Category Archives: Safety

A Panic Attack Can Mimic the Symptoms of COVID-19. Here’s What to Do About It.

It’s hard not to feel anxious during these stressful and trying times. I have been using meditation and breathing exercises to get me through the moments when reality hits hard. Here are some tips I found helpful to share. Sending love and light, Kirsten

Sweating, shortness of breath, a sense of impending doom: The symptoms of a panic attack are never particularly pleasant. But in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic they can be downright disconcerting—especially for people experiencing them for the first time. Here is what to do if you think you might be having a panic attack, and how to deal with your pandemic-related anxiety in general.

If you’re in need of immediate help, call 911 or one of the mental health hotlines listed here.

Shortness of breath is a symptom of both COVID-19 and anxiety. Here’s how to tell the difference.

A panic attack is when your fear or anxiety trigger sudden, physical symptoms with no obvious cause. The exact result can vary from person to person, but classic signs include some of the same symptoms folks have been told to look out for from COVID-19: chest pain, shortness of breath, and a feeling of feverishness or chills. If you’re having chest pain or serious trouble breathing for a sustained period, or when you already feel physically ill, you should absolutely call a doctor. But if you think your symptoms might be due to fear or anxiety, there are strategies you can use to breathe through it.

“The piece that gets people going in a classic panic attack is often that they feel as though they can’t breathe,” says Sheila Addison, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Oakland, California. This is usually because you’re taking very fast, shallow breaths, which minimizes your oxygen intake and causes your muscles to tense up.

Often, Addison explains, focusing on making your breathing more structured—lying down and counting through a pattern such as square breathing, where you count to four while inhaling, pause for a count of four, exhale on a count of four, and pause for another count of four before starting again—can help steady the body and get oxygen flowing normally again. Once you no longer feel starved for air, your body should stop tensing up. Your panic probably won’t disappear in an instant, but it will dissipate.

If you already know you have anxiety, don’t forget to keep doing what works

When it comes to people who have already been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder before, Addison says, the first line of defense is simple: Stick to your usual coping mechanisms.

“Sometimes when a stressor like this comes up and routines get disrupted, people inexplicably stop doing the things that work for them,” Addison says.

If you know exercise helps lower your anxiety, keep exercising—go for walks or runs outside as much as you’re able, or take up yoga at home. If you’re already prescribed medication, keep taking it (and be diligent about getting refills if at all possible). If journaling has been an important tool in managing your stress, don’t stop making your entries. This might sound like common sense, but if your anxiety has been spiking lately, stop and take inventory of your usual strategies and routines. Have some of them fallen by the wayside? There’s no shame in that—it’s a scary time, and doing your morning yoga might feel silly or self-indulgent—but it’s time to get back to your best habits. The CDC recommends eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and disengaging from the news occasionally to give your brain a break.

If you’re experiencing anxiety for the first time, here are things you can try at home

Meditation is a great thing to try if you need to destress, and there are apps to help you get into a meditation practice if you’re new to the idea. But Addison points out that it doesn’t work for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel bad if it doesn’t work for you.

“I don’t meditate,” she says. “I’ve found that trying to do it just stresses me out.”

Still, she says, the broader concept of mindfulness has been very helpful to her and her clients. She recommends reading the works of Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist nun, for help grappling with dark times.

“I’m not a Buddhist myself, but a lot of her work really resonates, especially now,” Addison says. “She talks a lot about how we like things to be certain, we like to have control, and we like to have choices.” When we’re in a situation with lots of rapidly-changing circumstances and looming unknowns, Addison says, our first instinct is to resist that reality as much as possible. In doing so, Chödrön argues, we only add to our own anguish.

“I may not be able to do much about the suffering of canceled plans or missing my family or worrying about someone I love,” Addison says, “but I can do something about the suffering caused by the stories I tell myself about the situation—worrying it will always be like this, or thinking about how unfair it is and how much I hate it.”

But how can we change those stories we tell ourselves? A lot of this comes down to internal dialogue; investigate the way you’re thinking about your current situation and ask yourself what parts of that you might be able to change. Addison thinks a recent resource published by Russ Harris, a psychotherapist and author of The Happiness Trap, is a good place to begin:

FACE COVID is a series of steps for dealing with fear and anxiety in the time of COVID-19. Start by focusing on what’s in your control. The economy, for example, is not in your control. But you can decide you’d like to write out a new budget that takes some of the uncontrollable financial pitfalls you’re worried about into account.

Acknowledge what you’re feeling: Very matter-of-factly recognizing that you’re experiencing anxiety or grief has the dual benefit of encouraging you to be kind to yourself and discouraging your mind from running away with those feelings. Grief is a valid feeling, but it doesn’t have to consume your whole day. Recognize that it’s there, but also that it isn’t you.

Come back into your body. Meditation might not be for you, but taking deep breaths and grounding yourself—or even using one of the breathing patterns mentioned earlier in this article—can help you regain a sense of control of yourself.

Engage in what you’re doing. Smith recommends thinking about three or four things you can see from your current position, or taking note of the smells and tastes you’re experiencing, as a way of refocusing before you move from thinking about your anxiety to honing in on whatever task you have at hand.

The COVID part of the acronym deals with moving forward from the moment of acute anxiety: Committed action is about picking things to do that align with your values and will make good use of your time. You might text a friend who you know is self-isolating, donate protective gear to a local hospital, deliver groceries for an immunocompromised neighbor, or commit to accomplishing some long-put-off task while you’re stuck at home.

Opening up is about continuing to engage with your own feelings, and being as compassionate and patient with yourself about them as you would be with a loved one who came to you for advice. “Values” is a reminder to think about what is important to you and what you would like to contribute to the world during this crisis—sharing kind words and offering emotional support to others. Identify resources by figuring out who you can and should reach out to when you’re in crisis and finding reliable sources of information to keep your anxiety in check. Finally, Smith throws in a “Disinfect and Distance” instruction to remind us all of why we’re cooped up at home alone: To protect ourselves and our communities.

Don’t forget that reaching out to friends and family is still quite possible, thanks to technology—and that some of them may be feeling just as anxious as you are. Sharing love and resources can help both of you feel more calm.

“We’re finding some fantastic ways of staying in touch thanks to technology,” Addison says. “It’s so cliche to blame tech for separating people, but I’m blown away by all the ways people are finding to connect.”

Written by Rachel Feltman for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

How to stop touching your face

Right before the COVID-19 shut downs started, my son and I went into Washington, DC on March 10th to speak to our congressional representatives about World Wildlife Fund and the importance of protecting nature. The coronavirus weighed heavily on my mind and I admit to being all over my son about touching his face. I spent the day constantly swatting his hand away from his face, and dousing his hands (and mine) with hand sanitizer. Here are some helpful tips for you and your family!

Public health officials consistently promote hand-washing as a way for people to protect themselves from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

However, this virus can live on metal and plastic for days, so simply adjusting your eyeglasses with unwashed hands may be enough to infect yourself. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have been telling people to stop touching their faces.

We are experts in psychological science and public health. Brian Labus is an expert in communicable diseases who knows what people should do to avoid becoming infected. Stephen Benning is a clinical psychologist who helps clients change their habits and manage stress in healthy ways. Kimberly Barchard is an expert in research methods who wanted to know what the research says about face-touching. Together, we used our clinical expertise and the research literature to identify the best practices to reduce face-touching and lower people’s chances of catching COVID-19.

People touch their faces frequently. They wipe their eyes, scratch their noses, bite their nails and twirl their mustaches. People touch their faces more when they are anxious, embarrassed, or stressed, but also when they aren’t feeling anything at all. It's been estimated that students, office workers, medical personnel, and people on trains touch their faces between nine and 23 times per hour, on average.

Why is it so hard to stop? Face-touching rewards us by relieving momentary discomforts like itches and muscle tension. These discomforts usually pass within a minute, but face-touching provides immediate relief that eventually makes it a habitual response that resists change.

Change habitual behaviors

Habit reversal training is a well-established behavior modification technique that helps people stop a variety of seemingly automatic behaviors, such as nervous tics, nail-biting, and stuttering. It trains people to notice the discomfort that prompts their habits, select another behavior to use until the discomfort passes, and change their surroundings to lessen their discomfort.

You may have already changed some of your other habits—for example, by coughing into your elbow instead of your hands, or greeting others with a bow or wave instead of a handshake. But unlike coughing and hand-shaking, people frequently touch their faces without being aware of doing so. The first step in reducing face-touching is becoming aware of it.

Each time you touch your face, notice how you touched your face, the urge or sensation that preceded it and the situation you were in—what you were doing, where you were physically or what you were feeling emotionally. If you usually don’t notice when you touch your face, you can ask someone else to point it out.

Self-monitoring is more effective when people create a physical record. You can create a log where you briefly describe each instance of face-touching. For example, log entries might say:

  • Scratched nose with finger, felt itch, while at my desk
  • Fiddled with eyeglasses, hands tingled, frustrated
  • Rested chin on palm, neck sore, while reading
  • Bit fingernail, nail caught on pants, watching TV

Self-monitoring is more effective if people share their outcomes publicly, so consider sharing your results with friends or post it on social media.

Create new responses

Now that you are aware of the behavior you want to change, you can replace it with a competing response that opposes the muscle movements needed to touch your face. When you feel the urge to touch your face, you can clench your fists, sit on your hands, press your palms onto the tops of your thighs, or stretch your arms straight down at your sides.

This competing response should be inconspicuous and use a position that can be held for at least a minute. Use the competing response for as long as the urge to touch your face persists.

Some sources recommend object manipulation, in which you occupy your hands with something else. You can rub your fingertips, fiddle with a pen or squeeze a stress ball. The activity shouldn’t involve touching any part of your head. For tough-to-break habits, object manipulation isn't as effective as competing responses, perhaps because people tend to play with objects when bored, but touch their faces and hair when anxious.

Manage your triggers

Changing your environment can reduce your urges to touch your face and your need to use alternative responses. Use your log to figure out what situations or emotions are associated with your face-touching. For example:

  • If your glasses keep slipping off your nose, you can use ear hooks or hair ties to prevent slippage.
  • If you bite your nails, you can use a file to keep your nails short, or wear gloves or fingertip bandages, so that nail-biting is impossible.
  • If allergies make your eyes or skin itch or make your nose run, you can limit your exposure to allergens or take antihistamines.
  • If you get food stuck between your teeth, you can brush your teeth after each meal.
  • If your hair gets in your eyes and mouth, you can use an elastic, scarf or hair product to keep it back.

Face it, you may not be able to stop

Most people cannot entirely eliminate unwanted habits, but they can reduce them and just reducing face-touching lessens the opportunities for viruses to enter your system.

Sometimes you need to touch your face: flossing your teeth, putting in contact lenses, wiping food off your lips, putting on makeup or shaving your jaw. Remember to wash your hands first. To adjust your glasses without first washing your hands, use a tissue and throw it out immediately after use. Avoid finger food and using unwashed hands to put food into your mouth. Wash your hands first, or use utensils or the wrapper to handle the food.

Other ways you can reduce the spread of infectious diseases include practicing social spacing, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or hand santizer, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly. When your hands touch contaminated surfaces, though, the suggestions above may help you avoid touching your face before you wash them again.

Written by Labus for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

A Guide to Safe Outdoor Activities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

With officials urging us to limit unnecessary travel, many of us might be starting to feel a bit stir crazy. Being outside and in nature is important for dealing with stress and anxiety—the exact emotions in overdrive right now. But is it possible to safely head outdoors without putting your and others’ health at risk?

The short answer is yes—we can technically walk, run, and bike alone or with our immediate household without violating social distancing rules. But there’s more to consider before opening the door.

Adhere to official guidelines

Before you lace up your shoes, check what local health officials are saying for your area. “It's really important that people understand the situation that they're in,” says Lisa Miller, epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Understand your own locality and the public health recommendations or public health orders that are in place and abide by those first and foremost.”

In some locations with more cases of the virus, access to beaches, parks, and trails is being restricted. Restrictions can be very localized—while the California Coronavirus Response website says that you can still hike and run outside, individual cities and counties in the state are closing outdoor areas that proved to be too crowded to maintain safe distances. Also, while national park fees have been waived, many are individually cutting back on camping and visitor services, or closing altogether.

For some activities, you may be able to find guidance from local sport-specific organizations. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local rock climbing association has told climbers to stay away from outdoor cliffs, as there are simply too many rock climbers in the area to maintain a safe distance.

If we’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that the guidelines for best practices can change from day-to-day. So stay informed. “If that means you really need to stick to indoor exercise, then stick to indoor exercise,” adds Miller. “If it's still allowed to be outside and exercising, that's great, but really maintain that six-foot distance from people and don't engage in activities that are going to bring you into contact with other people.”

Safe activities: minimize contact, shared surfaces with others

In general, running, walking, and biking solo or with your immediate household can be done with minimal risk of catching or spreading the virus. But sports performed in groups and involving physical contact are a no-go. Miller says to remember that the virus can be spread by direct contact or by touching the same objects. When considering an activity, think about how close you’ll be to others and whether you’ll be touching the same things. The more often a ball or other piece of sports equipment is touched by someone other than yourself, the more risk you’re introducing for disease spread. If your go-to sport has too many uncertainties to make a clear call—say, not knowing if it will be possible to maintain distance at a particular trail or park—it’s better to be conservative and don’t go.

If you’ve satisfied all the above precautions and are ready to go, “wash your hands before you go out,” says Grace Roberts, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast. “You don’t know if you’re infected.” Also, bring everything you need—water, snacks, etc.—so that you can minimize having to stop at any stores. Don’t use public restrooms or other shared facilities.

Then, when you’re out, avoid touching surfaces with your hands and keep your hands away from your face. For example, you might use your elbow to hit a crosswalk button. Roberts says that when she’s running, she reserves her left hand for hitting the crosswalk button or any other surfaces, while her right hand is used for adjusting her glasses, or handling water and snacks. Once you get home, immediately wash your hands.

Stay local and spread out

Those experiencing a layoff or the newly-found freedom of remote work may have misinterpreted what it means to self-quarantine. In recent weeks, officials in outdoor tourism hotspots have made calls for travellers to stay home. In a letter, hospital executives in the outdoors-centric Moab, Utah-area expressed concern over the impact of tourism: “As a 17-bed critical access hospital, we have no ICU and minimal capability to care for critical respiratory patients. Additionally, we are now concerned that tourism will drive the spread of SARS-CoV-2.”

Even the best-intentioned travellers will have to make stops for gas and groceries, introducing opportunities for the virus to jump to new locations. Stay close to home to prevent this. Miller says to think about all the steps involved in a particular activity—will you have to stop for food, equipment, or anything else? The more stops, the more you risk contracting and spreading the virus. “You can’t just think about the end goal,” says Miller. “You have to think about all of those other things.”

Even for local trips, plan routes carefully. Think about which locations tend to get crowded, and choose less-busy alternatives. As the nonprofit outdoor organization Leave No Trace puts it: “Absolutely avoid crowded parks, trails and beaches. Social distancing applies in the outdoors just as it does anywhere else.” And, the group adds, be prepared to pack out any trash, since many parks are only providing limited services right now.

Hospitals don’t need more patients—choose low-risk sports

With many areas concerned about hospital capacity, now is not the time to take any risks. Tommy Caldwell, a professional rock climber, told his Instagram followers last week that he wouldn’t be climbing outside during the health crisis: “Soon taking up space in a hospital bed will amount to a death sentence for someone else."

With ski resorts closed, the Colorado Sun reports that more Coloradans are taking to the backcountry to ski, facing increased risks. Especially if that new crowd includes skiers without essential gear and training, it could place an additional burden on emergency services and hospitals. And, of course, denser crowds means it’s harder to maintain six feet of space.

This advice even goes for city-bound activities, like road cycling. Roberts says that cyclists should think about which routes put them in close contact with motorists. If you’re planning bike rides, you may want to avoid routes where you have to share the roads with cars to reduce the odds of getting in an accident.

“You want to make sure that you are limiting risk and not getting injured because the last thing you want to do is end up in a health care system, especially for communities that may not have a lot of healthcare resources,” says Miller. “Most health care resources right now are really focused on making sure they preserve all the resources they possibly can for COVID-19.”

Written by Ula Chrobak for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Why COVID-19 can’t beat a good hand-washing

Researchers are still working to understand how deadly COVID-19 is and how it spreads. But they know one thing for sure: Washing your hands is the key to minimizing the novel coronavirus’ powers of destruction.

Hand washing really, really works—and not just during outbreaks of new respiratory viruses. It also helps prevent the spread of a wide variety of disease-causing microbes, known as pathogens, from food-borne diseases like E.coli to flesh-eating bugs. And it works to contain the spread of illness whether you’re the one who is sick or you’re trying to avoid catching something in the first place. (It even works better than hand sanitizer, so lay off the Purell unless you’re on the go).

“Hand washing with soap for 20 seconds is one of the single most important practices to protect yourself, your family, and your community,” says Matthew Freeman, a professor of epidemiology and global health at Emory University.

On a purely physical level, hand washing works by actually removing the microbes from your hand thanks to some basic chemistry. Soap is what’s known as a surfactant, which means it breaks down the oils and dirt on your skin; water rinses the broken-down oils and dirt away, carrying microbes along for the ride. “By rubbing your hands together you create the friction to get the oils off,” Freeman says.

Washing your hands with just water can help a bit if the alternative is not washing your hands at all, but it’s way less effective than scrubbing with suds.

But why does this simple practice work so well to prevent the spread of contagious disease? After all, washing your hands regularly (and properly—see here for instructions) might seem like it’s just a first step. Everything around your hands is still covered in potentially pathogenic microbes.

Again, the answer is pretty basic: your hands touch the world, and they also touch you (and your face. Stop touching your face.) If you are sick, washing your hands regularly makes it less likely that you’ll spread pathogens from your hands to the things you touch, where they can be picked up by others. If you’re not sick, you can pick up microbes on your digits and carry them to your mucus membranes, like your eyes, nose, and mouth. (Stop. Touching. Your. Face.)

People have known about the effectiveness of hand washing for hundreds of years, says Freeman—even if they didn’t know why it worked. For instance, many of the world’s religions promote hand washing as a ritual practice. In the 19th century, as Western physicians stumbled toward an understanding of the germ theory of disease, hand washing slowly became an important thing to do in medical settings (though it was initially shockingly controversial). But it took much longer to get hand washing to the general public, says Freeman. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that public health authorities have started working hard to convince people to wash their hands after leaving the house, before eating, and even—eek—after using the bathroom.

Wash your hands, with soap, for about 20 seconds: it’s a simple recipe for good health.

But “possibly because it’s something that people know they should do, it’s very hard to get a sense of how many people actually do it,” he says. Research has shown that, globally, only around 19 percent of people wash their hands after using the bathroom. But there’s not a lot of data out there about how often people wash their hands at other times, and some studies indicate that even supposed-hand-washers don’t regularly subject themselves to the proper 20 to 30 seconds of sudsing.

Right now, you’re probably seeing a lot more hand washing (and a lot more thorough hand washing) than you’re used to. That’s because all of the messaging in the news and elsewhere about COVID-19 reminds people to wash their hands. But you should really be doing it all the time.

“Changing practices and habits are really hard,” Freeman says. Consider creating what Freeman calls a “cue to action” that encourages hand washing at key times, such as when you enter your house from the outside world. It could be as simple as placing a note where you hang up your keys. Freeman and his wife (who also studied hand washing practices) placed a sticker on the back of their first child’s highchair to remind them to wash her hands before they all sat down to dinner.

This outbreak is likely to change your hygiene habits for the better, and there’s no reason not to change them permanently. “Wash your hands like you’ve been chopping jalapeños and you need to change your contacts,” one Canadian health official said recently. Wash early, wash often, and wash well. And don’t touch your face. Seriously.

Written by Kat Eschner for Popular Science and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Is it Safe for Babies to Chew on Keys? No, Keys are Dangerous for Babies – Guest Post from The Modern Mindful Mom

An alternative for babies who love keys

Is it safe for my baby to chew on keys? Is it safe for my baby to play with keys?

No and No.

But what about my toddler? They don’t put things in their mouth. So that’s harmless, right?

Wrong.

Children (of any age) should not be playing with or handling keys. It goes beyond the dirt and grime that is found on most keys, though that may be reason enough not to let your child play with them. If you’re like me, your keys often end up at the bottom of your bag, which definitely isn’t the cleanest place in the world!

The bigger reason why you should not let your child play with your keys, especially babies who put things in their mouth, is because of lead.

Yes, lead.

DANGERS OF LEAD EXPOSURE FOR CHILDREN

According to the EPA, “lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead”. Even low levels of lead in children can result in a slew of problems including:

  • lower IQ, 
  • hyperactivity, 
  • slowed growth,
  • anemia,
  • hearing problems, and 
  • behavior problems

“In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.”

REGULATION RELATED TO LEAD

The law does limit the amount of lead that can be present in children’s toys to 90 parts per million. 

However, keys are not considered toys. There are currently no regulations on the amount of lead that can be found in keys (or most other products meant for adults, for that matter). 

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY KEYS HAVE LEAD? 

It’s better to err on the side of caution and just assume that one or more of your keys is leaded. 

There is a special machine that tests lead levels in products (XFR), but unless you buy one (they’re tens of thousands of dollars, by the way!), rent one, or hire someone who has one, you won’t know for sure how much lead is in your keys.

One such person you can hire is Tamara Rubin, an internationally recognized, award winning lead-poisoning prevention advocate. 

As part of her advocacy work, she tests tons of products for lead and shares the results on her site. You can see the results of the various keys Tamara Rubin has tested for lead here. Spoiler alert: they all have shockingly high levels of lead. 

Promise me you’ll never let your child play with or chew on your keys ever again!

ALTERNATIVES FOR BABIES WHO LOVE KEYS

It’s understandable why our keys are so appealing for babies and young children. Among other reason, keys are:

  • shiny
  • fun to manipulate
  • jingle when you shake them
  • cool to the touch, so feel great on the gums when teething

They are often given to babies by unsuspecting parents because they are so readily available. In the grocery store? At a restaurant? You always have your keys on you so it’s an easy trap to fall into if you didn’t know any better.  But now you know better. Keys are not safe for babies.

If your baby loves keys, I highly recommend toy keys from a company called Kleynimals. They are the perfect replacement for real keys. They provide all the same features that babies and young children are drawn to in real keys, but these are safe

Kleynimals are made (in America!) with 100% food-grade stainless steel. They also come with a muslin pouch so you can toss them in your bag without them getting dirty.

I bought these for my 8 month old when I was looking to offer my baby a variety of textures and materials to teeth on. She loves chewing on her Kleynimals and I love that they are safe and non-toxic. Not to mention, they are super cute! The ‘keys’ are shaped like a lion, giraffe, and elephant!

For more articles on non-toxic toys, check out: The Modern Mindful Mom

Kleynimals and Baby Development – Guest Post from Dr. Patricia Bast

Tummy Time with Jangles

As parents something we always wonder and question is whether our baby is developing at a healthy rate. Here is a little glimpse at what to expect over the first 3 years. The Kleynimals toys are wonderful to encourage these developmental milestones. For example, the large ring of the Rattle is perfect for tiny hands to grasp, the Keys soothe sore teething gums while stimulating imaginations, and the Jangles keep busy little fingers occupied! 

Starting at 4 months old your baby may reach for toys with one hand, batting at hanging toys, and shaking toys with their hands. This is the beginning of using their hands and eyes together. This is also the stage where many babies will start bringing hands to their mouth and following items from side to side. This is the perfect time to introduce the Kleynimals rattle, with a large ring it is easy for tiny hands to grasp and explore.

At 6 months old your baby will start to focus on nearby objects and is now capable of bringing objects to their mouth. Baby may also reach for objects that are just out of reach and will begin to pass toys from one hand to the other. This is when I find my babies start to love their keys, the cold metal is soothing on the gums while the sound they make is beautiful. Learning they can make noise when they shake an object is huge for their development. 

By 9 months old babies develop preference for favorite toys, point to what they want, and may even look for things you hide. They can also now smoothly transfer toys from one hand to the other. All of the Kleynimals toys are perfect for hide and go seek. Shake the toy to draw baby’s attention and place it under a small lovey, baby will love peeking under the blanket to find their beloved toys.

Next, at 12 months old, babies will find hidden objects. In addition to placing objects into containers and taking them back out, this is also when babies love to bang objects together. With their increased awareness, babies love placing their toys into small baskets and dumping them out repeatedly. Another favorite activity is clapping hands together with bangles on their wrist. The musical nature of stainless steel captivates their attention while the cold texture stimulates their attention. 

At 18 months pretend play comes to life. This is such a fun time and the perfect opportunity to introduce the Kleynimals keys as keys. Model them for starting a toy car or opening a door, place them into a purse or backpack, the possibilities are endless. 

At 24 months your toddler will be able to find objects hidden under 2-3 covers, and begins to sort shapes and colors. Simple make-believe games are popular. Hand dominance may be apparent. The Kleynimals toys make the perfect objects for hide-and-go-seek.

Finally, at 36 months old your toddler can work with toys, buttons, and moving parts. They may also play make-believe with dolls, animals, and people. I find this is when jangles are the most enjoyed. The small beads and interlocking rings are perfect to keep fidgety little fingers busy. 

If you are looking for more than toys Kleynimals also makes the most beautiful stainless steel utensils, I highly recommend them!

Consumer Product Safety Commission Testimony | Kirsten Chapman

Date of Testimony: February 16, 2011—

Thank you for allowing me to present to you today.  I am a mother of two young boys and a recent entrepreneur.  I have been working on a toy product for two years and just recently launched my toy for sales on December 1st 2010.  The toy is a set of keys for babies six months and up that are made entirely of food grade stainless steel (stainless 304).  

I want to give a little background on my motivation to create this toy prior to talking through the logistics of testing.  Over the past six years, really since the birth of my first son, I have become more and more aware of the various toxins in our environment that I truly believe are leading to increased rates of illness in our population – whether that be developmental delays, autism or cancer.  My evolution started with food, and then moved to cleaning supplies, skin/hair care products and eventually toys and consumer goods. I am not a scientist, so I am not here to present the facts behind how the various chemicals impact us, however, I am sure many of you have heard of the numerous studies – most recently about BPA and lead. I have become an incredibly skeptical consumer as a result, even if I don’t always have a study that proves my suspicions. What I know is that I have a friend who told me that in one week recently she learned of 6 people between the ages of newborn to mid 30’s who were diagnosed with cancer.  I hear stories like this all too often and I think that we should all be alarmed enough to insist on changes.

The reality is that most kids put toys in their mouths.  I was not as sensitive to this with my first son, who absolutely loved Thomas the train, but fortunately did not put them in his mouth.  When many of the Thomas products were recalled because of lead in the paint, I sent all of the affected ones back to the company. But, I did not worry too much from a personal standpoint because my eldest did not put toys in his mouth.  However, my second son has been a totally different story because he puts everything in his mouth. Therefore, as a consumer I find myself seeking toys that are from European companies because of the more stringent restrictions on toxic chemicals in their products (for instance, >90 PPM  of lead in a solubility test). So, while I am particular about what I purchase for my kids, they also have generous grandparents who don’t specifically seek out European restrictions. In fact, they more often purchase items from discount stores that come from China and that make me cringe when I see my youngest chomping on them.  

Thus, when the idea struck me that the market needed a better toy key alternative, I was committed to designing something that was absolutely safe for all kids, because in the end, it’s not just a personal thing – it’s not just my child that matters.  It’s also not just about making money. It’s about providing a product that hopefully is a winning business model, but that ultimately is safe for the individual kids enjoying it. It’s a product that does not lead a parent to cringe when their child inevitably puts it in his mouth.

So, how did I get from that idea for a toy and commitment to safety to actually launching my product?  I was lucky in that I knew I could make the product out of a safe material – something that we eat off of and cook with every day – food grade stainless steel.  Honestly, the material itself was the motivating factor behind my idea. When it came to the logistics of getting the toy to market, beyond the obvious cost of manufacturing, the other costs I had to consider were testing the product for compliance and liability insurance.  I never considered not testing, for that would have been a risk to my company for lawsuits and recalls. And back to individual children – it also would have meant risking their safety. I also never considered not doing the lead testing because I wanted to be able to assure parents that I was offering a completely safe product.  From a consumer perspective, I know I want the assurances (again, back to my desire for European standards). When it came down to the expense of it all, the liability insurance was what nearly led me to give up on my dream of producing the keys. It was not the testing. Liability insurance for someone like me was over $8000. Testing, including additional testing for cadmium, lead and nickel, was still less than $1000, and of note, I was not required to test for any of these contaminants because I used stainless steel 304, but I wanted to go above and beyond the requirements.

Realistically, had the test results come back and were shown to have lead in the toy, I would have been rather devastated.  However, I made it clear in my purchase order with the manufacturer that I wanted material certifications for the stainless steel, and specifically that it could not contain lead. This was not difficult to request, and it seems to me that all manufacturers could require material certification prior to purchasing the material used for the components of their toys.  

If Europe is holding companies accountable to safeguard their citizens by having more stringent restrictions, what makes it so difficult to do here?  Back to my story about Thomas the Train since that is the one that affected my family (and this is not to single them out, because I know it has happened to many companies, god forbid it happens to mine)…But, would that company not have saved money by finding out before manufacturing their product what was in the paint?  Could we not take steps to ensure that components are safe before they are made into the final product? Ultimately, I have to believe that the cost of a recall – both from the practical expense of performing the recall, but also because of the detriment to the brand – has to cost more than ensuring components are safe from the beginning.  And frankly, if it is a question of a company using a manufacturer who has misled them, a contract stipulating exactly what is expected as far as material should be part of the negotiations from the beginning. If the product does not meet the specified safety expectations, that contract should denote that the manufacturer needs to take the financial risk so that they are held accountable.

Why is it that we cannot offer the citizens of the US the same kind of safety protections as are afforded European citizens? I truly believe that a responsible company is one who is honest about the end result of their product on the individual – whether that be a direct impact through chemicals in the product or an indirect impact through deleterious effects on our environment (for example, water and air quality). In the end, what costs us more as a country is treating illnesses caused by the harmful effects of known toxins like lead, especially in the most vulnerable little bodies that are even more susceptible because of their small size.  In the end, don’t we all want our loved ones to be safe… and isn’t everyone someone’s loved one?