Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Many proponents of the arts have contended that participation in childhood has many benefits which extend past the arts. A new study by researchers at Michigan State University adds to this argument by providing evidence that arts and crafts in childhood promote innovation in adulthood, particularly as an entrepreneur.
The researchers studied the professional trajectories of students majoring in STEM (science, technology, education, math) between 1990 and 1995. These graduates were much more likely than the average adult to participate in a wide variety of arts in childhood, including music and visual arts. Furthermore, childhood exposure to specific areas – such as photography – was predictive of future innovation (e.g., obtaining a patent). And persistence mattered – those who had sustained experiences in the arts were more innovative as measured by a number of indicators (e.g., patents, businesses created, professional publications).
While cause and effect is always slippery in these types of studies, it’s becoming clear that the processes that are encouraged in the arts in childhood – what the research team refers to as “out of the box” thinking skills that pull on imagination and creation – carry over to many different fields. So as we debate the utility of emphasizing (or even preserving) the arts in childhood, it continues to be important to remember that the arts promote what we most want for our kids – innovation and success.
Art Projects via Shutterstock.com
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Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
The new guidelines on screen time offered by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) take as a premise that media use is “dominant” in kids’ lives. A new report issued by Common Sense Media provides detailed survey data which certainly supports this claim. Vicky Rideout, who directed the research, suggests that we are seeing an extraordinary growth in media use in general over the past two years – driven in particular by mobile devices. Consider some of these key findings as reported by Common Sense Media:
• In 2013, 75% of kids have access to mobile devices at home, up from 52%.
• Smartphones are still the most common device (63%, up from 41%), but tablet ownership is 5 times higher (8% to 40%).
• The number of kids who’ve used mobile devices has nearly doubled (38% to 72%); and average daily use of mobile devices has tripled, from 5 to 15 minutes a day.
• As many little babies and one-year-olds have used smartphones or tablets today as all kids under eight had done just two years ago (38%).
So what can we learn from these data – and what can parents do to make sure they are providing good guidance for their kids? Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media, shared these insights and suggestions:
The report shows that families love mobile devices. There has been a five-fold increase in ownership of tablet devices since 2011. That means choosing high-quality, age-appropriate apps is more important than ever. Don’t treat app downloads as an impulse purchase – do your research to find the best ones that will really engage your kids in learning, thinking, and other skills. Common Sense Media offers reviews and ratings for parents – and while there are tons of apps in the app store, only a handful earn Common Sense Media’s four and five star ratings.Here’s a link to our Preschool Prep app reccommended list:
Kids really love mobile devices. Almost twice as many children have used mobile media compared to two years ago. That means it’s easier for parents to enjoy media WITH their kids — anywhere they are — instead of plopping them down in front of a stationary computer and not knowing what they’re doing. Take advantage of mobile device’s flexibility in allowing positive media experiences to happen with your kids where ever you happen to be. But along with that there’s a responsibility to make sure that kids aren’t OVER-using screens (and that you aren’t relying on devices as a babysitter, say in the car or in restaurants). Remember to balance kids’ days with a variety of experiences that promote healthy development. Allow them to develop the skills to self-soothe, be patient, and not have to be entertained 24/7. Here’s a link to Learn to Read apps:
TV is still king and families love to “time-shift.” Kids love TV – in fact, it is the dominant delivery system for educational content. Take advantage of “time-shifting” functions like your DVR, On Demand, and even streaming shows. Dig through the vast amount of offerings to find entertaining, educational shows – including all of the older shows you may have enjoyed as a kid and are offered by a lot of these services. These allow parents to make quality choices mindfully – rather than just letting one TV show flow into the next – and expose kids to a wider variety of content. They also allow you to reduce kids’ exposure to commercials. Here’s a link to classic streaming TV shows: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-lists/classic-streaming-tv-shows
Overall, parents should really think hard about these data, and develop a systematic approach to monitoring and structuring their kids’ screen time. Resources like Common Sense Media can offer a variety of tools to support that.
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Monday, October 28th, 2013
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued new guidelines on kids’ screen time – some of which will become incorporated in the well-child visit with a pediatrician. Here’s a breakdown of the key things to know:
Why Issue New Guidelines Now? It’s been over a decade since the AAP issued formal guidelines – so the current “2-hour” limit on screen time is quite dated. As noted in the AAP report, media use is a “dominant” force in kids lives. School-age kids may be spending 8 or more hours looking at a screen – teens might spend close to 11 hours a day. Some of this is productive time, some of it should be avoided. Thus, new guidelines are offered to help parents regulate screen time and give their kids a platform for making good choices to use screen time wisely.
What Are The Two Key Issues For Parents? Pediatricians will be counseled to ask parents two questions during well visits:
- How much recreational screen time does your child or teenager consume daily?
- Is there a television set or Internet-connected device in the child’s bedroom?
Let’s start with “recreational screen time.” It’s acknowledged that kids now use screen time for a variety of purposes – including educational ones. So rather than have an arbitrary number of total “screen time” hours as a guideline, the purpose here is to regulate and limit recreational time. Here the less than 2 hour rule will apply, which is more than reasonable. Kids need to spend time doing other things – like moving their bodies. Trying to cap recreational screen time is realistic and sensible.
The issue of screen time in a kid’s bedroom follows the same principle. Clearly some kids are doing homework in their room and will be using a computer. The point here is to develop some consistent and good practices – especially establishing a rule for turning off the electronics well before bedtime. Using technology is not a good way for kids to unwind and prepare for sleep – and we know that many kids do not get enough sleep. So while having screens in bedrooms – especially with mobile devices – may be common (though not necessarily endorsed), using them right up to bedtime should not be a common practice.
What About Babies? The AAP still does not love the idea of babies staring at screens. Nearly any professional who studies babies will tell you that they need to look at faces, hear voices, and interact with people a lot. This is not going to happen if parents are preoccupied with their mobile device while baby plays with a tablet. So the bottom line is to discourage (not ban) screen time for babies – specifically kids under 2 years of age. It may be added as a corollary that interactive time with baby is more than highly encouraged.
How Do You Make All This Happen? Pediatricians will suggest making a family home use plan for all media, keeping these recommendations in mind. This is a very solid idea, given how much time many of us spend with technology, especially mobile devices that become omnipresent. It will be important to come up with a realistic and enforceable plan for your family and your kids that considers the when and where and how of screen time – including a plan for becoming familiar with and monitoring the content of what your kids are watching. Having some type of plan – and these sensible suggestions to follow – can help parents proactively manage screen time at a time when it is, indeed, “dominant” in our society.
What career will your kiddo have? Take our quiz and find out! Plus, check out our 10 favorite apps for preschoolers.
Baby With Laptop via Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, October 24th, 2013
How many times have you heard a parent say that they are easier on their youngest child? A new study – one that examined a large national data base – not only confirms this tendency, but suggests that it may account for birth order effects on school achievement.
The key findings were:
- On average, oldest siblings do better in school than younger siblings
- Parents reported more systematic and vigilant monitoring of the homework of older siblings
- This difference in parental monitoring partially explained why older siblings did better in school
Taken together, the authors of the research report suggest that parents have different standards based on birth order – they expect more of their oldest kid academically and tend to back off when it comes to their younger siblings:
… earlier born siblings [the oldest] face more intense, systematic parental scrutiny regarding homework. Parents are more likely to seek information on how much eﬀort is being exerted by their [oldest] children on homework
Of course, many factors influence school performance, birth order being only one of them. But what’s interesting here is there may be a systematic effect going on, and one that can be easily addressed at home. Simply expect as much from your younger kids as you do your oldest when it comes to school work, and put in as much effort in making sure their homework gets done.
Plus: Which of these 10 best educational apps for preschoolers suits your child? Then, discover which parenting style matches your family’s lifestyle with this free quiz.
Parents Reading To Siblings via Shutterstock.com
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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
You may hear about lots of educational products that will make your babies “smart.” You may download lots of apps to try to give them an early cognitive “edge.” But what’s a simple thing you can do that will, over time, have huge effects on their development that far exceed whatever “benefits” the latest marketing fad can achieve? Talking to your baby.
Yes, just talking. Studies continue to show that there are huge differences in the number of words that babies (and toddlers for that matter) get exposed to – in the home. A new research study has revealed part of the effect of exposure to lots of words – it helps babies and toddlers process words quicker. The key here – as pointed out by lead researcher Anne Fernald at Stanford University – is that the faster an infant can process one word, the more ready they are to process a word that follows. While this should sound intuitive, the meaning is very deep in terms of brain processing – differences in processing speed can mean one infant is understanding a simple sentence, whereas another is not.
What’s the net effect of all of this? A language gap that starts in infancy and reverberates and grows larger through childhood. Kids who were exposed to lots of words frequently will have much better language skills.
So what can you do? Talk to your babies – a lot! Use child friendly language. Make it playful and fun. If you are out taking them for a walk and they see a dog and smile, look at them and smile and say “Doggie! Cute Doggie!” – and keep talking.
Sounds simple, right? Sounds obvious too. But we continue to see studies that suggest many babies do not get nearly enough of this. It’s so easy to do, costs nothing, makes your baby happy, makes you happy – and predicts good language development and eventual reading ability and success in school. So put down the silly toys and give the phone a rest – and talk to your baby.
Track your baby’s development with our Baby Milestone Tracker, or shop for the perfect baby book to read to your little one.
Mom With Baby via Shutterstock.com
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