Monday, April 14th, 2014
Taking a toddler shopping may actually help their social, intellectual, and even motor development, according to a new British study. More from The Daily Mail:
The interaction between child and parent while shopping helps young people develop social skills and promotes happiness – even if a bawling toddler shows few signs of it at the time.
According to the joint study by Oxford University and the Open University, shopping trips are just as beneficial for the child’s development as painting or drawing activities.
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The two universities made these conclusions after studying the results of an economic survey in Germany.
This survey looked into the daily routines and habits of 800 parents with two and three-year-olds.
It recorded higher perceived levels of happiness among the children who had taken part in activities such as arts and crafts, and shopping.
Researchers Professor Paul Anand and Dr Laurence Roope added that the more retail therapy the toddlers were exposed to, the happier they seemed to be, and the more developed their everyday skills became.
Shopping may be beneficial because it involves changes of scenery from shop to shop, which improves the child’s motor and social skills more than a sedentary activity, the report continued.
Image: Toddler shopping with father, via Shutterstock
What’s your toddler nutrition IQ?
Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Kids who crave sweet and salty snacks might not only be drawn in by multicolored products and clever marketing schemes–they may actually be responding to a developmental instinct to ingest energy-boosting foods while they’re doing their most dramatic growth and development. More on a study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, from NPR.org:
The study included 108 kids, aged 5 to 10, as well as their moms. It turned out that the children who preferred sweet solutions over salty ones tended to be tall for their age. And there was a slight correlation between sweet preference and a biomarker of growth found in the kids’ urine.
Julie Mennella, the study’s lead author and a biopsychologist at Monell, says that scientists have known for a while that kids prefer both sweeter and saltier tastes than adults, and that kids to like sugar and salt. But no one could say exactly why.
This study suggests it has to do with children’s development — kids crave more energy and sugar because they’re growing, Mennella tells The Salt. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, since kids who sought out more calories were probably more likely to survive.
The researchers also looked into children’s’ salt intake, and found that the kids who preferred the saltiest foods tended to have more body fat. Mennella says that kids’ salt cravings might also be related to development, since our bodies associate salt with minerals essential to growth.
But the research, which Monday in the journal PLOS One, only shows that sweet and salty preferences are correlated to growth in children; it can’t show exactly how they’re related. Bigger, longitudinal studies would tell us more, Mennella says.
In the meantime, she says, the study does confirm just how hardwired kids are to consume super-sugary foods — like the candy and cereals that are now so heavily marketed to them. Nowadays, American children consume far and than they actually need.
And the widespread availability of these foods these days makes it easy for kids to overindulge, putting them at risk for obesity and diabetes, she says.
“When you understand the biology of taste, you realize how vulnerable they are to the food environment,” Mennella says.
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Image: Sugary cereal, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
As growing numbers of politicians embrace the issue of enabling every child to have access to preschool education, the push is taking root in virtually every region of the country, even in states that had previously objected to the idea. The New York Times reports:
With a growing body of research pointing to the importance of early child development and its effect on later academic and social progress, enrollment in state-funded preschool has more than doubled since 2002, to about 30 percent of all 4-year-olds nationwide. In just the past year, Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and the city of San Antonio have enacted new or expanded programs, while in dozens of other places, mayors, governors and legislators are making a serious push for preschool.
In New York City, where the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, was elected on a promise of universal prekindergarten, the dispute between him and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is not over whether to expand the program, but how.
For generations, it was largely Democrats who called for government-funded preschool — and then only in fits and starts — and that remains the case in Congress, where proposals have yet to gain traction among Republicans. But outside Washington, it has become a bipartisan cause, uniting business groups and labor unions, with Republican governors like Rick Snyder of Michigan and Robert Bentley of Alabama pushing some of the biggest increases in preschool spending.
“It’s a human need and an economic need,” said Mr. Snyder, who raised preschool spending by $65 million last year and will propose a similar increase this year, doubling the size of the state program in two years. He called the spending an investment whose dividends “will show up for decades to come.”
Analysts also see politics behind the shift at the state level, with preschool appealing particularly to women and minorities, groups whose votes are needed by Republicans.
“If you cast it as an issue of inequality, Republicans get their back up right away, but there’s a sincere and growing concern on the part of a lot of Republicans about how to increase economic opportunity,” said Ron Haskins, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and a former policy adviser to President George W. Bush. “And politically, they also really want to change their image as the party that just says no, to find something with broad appeal that they can say yes to.”
Few government programs have broader appeal than preschool. A telephone poll conducted in July for the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit group that advocates early education programs, found that 60 percent of registered Republicans and 84 percent of Democrats supported a proposal to expand public preschool by raising the federal tobacco tax.
Image: Preschool blocks, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Young children who have close relationships with older siblings may have an easier time developing good vocabularies. This is only one way in which healthy sibling relationships may help influence the development of younger siblings, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from Reuters:
How older children interact with their siblings is tied to the younger children’s development, Canadian researchers found.
“The idea is that here is this effect of being in a large family where you don’t get that many resources, but if you get an older sibling that’s really attuned to your needs that would be a modifying effect,” Jennifer Jenkins told Reuters Health.
Jenkins is the study’s senior author and the Atkinson Chair of Early Child Development and Education at the University of Toronto.
Previous research had found that children from large families tend to score lower on vocabulary, IQ and other academic tests, compared to those from smaller families.
“That’s been pretty well examined that the larger the family, the less good the child’s skill in language and IQ,” Jenkins said. “It’s really thought of as a resource dilution.”
For example, if a couple has a second child, the attention they spent on their first child will then be split among both kids.
She cautioned that whatever effect a large family may have on a child is small, however.
To see whether an older sibling can possibly fill in for some of that diluted attention, the researchers used data from an existing trial that included families from Toronto with 385 young children who had a sibling at least four years older.
Mothers and older siblings were scored on how they interacted with the younger child.
For example, the researchers scored whether the older sibling or mother were sensitive to the younger sibling’s abilities and gave positive feedback.
The younger sibling’s vocabulary was also tested by having the child point to an object’s picture after its named was said out loud.
The researchers found that children with many siblings tended to score lower on the vocabulary test, compared to those who had smaller families.
Children from large families whose older siblings scored higher during the interaction, however, tended to score higher on the test than those whose older brother or sister scored lower during the interaction.
The association between an older sibling’s so-called cognitive sensitivity and the younger child’s score remained strong even when the researchers also accounted for traits that might have influenced the results, such as gender and age.
While the overall association may be small, Jenkins said many traits that are associated with similar cognitive delays are of a similar size.
“It’s multiple and multiple accumulating influences,” she said. “I think all of these small influences are worth paying attention to.”
Image: Siblings, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
A new study published in the journal Child Development has found that obese children may persistently perform less well in school as non-obese children. From CNN.com:
[The study] followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.
What’s more, this pattern held even after the researchers took into account extenuating factors that can influence both body size and test scores, such as family income, race, the mother’s education level and job status, and both parents’ expectations for the child’s performance in school.
“In boys and girls alike who entered kindergarten with weight problems, we saw these differences in math performances emerge at first grade, and the poor performance persisted through fifth grade,” says lead researcher Sara Gable, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Image: Heavyset boy in school, via Shutterstock.
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