It’s easy to spot a bruise on your child’s elbow or a scrape on the knee, but what about an injury inside their head? Brain injuries, such as concussion, are often referred to as “invisible” injuries because they don’t show on the outside. Even though you might not see the injury, your child will still feel the effects and need the proper care to get better.
Most likely, you are hearing more about concussions these days than ever before. That can mean a lot of information to sift through. Based on the latest research evidence, here are the eight essential facts every parent should know about concussion.
1) A concussion is a brain injury.
It affects the way a child may think and remember things and can cause a variety of physical, cognitive, behavioural, and sleep-related symptoms. Concussions are unique because, unlike other brain injuries, they can’t be seen on routine X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
2) A concussion can happen without a direct hit to the head.
A concussion can be caused by any blow to your child’s head, face or neck, or a blow to their body which causes a sudden jarring of their head (think: whiplash). Examples include your child being hit in the head with a ball, colliding with another person, or falling and knocking their head on the floor.
Over the summer, your preschooler drew on the sidewalk with chalk, got her fingers messy with paints, created puppet shows for his family, and sang along to their favourite movie. Creativity doesn’t have to end with long, sunny days. Whether you have a child heading to preschool, daycare, or kindergarten in September, or they’re joining their friends in elementary school, Fall is a bustling season. September is when many extracurricular activities kick off as well. So keep the artistic passion that fueled her all summer long going—with an art class.
The arts provide children with valuable skills like focus, critical thinking, and cooperation. By immersing themselves in the artistic process, children also flex their creativity in ways that will benefit them long term. The arts are proven to improve kids’ social, mental, and emotional development, and foster problem-solving abilities and entrepreneurial instincts.
There are many art forms and classes available for your child to participate in, so where do you start? How do you choose if your kid should try drama, sculpture, dance, or something else entirely?
There are seemingly endless options for after-school activities that your children can get involved in, from soccer to swimming to piano lessons. But what do your children really get out of these activities? Here are some reasons why your kids should participate in extracurricular activities, beyond the standard ‘it looks good on a resume.’
Extracurricular activities can foster an open mind
Extracurriculars will give your children a chance to explore environments they may not encounter in school or at home. This may expose them to new ideas, interests, and opportunities, which is a great way to encourage their curiosity. Goodsschools.com specifically suggests volunteering and community service opportunities for students to “broaden their perspective of the world.”
The benefits of extracurricular activities include building relationships and connections for their future
After-school activities provide an opportunity for children and teens to spend time in a non-academic environment with people in their age group. This will allow them to build positive relationships in a fun and safe space with others who share a common interest. Some extracurricular activities for teens may even open the door later on to an employment opportunity if they form positive connections and relationships with the organization.
Kids can strengthen interpersonal and work skills outside their familiar ‘zones’
Extracurricular activities for children not only allow them to experience new and fun things, they also help them build important life skills. For example, the relationships they build during these activities will teach them how to work with new people and how to work in a team. Eduflow also mentions time management, self-esteem, and organization as skills fostered in extracurricular activities that will be beneficial to kids in school and later in life in the workforce.
Outside-school activities teach kids to stay committed
Another important part of extracurricular activities for children and teens is the ability to keep a long-term commitment. If your 12-year-old is on a field hockey or rugby team, they will quickly learn that the rest of the team is depending on them to be there for practices and games throughout the season. As More 4 Kids says, “They commit themselves to that activity for a period of time. If they don’t hold up to their end of the deal, no doubt they’ll hear about it from their peers and perhaps even teachers.” An activity that requires this type of commitment will provide kids with a great learning experience to be responsible for the activities they have signed up for.
Need ideas for extracurricular activities? Here is a list to start you off!
If you need something new and exciting for your children to participate in, try looking into programs at your local recreation centre. You may be able to find an introductory program to a unique sport or activity you never would have encountered otherwise. Here are some ideas of activities to get you started:
- Rock climbing
- Rhythmic gymnastics
- Robotics club
- Irish dancing (or other cultural dancing)
- Cello lessons
- Water polo
- Volunteering at a local animal shelter
Extracurricular activities are a great way to bring balance to your child’s academic life and teach them many important skills during their formative years. Just make sure to not overdo it; one or two extracurriculars is plenty!
Susan Cumberland is the owner of School Is Easy Tutoring Franchise system (founded in 2002). She has her B.Ed. and M.A.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Winner of several awards including Better Business Bureau People’s Pick and Marketplace Excellence.
Back to School is just around the corner. It’s now time to stop thinking about which Summer Camps to enroll the kids in and consider which activities for them to do after school and on weekends. Will it be the same as last year? Or are you considering something new? Here are some ideas that your children may love!
Arts Umbrella’s Dance Program is the perfect first step toward nurturing your child’s love of Dance. Our ballet-based program gives young dancers a chance to explore movement in a fun, supportive, and engaging environment, building the confidence to realize their full potential.
Colourstrings Music & Movement
Ages 3 months to 6 years
In age-specific groupings children enjoy songs and games that develop a solid musical foundation. The more advanced classes introduce music reading and writing. Classes now available French! Instrumental lessons for children, 5 years and upwards: Violin, Viola, Piano, Percussion, Flute, Cello, and Acoustic Guitar
Long & McQuade Music
Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Courtenay, Kamloops, Langley, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, White Rock
Private and group music instruction at affordable rates, custom-tailored to
the needs of individual students in a wide variety of instruments, including acoustic & electric guitar, piano, drums, vocals, orchestral strings, brass, and woodwinds.
It’s hard to believe that summer is half over. The time has flown by and now it’s time to start thinking about getting back into a routine and preparing for the school year.
What will this school year bring for you? New activities—dance, sports, theatre—or will it bring a focus on education? Maybe a combination is what is required.
In this issue, we’ve tried to give you some suggestions about how to embrace the new school year with tips on getting organized, how to choose an art class, and even how to succeed at failing.
Enjoy the rest of your Summer and Happy Back to School!
All parents want their children to thrive. From the minute they’re born, we guide them through a million milestones – and then we send them off to school. Most kids just get it – they breeze through the A, B, C’s, math equations and general school structure without a backward glance.
But every so often, there’s a child who finds school a challenge and that’s stressful – not only for the child, but also their parents, teachers, and caregivers.
However, with a little help and research, it’s possible to discover the reasons behind the challenges that are weighing the child down. Learning is a complex process and some children need different learning styles in order to succeed. And with a Psychological Educational Assessment, it’s possible to pinpoint exactly what is going on, so that teachers and families can implement strategies and techniques to help the child.
But for many parents, an assessment can sound daunting. So to relieve the pressure and answer some of your questions, BC Parent has spoken to some local psychologists to get the low down on what the process entails.
What exactly is a psycho educational (psych ed) assessment?
A psych ed assessment is a psychological test that analyses a child’s mental processes underlying his or her educational performance. Most psychologists agree that this testing is not something to be feared. Instead, it should be seen as empowering, as it helps provide answers and strategies of how to deal with problems their child has been facing.
Dr. Eamonn Gill, a registered psychologist in Vancouver, says, “A psych ed assessment is really just designed to give us an understanding of a young person’s abilities and skills. The assessment can include a broad array of measures to capture information about various components of cognitive ability, memory, attention, behavior, social and emotional functioning, academic functioning and other executive functions.”
At what age do children get tested?
Any child from the age of four to 18 years old can get tested and this can be for a variety of reasons. Dr. Carla Fry, a registered psychologist with the Vancouver Psychology Centre, said, “Young children might be assessed to see if they have learning or developmental disabilities. Older teens might be assessed to help them to determine what they might want to study in university or trade school and whether they need any accommodations, such as extra time or a separate room to complete exams to help them to demonstrate what they have learned.”
How do you know if your child needs a psych ed assessment?
Experts agree that the initial signs that testing might be necessary are often academic based, especially in the early grades. Early signs include children having problems keeping up with their peers, or perhaps trying really hard at school but still finding it a struggle, particularly regarding reading, writing, or early math skills.
Other things to watch for include difficulty remembering things, difficulty absorbing instructions or responding to instructions, difficulty paying attention, coordination (grasping pencils for example). Additional red flags to pay attention to are difficulty in grasping concepts related to time, or problems staying organized.
What happens during a psych ed assessment?
Each assessment will be slightly different, depending on the things the child is being tested for.
The assessment is a very interactive process, where kids are presented with visual and hands-on problem-solving tasks and verbally presented questions. The length of the testing will vary, depending on whether a child gets the testing through the school or independently.
In a private practice, the testing for the child is often around six hours. Many psychologists will break that up into two or three testing sessions, so that the young person doesn’t get exhausted or burnt out, or so that their performance doesn’t get negatively affected by having to sit for too long.
Some of the main areas that are looked at during the tests are social functioning, processing emotions, ability to reason, perform mathematical calculations, sustain focus or attention, reading skills, writing skills, how well they’ve developed expression of ideas and facets of memory.
How can it help?
There are numerous ways in which a psych ed assessment can be of value to a child’s development – both at school and at home. Dr. Gill says, “One of the hidden benefits is that sometimes parents can be aware of things that are going wrong, but they’re sometimes not so aware of the hidden strengths that their children have. Going through a psych ed evaluation might make parents aware of significant strengths or abilities that their child has that they didn’t know.”
What happens after the assessment?
Once a child has gone through the assessment process, and the psychologist has gone through the materials and calculated the results, they will also talk to the child’s teacher (with the family’s permission) to get information from the educational environment. The objective is to get information from multiple environments.
Dr. Arthur Burrows, a registered psychologist in Nanaimo said, “We say things like, ‘you need to get your kid tested’, but the tests are only one part of it. Kids can score different results on these tests for a whole bunch of reasons and that’s why it’s not just the test, it’s the history, observing the child, talking to the adults who know the child – that information is very rich and very important and the test scores should be taken into context with everything else.”
Whatever the assessment results show, it is important to discuss the results with the child in a supportive and non-judgmental manner.
How much does it cost?
Psych ed assessments range in price from $2400 – $3000 for a private assessment.
However, if the cost of a private assessment is prohibitive, children can get assessed through the public school system. Often, students will get flagged by the teachers or the learning support team as needing assessment. Parents can also request a meeting with their child’s school-based team to discuss whether their child is a potential candidate to an assessment from the school psychologist.
The downside of testing through the school is that wait times can be lengthy, (depending on the resources available at your school and in your district) and this can mean if a child is in dire need of help, waiting can have an impact on their progress.
If you think your child needs an assessment, make an appointment with your child’s teacher, school counselor or principal to see what options are available.
You can also call a psychologist yourself – most of them are willing to make the time to answer a couple of questions to see if a psych ed assessment is a good choice for your child.
How to find a good psychologist for your child?
Finding the right psychologist is crucial to making the whole process go smoothly.
Dr. Burrows said, “You want to find a psychologist who you feel is approachable and straightforward because it’s really important for parents to be a part of this process. All registered psychologist have to be registered members of the BC College of Psychologists, so make sure you check their credentials and when you’re shopping around, you want them to have specific experience and training doing psych ed assessments.”
The BC Psychological Association offers free access to a referral service listing Registered Psychologists in your area, but another way to find someone suitable is to ask members of your school community for a referral.
North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic
Suite 300 – 145 Chadwick Court, North Vancouver
At the NSSAC Psychoeducational Assessment Centre, our team of skilled and experienced psychologists specialize in providing high quality, evidence-based psychoeducational assessments. We are committed to helping children, teens, and adults better understand their strengths and challenges and reach their potential.
Gill, Cohen & Associates
Suite 704 – 318 Homer Street, Vancouver
Dr. Gill and Dr. Cohen have decades of experience as psychologists working with children and youth. Our mission is to help your child regain a positive relationship with learning and maximize their academic success.
Thaiss Psychological Services
(Dr. Laila Thaiss, R.Psych., CPBC #01583)
209-2186 Oak Bay Ave, Victoria
Dr. Thaiss offers specialized psychological services for children and adolescents. Her assessments help you understand your child’s learning and emotional strengths, as well as their developmental needs. Supports and recommendations are provided to help your child experience success and promote their wellbeing.
Vancouver Psychology Centre
1529 West 6th Ave, Suite #204, Vancouver
1718 Marine Drive, Suite #1, West Vancouver
The Vancouver Psychology Centre is a team of like-minded Psychologists, Counsellors, Art Therapists and Youth Care Workers that have united to provide evidence-based assessment, consultation, and treatment to individuals and families who seek greater happiness and meaning in their lives.
Dr. Antanina Firer
601 W. Broadway – 301, Vancouver
Dr. Antanina Firer is a Registered Psychologist who specializes in child and adolescent psychology. Dr. Fireer serves Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. She provides comprehensive psychological assessments for children and teenagers who present with cognitive, emotional, and behavioural challenges.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — time to send the kids back to school and reclaim your household! After a summer of camps and goofing around inside, your house may need a little tough love to get back into shape for the fall. Research shows that the average North American home has 300,000 items in it, and back-to-school is the perfect time to get rid of the ones that you don’t need anymore.
As the kids head back to school and you take the steps to get your house back and order, I’m sharing ten of my favorite tips and tricks to declutter and organize your home this fall:
- Pull out all the homework and artwork from the previous school year. Before the onslaught of this school year’s homework and artwork, make sure you have decluttered last year’s. We all know Little Timmy is smart as a whip, but you don’t need to keep every piece of homework he brings. Homework has one purpose and one purpose only: to help kids learn. It’s not to be immortalized in boxes in the garage that you’ll never look it. Empty backpacks, desk drawers and those piles you’ve been meaning to tackle and pick the best of the best. Save the things that are substantial and remind you who they were at the time in their lives. As for artwork, how many turkey hands does one family need? Pare down to a small but great representation of their masterpieces and let the rest go. Take photos if you just can’t bare to let them go. You might want to also consider making art books out of the artwork. A crayon self-portrait looks so much better in a book for the long run than in a box in your garage. You can make them yourself with any number of apps but if you need a little help, I love Souvenartebooks!
- Donate (or toss if they are broken) toys that didn’t get used this summer. After a summer of “I’m bored,” you’ll have a great idea of what toys your kids really play with. And don’t forget the holidays (AKA more stuff) are just around the corner. 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally. The new school year will jump them to the next developmental level, so really be honest about what’s going to get played with. If letting go of toys is difficult for your kid, try the half way there approach. Sort the toys into four piles: keep, donate, trash and not quite yet. Box up the “not quite yet toys” and put in a closet or garage. Tell your kids if they really miss the toy and want to play with it, it’s right there. But chances are, out of sight, out of mind, especially with all the homework coming their way.
- Did summer reading lists create a glut of books in your home? Time to do a purge of the books that won’t get read again or won’t ever be read. Of course there are classics and favorites that will be kept but ask your kids if they really are going to read Captain Underpants for the 4th time. Most libraries are facing deep budget cuts so lots of them have turned to book sales to keep their doors open a little later and on weekend. Check with your local library to see if they are accepting books and while you are there, return those overdue library books!
- Running around in bathing suits and sprouting up like weeds means your kids have outgrown a lot of last year’s clothes. Time to do a deep dive on their clothes and donate the clothes they don’t wear or can’t fit into any more. This is a great process to involve kids in as it gets them used to the idea of letting go of stuff they don’t use or wear any more. First do a pass when they are at school and make a pile of the clothes you think are too small or worn out. Then when they are home, ask them what they are okay letting go of. Have them try it one to make sure it really fits. If there are younger siblings or cousins, put them the hand-me-down box. Also, consider doing a clothes swap with other families. Peace Love Swap can help you organize one. And don’t forget back-to-school school shopping is on the agenda so make some room!
- Donate old backpacks. Most kids get new backpacks for each school year. If last year’s pack is still in good shape, think about donating to a local nonprofit that works with foster kids. Use this as an opportunity to declutter backpacks, duffle bags and suitcases. Foster kids are in dire need of suitcases, duffle bags and backpacks. Because they are moving around so much and don’t have a permanent home, they often move to foster home to foster home with their belongings in a trash bag. Finding a local organization that provides these donations to local foster kids is a great way to teach your kids about giving back.
- Donate old sports equipment. Has the team gotten a new logo making the old uniforms out-of-date? A client called me up to say that her daughter’s school team got a new logo and they had so many uniforms that were in great shape but they didn’t know what to do with them. I happened to be going to Kenya at that time to work with a girl’s school there, so I volunteered to bring the uniforms to Nyamasare Girl’s School and Orphanage for their football team. They were so excited about the new uniforms, they changed their mascot to the tiger to match the shirts. Talk to the coach about doing a team cleat drive. Everybody wins!
- Donate old towels to local animal rescue groups. Pool, river, lake, or ocean have all wreaked havoc on your towels. Once everyone is settled into their new schedules, pull all the towels out and see which ones can go. This is an easy one because a tired towel is a tired towel. Keep a couple on hand for spills and floods, but donate the rest to a local animal rescue group. I even had a family recently that took piles and piles of old towels to the SPCA and came home with a new dog!
- Tackle your garage. 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them, and after a summer of everyone home, the garage has become the dumping ground. Tackle this before winter comes because this is one of the biggest jobs on the list but maybe the most satisfying! Take a little time to come up with a plan to attack the garage. First, start with the purging. Then determine if some shelving would help keep you organized moving into the school year. Remember an organized garage is like staying thin — you have to be vigilant about the amount of calories/things that come in or else the weigh/clutter will pile on!
- Return order to the kitchen. Constant summertime snacking has probably turned the kitchen upside down. The kitchen is a great place to start with a purge! Kitchens are magnets for clutter and you have to be brutal with the purge, otherwise you are drowning in coffee cups you never use. The first place to start is with food storage containers. Bring them all out on the kitchen counter and match tops with bottoms. If there’s no top (or bottom) … OUT! Check your plates, if they are chipped and broken, time to let go. Is there a drawer of old plastic Disney plates that the kids aren’t using anymore? Time to donate them. Next, take a look at your pantry. I feel really strongly about the food waste problem in this country. 40% of the food in the United States is never eaten, but at the same time, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table. That being said, we all have lots of food in our cupboards that our families won’t ever eat. So when doing your pantry purge, call your local food bank and see if they take slightly “expired” food. Most do! This is also a great time to take stock of what foods the family really eats. I like to make a master grocery list that lives on the computer or can be printed out. That way, before you go to the store, you can check the pantry to make sure you don’t buy staples you already have. And to stay ahead of the clutter in the school year, never go to the grocery without a list. It’s a surefire way to over buy.
- Next year think about doing this decluttering while the kids are at sleep away camp! Once back-to-school hits, everyone is running at top speed. Many of my clients book me for one of the weeks that the kids are away at camp, and then save the second week for a kid-free staycation!
Tracy has always referred to herself as “obsessive compulsive delightful,” but who knew she could turn that trait into a booming business? Nearly ten years ago, while working for a major television director in Los Angeles, Tracy discovered she had the ability to see through any mess and clearly envision a clutter-free space. Coupled with keen time-management and organizational skills, Tracy soon found more and more people were asking her for help. Before she knew it, dClutterfly was born.
Ten years and over 1,200 jobs later, dClutterfly has been named “Best in Nest” by DailyCandy and has received the Super Service Award from Angie’s List for five years. Tracy is a regularly featured expert on KTLA Morning Show, KCAL9, and Good Day Sacramento. She and her company have also been featured in Real Simple, Women’s Day and ShopSmart. Along with her team of expert dClutterers, Tracy is ready to tackle any project, big or small.
In addition to her impressive organizing tool belt, Tracy grew up with family members who hoarded and knows firsthand that the effects of living amongst an accumulation of possessions goes far beyond the home’s walls. This personal experience gives her an advantage over most professional organizers as she has a unique understanding of the mindset of the organizationally and spatially-challenged.
When she is not dCluttering, Tracy is the proud Co-Executive Director of OneKid OneWorld, a non-profit building strong educational foundations for children in impoverished communities throughout Kenya and Central America. OKOW is providing kids with the basic (yet essential) fundamentals like desks and books, as well as paying teachers’ salaries, building classrooms and even installing solar power technology so students can study at night. OKOW’s most recent project #OneGirlOnePad will provide access to reusable feminine hygiene kits to over 4,000 girls in Kenya, allowing them to attend school all year round. OneKid OneWorld is Tracy’s “full time, non-paying passion.”
The Top 10 Classic Games or Toys that Kids Today Should be Playing With Revised for 2017
In 2012, What To Do With The Kids® asked parents to submit their list of the top classic games or toys they felt that kid’s today should be playing with but this time we decided to ask toy and game industry professionals for their opinions and many of the choices have not changed.
A number of people suggested toys and games for specific age groups but for this list we wanted an overall view of what the kids should be playing with today. Brand name products are listed but for many, these are considered to be a “classic” game or toy.
Of all the suggestions made by the industry pros, very few needed batteries and not one suggestion involved a screen of any kind. Most emphasized the importance of play and how it helps in a kid’s development. Cassidy Smith, National Sales Manager at Hape Toys commented, “I truly believe the more we can have parents pull their children away from screen play and let them be kids again the better. Kids need to learn through play but what a lot of parents don’t realize is that it’s actually good for kids to be bored on occasion too.”
Legos top our list and it seems that its popularity has never been higher. Andrea Bergstein, Founder and CEO of Scribblitt, Kids Publishing commented, “Lego develops thinking in 3D, helps organizational abilities and planning as well as creativity.” Building blocks were second on our list but this can also include all types of building and construction type of toys. Beth Muehlenkamp, Brand Manager at Playmonster said “Early construction toys that are well designed and built, promote STEM, quiet play, dexterity, spatial awareness and fine motor skills.”
David Katzner, Founder and President of The National Parenting Center commented, “Active play is an essential part of growing up, toys like Frisbees, balls for kicking or throwing, etc.” The newest addition to our list is balls which includes the generic utility ball along with those associated with sports such as basketball, tennis or soccer.
The What To Do With The Kids® Top 10 Classic Games or Toys that Kids Today Should be Playing With according to toy and game industry professionals:
2. Building Blocks
6. Jump/Skipping Rope
7. Chutes and Ladders
8. Assorted Balls
9. Chinese Checkers
10. Jigsaw Puzzles
This top 10 list was created with the participation of a number of game and toy industry professionals and they include:
Andrea Bergstein, Founder/CEO, Scribblitt Kids Publishing
Mary Couzin, President, Chicago Toy & Game Group
Ev Johnson, Founder, (www.werfungames.com
David Katzner, Founder/President, The National Parenting Center
Jenny Kile, Founder, Kardtects Building Cards
Beth Muehlenkamp, Brand Manager, Playmonster
Brian Presley, President, What To Do With The Kids
Cassidy Smith, National Sales Manager, Hape Toys
Rachel Urso, CEO, Celebrity Baby Trends Public Relations
What To Do With The Kids® is the website that adults go to when they want to know what to do with their kids. The website features games, crafts, activities, party ideas, the What To Do With The Kids® Minute Podcast and is the home of SitterAdvantage™, the app that makes sitters and nannies better. Visit us at www.whattodowiththekids.com.
So many parents today complain that their kids are always inside and plugged into their electronics, and never play outside with their friends like we used to when we were growing up. They are worried their young children are addicted to their Ipad and cell phone and wonder what to do. They have every right to be concerned for their children and all of the others who are spending most of their free time indoors and “plugged in” to something electronic, and the overuse of screen time in general.
The difference between my childhood and my 22-year-old son’s childhood is astonishing! His generation is so plugged into electronic diversions that it has lost its connection to the natural and social world.
My memories of growing up include many hours spent “out of doors” after school, after dinner, and on weekends. We could not get enough time outside with our friends and family enjoying hikes, cycling, walking and exploring nature. Our parents struggled with getting us to come inside and television was a limited “treat”. Times have certainly changed! I see many children under the age of 5 mesmerized by their parent’s tablets and smartphones out in their communities, everywhere I go.
I read the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv and highly recommend it to all parents and educators who are struggling with a generation lacking in direct exposure to nature and over-exposure to electronics. In his book, Louv details studies and research on the growing body of evidence linking the lack of nature and increase in time spent with electronics in children’s lives and the rise in childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Swedish researchers compared children within two early childhood care settings: at one centre, television and computers were readily available and the outdoor play space was limited and made of steel, plastic and other man-made materials. At the second centre, electronics were limited and rarely available and the outdoor play area was based on an “outdoors in all weather” natural theme. The children enjoyed playing with a variety of natural materials two to three times a day.
Those children attending the second nature centre had better motor coordination, more ability to concentrate, less agitation and irritation, less impulsive behaviour and greater creativity. They found that direct exposure to nature was essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development. Those attending the first centre had difficulty with attention span and struggled with impulsive behaviour and irritability. Sleep disturbances were also noticed.
Excessive exposure to electronic games, television, computers, tablets and cell phones can contribute to limited physical activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. Activities that the Mayo Clinic defines as “sedentary” include watching television, playing video games and texting on cell phones. In some families, these activities may become a priority over going outside to play; if children routinely choose to play electronic games and watch TV, they miss out on more traditional forms of exercise and could be at risk for childhood obesity.
I recommend adding nature activities and outdoor adventures to your everyday daily routines with your young children and limiting the time they spend in screen time activities. I understand that time is precious and our lives are full of schedules and commitments.
You may be pleasantly surprised that your children will sleep better after an evening of fresh air and may respond more positively after they experience the joy and wonder from outdoor activities with simple natural materials instead of an afternoon or evening in front of the television. You may also find that your time spent outdoors will also help “clear your mind” and improve your emotional well-being as well.
In a recent article, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine reviewed available types of interactive media and raised “important questions regarding their use as educational tools”, according to pediatric studies. The researchers state that though the “adverse effects of television and video on very small children was well understood, society’s understanding of the impact of mobile devices on the pre-school brain has been outpaced by how many parents are using them as a “babysitter” and by how much children are already using them “excessively”. The researchers warned that using a tablet or smartphone to divert a child’s attention repeatedly, could be detrimental to “their social-emotional development” and may impede their ability to learn self-regulation.
I also found that the use of interactive screen time below three years of age could also impair a child’s development of the skills needed for maths and science and the development of social skills.
Researchers urge parents to increase “direct human to human interaction” with their off-spring. They encourage more “unplugged” family interaction in general and suggested young children may benefit from “a designated family hour” of quality time spent with relatives—without any television and mobile devices distracting them or diverting their attention away from each other.
As an early learning expert, I question whether the use of smartphones and tablets could interfere with the ability to develop empathy and problem-solving skills and elements of social interaction that are typically learned during unstructured play and communication with other young children.
Playing with puzzles and building blocks help toddlers/preschoolers more with early math skills than interactive electronic gadgets. These devices replace the hands-on activities important for the development of sensorimotor and visual-motor skills, which are so important for the learning and application of cognitive skills needed for math and science as well.
I met a wonderful single father of two the other day and he shared with me a really great plan he developed for his pre-teen children. He made a sign and placed it on their TV for both children to see. It says, “No TV until TASKS are completed” and there is also a booklet for each child that includes a few tasks that are required to be completed prior to time spent on electronics or watching TV. He told me that it is a very successful tool and is working well.
I encourage all parents to educate themselves on the positives and negatives of electronics in their children’s lives, to make informed and positive decisions for their children’s well-being and to be loving and creative in their approach to electronics in their lives and in their homes.
About Brenda Fisher-Barber
Brenda Fisher-Barber, an Early Learning Expert with 35 years’ experience working with children of all ages and specializing in the early years. Brenda has been a Preschool Teacher, Early Childhood Education College Coordinator/Instructor, StrongStart BC Facilitator and Professional Development/Workshop Presenter. Please visit her website for more information and to connect with her.