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The key to academic success? More play!

September 27, 2016

By Jessica Vician

The key to academic success? More play! | As higher education and strong academic achievement become more important for our children, so does the pressure to start teaching as soon as possible. But how should we be teaching our young children in daycare or preschool? | Toddlers play on a playground.

As higher education and strong academic achievement become more important for our children, so does the pressure to start teaching as soon as possible. But how should we be teaching our young children in daycare or preschool?

Researchers have conducted several studies regarding the effects of traditional academic learning and play-based learning on young children and have found that more fun can equal more academic success in the short and long term.

For example, one study suggested that children who go to preschools that take a traditional academic approach—children sitting in desks, completing worksheets, and learning specific rules on how to play—learn to read and write later than kids who attend play-centric daycares and preschools. The play-centric approach means letting the children engage in imaginative play, figuring out how to play with toys rather than being told how to play with them, and less formal instruction.

So what does this mean for parents? For one, it means that you can relax about putting your child in a hyper-academic daycare or preschool. Look for options that encourage both independent and group play so that your child learns social skills and expands his or her imagination. Those skills will not only help your child succeed socially and creatively, but research suggests it may also spark a greater thirst for knowledge.

Second, put away the high-tech toys and go back to your roots with Lincoln Logs, building blocks, basic Legos, and books. Let your child lead the way as you play with these toys together. See what his or her imagination can build with the blocks, and talk to your child about what he or she is building. Discuss the books you read together by asking questions about the story or characters after every few pages.

These techniques encourage your child to develop critical thinking skills and teach him or her to create, rationalize, and develop a desire to learn, which will help your child succeed in school and in life.

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4 Tips for Backpack Safety

September 20, 2016

By Jessica Vician

4 Tips for Backpack Safety | AOTA's National School Backpack Awareness Day: Pack it light, wear it right! The AOTA dinosaur wears his backpack right.

Did you know that your child’s backpack should weigh no more than 10 percent of his or her body weight? Think about that for a moment: 

  • A 50-pound child’s backpack should only be five pounds.
  • An 80-pound child’s backpack should only be eight pounds.
  • A 120-pound teen’s backpack should only be 12 pounds.

How heavy is your child’s backpack with all of those books, notebooks, and supplies?

September 21st is the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day and a great opportunity for teachers and parents to ensure students are carrying the lightest loads possible and in the most efficient manner.

Here are four tips to packing and wearing a backpack to evenly distribute weight and prevent injuries:

  1. Pack the heaviest items to the back and center of the pack.
  2. Keep sharp tools away from your child’s back.
  3. Use both shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight on your child’s back.
  4. Keep the straps tight so the backpack is even with your child’s shoulders on top and doesn’t droop below the hipbones on bottom.

Read through AOTA’s infographic for more backpack fitting tips.

If you notice your child has back pain, see his or her pediatrician or doctor. Bring the backpack to the appointment so the doctor can see how your child wears it and how heavy it is. If the backpack is more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight, talk to his or her teacher about bringing home fewer books each night.

How heavy is your child’s backpack? Weigh it on the scale and tell us in the comments below.

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Why your teen should fail

September 13, 2016

By Jessica Vician

Why your teen should fail | A teen surfing a wave.

When we think of raising teenagers, we often think of steering them away from risks and dangerous behaviors: drugs, alcohol, unprotected sex, unsafe driving, etc. But there are some risks we should encourage our teens to take—safer risks that satisfy their thirst for adrenaline and allow them an opportunity to fail.

Failure seems like the worst thing to encourage in teenagers. They’re emotional, and failing at something can upset their self-esteem and throw them off-course with their social status. But failure also teaches them that life goes on even as they make mistakes, and most often they can course-correct and rebound from the failures.

As teenagers go through puberty, their hormonal changes spark a desire to take risks and demonstrate more dangerous behavior, as outlined in this article from Berkeley’s Greater Good.

Instead of resisting your teenager’s desire to take risks, guide him or her toward healthy opportunities for risks, successes, and failures, like these examples:

  • Playing competitive sports and learning how to win and lose
  • Learning a musical instrument and performing in front of others
  • Acting in a school play and learning the show must go on
  • Asking out the person he or she has a crush on and facing rejection or getting a date
  • Joining the diving or skiing team for a physical rush (with trained and supervised risk)

Taking risks and having the opportunity to fail builds character and helps a teenager find his or her identity. Encourage healthy risks while looking out for unhealthy and truly dangerous risks, like texting while driving and others outlined in this NPR article. It will be hard to watch your teen fail, but it’s worth the risk: the feeling when he or she succeeds is true parental pride.

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What’s the story behind the Baby on Board sign?

September 6, 2016

By Jessica Vician

What’s the story behind the Baby on Board sign? | A graphic in yellow with a black triangle reading, "Caution! Baby on Board"

You see them on every type of car: SUVs, minivans, compact cars. You might even have one on your car: the Baby on Board sign. But do you know the original reason these signs were created?

While there are legends about tragic car accidents, the truth is much more inspiring. According to several interviews and websites, including Snopes, the sign’s creator, Michael Learner, was driving his baby nephew home one day. Drivers were cutting him off and tailing him, which became all the more frightening when he knew what precious cargo he was carrying.

As you may remember the first time you drove your baby home, or even a niece or nephew before you were a parent, suddenly every driver on the road seems dangerous and getting the child home safely is the most important goal you’ve ever had.

So Learner created the sign as a way to alert other drivers to slow down, avoid tailing or cutting cars off, and generally be better drivers, because sometimes we forget how our hurried actions on the road could have a devastating impact not only on adults, but on the babies in those cars.

The rest, of course, is history. If you want to know more about Learner and how that sign sparked a profitable baby safety business, read this article from Quartz.

Do you have a Baby on Board sign? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.

Tags :  safety
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