Archive for the ‘ Behavior ’ Category

9 Tips For Crafting With Kids To Maximize Social And Cognitive Benefits

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Engaging in hands-on activities like arts and crafts should be a part of every child’s life. New research and thinking continues to reveal the many social and cognitive benefits for children at different ages. That said, developmental experts worry that parents and children may not have as many opportunities to craft together for a variety of potential reasons.

Crafting at the Kitchen Table (via Elmer’s Products, Inc.)

To learn more about the benefits of crafting in childhood, and the barriers which can interfere with crafting time, I partnered with Elmer’s Products, Inc., to conduct new survey research that can be used to deliver tips about crafting to parents, which we will be introducing at the Mom 2.0 Summit. We surveyed 300 moms to learn more about the kind of information they receive about crafting, the type of knowledge they would find helpful, and the factors that can make crafting time a challenge in everyday life. We also surveyed 50 experts in child development to learn more about the many social and cognitive benefits of arts and crafts in childhood.

Most importantly, moms told us that they want to hear more about the cognitive and social benefits of crafting, and suggestions for how to get the most out of crafting time. They also sent a strong message that time pressure is the biggest factor that interferes with their desire to craft with their kids. Experts shared with us a number of social and cognitive benefits of crafting, along with tips that can maximize both the fun and the payoffs for children and parents.

I’ve combined all this information to generate 9 tips that may help busy parents and children incorporate arts and crafts into the flow of daily life and cultivate the many cognitive and social benefits:

1.    FIND RESOURCES TO SOLVE THE TIME PRESSURES THAT MAKE CRAFTING HARD TO DO. Parents love to craft with their kids – but they find it hard to make time for it. One solution is to access crafting ideas that don’t take too much time, but provide all the benefits of crafting. You can get tips on activities kids and parents will love to do together that won’t require huge amounts of set up and clean up time.

2.    KEEP IN MIND HOW IMPORTANT CRAFTING IS FOR KIDS AND PARENTS ALIKE (IN RELATION TO COMPETING DEMANDS). Parents and kids have lots of competing demands for their time. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of the many benefits of crafting (social, emotional, cognitive). To the extent that we can control our recreational time, it’s suggested that parents make sure that screen time and time devoted to structured activities outside the home don’t reduce the opportunities for crafting with kids. Just some good quality time with simple ideas, even with items around the house, are all it takes to reap many benefits, all while having fun at the same time.

3.    MAKE IT FUN – CRAFTING IS ABOUT DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER. Don’t worry about the final product – it’s the process that matters. Smiles, laughs, and some silliness keep kids engaged (remember that for kids, play is their work) and their engagement will help them get the cognitive benefits from crafting while getting something equally as important – the bonding experience with parents.

4.    TALK WHILE YOU CRAFT. Parents and kids don’t have as many opportunities for face-to-face interaction these days – and we all know that such interaction is critical for healthy emotional and cognitive development. The simple act of parents and kids having engaged conversations is highly predictive of later cognitive development. Crafting is a terrific platform for kids and parents to talk about the crafting itself – and whatever else comes up.

5.    LET KIDS TAKE THE LEAD. Creativity is promoted when kids take the lead with activities like crafting. Parents can support what their kids are doing and help them by encouraging, lending a hand when necessary, and helping with suggestions. The creative spark is lit when kids try to figure out how to make things work.

6.    PRAISE KIDS FOR THEIR CRAFTING EFFORTS. It’s clear from research that praising kids for their effort, and not the “quality” of their final product, is predictive of their future “mindsets” that underlie success in many domains (academics, sports, arts, etc.). Crafting is a perfect platform for encouraging and reinforcing effort rather than critiquing the outcome.

7.    USE CRAFTING TO COMBAT BOREDOM. Kids will eventually get bored with anything – they always need to find something different to do. So … use crafting projects as that fun tonic to inevitable boredom. Kids will be primed for the creative engagement it provides.

8.    MAKE SURE CRAFTING IS HANDS-ON FOR KIDS. It’s important that kids lead not only with their brains, but also their hands. Crafting is one of the best ways to encourage fine motor development, and the benefits that kids will get from doing the crafting activities themselves are critical for academic readiness.

9.    CREATE HAPPY MEMORIES. Kids will form memories of making crafts with their parents that last a lifetime. Make sure those memories center around the emotional bond you are creating and not so much what the end product looks like. That end product, however it turns out, will carry meaning because it will take kids back to a very special time with their parentsand maybe even evoke your memories of crafting with your parents. Displaying that product will help this process along as well – especially if you all talk about the memories that you created together.

 

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How Older Siblings Lead Younger Siblings Into Trouble

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

A large informative sibling study has shown that older siblings who engage in violent criminal behavior influence younger siblings to do the same – especially if the siblings are close in age. As this work builds on prior work I’ve conducted with my collaborators, I wanted to expand on the findings and the implications for parenting.

Our research group has observed a similar sibling effect on delinquency in adolescence as well as early (illicit) use of tobacco and alcohol. The finding has been replicated by a number of other research groups. Of note is that in some of our studies, we could control for genetic similarity (by studying siblings who varied in their genetic relatedness, like identical twins versus fraternal twins, and full siblings versus half-siblings). While genetic makeup does convey some risk, we’ve found strong evidence that much of this influence is environmental in nature.

It’s especially important to recognize that there is good evidence that the siblings get into trouble together and function as “partners in crime.” We’ve conducted electronic diary studies in which siblings confirmed in real time assessments (known as ecological momentary assessment) that they were together, and doing things they shouldn’t be doing (often with mutual friends).

There is where age becomes a relevant factor. Sibling effects are driven by relationship dynamics – it’s the siblings who are close in age and who like to hang out with each other. Keep in mind that we’ve controlled for genetics in our studies, so this is an environmental affiliation. Siblings that don’t like spending time together typically don’t influence each other much. There is in fact a particular sibling relationship style that underlies the “partners in crime” phenomenon – it’s when the siblings have high levels of both positivity and negativity. They like being with each other – and also spend a lot of their time fighting.

So what should parents do? If you have an older sibling who is getting in trouble, be mindful that if they have a younger sibling (especially one close in age that they hang out with a lot) is at high risk for getting into trouble. It’s time to intervene with the older sibling – not just to help him or her, but also to prevent problems in the younger sibling.

Brothers Playing Video Games Together via Shutterstock.com

 

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3 Specific Cognitive Benefits Of Arts and Crafts in Childhood

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

While we know that arts and crafts can promote cognitive development in childhood, researchers have begun to specify in more detail the specific advantages for both toddlers and school-age kids. I’ve recently articulated 3 specific cognitive benefits of arts and crafts in childhood (based on a survey of child development experts that I will be discussing at the Mom 2.0 Summit) in a blog post for Parenting.com:

  1. Promoting fine motor skills that contribute to academic readiness
  2. Fostering critical visual processing skills (e.g., pattern recognition) that are fundamental to cognitive development in the early years
  3. Encouraging the early application of emerging executive functioning skills

You can  learn more about the research and uncover some crafting ideas here.

How to Make a Dragon Marionette
How to Make a Dragon Marionette
How to Make a Dragon Marionette

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Mom 2.0 Summit: Raising Children In Today’s World

Monday, April 28th, 2014

The Mom 2.0 Summit brings together influential moms from the blogging community and offers an opportunity to talk about core issues and challenges we all face as we raise children in today’s world.

Mom and Daughter Crafting

I will be attending this year’s Summit and am excited to connect with such a fascinating collection of influencers, both to learn about their many perspectives and insights, and to focus on the role that arts and crafts play in children’s lives today.

Although we know that engaging in arts and crafts offers many developmental benefits to children, important new thinking and data on the payoff of arts and crafts continue to emerge. That said, the complexities of daily life can make it hard to incorporate arts and crafts into the family schedule.

To this end, on May 2 at Mom 2.0, I will be introducing new research I have conducted in partnership with Elmer’s Products, Inc. I will be sharing a blog post that day highlighting key findings from this work that will give parents many ideas about how and why arts and crafts can be a meaningful part of home life, even given the realities of how busy everyone is these days.

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Treating Depression In Dads Improves Kids’ Functioning Too

Monday, April 28th, 2014

As we see new data accumulating suggesting that new dads are particularly susceptible to depression, it bears repeating that there is good evidence that treating depression in dads can lead to rapid positive changes in a child’s behavior and their own level of depressive symptoms. 

While many studies have examined depression in moms, one project in particular stands out as providing insight into the family-wide benefits of treatment for depression in dads as well as moms. Researchers examined both moms and dads (about 30% of the sample were dads) who were in treatment for depression. The treatment plan varied and could include psychotherapy and/or pharmacology. The bottom line was that as a parent’s depression subsided, real-time changes in their children’s behavior could be observed, including reductions in their own depressive symptoms. The effect held up for dads as well as moms.

The takeaway here is clear – finding a treatment that works for dad improves a child’s life too. As people respond differently to different available treatments, bear in mind some trial and error may be necessary before an optimal treatment plan is established. But that effort is worth it.

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Happy Dad and Child via Shutterstock.com

Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault
Mental Health Disorders: It's Not Your Fault

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