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Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

6 Scientifically Proven Ways To Raise Smarter Kids

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These simple activities can improve your child’s intellectual development.

Setting children up for intellectual success later in life is high on the list of concerns for many parents, but amidst the everyday pressures of parenting, broad goals like “making your child smarter” can feel overwhelming and impractical. Fortunately, encouraging cognitive development doesn’t have to be complicated. Add a few of these proven activities to your child’s routine, and you’ll foster intelligence in manageable, positive ways.

1. Encourage playing outside.

Structured sports are wonderful for children, but making time for unstructured play is just as important, if not more so. Research has proven that unstructured play has an integral role in the development of social intelligence. As schools eliminate recess time, making sure your young ones have time to themselves outdoors is critical. Whether you usher them out the door to build an elaborate sledding hill, play hours of tag with their friends or head to the park for supervised play doesn’t matter; leaving them to set their own boundaries and interact with children their own age facilitates crucial prefrontal cortex development that they’ll draw upon in social situations for the rest of their lives.

2. Let them play video games.

When your kids do come inside, whether on a rainy day or a dark winter evening after school, don’t worry if they race straight to their gaming console. Moderating screen time is important, but as Cheryl Olson, Sc.D., asserts, video games—even those not made to be educational—offer myriad benefits to kids. From problem-solving to creative expression to social interaction with friends, video games challenge children and give them a rare sense of autonomy. After age 10, kids’ interpretations of complex games deepens and expands, but children under 10 aren’t exempt from the benefits of simpler games.

3. Make sleep a family priority.

If you need more motivation to set a sleep schedule and stick to it, let your kids be your inspiration. After the regimented sleep schedules of babyhood and the toddler years, letting bedtimes slacken when your kids reach school age is understandable. However, if those looser sleep schedules turn into patterns of insufficient sleep, your child will suffer, and unfortunately, many already do. Right now, as many as 20 to 25 percent of school-age children don’t get enough sleep.

That lack of rest affects their alertness, their attention spans, and their ability to concentrate in the classroom, which can have long-lasting effects on grades. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids between the ages of 6 and 13 need nine to 11 hours, with older teens functioning best with eight to 10 hours each night. Consider limiting use of electronics before bedtime and creating a new nighttime routine with your child that takes their burgeoning independence and new hobbies into consideration.

4. Try music lessons.

Has your child ever expressed interest in music? If not, you may want to gently encourage it. Researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence of a link between music and literacy. The key, according to researchers, is that kids need to be active participants in music lessons. If children aren’t engaged with and creating music, they miss out on many of its benefits. Try talking to your child about enrolling in their school’s band or orchestra, or consider private lessons if they express interest.

Kids who do embrace making and learning music will gain “neurophysiological distinction” as they decipher differences between specific sounds. This heightened awareness of sounds carries over to improved literacy for many children, which is an indicator of intelligence both in the classroom and on standardized tests they’ll take later on.

5. Emphasize effort and hard work.

Decades of research on motivation and intelligence have led Stanford University’s Carol S. Dweck to conclude that for kids, an emphasis on effort and hard work has long-lasting, positive effects on intelligence. She asserts that praising children for being “gifted” or “talented” connotes an entitlement to success, leaving them lacking the motivation needed when concepts or good grades stop coming easily. Instead, recognizing your children for finding ways to solve problems or for following through on a difficult assignment teaches them that perseverance leads to positive results, and that success rarely comes easily—knowledge that will serve them well as they grow.

With a bit of strategy, you can introduce changes to your child’s routine that promote learning, problem solving, social skills and hard work—without replacing precious free time with flashcards and regimented learning. You’ll probably even find that many of these suggestions bring benefits to your child that go far beyond the classroom. Find an approach that works for you and your child, and remember that IQ is not the only indicator of future success.

—Kelsey Down

This story originally appeared on fairygodboss.com.


Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who has been featured on publications including Elite Daily, VentureBeat and SUCCESS. She’s covered fun stuff like why TV reboots need to stop and how to hack sleep as a workout, and she also writes about personal and family wellness. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.

 

This article was written by Fairygodboss from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Could ‘Emotion Coaching’ Be the Key to Good Parenting?

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Sick of parenting advice? Then read on, because according to experts, this may be the last piece of it you’ll ever need. “Emotion Coaching”—a lifelong process designed to teach children how to manage their difficult feelings—was designed by psychologist Dr. John Gottman. His theory? “The key to good parenting lies in understanding the emotional source of problematic behavior.” Bookmark these five simple steps in advance of your kid’s next meltdown.

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Step 1: Be aware of your child’s emotion

“Show your child respect and understanding in moments when they feel misunderstood, upset, or frustrated,” writes Gottman. Rather than tuning out ’til the storm passes, distracting, bribing or punishing them, roll up your sleeves and get in there. “Talk through their feelings with them and try to understand their source.” Your goal is simple: Empathy. Put yourself in his little shoes to understand what’s motivating his strong emotion.

The next time your son hits his sister, for example, do not lose your cool and immediately send him to his room for a time out. Instead, try saying something like: “I can see that you’re really mad that your sister knocked down your tower. Do you also feel frustrated because you worked on it all morning and now you need to start over? Does that make you feel overwhelmed?” Try offering up your own experience: “Once, when I was working on a big work project, my computer broke and erased it all! I remember I felt so hopeless. But I redid my work, and it came out even better in the end.”

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Step 2: Recognize your child’s expression of emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching

This step is simply about shifting your perspective. Try looking at the-stuff-of-nightmares outbursts (e.g., tantrums on the floor of the cheese aisle) as the definition of “a teachable moment.” Of course they will trigger your own anxiety. But by supporting your child when she’s in crisis-mode, you are—in a funny way—actually controlling the moment. Best of all, you’re creating memories she can later recall to self-soothe, teaching her, ultimately, to work through problems herself.

Step 3: Listen with empathy and validate your child’s feelings

“Rather than asking a child how they feel, observe them—their facial expressions, body language, gestures, and the tone of their voice. If your toddler is crying, she probably doesn’t know why. Asking her won’t help,” explains one of Gottman’s colleagues. Instead of drilling down with questions, offer simple observations (“You seem really upset”) and validation (“My feelings would be hurt if my friend pushed me, too.”). Once your child is calm, collaborate on problem-solving strategies or solutions. (“Would it make you feel better if we all had a talk about taking turns? Or should we try playing with something else?”)

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Step 4: Help your child learn to label their emotions with words

Per Dr. Gottman, finding words to describe a problem “can help children transform an amorphous, scary, uncomfortable feeling into something definable, something that has boundaries and is a normal part of life… [something that] everybody has and everybody can handle.” Naming emotions has even been shown to calm a child’s central nervous system, he writes. Adds UC Berkeley sociologist Dr. Christine Carter of Gottman’s method: “The larger our children’s emotion vocabulary is, the easier it is to label emotions in the heat of the moment.”

Here’s a Gottman-supplied sample dialog between a father and son (emphasis ours):

Dad: “It sounds like you feel upset about the math test.”
Son: “Yeah… I feel like I could have done better. I should have studied more. Jimmy got an A. He told everyone.”
Dad: “I know how that goes. I used to HATE it when I had messed up on something and other kids shouted out their good grades. It made me so jealous.”
Son: “It’s sooo annoying! It felt really bad… I guess I was jealous.”

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Step 5: Set limits when you are helping your child solve problems or deal with upsetting situations appropriately

After you empathize, validate, connect, etc., your work as a parent is not done. You still need to deal with the problematic behavior. The key is to treat the behavior as unacceptable—not the child. Describe the problem without making it personal, blaming or shaming: “Feeling angry is ok but hitting is not. Hitting hurts. Little sisters are not for hitting.” Then, problem-solve together. You might ask: “What could you do the next time you feel angry with her?” He might suggest: “Count to ten? Take a walk? Hit a pillow? Come and tell you?” Helping your child decide on a solution is empowering, writes Gottman, because it enhances “their abilities and confidence in thinking for themselves.” With enough repetition, he promises they will.

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The (Proven) Best Activity You Should Be Doing with Your Kids

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There have been numerous research studies demonstrating that one of the most beneficial activities you can do with your children is consistently eating dinner together. The benefits of eating dinner together as a family are wide-ranging and important.

Eating dinner together helps improve the vocabulary of young children because the children are exposed to a wider and more difficult set of words than in their usual environments. To be fair, the study included all family meals together, not just dinner. It also showed that frequent meals together boosted vocabulary even more than being read to aloud. Young children were exposed to more than 1,000 rare words at meal time, compared to only 143 from parents reading books out loud. As an added benefit, kids with larger vocabularies start reading at an earlier age and with less difficulty than other children. Mealtime talk, especially during dinner:

“often incorporates discussions and explanations of current events, world knowledge, and even abstract general principles…mealtime talk constitutes an opportunity for the problems of everyday life and proposed solutions to be discussed, often in the context of stories.”

Older children also benefit intellectually and emotionally from family dinners. Enjoying regular family dinners is a powerful predictor of high test scores – it’s a better predictor than time spent in school, doing homework, or time playing sports.

Most importantly, it’s also hugely beneficial to the emotional state of adolescents and teenagers. There are a number of studies demonstrating regular family dinners reduce a number of high risk teen behaviors. In one study, entitled Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Relationships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors, there is a significant reduction in high risk behaviors – alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, sexual intercourse, depression-suicide, antisocial behavior, violence, school problems, binge/purge eating, and excessive weight-loss – all from consistent family dinners. Another study demonstrated a lower rate of depression and suicidal thoughts is associated with regular family dinners.

Aside from the prevention or reduction of negative behaviors, there is a strong association between regular family dinners and good behaviors, such as a strong association with good moods in teenagers, an optimistic outlook of the future.

Now that we know how important family mealtimes are for children, what’s the best way to institute this in a household with working mothers or a household where both parents work? The key is to cut down on time spent preparing the meal and cleaning up after the meal is over, in order to maximize the time and quality of the meal.

One of the best ways to save time preparing the meal and cleaning up, and maximizing the time spent actually enjoying dinner with your family, is to look at the large catering platters and party platters from grocery stores. For example, Walmart party tray prices are extremely reasonably priced when looked at on a per-meal basis. A typical party tray will feed my family for 2-3 dinners, and has a wide variety of items so no one gets bored. The cost per person per meal can be as low as $1-2.

The best part is that there is almost no cleanup and no preparation time. This helps create a stress free environment where I can focus on listening to my children and learning about their lives, while sharing stories at dinnertime. On days where I do cook dinner, I usually end up being stuck in the kitchen and missing out on most of the conversation, and at the same time, it takes much longer for me to prepare the food and then cleanup afterwards.

For health conscious mothers, Costco offers similar party platters and has recently become the world’s largest seller of organic foods, prime meats and other high quality food products. I’ve spoken to Costco staff and it’s clear to me that they use the same high quality ingredients in their platters as they sell on their shelves.

Eating family dinners together as frequently as possible is clearly one of the best activities you can do with your children. As a working mother, it’s critical to prioritize and maximize high quality activities with the family. In the case of dinner time, the most important activity isn’t food prep or cleaning, it’s actually sitting down with your children during the meal, chatting with them and listening to them. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do this is to shop in the catering isles at large grocers.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

10 Ways to Empower Your Daughter to Be a Leader in STEM

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Try these tips to help her overcome the typical barriers girls face.

We all know there is a gender gap in STEM. Women hold about 24 percent of STEM field jobs in the United States, and when you get into the leadership ranks the numbers are paltry. Even in the movies, only 12.5 percent of characters with STEM careers are female. Luckily, many groups—including my own, VentureLab—are working hard to engage girls in both STEM and leadership. Here are 10 ways you can get involved at home to empower your daughter to be a leader in STEM.

1. Encourage curiosity and experimentation.

Encourage your daughter to ask Why, How and What if…? If she asks a question like “how do clouds make thunder?,” go online with her to find the answer and the science behind it. Check out YouTube and find some easy to do at-home science experiments, like making slime out of various household materials. Even cooking together and trying different ingredients is a good way to experiment. A curious mind will not be afraid of trying new things and will not be afraid of asking questions that might lead to new innovations.

2. Make things.

Take on the mentality of a maker. Instead of buying something or waiting for someone to solve a problem, do it yourself. You can set up a mini maker space or crafting table in your house dedicated to creativity and messiness. Create a space where girls can explore their hobbies, experiment, and create. A maker’s space doesn’t need to be expensive. Use recycled cardboard, Styrofoam, yarn, art supplies, and any kid-friendly tools lying around your house. Girls who make things will learn to find resourceful ways of solving problems and will become doers and leaders.

3. Encourage a growth mindset.

Compliment girls’ efforts, not their intelligence. A growth mindset means that our brains can change and grow: we learn new things by practicing. When girls hear things like “You are so smart” they tend to believe that being smart is innate and not changeable. So, when they receive a not-so-great grade they believe they have failed. Instead, compliment girls’ efforts by saying “You worked really hard” or “I’m so proud. You didn’t give up on that math homework.” By complimenting girls’ efforts, we are priming them to do hard work and remain persistent despite challenges.

4. Make her “failure resistant.”

Redefine what she thinks of as failure. Help girls learn that everyone fails. It’s how you deal with failure that makes all the difference. When something doesn’t go according to plan, emphasize that failure is a part of the learning process! Failure is about testing hypotheses and practicing until you have mastered a skill. Give examples of times that things haven’t gone as well as you expected them to. If they are struggling because they are being challenged, that’s because they are trying something new!

5. Put her in front of people and ask for what she wants.

Help girls develop a more powerful presence by teaching them how to interact with adults and others. At home, practice with girls and show them how to introduce themselves, shake hands firmly, and make eye contact. At restaurants, have your daughter order for herself. The ability to confidently introduce herself and ask for what she wants will set her apart from the rest and serve her well later in her career.

6. Encourage her ideas and focus on her strengths.

In general kids are used to not having their ideas heard, so go ahead and encourage girls’ ideas no matter how silly or impractical they sound. Have her write her ideas down in an Idea Journal and get involved in the process if she is interested in pursuing a project. Even if her idea doesn’t work, she’ll know that she has your support and will keep trying new things. And if you see that your girl has strengths in math, science, art, or whatever it might be, encourage her to pursue those areas and sign up for classes or camps that will hone her skills. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way for girls and will set them up for success.

7. Find role models and mentors.

Sometimes it’s hard to picture yourself doing something until you see someone like yourself doing it. This can be particularly challenging in the STEM fields. Reach out to local women scientists and engineers and ask if they will speak to your daughter about their field of work and their experiences. If you don’t know any women scientists or engineers, check out FabFems.org for female STEM role models. And you can always study women role models from the past and present, like Mae Jamison, the first African American woman astronaut, or Mary Barra, engineer and CEO of General Motors. Such models help inspire girls and show them that they too can pursue STEM fields.

8. Solve meaningful problems around you.

Girls become more engaged in STEM when they see how it can be applied to helping people and the planet. Help girls link math and science to real-world problems. Support her and get involved, whether she wants to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity or just build a birdhouse. Show her how engineering and math is involved. Or maybe she is interested in the environment and sustainability and wants to build a hydroponics unit. Discuss the science behind hydroponics and plant growth.

9. Just play!

We tend to take kid’s play for granted, but so much learning, experimentation, and creativity comes from play. With play there is no judgement, no fear of failure, and often no right or wrong answers. Yes, some games have winners and losers, but it is part of teaching rules and strategy. Expose girls to tech toys, like Ozobots or Dash and Dot, to learn about coding. Play with Snap Circuits or littleBits to create all sorts of electronic inventions. Build with Legos and toys that use the imagination. Even cardboard boxes are great to play with and turn into forts, or she can create her own games out of recycled cardboard. Learning through play is a great way to internalize important concepts and stimulates the whole brain.

10. Watch unconscious bias and gender learning differences.

Even if STEM isn’t your forte, be mindful of how you speak about it. If they hear, “We’re just not math people” or “Science is hard,” kids pick up on these cues. Approach STEM with a curious mindset and learn with your daughter. As parents, we may also unconsciously steer our daughters away from adventure and experimentation. We tell boys to go climb trees, but we tell our girls not to get their dresses dirty. These messages affect the way girls see themselves and what they should and should not be doing. Help empower girls to enjoy STEM and be adventurous risk-takers.

 

This article was written by Cristal Glangchai Ph.D. from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How To Measure Whether Your Child’s Tantrums Are Normal

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In the throes of your toddler’s rage, it’s perfectly healthy to wonder whether you’re observing normal childhood behavior, or the beginnings of a behavioral problem. Here’s how to know for sure.

Fortunately, there’s a way to measure whether your child’s tantrums are abnormal. The temper tantrum scale, developed by Lauren Wakschlag of Northwestern University in Chicago, identifies normal tantrum behaviors and duration. Her study also highlights red flags parents can use to determine whether their children are acting out more aggressively than expected.

Meet The Temper Tantrum Scale

Answer the following questions with “never in the past month”, “less than once per week”, “1-3 days per week”, “4-6 days of the week”, “every day of the week”, or “many times each day”:

How often does your child…

  1. Have a temper tantrum
  2. Stamp feet or hold breath during a tantrum
  3. Have a tantrum that lasts more than 5 minutes
  4. Keep on having a tantrum even when you tried to calm him/her down
  5. Break or destroy things during a tantrum
  6. Have a tantrum until exhausted
  7. Hit, bite, or kick during a tantrum
  8. Lose temper or have a tantrum with a parent
  9. Lose temper or have a tantrum with other adults
  10. Lose temper or have a tantrum when frustrated, angry or upset
  11. Lose temper or have a tantrum when tired, hungry, or sick
  12. Lose temper or have a tantrum to get something he/she wants
  13. Lose temper or have a tantrum during daily routines such as bedtime or mealtime
  14. Lose temper or have a tantrum “out of the blue” or for no clear reason
  15. Become frustrated easily
  16. Yell angrily at someone
  17. Act irritably
  18. Have difficulty calming down when angry
  19. Become angry very quickly
  20. Get extremely angry
  21. Have a hot or explosive temper
  22. Stay angry for a long time

OK, I Did It. Now What?

Certain behaviors on the list are normal even when they happen quite often—others, less so. To figure out which behaviors were truly abnormal, Wakschlag and colleagues surveyed nearly 1,500 preschoolers. She found that 95 percent of children engaged in certain behaviors with predictable frequency, and established this as the baseline. Presumably, abnormal behaviors are those behaviors along the tantrum scale that fall outside the 95th percentile—in other words, behaviors that 95 percent of children do not engage in. None of the tantrum behaviors on the list are abnormal if they occur less than once per week. When these behaviors crop up more frequently, however, there may be cause for concern. Here’s the breakdown:

The following are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur 1-3 days per week, or more:

  1. Hit, bite, or kick during a tantrum
  2. Stay angry for a long time

These are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur 4-6 days per week, or more:

  1. Stamp feet or hold breath during a tantrum
  2. Have a tantrum that lasts more than 5 minutes
  3. Keep on having a tantrum even when you tried to calm him/her down
  4. Break or destroy things during a tantrum
  5. Have a tantrum until exhausted
  6. Lose temper or have a tantrum with other adults
  7. Lose temper or have a tantrum during daily routines such as bedtime or mealtime
  8. Lose temper or have a tantrum “out of the blue” or for no clear reason
  9. Become frustrated easily
  10. Yell angrily at someone
  11. Act irritably
  12. Have difficulty calming down when angry
  13. Become angry very quickly
  14. Get extremely angry
  15. Have a hot or explosive temper

These are “abnormal” behaviors only if they occur every day, or multiple times per day:

  1. Have a temper tantrum
  2. Lose temper or have a tantrum with a parent
  3. Lose temper or have a tantrum when frustrated, angry or upset
  4. Lose temper or have a tantrum when tired, hungry, or sick
  5. Lose temper or have a tantrum to get something he/she wants

My Child Is Abnormal. What Now?

First of all, don’t panic. Most children will, at some point, do most of the things on this list, and not all abnormal tantrum behaviors are created equal. Wakschlag and her colleagues write that the most rare behaviors should be the most worrisome for parents. So if your child is, with any regularity, staying angry for a long time, or hitting, biting, or kicking during tantrums, that should concern you more than observing that your child “becomes frustrated easily” more often than average. The authors include a ranking of each tantrum behavior, broken down by severity.

If your child is experiencing tantrums that fall well outside the average, especially if those behaviors are ranked “severe” by Wakschlag, it may be time to seek professional help.

But if your kid is on the cusp of abnormal tantrum behavior, or tantruming more frequently than you’d like, there are some simple ways you can use tantrum research to tame your wild child. The key is to figure out what your children wants to obtain, and ensure that they do not get it by tantruming. They then learn, over the long term, that tantrums are ineffective negotiating tools.

Behavioral scientists recognize three types of tantrums: a demand for attention (hold me), a demand for tangibles (food, games, activities), and an escape from demand (I don’t want to get dressed). The first two can only be solved by ignoring the tantrum—age-old advice. But the third type of tantrum requires finesse. Because in this scenario, children pitch fits in the hopes of making their parents ignore them and not make them do what they don’t want to do. Instead, when a child throws a tantrum to avoid doing something, the correct approach is to “help” them do it. Placing your hands over their hands and forcing them to get dressed or eat their dinner teaches them that tantruming to avoid tasks leads to a worse outcome—loss of autonomy.

“Kids learn very quickly that you’re serious about this intervention and they comply,” tantrum expert Michael Potegal once told Fatherly. “They may grumble and fuss, but they will comply.”

 

This article was written by Fatherly from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Simple Ways To Help Your Child Understand You Better

Anyway, our go-to speech pathologist Kelly Lelonek has lots to say about why our kids don’t always “get” us — mainly because we talk too much. Here, her best tips for how to encourage little ones to tune in and listen up.

Like when, just for hypothetical example, requests to clean up the Magna-Tiles get tuned out, monologues about the day’s agenda elicit a confused “What?” and efforts to discuss the self-actualizing lessons of The Little Engine That Could are met with knock-knock jokes about butts…?

Does anyone else feel like her kids ignore her, oh, 97 percent of the time?

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Babies as young as five months old know their names, says Lelonek. Around nine months old, they understand basic words like “No.” When you’re spending time with your baby, get down to her level, call her name and wait for her to establish eye contact before asking a specific — not open-ended — question (“Do you want the dolly or the bunny?” vs. “What do you want to play with?”).

1. It’s never too early to develop good communication habits. 

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Keeping your language pared down works both for developing speech and for managing behavior as children get older.

Speak slowly and simply, in sentences that are as short as possible says Lelonek. She suggests reinforcing words with visual cues, like showing the child a picture of what you’re discussing, or pointing out an object in the room as you say it. Keeping your language pared down works both for developing speech and for managing behavior as children get older. Writes Robert J. Mackenzie in Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child, “A clear message should inform children, specifically and directly, what it is you want them to do. If necessary, tell them when and how to do it. The fewer words, the better.” His example? “Clean up your mess at the counter, please, before you do anything else. This means putting your silverware and bowl in the sink and wiping off the counter.”

2. Clarity is key.

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Lelonek suggests speaking about the present, not what happened yesterday or what you’re planning for tomorrow. Most kids do not even begin to grasp the concept of time until after kindergarten. You’ll have better luck getting through to them if you focus on the here and now.

3. Live in the now.

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The TV that no one’s watching, the car radio, even the whirring oven vent can interfere with a kid’s ability to process language. Optimizing their environment for good communication means “eliminating distractions and background noise,” says Lelonek.

4. Silence background noise.

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5. Leave some white space in conversation. 

As adults, we’ve learned to view extended silences as awkward or uncomfortable. But when we jump in to fill them, we end up bulldozing right over our kids’ opportunities to formulate and express their thoughts. “After asking a question, give your child at least five seconds to think and respond,” says Lelonek. “Kids need time to process our questions and their reactions. We do not need to fill every silent gap with talking.”

This article was written by PureWow from Huffington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Super-Easy Secret to Making Any Playdate a Success

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Playdates are, in a way, like any other kind of date. When they go well, you (as the parent) want to sing a little song and do that move where you jump sideways and kick your heels together in mid-air. (There will be no eating lunch alone in the library for your kid!) When they go badly—like when one child hurls insults at, hits or openly despises the other in front of the woman who gave him life, it kinda feels like you’ll be scarred for the rest of yours.

But we have a genius antidote to all the social awkwardness (courtesy of our son’s seasoned former nursery school teacher): Cap the playdate at 45 minutes. Max. “End on a high” were her exact words.

Even if the kids are midway through constructing an elaborate Lego skyscraper and begging to stay for just one more minute, yank the one that belongs to you the eff outta there and get gone. Count your blessings, know when to fold ’em and cash out. Leave before things go bad, because—your kid is not an outlier—they almost always, inevitably do. “Keeping playdates short will help avoid meltdowns, squabbles and other misbehaviors,” say the parenting experts at Understood.org. “Giving fair warning by announcing that the playdate is nearly over and initiating cleanup time increases the likelihood that the playdate will end on a high note.” See, almost everyone can keep their game face on for the first 45 minutes. As the experts at Parents advise: “When in doubt, leave ’em wanting more.”

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Choosing A Pediatrician: What New Moms Need To Know

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Whether you’re a first time mom or recently relocated for work, choosing a pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your child’s early life. They’ll help guide you through those worrisome early days when it feels like you’re doing everything wrong, reassure you, and patch your child up when things get a little bumpy.

But how do you choose a pediatrician if you don’t have a team of fellow moms to help you out? These 4 simple guidelines can help you determine if you’ve found the right fit.

Observe The Office

As with most places, you can tell a lot about a doctor by looking at their office. That means if you walk into a practice and things are dirty or look old, that’s an immediate warning sign. Similarly, you should avoid offices that are still clinging to paper records rather than transitioning to electronic medical records.

Offices that use electronic records make fewer mistakes because doctors don’t have to interpret illegible handwriting and all records are immediately on-hand and searchable. It also makes it easier for your pediatrician to collaborate with other specialists.

Of course, it’s not just the technology you should be evaluating; décor matters too. Beware of waiting room couches and other hard to clean furniture. Out of date, repeatedly photocopied paperwork is also a warning sign, as are old toys and poor office signage. If you can’t find the practice because it lacks a legible sign, has signage featuring former doctors’ names, or has a sign that’s old and peeling, keep moving. Doctors who are invested in their practice care about little details like having quality signage and a clean, welcoming office space. Simply put, a great pediatrician can see the big picture.

Talk Philosophy

First time parents often think pediatricians are primarily there to offer medical advice, but their role is greater than that. That’s why it’s important to talk about parenting philosophy with potential pediatricians before settling on one. For example, some pediatricians feel very strongly about working mothers, while others are very encouraging and know a lot about local childcare programs. Similarly, some are emphatically pro-breast feeding and will put a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed, while others are more nutrition-focused.

If specific issues like returning to work or nursing are concerns for you, raise them with potential pediatricians from the start. A great pediatrician will support your choices while emphasizing safety and healthy child development. Leaving your kids with their grandparents while you work? Many pediatricians support family-based care, but know that older relatives might be out of the loop on proper childcare practices. The right physician will help you address these concerns productively and even offer to meet with grandparents, while one whose values don’t match yours may warn you away from your choice without discussing it.

Support From Specialists

While most children will thrive regardless of their pediatrician, children with specialized health needs may need equally special support. Finding a pediatrician in your area who has the appropriate training, then, is absolutely vital. In fact, it could become a lifelong relationship, as has been Jeff Vetor’s experience.

Vetor has a condition known as pulmonary stenosis, but like many people with childhood diseases, as well as those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, he continues to see his pediatrician, as few doctors are trained to handle what was formerly a life-limiting condition. As more people survive these conditions into later adulthood, though, we may see a greater capacity among general practitioners to handle congenital health issues previously restricted to specialized pediatricians.

Rejection Criteria

Finally, but importantly, you’ll want to discuss patient rejection criteria with any potential pediatrician. Some pediatricians have a few basic rules, such as not seeing unvaccinated patients, while others have less structured rules like rejecting patients whose parents are especially difficult. Just remember that when you’re interviewing pediatricians, they’re also interviewing you.

You may not have a mommy network to guide you through the pediatrician selection process, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally alone. With the amount of information on the internet today and a few smart questions, you can find the right doctor for your family. But start early – it can take a while to go through the interview process. You’re making a big decision.

 

This article was written by Natalie Bracco from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Get Kids (of Any Age) to Sleep

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Getting your baby to sleep through the night is a major win—but it can be just the beginning of an ongoing battle for bedtime. From toddlers fighting lights-out to overscheduled teens racing against the clock, there’s always something stealing kids’—and parents’—rest. Here’s how everyone can get the heck to sleep.

Toddlers (Ages 2 to 4)

The Battle: They’re stalling.

Preschoolers are infamous for delaying bedtime by begging for one more kiss or one more story. It’s one of the many ways they test their parents’ limits. “They know exactly which buttons to push and how much to push them to get their parents’ attention,” says Iqbal Rashid, MD, assistant professor of sleep medicine at UCLA. But stalling reduces lights-out time, meaning less total sleep (which can make your toddler even crankier in the morning) and less time for your child’s brain to convert what he learned that day into a long-term memory. “Your 3-year-old is going to function better at preschool the next day if he’s able to make those neural connections at night,” says Brooke Nalle, a pediatric sleep consultant at the Seleni Institute in New York City.

The Fix: Make a bedtime chart—and stick with it.

A standard routine can reduce the chaos of bedtime: “Repeating the same three or four activities in order every single night will help keep kids on track,” says Jodi Mindell, PhD, professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s University and associate director of sleep medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Establish the routine with a chart on which you check off tasks like taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a story, so when your child asks for a last-minute Lego session, you can kindly point out that—oh, well!—it’s not on the chart. Maggie Strong, a mom of three in Charlottesville, Virginia, has another trick to keep her 3-year-old from stalling endlessly: bedtime passes (index cards decorated with stickers). “One pass is for the bathroom before bed, and one is for a hug,” says Strong. “Once she uses the passes, she can’t leave her bed again.” Bedtime passes can also provide extra motivation for kids to stay put: If they don’t use the passes at night, they can redeem them in the morning for a small treat. That stash of toys from the dollar store will be so worth it.

The Battle: They go to bed but refuse to stay there.

There’s nothing like waking at 2 a.m. to see your toddler peering at you in the dark. Many little escape artists leave their rooms because, suddenly, they can. Blame the independence that comes from moving from a crib to a “big kid” bed. “It takes a high level of development to understand the imaginary boundaries of a bed,” says Mindell. Other kids wake up and can’t fall back asleep without Mom’s help. “Parents tell me, “I have to hold my child’s hand so he can fall asleep, and then he’s up every other hour at night looking for my hand,”” says Nalle.

The Fix: Make them comfy sleeping on their own.

It’s tempting to let your kid crawl into bed with you. “But if you give in, you reinforce that behavior,” says Rashid. Quietly walk your child back to her room. It might take a few painful nights, but it’s important to be consistent, says Rashid. (If she really won’t stay put, you can install a safety gate in her bedroom door to discourage wandering.) Try finishing the night with “sweet talk”—recapping your favorite parts of the day or talking about what you’re looking forward to—“so you end on a positive note,” says Harvey Karp, MD, author of the Happiest Baby on the Block books.

Big Kids (Ages 5 to 10)

The Battle: Your sleep schedules are completely out of sync.

Says Rashid, “Some of us are morning larks, and others are night owls, and sometimes there’s a mismatch in the family.” You might have a third grader who wants to party past 9 p.m. and sleep through breakfast, messing with your “Early to bed, early to rise” motto. Or you might be a night owl, but your kids are cock-a-doodle-doing at 5 a.m., stealing your precious prework shut-eye.

The Fix: Shift the schedule—then keep it consistent.

“You can try to shape their schedule so it’s more in line with yours,” says Nalle. Gradually push back (or bring forward) meals, baths, and bedtime, first by 15 minutes, then 30, then 45, then 60. This can be a month-long process, but it could help oversleepers perk up earlier or buy you an extra hour of z’s in the morning. Some families invest in blackout curtains to shield their kids’ rooms from early-a.m. sun. For kids who might be tempted to bounce on your bed as soon as their eyes open, Mindell suggests putting a night-light on a timer and saying, “When the light switches on, that’s when you can wake us up.” Until then, they can quietly play in their room or watch TV. Once you develop a schedule that works for everyone’s sleep needs, it’s crucial to stick with it, even on weekends, says Nalle. “If kids really want to sleep late, let them do so on Saturday, but by Sunday, return to your regular wake and sleep times.” Exposure to sunlight resets your body clock, so taking a brisk walk on Sunday morning or having breakfast in the sunniest spot in the kitchen should keep everyone on schedule.

The Battle: Their nightmares wake everyone up.

As children get older, “fears can become a big thing,” says Karp. “They start listening to your conversations and hearing the news. They realize there’s an entire world out there.” If they were scared by something they saw on TV, says Rashid, kids can reconstruct it during sleep in the form of nightmares, which usually happen in the late-night-to-early-morning hours. Nightmares are not to be confused with night terrors, which typically happen an hour or so after kids zonk out—though they are frightening to watch, kids usually don’t remember them in the morning.

The Fix: Use night “magic”.

Sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep are common causes of both nightmares and terrors, so first make sure your child is getting enough rest. Then use creativity to fight the demons. For younger kids, Karp suggests putting “magic” water in a bottle and spraying it at night to keep monsters away. Rashid recommends that older children write down nightmares in a notebook, in as much detail as they can remember, but with alternative, happy endings. For example, if your child dreamed she was drowning, she could write an ending in which she becomes a mermaid. If nightmares are constantly getting in the way of daily functioning, consult your pediatrician to see if something else—like bullying—is going on.

Tweens and Teens

The Battle: They’re over-scheduled and skimping on sleep.

With soccer, debate team, band practice, and dance—not to mention endless homework—it’s no wonder tweens and teens are constantly sleep-deprived. Plus, raging hormones and social stresses, like fitting in with friends and dating, can keep teens up at night. “Anxiety trickles into bedtime,” says Nalle. “Whatever they were carrying around all day suddenly floods their minds.”

The Fix: Hack the routine.

Puberty shifts the internal clock toward a later sleep time, says Rashid. So instead of trying to enforce a too-early bedtime, adjust schedules however you can. One mom drives her daughter to school in the morning rather than waking her for the earlier bus, which gives her daughter an extra 45 minutes of sleep. Others find that if their kids do homework during lunch or even before school, it means they get to bed by 11 p.m. rather than 1 a.m. To de-stress after busy days, teens can try showering 30 to 45 minutes before bed, flipping through a magazine, or doing 10 minutes of meditation (the free Headspace app can help) to clear their minds for better sleep.

The Battle: They’re staying up late, staring at their screens like zombies.

The phenomenon of teens staying up all night watching YouTube and Snapping with their friends has been called “vamping,” as in acting like a nocturnal vampire. The screens themselves add to the problem: The blue light beaming from phones and tablets “is strong enough to block a good chunk of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy,” says Jess P. Shatkin, MD, author of Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risks, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe. Sleep deprivation is particularly dangerous to teens because it blurs their ability to concentrate, which can lead to risky behaviors like drowsy driving or drug and alcohol use, says Mindell. And a 2017 study in the journal Development Psychology found that children with TVs or video-game consoles in their rooms did worse in school and weighed more.

The Fix: Remove the temptation.

Make it a family rule that everyone’s phones and tablets be put to bed—that is, plugged into a communal charging station—on the kitchen counter at least 30 minutes before lights-out, suggests Mindell. To make sure stealthy teens don’t hide their laptops under the covers, some parents switch off the household Wi-Fi, making it harder to get online. Alyceson Weinfeld- Reyman, a mom of two in New York City, literally takes matters into her own hands: She takes her 16-year-old son’s phone away at 10:30 on weeknights and keeps it in her room so he can’t grab it back.

You can also help wean teens off that sleep-stealing screen glare by enabling the “grayscale” function on Androids and Night Shift mode on iPhones (both found under Settings) and adding the f.lux download to computers. All three reduce blue light, so melatonin is allowed to flow, says Shatkin. To help transition from the digital world to the dream world, encourage bedtime rituals (drinking decaf tea, reading) to prep for sleep. “Bedtime routines aren’t just for toddlers,” says Nalle.

 

This article was written by Michelle Ruiz Andrews from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The Easy Way Busy Parents Can Boost Their Kid’s Language Skills

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It’s not just talking to them a lot.

When teaching kids language skills, it makes sense to expose them to as many words as possible through lots and lots of talking. However, a new study found a strategy that may be even more effective.

Research published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that back-and-forth conversations make more of an impact in developing Broca’s area, the region of the brain most closely associated with speech, than teaching kids many words, Scientific American reports.

The study, led by John Gabrieli, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, involved 36 children, ages 4 to 6, from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Researchers first used standardized tests to evaluate the children’s verbal ability, then evaluated kids’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while the child listened to 15-second stories. Finally, they examined the communication at home between adults and kids for two days, measuring adult and child speech, and back-and-forth verbal exchanges separated by no more than five seconds, called “conversational turns.”

During the experiments, researchers found that a child’s verbal ability score increased by one point with every additional 11 conversational turns per hour.

For Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Psy.D., the director of the Infant Language Laboratory at Temple University, who was not involved in the study, the new findings provide a much-needed missing link in our understanding of language and learning. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek tells Scientific American, “We have known for quite a while that conversational turns—or what in my work we call conversational duets—are very important for building a foundation for language and maybe for learning generally. What hadn’t been done is to link it where we knew it had to be linked—to changes in the brain.”

The research confirms that parents should do do more than just babble at kids; it’s also about connecting with them and encouraging them to engage. “If we learn better how to follow the eyes of our child and comment on what they are looking at, we will have strong language learners,” Hirsh-Pasek says. “And language is the single-best predictor of school readiness—in math, social skills and reading skills. It is the foundation for learning.”

According to Scientific American, the findings confirm the conclusion of several studies suggesting that socioeconomic status is related to the number of words a child learns in their developing years, namely that there is a 30-million-word gap between the poorest and the richest children. The study is also noteworthy because it indicates that conversational turns have a stronger correlation to the development of Broca’s area than a child’s socioeconomic status.

It may be good news for busy working parents. Instead of drilling your kids with tedious flashcards to improve their vocabulary, have a fun and meaningful conversation instead.

 

This article was written by Maria Zaldivar from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.