You never know when the school may need to reach a parent in the event of an emergency. If you have moved or changed your phone number or e-mail since the end of the last school year, be sure you to notify the school with the change.
  • Make it a point to talk to your child about their day at school, whether in the car ride home or over dinner. This will help you identify any signs of bullying or other issues that may be going on at school and allow you to address the problem early on.

For a complete list of back to school safety tips, visit the National Safety Council

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. To learn more about the Safety Day program, visit our website at

Ticks, Mosquitoes & Spiders Oh My! Identifying & Protecting Yourself from Insect Bites

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Whether relaxing in the evening after a hot summer day, keeping busy outside doing yard work or farm chores, or just taking a hike through the woods, bugs have a tendency to ruin your pleasurable experience. We invest money on citronella candles and zappers to keep the pesky bugs away, but we still seem to end up with bug bites. If we are lucky, we only need to put up with the annoying itching and irritation for a couple days at most, but sometimes bug bites can lead to bigger problems if not taken care of immediately.

In recent years, ticks have really become an issue. As a mother of two young girls, checking them for ticks has become as common as having them wash their hands before a meal. Both of my children have had tick bites and luckily the ticks were removed properly with no issues; however, several others in my family have not been so lucky and have encountered an infectious disease, known as Lyme disease. The disease is transmitted to humans through a tick bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. A tick has to be present on the skin for 24 to 48 hours to transmit the infection. One of the scariest things about Lyme’s Disease is most people have no memory of a tick bite. The results of the illness or pathogens transmitted by ticks often begin days to weeks after the tick is gone. After a tick bite, individuals may develop symptoms due to the organism that the tick transmits during its bite. The earlier a tick is removed, the less the likelihood that the tick transmitted any disease. For proper tick identification, it is important to keep the tick by putting it in a plastic baggie with some rubbing alcohol. With tick bites being so common in my area, Lyme’s Disease has been a popular topic at my local Progressive Agriculture Safety Day.

Mosquitoes are looked at by many as more of a nuisance than a dangerous insect, but they can spread diseases among both humans and animals including various forms of encephalitis. One of the most common diseases in recent years has been West Nile Virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 70%-80% of people who actually become infected with West Nile Virus rarely develop symptoms; however, 1 in 5 of the people infected will develop symptoms. Most people with this type of West Nile Virus recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Although the black widow and brown recluse are the only two medically significant spider bites common in North America, almost all spiders are venomous to some degree; however, most venom is too weak or the spider is too small to be a danger to humans. Redness, swelling, itching, and pain are the most common indicators of a spider or other bug bite. If these symptoms continue to get worse over a 24 hour period or you experience additional symptoms it is wise to seek medical attention.

For most of these insect bites, infected individuals may experience the following symptoms: headache, fever, nausea & vomiting, sweating, chills, numbness, rash with a “bull’s eye” or “halo” appearance, confusion, exhaustion or weakness, stomach cramps, pain and swelling in the joints, heart palpitations or rapid pulse, and even shortness of breath. The best way to avoid experiencing any symptoms is through prevention of the bite. This can be challenging, but dressing appropriately and using insect repellant can help combat bites. Unfortunately, there are no vaccinations for many of these diseases. Treatment can be as mild as a cream or oral antibiotic, intravenous antibiotics to even hospitalization.

If you do get a bite you are concerned about, it is important to document your encounter to get the best results and help identify the culprit. It is helpful to know when you first noticed the bite, when and where you think the bite occurred, and take daily photos of the infected area. It is also important to note if you have been traveling, as diseases common in other areas may not be on your local health care provider’s radar. The most accurate you can be with these answers, the best chance your bite can be identified and appropriate treatment can be determined.

These safety tips are examples of what children learn when they attend a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, which are held each year in more than 400 local communities throughout North America. To learn more about the Safety Day program, visit our website at

What Hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day could mean to your Community?

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

Each year across North America, hundreds of Progressive Agriculture Safety Days take place. Since our program originated in 1995, Safety Days have reached more than 1.2 million participants and volunteers. We continuously strive to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.  No matter the time of year or your community’s size or location, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days are taking place year-round in both rural and urban areas to both large and small audiences.

You may be asking yourself, what makes a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day so special? The key ingredient to our program is providing educational training and resources for local communities to conduct a one-day safety and health program. During training, coordinators are given resources on planning for a Safety Day, as well as access to 28 safety-related topics including lesson plans, demonstrations, and age-appropriate, hands-on activities for the participants. From specific farm-related topics including grain bin, tractor, and PTO safety to general topics including healthy lifestyles, fire, ATV, and animal safety, we give you the tools to customize a safety day that fits the needs of your community. From community to school-based Safety Days, implementation of the program around what works best for your area is what makes us so unique. From learning new tips to stay safe both at home and on the farm to shedding light on unsafe practices in hopes of making a positive change, hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day is one of the best things you can do for one of the most valuable resources in your community — the children!

In addition to training and resources provided to the coordinator, a t-shirt, take-home bag, and insurance coverage for the day is all provided by the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. We are able to do this year after year thanks to the amazing support of our corporate sponsors, commitment from dedicated volunteers, and in-kind donations of cash and other items at the local level. If you are like me, you will find hosting a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day as one of the most rewarding experiences you will even have. Hearing success stories from how old, unsafe practices were changed to new safer practices to how a lesson helped save a life or prevent an injury, really help put into perspective exactly why this program is so dynamic.

Who can be a coordinator? Anyone with a passion and interest in helping their community be safer and healthier. Our coordinators range from Extension Educators, school teachers, 4-H leaders & FFA advisors, Individuals working in a health or safety-related field, retirees, and community leaders to name a few.

Do you want to host a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in your community for 2015? Visit our website at, click on the “Apply Now” button, and tell us about plans for a Safety Day in your community. You will be notified by early-fall if your request to host a Safety Day has been accepted! Hurry —- the deadline to apply is July 15, 2014!