Reading to a Child is More Effective Than Homework

We know parental involvement and engagement is crucial in building the right foundation, especially in early ages. NY Daily reported that a study on homework conducted by University of Tennessee professor of Theory of Practice in Teacher Education, Richard Allington, showed that reading to your child is more effective than homework.

Parental involvement is so important that states from Vermont to Florida have schools ditching homework for it. So crucial, that a whole county in Florida is implementing a "no homework" policy. But why? It is because, regardless of family income or background, it allows children to be more successful. This is not something new. In fact, it dates back 15 years to when Southwest Educational Development Laboratory reported that children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more when parents and schools are more involved.

Then, as parents and schools, how can you be more involved? Parents, it is not about getting your child the latest Fisher-Price toy or the latest app, it is about the time you spend with them and the relationships you build. Do not be content with the in-school activities, spend time with them to plan out-of-school activities. Read to them and get them involved in things they might like such as art and sports. For schools, share decision-making responsibilities with parents. National PTA recommends schools to invite parents to be full-time partners in making school decisions that affect families by sharing what the school expects from parents and vice versa. This can be accomplished by increased communication between school personnel and the parents through open houses, home visits, family nights and well organized parent-teacher conferences.

Though school contribution is crucial, parents you are the main focus for this matter. As parents you might say, we understand the importance of involvement for today, but why does it matter for tomorrow? The way your children will shape their academic future literally depends on these simple moments of engagement. The same studies that proved the importance of parent engagement also showed that children with more involved parents earn higher grades/test scores, attend their school and pass their classes regularly, enroll in higher-level programs, and have better social skills. In fact, the studies even found correlation between parental involvement and going on to post-secondary education and being promoted.

As parents, instead of focusing on homework or the next best toy or the next best app, being more involved with your children allows them time to be creative thinkers, follow their passions, and succeed.

What Age Should Your Child Should Go To Kindergarten?

School readiness is a tough assessment to make. Though we have always considered the cognitive side of development as parents, teachers or even evaluators, understanding the psychological and mental health readiness has always been hard. The study co-authored by Stanford Graduate School of Education Professor Thomas Dee found that a one-year delay dramatically improves a child’s self-regulation abilities even into later childhood.

Here are the 3 things Stanford identified as being mindful of while making the decision.

1) Does Age Matter
Thomas Dee said, “We found that delaying kindergarten for one year reduced inattention and hyperactivity by 73 percent for an average child at age 11 and it virtually eliminated the probability that an average child at that age would have an ‘abnormal,’ or higher-than-normal rating for the inattentive-hyperactive behavioral measure.”

What to do?
Although most parents are choosing to delay enrolling their children to kindergarten for a year in US, according to the Stanford article, Dee suggests parents to have conversations about start time with teachers first.

2) Real World Practice
Though the study was performed with a Stanford professor, it was done in Denmark. Knowing that the kids who were studied had access to reasonably good pre-K since the study was done in Denmark, Dee also states that children in the U.S. may not be as harmed by starting kindergarten earlier if they do not have access to good pre-K.

What to do? 
Start at home. Parent engagement is vital to a child’s success. Parents should be mindful of the pre-K education their children receive before making the decision to hold off enrolling their kids to kindergarten. Which is why having a conversation with their teacher before making the decision is important.

3) Focus on "Play"
The study also showed consistent results with other studies that have shown extended early childhood education, especially if it is play-based, yields better mental health development. This means your children can benefit from longer preschool experience.

What to do? Focusing on play-based learning can allow your children to be more self-regulated and mentally healthy.

It truly is difficult to make the right decision when it comes to school readiness. However, these 3 factors can help you have a better understanding on how kindergarten ready your child is.

5 Ways To Improve Your Child's Diet

The director of The Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and the author of Always Hungry, Dr. David Ludwig, states that overeating is not the reason for making people fat, but rather it is due to eating the wrong things. Therefore, improving what your child eats at an early age is important since it will help them develop a palate for eating the right things. Developing a healthy palate today will help them tomorrow, since they will focus on eating the right things instead of how much they eat.

Here are five ways you can improve your child’s diet today so that they don’t suffer tomorrow:

1) Don't focus on the number of  calories.
Instead, focus on where those calories are coming from. For example, a can of coca-cola may only have 140 calories, whereas a grilled chicken breast typically has 230. The grilled chicken breast is clearly much healthier and more nutritious for you. Therefore, just because the food item has less calories, does not necessarily mean it is healthier for you.Fat usually gets a bad rap and fatty products usually have higher calories which put parents off. However, some higher fat diets do come with advantages. Dr. Ludwig states that “When you increase your fat intake, you displace carbs from your diet without missing them.”  So, how do you identify which fatty foods to buy? Nuts, nut butters, full-fat butters, avocados, olive oil, rich sauces, and even full-fat salad dressings are all fine.

2) Don't be fooled by low-fat
Dr. Ludwig says “low fat” foods that replace fat with sugar have raised insulin levels far too high. Therefore, it is important to balance the amount fat you feed to your children. You can accomplish this by cooking your with full-fat butter. Remember, sugar is bad; healthy fats are good.

3) It is more about biology than willpower
Dr. Ludwig states that your body will always have a good idea about how to regulate your own weight. This is also true for your children at early ages. So, if you overfeed your child, he/she will gain weight in the short term, but then his/her body will speed up his/her metabolism. The opposite is also true. When you under-feed your child he/she will lose weight, but then his/her body will become hungry more often and his/her metabolism will slow down, storing fat. That is why it is important to let your child’s biology indicate when and how much your child should eat. This means your child’s biology and metabolism has less to do with how much he/she eats but more to do with what your child puts in his/her mouth.

4) Lead by example
According to Dr. Ludwig, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a visual role model for thoughtful eating and snacking, to lead your child by example. He says “Kids are exposed to all kinds of unhealthy influences, but the home is the bastion of protection, where the only influences are healthy ones.” All you have to do is eat higher-fat foods, natural complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, brown rice, etc.), fruits, and veggies. This will make it easier for your child to create healthier eating habits when he/she becomes an adult. A good way to do this is by putting healthy food out on the kitchen counter top so your child can grab and go without much preparation or thinking required.

5) Home should be the place for delicious food
Since tasty treats or junk foods, such as pizza, burgers, and candy, are always going to be outside the house teasing your child, you need to be extra careful to make good food at home. However, it is also important to make sure that the good food you prepare at home should also taste good. That way your child doesn’t think food at home is boring and food outside is tasty. The best way to go about this is simply google how to make a healthy pizza and you will have a recipe for a tasty treat at home.

As Dr. Ludwig puts it “We can’t expect the food industry to care for our kids. It’s up to parents to say no” and provide a tasty and healthier alternative. Just make sure when you are telling your child to not eat junk food, you are not devouring a double chocolate cake yourself. So, use these five ways to create a healthy diet for your children at home and they won’t have to diet in the future.

4 ways to increase your child's Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence (EQ) teaches your child to care about how other people feel. This is important as it helps better develop their temporal lobe, specifically the amygdala which is the part of the brain that controls friendship, fear, aggression, love, affection, and the expression of mood.

We're going to share the top four ways to increase your child's EQ.

1) Let them Rock
Tal-Chen Rabinowitch’s paper “Musical Games and Empathy” highlights the fact that when kids play music with a group of other children, it teaches them to be more empathetic. Since, playing together with others requires harmony, it helps children to pay attention to others, synchronize their efforts and also understand where the other kids are going with their melody. This helps them build trust.

We already know playing instruments enhances the child’s brain activity, and now we you know that playing with others increases their emotional intelligence and people skills. So next time you are thinking of signing up your child for a piano lesson, make it a group class or invite the friends of your child along.

2) Attach the emotion to a face
Another way of developing your child’s emotional intelligence is by simply talking about their emotions. Talking with your child about how he/she feels helps him/her connect actions with emotions. Even better, talking about his/her emotions helps him/her understand how what they do affects other people as well.

What is even more interesting, according to “The Functional Architecture of Human Empathy” article, making silly faces, even if it is for the fun of it, helps children empathize with the real emotion. Practice making a silly happy face, a silly sad face, a silly angry face and have your child identify the emotion on your face and then have your child make some silly faces with you.

3) Practice "Class Hour"
Class Hour is something that the Danish schools do, where for an hour of the week the class sits down to talk about the challenges they face with the class and other students, and then try to solve them. Teachers start it off by stating what they have noticed and then open the floor for the students to discuss. Children are the core of the process and if no one has any issues, then the children play together. This helps them develop openness and feel secure among others.

Waiting for schools to implement this in the US might be a long wait. So, instead, use the same approach at home where you act as the teacher. Start a conversation about the situation at home and let them participate. This will prepare your child to feel open in discussing their emotions and challenges, rather than acting out.

4) Practice "Emotion Coaching"
Disciplining your child by instilling fear in them to behave well is an antiquated strategy. This has long been proven to not only be ineffective, but creates resentment in your child. In addition, when you resort to fear, you replace the love resulting in your child doing something because they have to, rather than seeing why they should want to (a higher level of cognition). Lastly, using harsh disciplinarian techniques will weaken the power of your word.

Practicing “emotion coaching” will help them behave better. Emotion coaching is when you help your child understand the root of your child’s behavior and then give it a name. Empathize with them. For example, if they are angry because they can’t play with a toy, tell them “I understand. You are angry because you can’t play with that toy, that must be frustrating.” Let them explain themselves and whenever they indicate their emotion, help them name it, and tell them that the way they behaved when they felt that emotion is not acceptable. When your child is able to describe his/her emotion, it becomes less traumatic of an experience for them.

Afterwards, when they calm down, ask them why they felt the way they did, what made them angry. Make sure you listen to them and let them know that you are hearing them and that what they are feeling is valid. Do not judge them because at this point you are building rapport and trust with them. If you judge them and make them feel guilty while they are being vulnerable to you, then they will begin to resent you and no longer trust you. This will be critically important when they get older and you need them to be very honest with you about everything. Then, talk about solutions and how they could better handle that situation if it comes up again in the future. This way you raise a child that is not afraid of being wrong or “bad.” This means you are developing a child that will make better choices, understand self-reflect, and also be considerate of other people’s emotions.

By increasing your child’s EQ you will raise a more caring, more intuitive child who is also a better at decision-maker. These four ways will help make you a more emotionally-sound parent and pass it onto your child.

3 Ways to Turn Your Infant Into a Reader

According to the “National Parent Survey” performed by Zero to Three, almost half of parents think they should start reading with their children starting around two years of age. That is almost a year and a half later than when we should actually start reading with our children. In fact, a lot of research shows that the benefits of shared reading actually begin around six months.

Here are three ways we put together to turn your child into a reader by starting to read with them at six months old.

1) Make it a routine early on
Start making books a part of your daily lives early on. Books should become a part of your daily routines. Utilizing books at bedtime and naptime are usual, but you can add to these experiences by combining reading with bath time, meal time, or even when you share a commute like Uber.

2) Do it on their time and in their way
Sharing reading time is supposed to be fun. Don’t force it upon your children. Follow their lead, follow their cues, which will show you how interested they are. Babies will probably pay attention for a few minutes, while toddlers might keep their engagement for several stories. Turn it into an activity for them. If they want to touch, grab, or even hold the book then help them. Have them help you flip pages. Mirror their body language. They might jump up and down and you should match their energy level. Having colorful, rhythmic, and simple-to-follow stories will not only get the attention of your baby, but also will catch their attention as they get older since even toddlers find familiar experiences enjoyable. This experiential reading journey is commonly known as “dialogic reading.” This technique encourages adults to prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions while reading to them. This way it becomes more of an enjoyable and fun experience that remains quite memorable. The more engagement, enthusiasm, and discussion the better!

3) Take ownership
Take ownership of the stories by marrying them into your daily lives. If something similar to the story happened to your child in real life, stop reading the book for a moment and relate it back to your daily life by saying something like “hey, do you remember how something like this also happened to Max (the family dog)”. Describe the pictures, engage with the story; don’t just read it. It is important to make your children feel a part of the story. In fact, you can even use technology to go above and beyond, by making your child’s life the story. Use Snapchat to create a Snap story of your day and use it as a bedtime story to engage with. Or you can simply imagine the child is the main character and ask them how they feel in that particular instance. Ask, “What do you see? What do you hear? Who’s there? Allow the child to use their imagination to create their own story.”

Knowing that children can learn and develop the habit of reading as early as six months, it really is important to make it a part of your daily lives. Using these three ways to turn reading into a routine will not only turn them into a reader, but will also increase the time for bonding, social/emotional health, and learning.