Compared to adults, children are basically aliens. They speak in tongues, engage in unimaginable rituals and have an endlessly particular set of needs. Because of this — and perhaps just as commonly, because of parental paranoia about this — all kinds of things are available in child-friendly versions, just in case the regular ones cause them to explode into a mess of radioactive green slime.
To help you figure out which child-friendly things you should have on hand — and which are complete and utter bullshit — I sat down with parenting coach Katherine Saltzberg. Here’s what she suggested…
There are several toiletries Saltzberg recommends having in kid versions, including toothpaste, shampoo and soap. “Most kids hate mint,” she explains, adding that child-friendly toothpaste comes in more candy-like flavors, such as bubble gum. While flavor might seem like a silly reason to invest in a whole new tube of toothpaste, it encourages kids to keep up with their oral hygiene, which goes a long way, especially when a kid loathes brushing their teeth. In fact, according to many Amazon reviews for children’s toothpaste, these fun flavors leave kids wanting to brush their teeth more than ever.
Since kid-friendly toothpastes are otherwise pretty similar to adult versions, I also want to mention that children tend to swallow toothpaste, so always apply no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to their toothbrush. Some parents might choose to use fluoride-free toothpaste in an attempt to avoid this, since fluoride is the real problematic ingredient when swallowed. However, pediatric dentist Jonathan Shenkin previously told me that’s the wrong move. “We want to make sure that parents don’t stop using fluoride toothpaste in an attempt to avoid getting the exposure,” he said. “Avoiding the use of toothpaste with fluoride will significantly increase your children’s risk of tooth decay, and we don’t want that.” Just make sure that your kids don’t use too much toothpaste and spit out any excess. As for floss, the adult versions should get the job done.
Moving on to child-friendly shampoos, Saltzberg simply says, “Most adult shampoos hurt when they get in the eyes.” These child versions contain milder ingredients that prevent the product from stinging. Meanwhile, soap made specifically for children is similar in that it basically contains fewer fragrances that might otherwise irritate their more sensitive skin, which is always a good thing. That said, some “child-friendly” soaps still contain potentially harmful fragrances, so realistically speaking, you could simply purchase fragrance-free or gentle soap for the whole family to use, which would also work just fine.
This one is more of a no-brainer. Per Saltzberg, “You need a child version due to dosage and strength.” This applies to common household medications, like Tylenol and Advil. However, I want to mention that doctors recommend avoiding aspirin altogether when it comes to kids, since it’s been linked to Reye’s syndrome, which causes swelling in the liver and brain. For any other medical needs, always consult a doctor before giving your kid any medications.
Kids menus are mostly bullshit. In fact, according to a 2013 study, a whopping 97 percent of kids menus served by chain restaurants in the U.S. flunked nutrition standards set by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This should be fairly obvious considering the items often found on these menus — e.g., chicken fingers, pizza, hamburgers, etc. Not only are these items straight-up unhealthy, they also promote picky eating, which is something many kids already struggle with. So instead of ordering from the kids menu next time you’re out with the family, consider sharing whatever you’re having with your children or ordering them a half-size entree that better fits their appetite but still has some nutritional value.
Yep, your kids need tiny clothes for their tiny bodies, so you kinda have to buy these. Saltzberg also mentions that, since children — and especially babies — have sensitive skin, opting for particularly soft fabrics and possibly even hypo-allergenic ones is always a good bet.
So there you have it, folks: Thanks for joining me in today’s How to Prevent Your Kids from Exploding into Green Slime 101 class. Good luck out there.