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Monday, October 14th, 2013
Reading to young kids isn’t always easy – especially when they don’t want to sit still. This guest post by Dr. Claire Elizabeth Cameron provides a unique perspective on what to do – and why it works!
While some children sit still when you read to them, others are wiggly and want to act up or speak out while reading. Aren’t they supposed to just be quiet and pay attention?
Actually, no! Acting out the parts of a story may help children remember what happened.
If children are given toys that represent characters in a story, and they act out the characters’ actions as they read, later those children answer more story questions correctly than those who simply reread the key sentences a few times. In small groups, even children who watch other children acting out the story remember what happened better. There are a few reasons this could be:
- Children may not know all the words in a story, but acting out the story may help them figure out the unknown words.
- Doing a movement along with saying the words that go with the movement creates multiple locations or “codes” in children’s brains for the information – whereas saying the words creates only one.
- When children read or hear a story, they create a mental model of what is happening, and acting the story out may help them create the model.
- Watching a sibling, or a peer, act out the story may work just as well.
A theory known as “embodied cognition” means that our brain works together with our body to help us learn. For example, children may learn new words or phrases by mapping the word they haven’t heard before to the action or object that they see when they hear the new word. They also gather information about the world by deciding how they might interact with a given object, like a sofa. Seeing the “sofa” as something fun to jump up and down on helps them understand and learn the meaning of that word.
So while it’s nice to try snuggling together to read books on the sofa, it’s okay to encourage the wiggle-worms to act out – or even imagine acting out – the story. And this approach may also be good for the book worms too!
Claire Elizabeth Cameron is a Research Scientist with expertise in early childhood development at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). She received BAs in Honors Psychology and Italian, a MS in Developmental Psychology, and a PhD in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan before completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Institute for Education Sciences at CASTL.
Girls Having Fun via Shutterstock.com
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Monday, September 30th, 2013
Sometimes the title of a blog post can send reader’s off in a direction that is surprising to me. Case in point:
Helmet to Helmet: Is Football Too Dangerous For Kids?
The recent deaths of two high school players inspired this blog post. The point was that, like the National Football League, we seem to be at a point in time when we need to evaluate how to make football safer for kids.
However, many reader’s reactions were quite reactionary. Thinks like we are making are kids “soft”; we complain that they don’t exercise but then stop them; that football has always been dangerous; that cheerleading or soccer is more dangerous; that your kids were gonna keep playing no matter what.
The point of the blog post, though, wasn’t to say that kids shouldn’t play football. It was simply to say that we seem to be at a point in time when we need to make it safer for them. And, yes, the broader point applies to any sport or physical activity.
So … is this really a bad thing to suggest? Are parents taking their kids’ safety seriously? Is there some reason we wouldn’t monitor their activities and strive to figure out how to keep them as healthy as possible … and avoid catastrophic head injuries? Or were readers just reacting to the title without actually reading the blog post?
I’m curious to hear your responses.
Brain Trauma via Shutterstock.com
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Brain Trauma, concussions, football, Football Helmets, Health, High School Football, Kids Health | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Friday, September 27th, 2013
This country loves football. Kids love to play football. But is it too dangerous?
I’m tired of seeing headlines about teens dying playing football. Most times it’s because of helmet to helmet contact. There was a story last month about a teen who died after making a tackle. Now we have heard about a teen in New York who died after helmet to helmet contact.
I get that football is a rough game. I get that now and then unusual injuries happen. But it’s clear that football has become too dangerous for the brain. While the National Football League is paying some attention to the rate and consequences of concussions many still feel as if there is a lack of transparency or urgency about addressing the magnitude of the concussion issue. The game goes on, players suffer concussions, and we see what happens to a fair number of them over time.
But while there is an obligation to make the NFL safer for players, we really need to step back and figure out how to prevent high school kids from dying playing football. We take driving and texting seriously because it kills. We put in changes in practices to minimize that risk. Who is going to step up to try to make it safer for teens to play football?
Take a look at this image of an American football helmet. When two kids are wearing this, and these helmets collide, it is dangerous for the brain. And sometimes lethal.
American Football Helmet via Shutterstock.com
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concussions, football, Health, helmet to helmet contact, Kids Health, sports concussions, teen death, teen dies playing football | Categories:
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Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Maybe the trophy thing has really gotten out of hand. I continue to read articles – like Ashley Merryman‘s recent piece in the New York Times – about how kids get handed a trophy for doing nothing but showing up. This of course can apply to sports, dancing – or nearly any activity that kids participate in. The suggestion is made that only a few kids should get a trophy to recognize special achievements – and that most kids should get used to the idea that, in the real world, not every kid is, in essence, equally the best.
All of this makes perfect sense and is backed up by research that goes back decades. But there’s a bigger problem. Our culture is predicated on the idea that kids have to be rewarded externally. Even our good discussions about how praise backfires spin off into the proper way to either nurture or reinforce a child for doing something – almost to the point that kids are going to be expecting constant reinforcement for effort.
We are obsessed with giving kids feedback. We’re spinning around from meaningless awards and misdirected praise to guides on how to externally validate effort at every turn. Yes, it is important to support kids’ efforts and not their outcomes. If you want to learn about this from the expert, check out Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. She’s been doing this work for a very long time, and has found a nice way to distill her findings and perspective. But the thing is this should be reserved for moments – little and big – in a kid’s life when you want to give them a boost or just a little pat on the back. Not every other minute.
We come at kids as if they don’t have an internal sense of reward. That’s not how the brain works. Kid’s are wired to experience pleasure from their effort and use it as fuel to try harder. If they are playing kickball, it doesn’t feel good if you don’t kick the ball well – and it feels great when you kick it better. You certainly don’t need an adult there with trophies to be handed out to everyone who has come to play – or to praise everyone for their effort. It’s nice to have an adult there to tell a kid who is struggling to not give up if kickball is something they want to play. But if that adult isn’t there, I think most kids would do alright. Most of them would keep trying to kick the ball. And therein lies the problem.
Kids don’t own their own play anymore. Adults regulate it. Young kids don’t just get together to play baseball – they are out in uniform on a Saturday morning at 8am with adults coaching them and watching them and reacting to every thing they do. Kids don’t just take dance lessons because it’s fun to learn to dance – there has to be public performances and competitions with adults providing flowers and applause. Kids don’t just sing anymore – they audition for reality shows or try to get discovered on YouTube. I’ll be honest – I never, ever want to see another 5-year-old on national television being judged by adults.
We can talk all we want about praise and trophies and effort and all that. But the fundamental issue is that adults seem to be around all the time to judge kids. Whether we’re judging their performance, or their effort, they are cut off from the opportunity to generate their own reinforcement. Guess what – kids are really good judges at who, at any given point in time, is “better” or “worse” at something. Many times they don’t care nearly as much about that as adults do. Why? Because they typically know, instinctively, that they want to do. It’s when their arena becomes infiltrated with mixed messages about winning and losing and praise and encouragement – when they become aware that they have an audience of adults who are constantly assessing them – that they lose their instincts and either stop doing or stop enjoying what they do.
Every kid needs encouragement. Some can use it more than others. They may need it when they are struggling. It’s nice for them to get it even when they aren’t. It’s nice to get recognition for an accomplishment. But the most powerful reinforcement schedule is variable – meaning now and then. Can’t we pick our spots? A little now and then? And, most importantly, can we, for the most part, let kids just do without having adults there to give them constant feedback?
Trophy Cup via Shutterstock.com
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achievement, Carol Dweck, Effort, Health, Kids Health, Mindset, motivation, Nurtureshock, Praise, Trophy | Categories:
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Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Newborns like to copy you – if you stick out your tongue at them, they might stick their tongue out too. Toddlers like it when you copy them – and it helps them develop socially according to a new study published in Child Development.
What Did The Study Do? 18-month-olds were brought (with a parent) into a playroom / laboratory. An experimenter played with the toddler as they moved about the room (there were interesting things for them to play with, climb on, etc). Half of the toddlers were then “mimicked” in a “friendly” way – basically whatever the toddler did, the experimenter did. The experimenter left the room briefly and returned. Then the experimenter did something that could require help – dropping sticks or having difficulty opening a cabinet.
What Was The Effect of Being Mimicked? The toddlers who were imitated were significantly more likely to help the experimenter than those who were not copied. Mimicked toddlers were also more likely to help another experimenter (not the one who mimicked them) when they needed help.
What Does All This Mean? According to the researchers, it’s clear that mimicry sends a prosocial message to toddlers – or put another way, it’s a fundamental way to promote social connection and bonding. Now of course you are not going to spend your day copying your toddler. But when you on the floor playing with your toddler, go ahead and mimic them. They’ll not only like it – it will help develop their prosocial capacities and reinforce their instinct to help others in need. And of course this is just a specific example of a more general principle – promoting reciprocity between you and your toddler. Nothing is more reinforcing to a laughing toddler than to get that laugh back.
Laughing Dad and Child via Shutterstock.com
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18-month-olds, Child Development, Health, Kids Health, mimic, prosocial behavior, reciprocity, toddlers | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting