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Sunday, December 30th, 2012
Two areas of research caught my attention this year:
Tips For Parents: We all know that it’s good for parents to play with their kids, and read to them. But new studies continue to point out specific methods that parents can use – like specific ways to talk to your toddler when reading to them, and ways to use your voice and fingers to promote reading skills. Other studies highlighted how basic kid activities – like drawing – are connected (in perhaps surprising ways) to later school achievement. While some of these findings may seem intuitive, parents of toddlers are flooded with all kinds of suggestions (including costly ones) on how to give their kids an academic “edge”. It’s very nice to see research demonstrate that parents can use some simple strategies that are fun (and cost nothing) which result in real promotion of their kids cognitive development – and also reinforce how beneficial it is for parents and kids to spend time together in an “old-fashioned” way.
Getting Kids Enough Play Time: In addition to parent-child interaction, kids need to play – and by play, I mean the running around kind. It’s good for their bodies, and it is directly and indirectly good for their cognitive development (both in the short and long term). Yet new studies continue to reveal that a number of barriers are reducing how much play kids get. The take-home message for parents is quite clear: make sure your kids have plenty of opportunities to play, and do what you can to ensure that this is the case in preschool and beyond.
Time For Review via Shutterstock.com
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2012, cognitive development, Health, Kids Health, play, reading, Review, toddlers | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
Parents spend lots of time trying to ensure that their child is ready for kindergarten. Much of that effort is devoted to things we know are important – for example, reading. But it’s becoming accepted that fine motor skills are also a critical domain of development which intersects – in sometimes surprising ways – with cognitive development. And the results of an interesting study published in the journal Child Development hones in on one particular type of fine motor development – design copy or, more simply, copying shapes.
A group of researchers recruited over 200 3- and 4-year olds. They studied the kids prior to entry to kindergarten, testing them on a number of things, including a variety of fine motor skills. They then collected data on the kids’ reading performance throughout kindergarten.
What they found was that design copy was an especially good indicator of reading skill and progress through the kindergarten year. Kids who showed higher design copy skills – being able, for example, to copy shapes like a square or a circle – had elevated scores on a number of indicators of reading achievement, including phonological awareness, decoding, and reading comprehension. This association held after accounting for a number of other factors, leading the researchers to speculate that design copy plays a unique role in the development of literacy.
All this makes sense when you think of what kids are doing in kindergarten – part of their language development is to learn how to write (copy) letters. The researchers speculated that, in part, when kids have good design copy skills, they can focus their attention more on learning the sound and meaning of words (as opposed to having to focus more on using a pencil). That said, they also suggested that there are probably unique cognitive skills that come from developing fine motor skills in general, and design copy in particular.
So, in addition to having fun reading to your toddler, spend a little time encouraging them to copy shapes. That’s fun as well – and it’s a nice way to help them learn a skill that will serve them well in kindergarten.
Image of adult and child drawing via Shutterstock.com
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Child Development, design copy, fine motor skills, Health, kindergarten, reading, reading achievement, toddlers | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Monday, June 18th, 2012
Learning to read in the preschool years sets up a critical foundation for later literacy and learning. While we all know that it’s important to read to our kids, research continues to identify specific ways that we read that advance reading skills in the early years. And a study recently published in Child Development provides really strong evidence that there is a simple thing you can do when you are reading to your toddler that can have a big effect on their later reading ability – simply using your voice and your fingers to draw attention to the printed page.
Here’s what the study did. They compared (in over 80 preschools) teachers’ typical book reading style (which often involves just reading aloud) to a teaching style (“print referencing”) that emphasized getting a 4-year-old to focus directly on the printed page. Half the teachers were trained to do this both by using words (“Let’s look at the top of this page!”; “Can you find the letter K on this page?”) and by pointing (“Here’s the word ‘the’ – we are going to see it a lot in this story!”; “Here’s a capital M.”). Teachers in both conditions (the usual reading style vs. the print referencing style) were videotaped to document that they were using different styles.
The results? Over a two year period, the toddlers who were exposed to the print referencing teaching method had significantly higher reading skills, along with more advanced spelling and comprehension.
I really like studies like this because they evaluate, with rigor, things that we all do intuitively now and then – and show how we can use simple methods to not only make reading fun but also amp up the learning curve for our kids.
So when you are reading to your toddler, it’s a great idea to become more conscious of how you focus your toddler’s eyes on the page and engage them in recognizing and finding letters and words. Of course, part of the effect here comes from the very real benefit of making reading interactive (if you haven’t seen my earlier post on 3 ways of talking about stories when reading to your kids, click here). By engaging your toddler – and by bringing their eyes to the page while you bring the story to their imaginations – you can be sure that you are providing a very nice platform for later literacy skills.
Reading to kids via Shutterstock.com
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Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
Of course you read and play with your toddler. But new research suggests that there are specific ways to talk to your toddler - while reading, playing, or, well, just hanging around - that are associated with reading and math achievement in school 10 years later (click this link for a summary of the study provided by Parents News Now). To learn more about this work, I corresponded via e-mail with Dr. Gina A. Cook, a researcher in the Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University. Here is Dr. Cook’s take-home message for parents based on the study:
It’s more than just playing with our children – it’s about how we play with them. The kinds of stimulating activities that are related to later academic outcomes include those behaviors that are slightly above a child’s developmental level such as elaborating on the pictures and words in a book instead of just reading the book, asking open-ended questions, and expanding on what the child is saying or doing.
Dr. Cook provided examples of how each of these principles can be applied when reading to your toddler:
ELABORATING: When reading a book with a dog in it to a 2-3 year old child, instead of just reading the words you might want to point to a picture of the dog and talk about the dog such as what color the dog is, what sound the dog makes, that the dog is like your dog : “Look at the brown doggy, it’s a big doggy, it has spots like our doggy. What sound does the doggy make?”
ASKING OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS: When discussing the dog you could ask the child an open-ended question about what the dog is doing: “Where’s the dog going? Why do you like dogs? What did our dog do this morning?”
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EXPANDING: If the child says “doggy” when you turn the page you could say – “Yes, a doggy, the doggy is brown like our doggy.”
Please note that these examples can be applied not just when reading, but also when playing, and really any time you are talking to your child (say if you are out for a walk and you see a dog). This kind of engagement in conversation with your toddler is not only fun for both of you – I would speculate that part of the effect on cognitive development comes directly from the positive affect attached to learning. And do keep in mind that a big reminder from the study is that parents should be sure to give their toddlers plenty of time for pretend play and be active participants – it’s a great opportunity to elaborate, ask open-ended questions, and expand during conversation. And you will see benefits from all this 10 years later in school.
Image of family reading via Shutterstock.com
Health, playing, pretend play, reading, reading to toddlers, talking to toddlers, toddlers | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Friday, July 29th, 2011
It happens every summer — once the 4th of July passes, summer feels like it’s slipping away. So it’s a good time for all of us parents to remind ourselves that our kids should be reading this summer because before you know it, the first day of school will be here.
You all have heard about the summer slide. Not reading over the summer can set kids back quite a bit once school starts rolling again. That’s reason enough to make sure your child is reading, ideally a little bit everyday.
But I think there’s more than that. Summer is a great time to convey to your child that reading is a terrific way to spend free time. To that end, experts have encouraged parents to let their kids select books that interest them. You don’t have to make sure your kid is reading something “educational” as long as it’s around the comfort (or “just right”) reading level for them. But it can be about anything that’s acceptable material to you, and fun for them.
In addition to letting them find a book that they really want to read, it’s also great to sit with them and read yourself. It doesn’t have to be for a long time (we’re all busy), but taking time to read together (even if it’s 15 minutes) sends the message that reading is a leisure activity (not just something you have to do). And it’s really great to talk to children a little bit to find out what’s happening in their book — giving them a chance to share their enthusiasm facilitates their comprehension and their ability to summarize what they’ve read.
Image courtesy of AKARKINGDOMS via FreeDigitalPhoto.net
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