Self-Control and the Link to Academic Success

Marshmallow TestAs parents, we want to do whatever we can to help our children succeed academically, and more importantly, in life.  In fact, there is one teachable skill that is a better predictor of academic performance than IQ.  That skill is self control, and specifically, the ability to redirect attention in order to delay gratification.  In a nut-shell: raw smarts matter, but so do preparation and focus.  Consider the kids who study on the night before a test rather than playing video games.

You may have heard of the “marshmallow test” that laid the foundation for research on delayed gratification.  Dr. Walter Mischel studied four year-olds at Stanford University (more…)

June 14, 2010 at 10:36 pm 2 comments

Pesticides and Brain Development in Children

Pesticide Warning in Lettuce Field

Update:  In April 2013, new studies showed that heavy use of RoundUp could be linked to a series of diseases and health problems, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers.

Children, particularly infants and toddlers, are uniquely vulnerable to toxins.  While in utero or as infants, their internal systems are less capable than adults of processing pesticides and other toxins.  As toddlers, they spend time crawling or otherwise wrastling on the floor, putting pretty much anything that fits into their mouths, and playing in the dirt (indeed, that can be great for their immune systems!).  However, this constant exploration of the world requires that we, as caregivers, be particularly diligent about limiting their exposure to harmful chemicals.

Preliminary studies published in the Journal of Pediatrics in May, 2010 showed that higher than average exposure to common agricultural pesticides is correlated with a significant increase (55% to 100%) in the incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).   This research is consistent with (more…)

June 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm 1 comment

Your Baby’s Brain Development

Curious Mind of a BabySignificant advances have been made in the field of neuroscience since today’s new parents grew up.  It’s helpful to understand the basics of early brain development and how new scientific research is shedding light on the caregiver’s role in raising healthy, intelligent kids.

A child’s brain undergoes the greatest transformations from conception through the first two years, however brain development continues into the teen years and beyond.  There are various areas in the brain that develop at different times, with the more fundamental, lower-level brain functions largely developed by the time an infant is born (hence why proper prenatal care is so critical).   Thereafter, the brain develops (more…)

May 21, 2010 at 9:33 am 1 comment

What’s All the Fuss About BPA?

BPA Bottles and CansFrankly, it’s not entirely clear: Bisphenol-A (BPA) is still under investigation.  However, studies on BPA are showing concerning data that warrant caution from parents.  According to the National Institutes of Health, “Evidence from animal studies indicates BPA may cause adverse effects such as obesity, behavioral changes, diabetes, early onset puberty, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, reproductive disorders, development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer, and transgenerational or epigenetic effects.”   Additionally, preliminary studies have suggested a relationship between BPA levels during early stages of pregnancy and behavioral patterns that are atypical for a given gender in toddlers.  (more…)

May 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

DHA and Omega-3 Demystified

Omega fatty acid, DHA, Omega-3, Omega-6, fish oil, flax oil… ACK!!  Confused?  You’re not alone.

Omega Fatty Acids

While most adults assume that they should reduce fat in their diets, fat is actually a critical building block for the developing brain of a child.  Getting sufficient supplies of the right types of fats are important for your child’s brain growth and development.   (more…)

May 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm 2 comments

Pre-K Child Care Affects IQ, Impulsiveness of Teenagers

Working Mom with ToddlerGood news (for the most part) for working moms:  teenagers who had higher quality child care performed significantly better in cognitive tests and had fewer adolescent behavioral problems than those given low-quality or no care outside the home.

Research published in May 2010 by Deborah Lowe Vandell, professor at UC Irvine followed 1,000 children from their births in 1991 to age 15 to identify the effects of childcare outside the home.  Surprisingly, the childcare received in the critical birth-to-kindergarten years continued to show effects over 10 years later.  Those receiving higher quality care scored 5.3 points higher (100 points is average) on cognitive tests.   They also had fewer problems “acting out” as teens.  Previously released research had concluded that the positive academic effects were apparent for these children in fifth grade. (more…)

May 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Baby Sign Language

12 month old signing airplaneBy the time that they are a year old, infants can understand far more words than they can speak.  Over the past few decades, research has shown that pre-verbal toddlers can use simple hand gestures to communicate through baby sign language.  In addition to reducing frustration for both parents and toddlers through improved communication, studies have shown that babies who were taught basic sign language have larger vocabularies, increased IQ scores, and better ability to interact socially with other children.   (more…)

May 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm 2 comments

Fostering Generosity in Kids

While many Kids Gardeningpeople are private about charitable activities, there is one case where it is a good idea to be open: with kids. It turns out that children who observe charity work among the influential adults in their lives are far more likely to be generous when they grow up.

A study by Independent Sector determined that: (more…)

May 13, 2010 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Morality: A Matter of Nature and Nurture

Nature and NurtureIn a New York Times magazine feature in May 2010, Yale professor Paul Bloom describes the research on the moral instincts of babies being conducted by his research team at the Infant Cognition Center at Yale University.  The researchers found that the significant majority of babies as young as 5 months old prefer good (helpful) characters over bad (hindering) ones, moreover babies at 8 months show preference for characters that act justly by either rewarding a good guy, or punishing a bad actor.

However, that is not to say that babies have “moral” preferences in all cases.   (more…)

May 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

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