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Texas Parenting News

Protect against mosquitoes


You go out in the late evening to water plants or take out the trash, and before you know it, “Ouch!” You feel a sting on your leg or arm. Mosquitoes! You never see the pesky critters and rarely hear their buzzing, but you know their bite.

Exasperating as the itch may be, mosquito bites can also inflict serious harm to health. A pregnant woman bitten by a mosquito infected with the Zika virus, for example, can give birth to a baby with a poorly developed brain and other defects such as vision and hearing impairments. The elderly are vulnerable to the West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes, but doctors advise everyone to take steps to avoid mosquito bites altogether.


Eliminate mosquito breeding sites
Experts recommend, as a first step, removing places where mosquitoes might breed.

Drain. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so empty anything that may hold water in and around your house at least once a week. Water can collect in clogged rain gutters, flower pots, vases with flowers, and buckets, among other things.

Change water in pet dishes daily, and change water in birdbaths at least weekly. Be sure to empty wading pools and cover sandboxes every day after use. Maintain pools and hot tubs. Water lawns and gardens sparingly so water does not stand for several days.

Get rid of empty cans and old tires. Keep trash containers tightly covered. Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.

Work with your neighborhood and community to drain standing water in vacant lots, ditches, construction sites, and parks.

Dunk. For rain barrels, birdbaths, swimming pools, and other containers you cannot drain, consider adding Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), commercially known as Mosquito Dunks®. This biological product consists of a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kill mosquito larvae. It’s harmless to humans, birds, fish, wildlife, pets, and bees, but as an extra safety precaution, store the product out of the reach of children.

Each dunk is about the size of a mini doughnut, treats up to 100 square feet of surface water, and lasts up to 30 days. The product, available at home and garden stores ($10 for a pack of six), has been used by pest control specialists and health departments for more than 25 years. For more information, see the National Pesticide Information Center at and the Environmental Protection Agency at


Prevent mosquito bites
A special precaution to pregnant women. Don’t travel to areas with Zika. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for travel information at

Dawn and dusk. Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at those times. Or take precautions by applying an insect repellent containing DEET and dressing appropriately.

DEET. Insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluramide on the label) offer the best protection against warding off mosquitoes. The repellent can be sprayed on exposed skin as well as on clothing, socks, and shoes. Don’t use on cuts and irritated skin. To apply to the face, first spray on hands and then rub on the face. Avoid breathing and ingesting it (toxic if swallowed). Because young children often put their hands in their mouths, don’t spray on children’s hands.

The concentration of DEET in the product (lotion and liquid as well as spray) can be misleading. A higher percentage means it will be effective longer (not that it will work better), and anything over 50 percent offers no added protection. A good rule of thumb: If children will be outside only an hour or two, choose a repellent that contains a 10 percent or less concentration of DEET, but if children will be outside longer, choose a concentration of 30 percent or less. Avoid applying more than once a day.

Don’t use DEET repellents on babies younger than 2 months old. Protect infants by using a carrier draped with a tightly fitting mosquito net.

DEET also helps repel flies, ticks, fleas, and other biting insects. For more information about DEET, see a fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control at

Dress. When you go outdoors, wear long sleeves, pants, socks, and closed shoes (not sandals), especially at dawn and dusk. Loosely fitting clothes can help keep mosquitoes from biting through clothing to your skin. White and light colored clothing are believed more protective than dark colors.

Doors. To keep mosquitoes from coming inside, keep doors shut as much as possible, and install or repair door screens. Have tightly fitting screens on windows too.

If you like sitting on your porch or patio, install mosquito netting. Netting comes in standard and heavy weaves and in wide rolls (100 to 144 inches).

If a few mosquitoes manage to get inside your house anyway, try luring them into a mosquito trap.


Make a simple mosquito trap
Here’s what you need:
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
candy thermometer
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
empty plastic 2 liter bottle
sharp knife
black tape
black paper or cloth


1. Make a sugar syrup by boiling 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water. When all the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and add 2 cups of cool water. Stir.
2. While the syrup is cooling, cut off the top of the plastic bottle starting where the bottle starts to narrow for the top.
3. When the syrup has cooled to 90 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, pour it into the bottle. Sprinkle in the yeast. There’s no need to mix.
4. Place the cut-off portion upside down in the bottle so that the screw top faces down. Seal the cut edges of the bottle with tape.
5. Wrap black paper or cloth around the sides of the bottle and secure with tape to finish the trap. For a photo, see “Making a Mosquito Trap,” at
6. Place the trap in a dark and humid place, and leave it for two weeks. To use again, replace the sugar syrup after two weeks.

How it works: The yeast ferments and releases carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes (as well as gnats). The insects crawl or fly into the hole, feast on the fermented yeast, and then cannot find their way out of the dark bottle. When you look down into the bottle, you’ll see the little critters floating dead on the surface of the liquid.


Reading boosts learning


In addition to picnicking, swimming, and hiking this summer, take time for reading. Research has shown that success in school begins in early childhood, and reading builds language, learning, and thinking skills.

Start reading to your children in infancy with picture books, board books, and rhymes. As babies grow into toddlers, name the pictures and ask questions about the story. By ages 4 and 5, children will be able to recognize alphabet letters and even simple words. Make reading a daily habit, and be prepared to read the same story over and over again.


Look for summer reading programs
Many public libraries offer summer reading programs in addition to weekly story times, all free. You will need a library card to check out books, and you may be asked to register online for the program as an individual, a family, or a group.

Libraries also may offer a variety of other free programs for families. The Fort Worth Library, for example, offers computer classes, English and Spanish conversation classes, film showings, jazz concerts, art exhibitions, and history workshops, to name a few.

Your neighborhood may have a Little Free Library, where you can borrow and return books from a tiny collection with no deadlines or penalties. To find a Little Free Library near you, go to Or look for a birdhouse-like structure with glass doors, mounted on a pole, with books inside.

Ideally, children will have a few books of their own. Suggest to friends and relatives that they give books for birthdays and holidays. One pregnant mom asked baby shower guests to use a children’s book instead of a greeting card with their gift and write a message to the child inside.

You can find slightly used books at bargain prices at thrift shops and garage sales. Libraries often sell discarded or duplicate books at big discounts. The Austin Public Library, for example, sells used books at its Recycled Reads store. See


Read all year long
Many pediatricians participate in the Reach Out and Read program. The doctor or staff gives you a book at your child’s first health exam, offers tips on reading with your child, and explains how reading together helps families develop strong emotional bonds and positive memories that can last a lifetime.

To find a program near you as well as tips on choosing books and reading, see

Bookstores, book publishers, and other commercial ventures also promote reading, not only to sell books and services but also to provide information. Sylvan Learning, a tutoring service, offers Book Adventure online at, for example. The Simon and Schuster publishing firm offers reading guidance to parents and teachers on its Ready to Read website, at


The lemonade stand: An American icon


When I was out walking one Saturday, I spotted a boy and his dad selling lemonade at a stand in their yard,” says Marcie to a friend. “When I stopped to buy a glass, the boy asked whether I’d like a lemonade or an Arnold Palmer.”

“What’s an Arnold Palmer?” the friend asks.

“Half lemonade and half tea. It’s what Arnold Palmer himself drank,” Marcie replies. “On that Saturday the Masters Golf Tournament was going on. I thought it was clever marketing.”



Parents may remember lemonade stands from their childhoods, either buying the refreshing drink from a neighbor’s children, or perhaps setting up a lemonade stand themselves in the summer to earn money.

Actually, the roadside booths announcing “Lemonade 5¢” (now “Lemonade 50¢” or higher) have been a frequent summertime sight across the country since the 1800s. Indeed, the lemonade stand has been so widely used as a learning exercise in schools that it’s considered a symbol of youth entrepreneurship. It has formed the basis of children’s books and more recently online games.

More heartwarming is the story of a 4-year-old cancer patient, Alex Scott, who announced in 2000 that she wanted to start a lemonade stand and use the money to help other children stricken with cancer. With the help of an older brother, she raised $2,000. Her family continued holding yearly lemonade sales for the cause, capturing the attention of people around the world. When Alex died in 2004, they had raised more than $1 million. In 2005, her parents started Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to build awareness of childhood cancer and fund research into new treatments and cures. To learn more, see

If your children express an interest in holding a lemonade stand, consider their age and abilities. Kindergartners and first graders will need more help than older school-agers. You might start by reading How to Start a Lemonade Stand by Anastasia Suen (Rourke Educational Media 2016).

Some things children can learn from hosting a lemonade stand:


What supplies and equipment are needed?
How will we construct a stand?
Where should the stand be placed?
When will the stand be open?
Who will run the stand?
What will we do if the weather turns bad?
What is a profit?
How much do we charge for a glass of lemonade to make a profit?
How do we attract the attention of prospective customers?
Do we need to advertise? If so, how?
How do we safeguard money at the stand?
What will we do with money earned?


What is the value of different coins and currency?
How do we calculate the cost of more than one glass (addition)?
How do we make change (subtraction)?
How do we measure ingredients to make lemonade?
How do we figure the needed quantities of supplies?
What’s the difference between income and expenses?


Social-emotional skills
Do we need to ask for help? If so, how?
How do we treat helpers and customers?
How do we measure success or failure?

To learn more about the history of lemonade stands, see “The Lemonade Stand [Advertisement],” in Children and Youth in History, Item #245, (accessed April 11, 2016). Annotated by Robert W. Sexty.