ORGANICS WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY
Every once in a while, my husband will float the idea that we switch from organic milk to regular milk because the organic is so much more expensive. But I always put the kibosh on that notion. My son drinks so much milk that my brother-in-law once suggested that when we come to visit for the weekend we bring our own cow. I want all that milk going into him to be as natural as possible.
Milk shows up repeatedly on lists of products parents should splurge for if they can't afford to buy everything organic for their kids. It's on one put out recently by AARP The Magazine. Here's are the 10 foods they say you should spend more on to avoid pesticides and hormones: apples, salmon, milk, ground beef, canned tomatoes, chicken, celery, supermarket sushi, peaches, and locally grown items.
-- BETH WHITEHOUSE
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HAVING A DOG
I can't remember how often Harrison got sick when he was a baby, but I can remember the day when pink blotches broke out all over his face.
He was 7 months old, and we were touring a home we were interested in buying. A dog lived in the house, it turned out. An allergy test would soon confirm that Harrison is allergic not only to dogs but cats, too.
That moment came to the front of my mind when I read about a new Finnish study in the journal Pediatrics that found children who have been exposed to dogs have fewer respiratory tract infections the first year of their lives. The idea is that dogs might help children build up better immune systems. Those children who lived with dogs didn't need antibiotics as often as others in the study and had fewer ear infections, coughing, rhinitis, wheezing and fevers.
"Cat ownership seemed to also have an overall protective effect, although weaker than dog ownership," according to the article.
The biggest benefit seemed to be for infants in the same household with dogs that lived outside part of the time. "A possible explanation for this interesting finding might be that the amount of dirt brought inside the home by dogs could be higher," the scientists found, suggesting further study.
-- VALERIE KELLOGG
ELMO READING APP STANDS OUT
There are many apps that cater to toddlers, but I haven't found one that captured my daughter's attention quite like Elmo's Big Birthday Bash! -- A Step Into Reading ($3.99 from iTunes), a joint effort from Sesame Workshop and Random House Children's Books.
While this iPad app is geared more toward preschoolers, my 15-month-old was completely engaged. There are three ways to read: record your voice, read-along or auto-play (which is narrated by Bob McGrath -- Bob from "Sesame Street"). I chose to record my voice, so it's like I'm reading to her, even when I'm working.
There are other interactive aspects we loved as well. For instance, you can simply tap any word to hear its definition, and you can tap on the toaster so a piece of bread flies up.
-- JENNIFER BERGER