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Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
If you’ve ever walked into a room in your home only to discover a crayon-created “masterpiece” on the wall, perhaps that portrait your preschooler left behind is really a blessing in disguise.
The way 4-year-olds draw pictures can be an indicator of their intelligence at 14, according to a recent study out of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. Researchers have found moderate associations linking the amount of detail 4-year-olds included in pictures they were asked to draw of another child to higher scores on verbal intelligence tests at age 14.
They determined this by accounting for the amount of detail that was included in the figure—the more comprehensive their picture (including facial features, hair, two legs, two arms etc.), the higher their intelligence score was later in life. The study is based off of an assessment developed in the 1920s called the “Draw-a-Child” test that was used to examine a child’s intelligence level at his current age.
But if your little one isn’t a budding Matisse, there’s no reason to panic. “The correlation is moderate, so our findings are interesting, but it does not mean that parents should worry if their child draws badly,” said Dr. Rosalind Arden, the study’s lead author. “Drawing ability does not determine intelligence, there are countless factors, both genetic and environmental, which affect intelligence in later life.”
You can learn how to decode your child’s drawings, or try out some other simple crafts with your kids. And if you really can’t keep them (and their art supplies) off your walls, consider this cool wallpaper that’s actually meant to be colored on!
Photo of boy coloring courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
The proportion of the US population under age 17 has dropped slightly in the last year, according to an annual federal government report on population trends. More details from a statement by the National Institutes of Health:
The percentage of children living in the United States who are Asian, non-Hispanic increased, as did the percentage of children who are of two or more races, and the percentage of children who are Hispanic. The percentages of children who are white, non-Hispanic, and black, non-Hispanic declined.
By 2050, about half of the American population ages under 17 is projected to be composed of children who are Hispanic, Asian, or of two or more races, the report stated. The report projected that, among children under age 17, 36 percent will be Hispanic (up from 24 percent in 2012); 6 percent will be Asian (up from 5 percent in 2012); and 7 percent will be of two or more races (up from 4 percent in 2012).”
These and other findings are described in America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013. The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, which includes participants from 22 federal agencies as well as partners in several private research organizations.
The report also found a number of additional trends, including:
- A drop in the percentage of children ages 4–11 with any detectable blood cotinine level, a measure for recent exposure to secondhand smoke, from 53 percent in the years 2007 and 2008 to 42 percent in 2009 and 2010).
- A rise in the percentage of male and female 12th graders who reported binge drinking — consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the past two weeks — from 22 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2012.
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with two married parents, from 65 percent in 2010 to 64 percent in 2011.
- A drop in the percentage of children ages 5–17 with untreated dental caries (cavities or tooth decay) over the past decade, from 23 percent in 1999 – 2004 to 14 percent in 2009 – 2010.
Image: Babies, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 7th, 2012
Women have long-relied on cranberry juice to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). A new study suggests that certain types of cranberry juice may do the same for kids, Reuters reports.
The small study, published in the Journal of Urology, involved kids who’d had at least two UTIs in the last year. Researchers asked them to drink either a cranberry juice that contained high levels of proanthocyanidins (PACs), compounds that appear to fight the bacteria behind UTIs, or a cranberry-free juice.
Over the next year, kids who drank cranberry juice had UTIs at a rate of 0.4 per child, compared with 1.15 in the comparison group.
The power of cranberries against UTIs “was initially regarded as an old wives’ tale,” said Dr. Hiep Nguyen of Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved in the study.
But Nguyen said he now often recommends cranberry—either juice or supplements—when kids have recurrent UTIs.
“It can be a great alternative to prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics,” Nguyen said.
That doesn’t mean cranberry is the cure-all. If a child has frequent UTIs, Nguyen said, antibiotics may be necessary to “break the cycle.”
Not all cranberry juice has a high PAC content, and researchers didn’t give specifics about brands. Nguyen warned against brands with too much sugar, and against drinking too much. From Reuters:
“Pure cranberry juice often doesn’t taste so good,” [Nguyen] noted. So manufacturers often mix it with something more palatable, like apple juice, or add a lot of sugar.
Cranberry juice mixed with other juices would likely have lower PAC levels. If there’s added sugar, that means calories; drinking a lot of sugary juice can also cause diarrhea in kids.
“We do worry about the sugar content,” Nguyen said.
Image: Cranberry juice via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
It’s often the worst part of colds in little ones: the cough that keeps them (and their parents) up at night. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics builds the evidence that honey can help.
The small study involved 300 children ages 1 to 5, none of whom had asthma or pneumonia, the Washington Post reports. All had been coughing an average of three days due to a cold. Researchers randomly assigned them one of three types of honey or a date syrup placebo, and gave the kids 10 mg about a half hour before bed. Parents later completed a survey about their child’s cough. From the Washington Post:
Comparing the night the children took honey or the placebo with the previous night, coughing was less frequent and less severe, on average, for all the children, whether they got honey or the placebo. Their sleep improved, too, as did their parents’. However, as measured on a 20-point scale that considered all symptoms, improvement was greater among children who had taken honey.
Experts warn that over-the-counter cold and cough remedies can have dangerous side effects in young children, making honey a handy tool. But the researchers did stress that honey should never be given to children younger than 1 year because of the risk of botulism.
Image: Honey pot via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, which we reported here yesterday, says that sleep experts don’t have scientific evidence to back up current sleep recommendations for kids.
But since the study appeared, some sleep experts have spoken up to say they disagree strongly with those findings.
Judith Owens, a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington and author of Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens, told NPR’s Shots blog yesterday that current sleep recommendations are indeed research-based. Owens believes that the researchers behind the Pediatrics article “left out multiple studies. It ends up looking like they picked and chose studies that suited their agenda.”
For example, she says, there’s “very solid data showing that teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep a night.” Other studies show that kids’ thinking and behavior improve when they get extended sleep.
Which sleep advice should parents follow? Owens says she trusts the sleep recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation, which you can find here. The foundation says children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours. Here’s more from Owens from the NPR blog:
“We always [say] that there are clues to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep. For instance: Your child wakes up spontaneously at the time they’re supposed to wake up. They’re alert in the morning.
Granted, there are things we don’t know. But this is information that I think we can confidently pass on to parents.”
Image: Sleepy boy waking up via Shutterstock.
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