Monday, March 31, 2008

Going Home, Part 3

This part of Going Home is devoted to saying thank you. Specifically saying thank you to the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other staff that took care of your baby during his/her stay in the NICU. Many parents have struggled with how to say thank you to the people who have done so much for their baby and their family.

The important thing to remember is to say "thank you." I know this sounds easy but sometimes in the excitement of the moment and the anticipation of bringing their baby home, parents can forget those two important words. Be sincere and let everyone know how much you appreciate what they did for your baby. Taking the time to say thank you will mean a lot to everyone in the NICU.

Sometimes people want to give or do something for the NICU staff as a way to say thank you. Here are some ideas and suggestions to get you started:

1) Write personal notes to each doctor, nurse, RT, etc. that really went the extra mile for your baby and your family. Let them know how much they helped you.
2) Bake goodies for the NICU staff - this always goes over big because seriously, who doesn't want to have a brownie or cookie every once in awhile? Tip: Make a separate batch and divide them up for each shift so that everyone gets to have some.
3) Gift cards - this is a great idea if you have a select group of people that you want to give a gift to (i.e. primary nurses, doctors, etc). Choose a place that either you know they personally like or a common store/restaurant that most people enjoy such as Starbucks, Target, etc.
4) Personalized travel mug - Buy a travel mug with a paper insert that can be removed. Print out pictures of your baby (it's even better if you have a picture of the recipient holding your baby) and then glue it to some nice patterned paper and slip it into the insert holder on the mug.
5) Bath products - Hospital staff have to wash their hands a lot so giving some nice lotion or body scrub would be very appreciated - by them and their hands!
6) Personalized memento that means something to you and/or them - when our son went home we gave soap and lotion to the women in the NICU but for the men we made personalized hockey pucks (we are big hockey fans) that had our son's picture on it. One of the doctors still has it on his desk four years later!

Once your baby goes home, try and stop by the NICU for an occasional visit. The staff love to see how the babies are doing once they have gone home. It's also another great opportunity to show them how much you appreciate what they have done. When you visit, bring an updated picture of your little one along so they can hang it in the break room for all the staff to see. On our daughter's first birthday we brought in brownies and a thank you note that had a picture from her first day and a birthday picture. It was a great way to show how far she had come.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Favorite Product Friday #4

This week my favorite product is baby carriers/slings. Whether your a fan of baby carriers like Baby Bjorn or Slings like the Boppy Carry in Comfort , they can be one of the most useful products both inside and outside the house.

All babies like to be close to their mom in the beginning and this can be especially true for preemies. Not only that, parents miss out on bonding time while their baby is in the NICU so they want to spend extra time holding their baby once they are at home. A baby carrier/sling can allow you to keep your baby close but still get other things done like cleaning, typing, talking on the phone, etc. With my son I was working from home and the baby carrier allowed me to check email and talk on the phone while he snoozed away inside.

Preemies are especially susceptible to germs so going out in public places can always be a "danger zone" because people love babies and they love to touch babies. If you keep your baby in a carrier or sling, they are less likely to touch your baby because your baby is close to you. When using a sling, keep your baby facing you so that if a stranger does his/her face.

I've personally always used the Baby Bjorn however I know that people have had success with almost every carrier or sling out there. If you don't already have one, the Babies R Us website offers a variety of options to get you started.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

100 Ways To Praise A Child

I received this great list "100 Ways To Praise A Child" from my son's developmental therapist a few years ago. I'm not sure who created it. Some of the praises are a bit outdated (in wording) but the sentiment remains the same - praise your child and let them know how special they are to you. This is a concept that is important for all children but can be especially helpful for a preemie. Preemies are asked to do a lot of things that can be difficult and challenging for them and making sure they know that you think they are doing a great job can go a long way towards success. So yeah for praise!!

100 Ways To Praise A Child

  1. Great
  2. Way to go
  3. Outstanding
  4. Wow
  5. Super job
  6. You look stunning
  7. Awesome
  8. Good for you
  9. Right on
  10. Excellent
  11. I knew you could do it
  12. Impressive job
  13. Well done
  14. Remarkable
  15. Neat
  16. I'm proud of you
  17. You made my day
  18. Fantastic
  19. Nice work
  20. Looking good
  21. It's great to know you
  22. Now you've got it
  23. Bravo
  24. Wonderful
  25. Far out
  26. You're a real trooper
  27. You're important
  28. What do you think?
  29. You're a winner
  30. Nothing can stop you now
  31. You're incredible
  32. You're catching on
  33. Hot dog, you did it
  34. Bingo
  35. Hooray for you
  36. You're on target
  37. You're on your way
  38. How smart of you
  39. What a big help you are
  40. You light up my life
  41. That's incredible
  42. Dynamite
  43. Remarkable work
  44. You're beautiful
  45. You're unique
  46. Nothing can stop you now
  47. I like you
  48. Spectacular job
  49. You're precious
  50. Good discovery
  51. You figured it out
  52. Hip, hip hooray
  53. Three cheers for you
  54. Magnificent
  55. Super work
  56. Creative job
  57. Good thinking
  58. Exceptional performance
  59. You're exciting
  60. What an imagination
  61. What a good listener
  62. You're fun to be with
  63. You tried your best
  64. You're growing up
  65. I care
  66. You're a good friend
  67. I trust you
  68. You're important
  69. You'll go far
  70. You make me smile
  71. You mean a lot to me
  72. You make me happy
  73. You belong
  74. You brighten my day
  75. I respect you
  76. You mean the world to me
  77. You're a joy
  78. You're a treasure
  79. You're wonderful
  80. Awesome
  81. You're a.o.k.
  82. I love you
  83. A big hug
  84. You're so enthusiastic
  85. There's nobody like you
  86. You're sweeter than candy
  87. Cool
  88. Keep up the good work
  89. You shine
  90. What radiance
  91. I admire you
  92. How lovely you look
  93. A+ job
  94. Artistic
  95. Brilliant idea
  96. You've got spirit
  97. All right, that's the way
  98. It wouldn't be fun without you
  99. Thanks for your help
  100. Get down to eye level and smile

Monday, March 24, 2008

Going Home, Part 2

As your baby's discharge/going home date gets closer, you will want to make sure that you know how to take care of your baby. The NICU staff is there to help you so take advantage of them while you can. They will have specific things they want to make sure you know how to do and will often start teaching you as soon as possible. I've included a list of basic care items that you will want to know as well as things you can do to ensure that you are going home loaded with as much experience and knowledge as you can.

Before your baby goes home, at a basic level the NICU staff will want to make sure that you know how to do the following:

1) Give your baby a bath. Depending on how long your baby is there, you will probably have already given your baby a bath during his/her NICU stay. They usually like to see you do it at least twice to make sure your comfortable and that your baby is safely handled during the process.
2) Take care of his/her umbilical cord - this will only apply if your baby is in the NICU a short time. Both of my kids were in the NICU for a long time so I never had to worry about this.
3) Feed your baby. The nurses will want to make sure that you are comfortable and familiar with your baby. They want to make sure you know to breastfeed properly and/or give a bottle correctly. You should get a lot of practice while your there and don't be afraid to ask questions. If your baby is coming home with an NG or G-tube than you will be trained in other feeding aspects as well.
4) Give your baby medicine. If your baby has to take any medicine, the NICU will make sure you have the right prescription(s) filled, know how to draw up the medicine, get rid of air bubbles, and give the medicine. Make sure you know what your baby’s medicine schedule is and if there are any side effects or issues to watch out for.
5) Take a temperature. One of the first things that you get to do as a parent is take your baby's temperature under his/her arm. Beyond giving you a chance to take care of your baby, the nurses want to make sure you can do this at home too.
6) Use a bulb syringe. This can be an important tool for you - I have to use it on my daughter almost daily. Even though kids usually don’t like the bulb syringe and they can be hard to use, they really do work. If you have never used one, ask the nurse to show you how.

Overnight stay
Many hospitals offer parents the opportunity to stay at the hospital overnight and take care of their baby by themselves. If your hospital offers this program and you can do it - take advantage of it! Sometimes you don't realize that you have a question or that you don't know how to do something until you are faced with the issue. If you aren’t able to stay overnight, another good option is to come in for a whole day and take charge of your baby’s feedings, diaper changes, etc. We had to do this with our daughter and it was a valuable learning experience.

Follow-up appointments
Before your baby is discharged from the NICU, the staff will let you know what follow-up appointments your baby needs to have and when they should occur. Some hospitals will even schedule these appointments for you. At the very least you should see your pediatrician 2-3 days after you come home so that he/she can examine your baby and begin taking charge of his/her ongoing medical care. If your baby has other medical needs then you will need to see other doctors as well. Make sure you know who the doctors are, what their specialty is and where their office is located.

If your baby has to come home on oxygen, a nebulizer, apnea monitor, feeding tube or other equipment, make sure you get the equipment ahead of time and are trained on how to use it before your baby comes home. Normally the company that is providing the equipment will send out someone to train you on proper handling and usage. It’s a good idea to have both parents and/or all care providers be trained on the equipment at the same time so that everyone has a basic knowledge of how to use it and how to troubleshoot any problems that may occur.

This is general tip for all parents but an important one if your baby has any breathing/lung issues. I would highly advise that before your baby comes home (or soon after), you watch him/her breathe without any clothes or blankets on for a minute. This will tell you what their “baseline” is so that you will know if they are having trouble breathing or are in repertory distress. We didn’t do this with our daughter and ended up in the ER a few days after she came home because she looked like she was having trouble. Turns out that she normally “pulls in” and breathes fast but we didn’t know that prior to her going home. It’s also a good idea to have the nurse go over basic signs of distress and what to do in those situations.

If your baby is coming home on oxygen, make sure that you are trained on how to use the equipment and what settings your baby needs. Tip: ask the RT to show you how to change the nasal canulla before you go home. The first time I had to do it I realized that I had no idea if the prongs were supposed to be facing up or down. Ask the RT what other information you should know so that you can be prepared. Find out the best ways to tape the nasal canulla to your babies face as well.

Feeding Tubes
The nurses will make sure that you know how to give your baby feedings through the tube. Make sure you ask them any and all of your questions. Try and take part in as many feedings as possible so that you are comfortable with the whole process from start to finish.

Most NICUs have a discharge coordinator who will help you through this process. As I’ve said above, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your best opportunity to get information from the people who have been taking care of your baby.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Favorite Product Friday #3

This week my favorite product is the Tiny Love Wind Chime.

Both of my kids needed extra encouragement to really kick their legs and discover their feet. This product was a huge help. You can hang it from a play gym or the side or a crib. It works (and sounds) just like a wind chime so whenever your baby kicks the chime, they can hear it. My daughter especially loved the sound and really started kicking her feet whenever she heard the chime. The design is also quite cute - I love the little birds. Kids can also enjoy reaching for the chime when it's hung above them. Enjoy watching your kids discover their feet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Going Home, Part 1

As soon as a baby arrives in the NICU, parents are thinking and asking about when their baby will get to go home. Depending on your baby and how well he/she does, this could vary widely. You'll notice that doctors and nurses are usually quite hesitant to put a date or timeline on when a baby will go home because they don't want to raise hopes and they never know what may or may not happen with your baby. This may mean that you don't get a lot of notice for the big day so try and get prepared in advance. Our daughter was in the NICU for 5 1/2 months and we thought she still had a couple of weeks left on the day they told us her discharge was happening soon. There was a lot of scrambling to get everything ready in time.

Each NICU (and each baby) has their own set of guidelines for when a baby will be discharged however here are some of the basic milestones that most babies need to pass:

  • A baby can control his/her own body temperature and keep him/herself warm without the help of an incubator
  • A baby can breathe on his/her own without the help of a respirator or ventilator. Some babies do go home on oxygen. There are limited cases where a baby will go home on a ventilator however that is fairly rare.
  • A baby is growing well on breast milk or formula.
  • A baby's overall medical condition is stable.
  • A baby hasn't had an apnea or brady episode for at least 5 days.

Once a baby is getting close to going home, the nurses will start preparing you with a potential date. This date may change - try not to get to discouraged if they have to push the date out.

As your baby's discharge date gets closer, here are a few things you can do outside of the NICU to be prepared:

  • Complete a course in CPR. Most hospitals and medical groups offer CPR classes so find out where and when you can go.
  • Complete a course on basic baby care. If this is your first baby, it's not a bad idea to take a class on general baby care. Taking a baby home is a big deal and if you feel confident in the basics, it can make the whole process a little bit easier.
  • Pick out your baby's going home outfit. To be on the safe side, you might want to pick out two in case of a spit-up or diaper accident. Pack your diaper bag so that you are prepared.
  • Put the car set in the car. It's best to have a trained professional at a CHP or fire station check your car seat to make sure it is correctly installed. Many hospitals offer a class in car seat safety as well.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Choosing your baby's pediatrician

Finding the right pediatrician for your baby is an important and sometimes daunting task. Especially when your baby is a preemie and could face a lot of issues beyond what normal babies face. Depending on where you live there can be a lot of options and no clear cut way to choose someone that will be right for you and your family. When our son was born, we really had no idea who we were going to choose but thankfully we found someone that has been absolutely perfect for us. Here are some tips, suggestions, and questions to ask when you are finding a pediatrician for your preemie.

1. Recommendations. Finding a doctor that someone recommends is always a good first step. Ask your family and friends if they like their pediatrician. Ask them what they do and do not like about the doctor. Try and ask people who you trust and who have similar parenting approaches so that you get recommendations that might be a good fit for you.

2. Interview them. Finding a doctor is a little bit like going on a first date and doing a job interview at the same time. You need to know what their background is, if their personality is a good match for you, what their office policies are like, etc. A good doctor shouldn't mind being asked questions so make sure you do this first. Here are some good starter questions to ask:

  • Are you comfortable/familiar with a high risk/premature/medically fragile infant? This is a key question. As a parent to a preemie, you want to make sure that your doctor is familiar and up-to-date on the specific issues that preemies face.
  • Is he/she board certified? What other certifications does he/she have?
  • At what local hospitals does the pediatrician have admitting privileges? This is an important question because it can help you determine what hospital to take your baby to if he/she gets sick. If at all possible, you want your doctor to be the one to admit and see your child if he/she is sick. If your doctor can only admit at a hospital that is far away from your house, you may want to consider someone else.
  • How accessible is your doctor during the day? Does he/she take calls and/or messages from patients during the day? How long does it take for the doctor to call you back? Being able to ask a question or leave a message can help save the time and money of an office visit and give you peace of mind if something comes up.
  • How do they work with specialists? Do they have certain specialists that they normally work with? How does that relationship work (sharing information, lab tests, etc.)

3) Check out their office. Beyond the pediatrician, you also want to find out about their office. Is the office in a good location that is convenient for you? Do their hours work for you and your schedule? How quickly can you get an appointment for your baby? Do they have an after hours clinic? Is your pediatrician part of a big practice? How many doctors and nurses are there? Are you able to see your primary doctor when you make an appointment? For a preemie, being able to see the same doctor is extremely important.

Insurance. Make sure that the doctor is in your heath plan network. This can save you a lot of headache and expense down the road.

Ultimately the decision is yours to make. Don't feel pressured to choose one doctor over another just because someone recommends them. Your baby's health and well being is extremely important so you need to make sure that the doctor you choose is going to be best for you and your baby.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Favorite Product Friday #2

This week my favorite product is the Sassy “Me In The Mirror” baby mirror.

All parents hear about the importance of tummy time for their baby. Depending on how your preemie develops, he/she may spend more than the normal amount of time on his/her tummy. With our daughter's lung problems, we have been working on strengthening her arms, chest, etc. on her tummy for what seems like a really long time. In the beginning, my daughter would get bored or cranky after only a short time so it made it difficult to really work on her PT time. Thankfully I found this great mirror that is free-standing so I can put it up anywhere. The free standing part is a lifesaver because I don't have to constantly keep adjusting it so she can see herself like I did with the toys that had mirrors. She loves the mirror and has continued to enjoy playing with it as she has progressed from just watching herself, to reaching out and playing with the various things on the mirror.

Honorable Mention
The Baby Angelbug Kick and Grow Tummy Zone looks like an absolutely great device for babies who are just starting out on tummy time. We haven't used one but it looks like a great purchase. It was created by a physician so it combines a lot of great things into one product including a mirror, bolster to encourage kids to kick and push and support so that babies don't arch their backs. Definitely something to consider if your baby hasn't started rolling over yet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Car Seats

A car seat is one of the most important baby gear items that you will buy for your baby. There are a lot of options out there today with a range of prices and colors. When you have a preemie, you may have to purchase a special car seat that can accommodate a smaller baby. Most standard infant car seats today are made for babies that are 5 pounds to 22 pounds. If your baby is going to go home at less than 5 pounds than you need to buy a car seat that is built for babies that are 4 pounds or more. Even if your baby will weigh 5 pounds at discharge, you may still want to consider buying a smaller car seat because preemies are often still smaller than most babies and need the extra support. On the flip side, if your baby is going home at a regular baby weight than you don’t need to automatically buy a special seat just because they are a preemie. By the time our daughter came home she weighed 8 pounds and she fit just fine into our regular car seat. We did have to purchase a smaller car seat for our son because he came home at 4 ½ pounds.

When you look at car seats, bring a measuring tape. If your baby is small, than you will want to buy one that has a low shoulder harness position that is 8 inches or lower from the seat bottom to the lower harness strap. That usually means that the car seat will need to have at least 3 shoulder harness position options. You also want to make sure that the distance from the crotch strap to the seat back is less than 5 ½ inches so that there is less of a chance that your baby will slump forward.

Here is a list of car seats that accommodate babies that weigh 4 pounds or more:

Britax Companion – from four to 22 pounds
Chicco Keyfit 30 – from four to 30 pounds
Combi Connection – up to 22 pounds (no minimum weight)
Compass – from four to 22 pounds

Modifications – some hospitals will roll blankets to help your baby better fit into the car seat. They may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby to provide support for the head and neck and/or a small rolled blanket between the crotch strap to further reduce the risk of slouching. There are commercially made inserts that can be purchased from medical supply companies.

Car Seat Test – Before your baby leaves the NICU, they will most likely go through a “car seat test.” The nurse will have you bring in your car seat and they will have your baby stay in it for a couple of hours to ensure that they don’t have any breathing issues while sitting in it. This is also a great time to make sure that your baby will fit properly into the car seat that you have purchased.

Monday, March 10, 2008

NICU Transitions

Transitions are often difficult. When we move from one phase to another, we have to learn new rules, procedures, and expectations. This is very true in the NICU. Depending on how early or fragile your baby was when he/she was born, you may go through several transitions while you are in the NICU. Here is a brief overview of some of those transitions and some tips on what to expect.

1) Critical - Babies who are born very small, early or with major medical issues are classified as critical. Especially in the beginning, these babies often have 1:1 care which means one nurse is assigned to only take care of him/her. When doctors do their rounds, they see these patients first. The doctors will usually check on these babies more often throughout the day. During this time, the nurse can easily focus on you when you visit since they are only taking care of your baby. You will most likely feel a heightened sense of urgency as your baby is in an important time that can often determine how well they do down the line. They usually have to do more tests during this time including x-rays, ultrasounds, lab work, etc. Don't be afraid to ask the nurses what tests are being done that day and ask for the results of those tests when you call or visit.

2) Once babies move out of the critical stage but still require a lot of support, they will often have 2:1 care - meaning that one nurse will take care of two babies. Doctors will see your baby after the most critical patients. The nurses are still very focused on your baby however they may have to work with the other baby in their care while you are there.

3) Feeder/Grower - After your baby gets past big hurdles such as ventilation, being able to take regular feedings, etc. they usually move into the stage called "feeder/grower." This is literally the state where babies need to eat and grow bigger so they can go home. Some babies start in this phase and go home from there. During this time your baby may be on 3:1 care - meaning one nurse has three babies. They will often put newer nurses or nurses who are covering from pediatrics with these babies. This may mean that the nurse won't be as familiar with your baby or any special requests that you have. Don't be afraid to let them know if they aren't doing something that is normally done. The good news is that this is usually a phase where the parents get to spend a lot of hands on time with the baby. You can hold your baby more, give them more baths, feed them regularly, etc. This phase is preparing you for when you finally get to take your baby home. The doctors normally round on these babies last so don't be surprised if it is mid-morning or early afternoon before they give orders for the day.

Once your baby is getting closer to going home, it may feel like your baby isn't getting as much focused attention as before. In a way - that is a good thing. The nurses are still making sure that your baby is getting what he/she needs but they are in a much more stable condition and getting ready to go home to you so they don't require the same level of nursing care. I remember one evening when my daughter was in the NICU and had been there for 4 months already. I came in late one night and one of the nurses had her out and was trying to play paddy cake with her. It was great to see her being treated like a "normal" baby and really made me realize how far she had come.

As your baby moves through different phases, try and get an idea of what to expect. How many babies is your nurse assigned too? What new things can I do as a parent? When do the doctors normally come around to see my baby? If you get moved to a new room or floor, find out if there are different rules or locations for things.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Favorite Product Friday

Welcome to a new feature - Favorite Product Friday. Each week I'll be highlighting a product that I have found to be incredibly useful as a parent of a preemie.

This week my favorite product is the Spark by Skip Hop Diaper Bag. This is the Target version of the more expensive Skip Hop Diaper Bag.

I bought this bag a month ago and I am already in love with it. Now, we all know that babies have a lot of stuff. I'm still seriously in awe over the fact that the smaller the person the more stuff you have to bring. Having a preemie sometimes means that the pile of stuff gets even bigger (or at least harder to carry). For my daughter we have to bring her oxygen tank, monitor, diaper bag (with extra feeding tube supplies as well as the usual stuff), medical binder, appointment calendar, stuff for my son, my iPod, phone and keys to every appointment.

Thankfully I have a stroller that fits most of it but the biggest problem I had was the diaper bag. Every time I put it on my shoulder something would fall out or it would slip off my shoulder. I needed something that was big enough to hold everything and had a lot of pockets to keep things separate and easy to find.

The best thing about the Spark bag is the ability to hook it onto the stroller. You just unhook the shoulder strap and then there are extra hooks to put it onto the stroller. This way I don't have to carry it or worry that stuff is falling out. It also means I can keep a hand on my son without worrying about the bag slipping. If you already have a bag you love but want to hook it onto the stroller than try these stroller bag hooks. It also has a ton of pockets in different spots so that I can seperate things and easily find them when I need to.

Do you have a stroller bag you love? Let me know so we can highlight it.

New functionality: Categories

Looking for a specific post? Interested in a particular subject area?

Now it is easier to find information within a certain area or read past posts. I've created a list of categories so that you can read posts that relate to a specific topic. I'll be adding new categories as needed.

Also, check back later today for a new feature called Favorite Product Friday. Every Friday I'll be highlighting products that are favorites of mine - things that make life easier, better or just plain fun.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Specialists in the hospital

Beyond the neonatologist, your baby may be seen by other specialists while he/she is in the NICU. Most NICUs have an occupational therapist, physical therapist, nutritionist, gastroenterologist, optometrist, pulmonologist, and cardiologist that are available to work with babies as needed. These specialists can bring a lot of valuable information and insight to your babies condition and care. Here are some tips for working with these specialists:

1) Ask. Ask your baby's nurse if anyone has or will be seeing your baby that day. If the specialist is coming for a specific issue/problem than the nurse should know. The OT, PT and nutritionist often have regular hours that they are in the NICU so find out if any of them have come to check on your baby. The opthamologist should also have regular times that he/she comes in to do exams. Some of the other specialists may only come in on an as needed basis.

2) Notes. Anytime a specialist comes to see your baby, they will at least make a note in his/her chart. Depending on need, they may also leave a note for you. If you know that someone has been by to see your baby - ask what notes/comments were made. Depending on the specialist, they may make changes to your baby's feeding, routine, etc. Feel free to ask questions about those changes.

3) Talk to them. If you want to speak to the specialist, let the nurse know. They can often help arrange for you to speak to them. It can be extremely helpful to meet with the specialist while they are examining your baby so you can ask questions and get an idea of your baby's status. If the specialist doesn't work directly in the hospital, find out how you can contact them to ask follow-up questions.

4) Follow-up. If your baby is going to need continued care from a specialist outside of the NICU , find out if they are available for follow-up appointments. It is often really helpful to have continuity from the NICU to home.

The specialists are a great addition to the team of doctors who already take care of your baby. Make sure you take advantage of them!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Great Soap Showdown

In January I wrote an entry about ways to get kids to wash their hands more frequently. Since then I've had a few people ask me about some of the soaps mentioned and whether or not they are effective for getting kids to wash their hands. So I thought that we would do a little soap test with me and my four-year-old.

The Contenders:

The Results:

SquidSoap by Airborne
Overall: Conceptually my son was most interested in this soap. He was fascinated with the idea that the little squid on the bottle would "ink" his hand. He wanted to try that one first and has since asked to use that one most of the time. I thought that the design was quite appealing for a kid - almost toy like in nature which is usually a good thing. I also liked the fact that it comes with a removable cap for the ink part of the soap. This helps prevent kids from trying to ink their hands many times and allows you to prevent guests from being surprise inked.

How it worked: My son is still working on the mechanics of putting one hand on the dispenser and one hand underneath to catch the soap so he had a little trouble initially as it is vital for the person washing their hands to put their hand on the ink spot. Since the soap was clear he almost spilled it out of his hand a couple of times. In order to get the spot to go away, you really have to scrub hard. Even after several tries there is still a light spot on your hand but it does go away after time.

Putting the ink on his hands

The ink spot

The remaining ink spot after washing hands for about 20-30 seconds.

Pros: This soap is definitely a great one for kids (especially younger ones) from an interest perspective. It really requires your to scrub hard which is good because most kids just try and lightly rub their hands together while their washing.

Cons: The soap is clear so it's hard to keep it on your hands if you aren't paying attention. The ink spot doesn't disappear completely after hand washing.

Dial Color Clean
Overall: My son had a harder time understanding how this soap worked. I think he was expecting a bigger impact when the beads popped and changed the lather to green. He really liked the smell of this one which was a big plus for him. The little beads in the clear soap made it easier for him to see. I liked this one because it can go in a bathroom without looking like an obvious kid soap.

How it worked: Once the soap is in your hand, you have to really work to pop the beads and have them turn the lather green. The beads are pretty small so you really have to try hard to get them. I think if the green was bigger/brighter than my son might have enjoyed this soap even more.

This is what the soap with the beads looked like.

Pros: This soap really requires you to wash for a longer period of time which is great. It also encourages you to scrub all parts of your hands as the beads move around. The smell is really nice without being overpowering.

Cons: I think little kids have a harder time getting "the point" of this one so they might find it less fun. Older kids might like this one because they can better understand how it works.

Softsoap Foam Works
Overall: We normally use a foam soap for our son because he likes to be able to see where the soap is and instantly have lather on his hands. We bought the berry scented on to see if the smell would make it anymore exciting than his regular soap. The smell was nice but it didn't really affect his choice. He still does well with this soap because he can make his "soap gloves" easily and the soap doesn't slide off his hands as fast.

The lather from the foam soap

How it worked: This soap works like any other soap. Again, the nice thing about the foam is that kids can see it and get instant lather which they usually like.

Pros: The smell. My son did like how it smelled. The foam works great and lasts for a long time so my son was able to get his 15-20 seconds of hand washing in.

Cons: It doesn't come with an exciting concept but otherwise there isn't really anything to take away from this soap.

In the end I think all of the soaps had something to offer. If you're thinking about buying some for your kids, I would take into account how old they are and how likely they are to buy into whichever concept the soap the has.

Have fun and celebrate the clean hands!