Aug 16, The newborn senses: What does your baby feel, see, hear, smell, and taste?

The newborn senses: What does your baby feel, see, hear, smell, and taste? © 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Some self-appointed experts have taken a dangerously dim view of newborn babies. Until the late 20th century, many medical authorities actually denied that newborns can feel pain (Rodkey and Ridell 2013). Thankfully, modern science has debunked that notion, and shed light on the newborn senses. What is it like to be a newborn? What do they notice about the world, and how does sensory information influence their development? Here is an evidenced-based look at your baby's sense of touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. The newborn sense of touch Babies experience touch long before they are born. As they wiggle and kick, they often touch themselves, events that may help their brains learn about the connection between touch and the internal sensations it causes. Babies also experience touch from the outside. If a pregnant woman rubs her belly, her fetus ..
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Aug 10, The Ferber Method: What does the evidence tell us about “cry it out” sleep training?

The Ferber method: What does the evidence tell us about "cry it out" sleep training? © 2008 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The Ferber method, also known as "graduated extinction," is perhaps the most well-known sleep training program for young children. It is also one of the most controversial. In a series of training sessions, parents leave their children alone for strictly-timed intervals, ignoring any protests and cries they might hear. When the method works, children gradually accept that no one will come to their aid, and, as a result, their behavior becomes less disruptive (Reid at al 1999). If you're considering sleep training for your child, this article will help you decide if graduated extinction is right for you. Here I discuss the following: When can the experts agree about, and what key questions remain unanswered? How does graduated extinction work? What are the arguments for and against graduated extinction? Why hasn't the resear..
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Aug 3, Summer learning loss: How to stop it, and still have fun

Summer learning loss? How to stop it, and still have fun © 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Without regular practice, new skills and knowledge fade. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that kids experience summer learning loss. In places like the United States -- where a long, summer school break is common -- the average child loses more than two months' worth of mathematical knowledge (Cooper et al 1996). Reading skills suffer too, but mostly among children of lower socioeconomic status. And these patterns are consistent with the "use it or lose it" explanation. During the summer, children from middle class and affluent families tend to read. Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds -- who typically have less access to books -- don't. As a result, kids living in more enriched environments often improve their reading skills over the summer. Less privileged kids lose ground. By contrast, most children -- affluent or otherwise -- tend to skip math..
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Our Family’s Journey To and From Storm Ridge Ranch

—by Teri and Steve Lamb No family sets out to send their child to a residential program. And the Good Lord knew we didn’t plan on sending two! But He also led us to Storm Ridge Ranch because it was the best choice for our children. Our adopted son had been in and out of group homes during his preadolescent and adolescent years. He struggled with accountability, respect (both self and authority), drugs and alcohol abuse, and getting along well with others. We had tried everything the professionals had suggested to us to help deal with the anger and disconnect with our son. Like a pot slowly boiling on the stove, we didn’t really notice how heated things were becoming until the repercussions on his behavior started seriously impacting each family member’s life, not to mention anyone else who would come in contact with him (i.e. teachers, doctors, employers, etc.) 
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Parenting Tip: Choose Chores that Fit your Child’s Interests

This tip revolves around that dreaded “C” word – chores. Do your children have assigned chores to do around the home? Are they doing them? Many parents find that chores can be a real source of angst, with parents spending most of their time reminding, nagging and even begging their kids to do them, while their kids are doing everything possible to avoid them. To make the whole chore process work more smoothly, choose chores that fit your child’s temperament and personality. I have three very different children and, not surprisingly, they are also very different when it comes to preferences for chores. So how can you discover which chores will be best for your children? You may want to start by asking them for input to find out what chores they don’t mind doing and which ones they would really prefer to not have on their list. The bonus here is that when kids are given some choices in the matter, they are much more likely to stick with any decisions made. Think about what makes ea..
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Jul 25, Can a preschool board game boost math skills?

Can a preschool board game boost math skills? Studies suggest the answer is yes...if the game has these particular features. © 2008 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved You might not expect much from a preschool board game. Players roll dice, or spin a spinner, and move their game tokens around a board. But when a young child plays a number-based board game, something exciting can happen. If the game requires the child to move her game token along an ascending sequence of numbered spaces -- and speak these numbers out loud as she moves -- she can gain a crucial sense of the number line. She can develop an intuitive appreciation for "how much" different numbers represent. A feeling for numbers gets encoded in the brain. That bodes well for a child's long-term prospects. Studies show that early "number sense" predicts long-term achievement in mathematics. The stronger a youngster's mathematical intuitions about quantity and the number line, the better he perform..
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Jul 20, Are confining social rules and stereotypes interfering with your child’s intellectual growth?

Stereotype threat: Yes, children notice stereotypes about race, gender, and wealth. And the effects aren't good. © 2008-2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The everyday reality of stereotype threat Societies everywhere sort people into categories, and children are paying attention. Not only do they notice cues about gender, wealth, and ethnicity, they also perceive the stereotypes that go with these categories. And it starts early. Toddlers are quick to pick up on cultural norms about gender, and apply them to roles, activities, and toys (Halim et al 2016). Four-year-olds expect wealthy students to be more competent in the classroom (Shutts et al 2016) Elementary school children are familiar with racial stereotypes, and have a bias for assuming that members of cultural out-groups are more likely to commit moral wrongs (Liberman et al 2017; Wegmann et al 2017). What price do we pay for these attitudes? There are the conspicuous costs: Hate crimes, bullying, blatant ac..
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Jul 18, The authoritative parenting style

The authoritative parenting style: Warmth, rationality, and high standards An evidence-based guide © 2010 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What is the authoritative parenting style? Frequently hailed as the best way to raise kids, it's an approach that emphasizes sensitivity, reasoning, setting limits, and being emotionally responsive.
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Jul 11, Why talking with our hands can help children reason and learn

The science of gestures: Why "talking" with our hands can help children think and learn © 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Do you motion with your hands when you talk? Most people do. The movements come naturally to us, and often happen without any conscious planning. We speak, and our hands get into the act. Undoubtedly, a lot of this behavior is learned. If you raise a child in Italy, she'll grow up learning different gestures than if you raise her in Japan, Nigeria, or Canada. She'll also learn different social norms about the desirability of gesturing. By the age of two years, Italian children produce about twice as many communicative gestures as do English-speaking Canadian kids (Marentette et al 2016). But cultural variation doesn't change the fact that gesturing is a species-normal behavior. Like speech, music, or dance, gesture is part of our biological heritage. Children who are blind from birth use gestures when they talk, even when speaking t..
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Parenting Tip: Give Short Explanations

Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and I heard the following conversation between a mother and her first-grader: Now, Suzie, I am sorry but you cannot buy any candy. It isn’t good for your body, which needs certain nutrients for you to grow big and strong. Plus sugar is not good for your teeth. If you eat that candy now, you won’t be hungry for dinner when we get home. . . . All the while, Suzie was whining and complaining that she wanted to buy this special candy. Each point the mother made was countered with an argument from Suzie. If you have ever found yourself in a situation like this one, you could benefit from this tip: Rather than give a long explanation, repeat a simple phrase. Parents often find themselves trying to reason with their kids. If you say just the right thing, then perhaps your children will see the wisdom of your words. What happens more often than not, however, is that your children either tune you out or they use your words as ammunition to argue wit..
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