Goldilocks and the Three…Storytelling Methods?

How did you first experience the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Was it during storytime in preschool? A cartoon on the TV? Or was it when you read the picture book yourself? No matter how you first learned of the picky girl that needed everything “just right,” you probably weren’t thinking about how your brain was functioning while you did. Luckily, that’s exactly what researcher Dr. John Hutton from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital did when he studied a group of about 30 children and how their brains reacted to different forms of storytelling. His findings were shockingly similar to that of Goldilocks and found that picture books are “just right” for young children.

Dr. Hutton imagined three ways in which young children—those around age four—could be exposed to stories. The first way was the traditional read-aloud situation in which the child does not actually view the picture book, but hears the words read aloud to them. The second scenario was the act of hearing the story while also being able to look at the picture book itself. The last way was simply viewing an animated version of the story, replicating a cartoon. He wanted to know how the children’s brains reacted when they were exposed to these different forms of the same story.

Hutton studied the activity in certain brain regions related to audio, language, and visual ability along with the connection between these different areas as the children were exposed to each of the three methods. His findings can be described as having a “Goldilocks effect” in the sense that the audio-only method was “too cold” while the cartoon was “too hot” for the young subjects’ brains. In the audio-only instance, the language regions were active but had low connectivity, suggesting that the children were struggling to understand and visualize the story simultaneously. On the contrary, the cartoon stimulated the audio and visual areas, but had low connectivity with the language region, resulting in the worst comprehension. This meant that children were actually overstimulated in the audio-visual areas to the extent that the language region could not keep up. The sweet spot was the illustrated version with the audio voiceover. This method provided the children with a nice balance between the networks and the pictures provided just enough imagery for the children’s imagination kick in, allowing the language region to keep up.

 

Sharing is Caring

These findings reinforce the idea of sharing a book with your young child as a parent. Note that “sharing” a book with your child is much different than simply reading it out loud to them. Sharing goes beyond the words in the book and involves an interactive experience for the child in which the parent is encouraged to stop frequently to discuss characters, themes, and interesting passages. Prior to Hutton’s studies, performing this type of reading with toddlers was already seen to improve cognitive and language skills, while also increasing the young child’s vocabulary, pre-reading ability, and conceptual development. By understanding picture books as the best way to engage children, parents should pass up the cartoons and read-aloud time for a nice picture book to share.

Game On! Why Your Child Should Play Video Games

“Get off that game! You’ll go blind!”

It’s a tale as old as time: parents are chasing their children off video games all over the world. As a parent, you want to be sure your child is getting the most beneficial experiences possible. New and conflicting information seems to appear often on whether or not video games are “good” for you. Among the World Health Organization (WHO)’s new draft of medical conditions on June 18, 2018, they included “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable illness. Meanwhile, psychologists, researchers, and game developers point to how games can instill therapeutic, recreational and educational values in its players. It’s understandable that you want your kids to engage in a positive activity that helps them socialize and grow, but who’s to say your child’s video game isn’t doing both?

So video games are good for me now?

I know what you are thinking, “How can playing a video game for hours on end be good for anyone, let alone a child?” Video games provide players with challenging and engaging tasks that require the player to think critically and adapt new strategies as they progress.

According to a journal article entitled The Benefits of Playing Video Games published by Isabela Granic, PhD of Radboud University Nijmegan in The Netherlands, playing video games can help improve problem-solving skills as well as have motivational benefits. Dr. Granic says that video games are an ideal training ground for acquiring an incremental theory of intelligence because they provide players concrete, immediate feedback regarding specific efforts players have made.

Incremental theory of intelligence is the belief that intelligence is “malleable, or something that can be cultivated over time and effort.” This form of intelligence is extremely important, as it teaches children to maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure. Dr. Granic also mentions that there may be a positive correlation between playing video games and dealing with failure and “real world” success in areas like continuing to push past a problem instead of giving up.

Now of course, other settings can also help children learn and reinforce these lessons while playing games or working in groups, playing video games all day can have negative effects. Video game play must be done in moderation, so how much time should someone spend playing?

The answer may surprise you

A recent study from University of Oxford experimental psychologist Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd. entitled Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment was conducted using 2436 males and 2463 females, ages ranging from 10 to 15. What Dr. Przybylski was looking for was the effects of gameplay of a child psychosocial development. What he found may shape the way we think about children and video gameplay. Dr. Przybylski found that children who spend less than one-third of their day gaming—that’s no more than 3 hours a day—were shown to have higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and emotional symptoms. He also went on to say that “electronic play has salutary functions similar to traditional forms of play; they present opportunities for identity development as well as cognitive and social challenges.”

Now that we know more about the positive cognitive and behavioral effects video games have on kids, we see that maybe we shouldn’t be chasing them off these games. Video games played in moderation have been shown to increase cognitive function and be as beneficial as other forms of play. Video games also provide children with the opportunity to learn skills we may overlook, like critical thinking, strategy and spatial thinking. Some games promote physical activity in children with ADHD, as the risk for obesity is much greater. So the next time you see your child playing his or her favorite game, have a seat next to them and ask to play next because you’re never too old learn a new skill.

 

What do you think is a good amount of video game time for your family? Let us know in the comments!

Gifts from Dad: What Dad Passes Down To You

From the time we are born, we as humans have a special bond with our fathers. Typically, dads are known for teaching their sons how to throw a baseball or teaching their daughters how to change a flat tire, but fathers also pass on many other traits that literally make us who we are.

Genetically speaking, we bear more resemblance to our fathers than we do our mothers. Researchers at UNC School of Medicine studying gene expression, or the genes level of activity at creating RNA found that the genes being studied were parent-of-origin specific, with 60% of the genes activity level coming from the father’s side. Although we inherit the same amount of DNA from each parent, the father’s side has more influence on the features a child will develop.

Let’s take a closer look at what we can thank our fathers for this Father’s Day.

Sex

The most well known “gift” from dad, a child’s sex is highly dependent on the father’s sperm. The women’s egg carries the X chromosome that pairs with the chromosome from the sperm. If the sperm is carrying an X chromosome and links with the mother’s X chromosome, the baby will be a girl, while a Y chromosome brings a baby boy.

Eye Color

The color of your eyes is determined by dominant and recessive genes. Dominant genes will produce brown eye color, while recessive genes produce lighter colors like blue or green. If both of your parents have recessive genes, you have a chance to inherit blue or green eyes. however, if your father has brown eyes, you will likely inherit them as well.

Hair

On to more traits from dominant and recessive genes, hair texture is also influenced by our genes. The gene for full, thick hair is dominant while the gene for thinner or balding hair is recessive. So, if your father has a thick head of hair and your mother has thinner hair, you are likely to have flowy locks like your father.

Mental Health

Although the mother can pass on mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, ADHD or bipolar disorder to their children, older fathers are more likely to pass different kinds of genetic mutations to their children. Older men continue to produce new sperm, while mothers have all their eggs from the time they are born, therefore, fathers who have mental health conditions are more likely to pass them on.

Additionally, children that are diagnosed with ADHD are highly likely to have a parent or blood relative that also has it. Researchers need to conduct larger studies to identify the specific genes associated with ADHD, however, there is no genetic test to determine if someone has ADHD. It’s often helpful for the child to know someone like them to look up to and who can help with tools and tactics for success.

Teeth

According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Anthropology, children can inherit their tooth size, jaw size, and shape of their teeth from either parent. However, due to the fact that the father’s genes are more dominant than the mothers, you can thank your father for your pearly whites!

 

We have a lot to thank dads for this Father’s Day.  Our fathers have made us into the people we are today—with a lot of help from mom, of course! We thank fathers everywhere for their guidance, knowledge, and most importantly, their good genes.

 

What traits did you inherit from your dad? Leave a comment and let us know!

The Summer Slide: Tips for a Smarter Summer

Flash forward to cooler temperatures when you’re just now finishing up back to school shopping after a long vacation. Every parent hopes that their child can’t wait to start learning again, but when they look at you with a lost look in their eyes and they say they aren’t ready to go back, your stomach can’t help but drop a little. Despite all the fun and relaxation, it becomes clear that the infamous “summer slide” has struck again.

Summer learning loss, also called the “summer slide” or “summer setback,” refers to the loss of academic ability and cognitive function that takes place over the summer vacation period. Some students are able to catch back up quickly during the first few review weeks, but for others, the loss is too significant to brush off, resulting in a noticeable lag behind peers. A study led by Duke University researcher Harris Cooper concluded that most students will lose about 1 month of math progress while other studies have estimated this number is closer to 2.5 full months. Similarly, research shows that about 2 months of reading comprehension ability is lost over vacation. Due to the lack of summer enrichment opportunities available to low-socioeconomic status students, the loss is usually steeper, with the compounded effect of lackluster summers resulting in a full 3-year gap in reading levels compared to their wealthier peers by the beginning of high school!

 

So, how do we prevent the “summer slide?”

At first glance, this may seem like an easy question. Just like sports or an instrument, reading comprehension and math must be practiced if a student wants to improve or maintain the skills. The slide is like deciding to skip out on the gym for three months. You can’t expect to return and immediately pick up the same weights and train at the same intensity as before your break. Luckily, there are many routes to keep your brain active over summer and avoid significant learning regression. One way to ensure your child stays ahead is to participate in one or more types of summer enrichment opportunities, such as summer camps or tailored academic programs. However, with an average weekly cost of $288 per child, these programs remain out of reach for many families. So, the question holds, how does one prevent the “summer slide” without having to spend lots of money?

 

Practice makes perfect

The good news is your child doesn’t need an expensive summer enrichment program in order to prevent learning loss. Here are a few easy and cost-effective ways to curb the “summer slide”:

Set a goal. Talk to your child about how many books they should read over the summer and make a plan to get there. Research has shown that reading just six books over the summer can help combat the “summer slide” for reading comprehension. Try choosing some books that are a challenge, but allow your child to read things they will find interesting.

Read aloud. Don’t underestimate storytime! Children of all ages, even teenagers, can benefit from listening to books read aloud. Ask your children questions about the motivation of the characters and their favorite parts, or have them retell the story in their own words. In addition, parents can read literature that slightly exceeds their child’s reading level and in turn, improve their comprehension.

Stealth learning. The best way to prevent the “summer slide” is to never allow it to happen. Although this might not sound enjoyable, there are ways to incorporate education into fun activities through a process called stealth learning, or “hiding” education into activities that won’t look like schoolwork. For example, taking your child to the new sci-fi movie, and afterwards researching some aspects of space exploration or physics is a great way to allow them to have fun while also exercising their brain! Keeping reading and math a part of daily life over the summer will ensure your child won’t lose what they learned. Instead, they might even get ahead of their friends!

Use “no sun” hours in creative ways. When it gets too hot to be outside, consider using this time to exercise your child’s mind by building something out of recycled materials or Legos. Alternatively, cooking meals with your child can encourage them to think creatively about math and reading. It can also be as simple as printing out some math problems and seeing who can finish them fastest with a small reward for the top score. You can even use NeuroPlus to build upon the skills of focus, impulse control, and calmness, all of which can help your student in the classroom when they go back to school.

 

There is no secret method to preventing the “summer slide.” All it takes is a conscious effort to keep your child’s brain active. This summer, don’t let the spell of vacation take away from all the work your child has done over the past nine months. Go down to the local library or bookstore and stock up on reading material, because although the waterslide at the pool might be fun, the “summer slide” is not.

 

What are some other ideas you have for combating summer learning loss? How do you incorporate learning into your child’s daily routine?