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Your Child

Healthy Diet Improves Reading Skills

1:00

Good nutrition not only improves your child’s physical condition but may also advance his or her reading abilities, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers in Finland found students' reading skills improved more between first grade and third grade if they didn't eat a lot of sugary foods or red meat, and if their diet consisted mainly of vegetables, berries and other fruits, as well as fish, whole grains and unsaturated fats.

The study involved 161 students between the ages of 6 and 8 (first through 3rd grade). Researchers reviewed the children's diets and their reading ability using food diaries and standardized reading tests.

The study showed that a healthier diet was associated with better reading skills by third grade, regardless of how well the students could read in first grade, the researchers said.

"Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status, physical activity, body adiposity [fat] and physical fitness," study author Eero Haapala said in a University of Eastern Finland news release. He is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla.

As with most studies, the research did not prove cause and effect, but an association between the foods the students ate and their reading skills.

The study's authors noted that parents, schools, governments and corporations all have an opportunity to enhance academic performance in schools by making healthy foods more available to children.

The study was published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/healthy-diet-may-boost-children-s-reading-skills-714811.html

 

 

Daily Dose

Creeping Back: Lice

I keep hearing that there are lice out there! Lice are a part of childhood, albeit the gross part, but it really has nothing to do with where you live or go to school or how often your kids take their baths, its about hair. Lice are obligate human parasites and require a human scalp to live, they can only live off the host for 6 -25 hours The most recent issue with lice is that they are becoming resistant to the over the counter products like Rid and Nix that have been recommended for years. These are still first line treatment as well as trying to remove as many nits (egg casings) as you can with a nit comb.

Once you have treated your child appropriately they may return to school, there are no longer “no nit policies”. If you notice that your child still has lice after a couple of days despite appropriate over the counter treatment, call your doctor. Don’t try to smother the lice with mayo, or a shower cap, as lice don’t have lungs, and never think about kerosene for hair or shaving the head. There are some newer prescription treatments available. Tea tree oil shampoo may also help as a preventative and make sure to wash all of the child’s bedding in hot water. If you have a child with lice you are probably not alone as they are frequent visitors to school, sports teams and even from movie theater seats. Despite our best efforts as parents, lice are here to stay. That's your daily dose. We'll chat tomorrow!

Daily Dose

Back to School

1:30 to read

Schools around the country have opened their doors and some will be starting soon. This is the first week of school for most students in my area and parents have been busy in the last few days attending “back to school” and “meet the teacher” nights in preparation for a new school yea

So…every school has different rules, expectations and strategies for helping their students evolve into their “best” selves and as you get older the “rules” often change in hopes of making students more independent and responsible. I other words, getting ready for the “real world ‘ one day.

Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Arkansas has recently been highlighted in the news and on social media for the sign that is posted on the entrance to the school. It reads “If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment etc, please TURN AROUND and exit the building”  Your son will learn to problem solve in your absence.”  The school posted the same message on their Facebook page as well.

According to the principal of the school, this has been a Catholic High rule for quite some time…it was also a rule at the high school my boys attended.  While some feel that this is unjust and that the students should be allowed to “phone home” if they have forgotten something, the school’s explanation is really fairly simple…allowing your child to have some “soft failures” and to learn both problem solving skills and responsibility will ultimately mold them into functioning members of society as they reach adulthood.  Sounds reasonable to me.

I know that as my boys went from elementary school, on to middle school and then high school their father and I had greater expectations that they needed to be responsible for getting their “stuff” to school.  We started off the school year with a game of sorts where you were given 3 “hall passes” for the year. I guess this started from something at school where they were given a hall pass to go to the bathroom or the office, and some teachers would hand out homework passes that allowed you to “skip” an assignment. So, each child ( this probably started in about 3rd or 4th grade) had 3 passes/year  where they could call and have us “rescue” them if they forgot something. Once you used up your “hall passes” you had to suffer the consequences of no lunch or turning in an assignment late.  Interestingly, each child was a bit different….one would use them up pretty quickly, another would “hoard” them for late in the year.  One wanted to know if they could be accrued? 

By the time they reached high school it was not a SHOCK when they were told the school rule that they could not call their parents.  It seems they figured out how to borrow money for lunch, or share with a friend, how to borrow a tie or jacket for an assembly and that turning in assignments a day late usually meant 10 points off. Not only did it help them become more organized and responsible, it also made me a working Mom “feel less guilt” that I really was not available to rescue them sometimes, even if I wanted to.  Do you think you would appreciate waiting in your pediatrician’s office (any longer than you may already) while they tried to run a homework assignment to school??  

You might try starting off the school year with a few hall passes and see if it works for your family!  

Your Child

Naps Help Preschoolers Learn Better

2.00 to read

There are two things adults envy about youngsters – their bountiful energy and their naps.

A new study says that those afternoon siestas that many preschoolers enjoy are not a waste of time.  In fact, a daily nap may improve their ability to learn by improving their memory skills.

Preschooler’s brains are busy. On a daily basis they are processing new and exciting information. Their brains are storing the input from these experiences in short-term storage areas said Rebecca Spencer, lead study author and a neuroscientist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

"A nap allows information to move from temporary storage to more permanent storage, from the hippocampus to the cortical areas of the brain," she said. "You've heard the phrase, 'You should sleep on it.' Well, that's what we're talking about: Children need to process some of the input from the day."

Many of the nation's preschoolers put in longer days than do their working parents, arriving at school as early as 6:30 a.m. and getting picked up after 5 p.m., Spencer said. "We're all short on sleep, and the kid's sleep is affected by the parents' schedules," she said.

For the study, the researchers taught 40 children from six preschools in western Massachusetts a visual-spatial memory game in the morning. The children were asked to remember where nine to 12 different pictures were located on a grid.

During the afternoon, children were either encouraged to nap or to stay awake. Naps lasted about 80 minutes. Later in the afternoon and the following morning, delayed recall was tested between both groups -- children who were encouraged to sleep and those who were kept awake.

The researchers found that although the children performed similarly in the morning, when their retention was fresh, children forgot significantly more when they had not taken a nap. Those who had slept remembered 10 percent more than those who were kept awake. The next day, the kids who had napped the previous afternoon scored better than those who hadn't napped. The data showed that a child doesn't recover the memory benefit from nighttime sleep, the researchers said.

To better understand whether memories were actively processed during naps, the researchers took 14 preschoolers to a sleep lab for polysomnography, a sleep study that shows changes in the brain. The children took naps for about 70 minutes. The napping children showed signs of signals being sent to long-term memory from the brain's hippocampus.

"Thus, there was evidence of a cause-and effect relationship between signs that the brain is integrating new information and the memory benefit of a nap," Spencer said.

The study was published in the September issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Spencer is concerned about the trend in many public preschools to discontinue naps. She said naps need to be put back into the preschool day, and she wants to see exploration of ways to enhance the napping experience -- with darkened rooms and comfortable cots or pads, for example.

What’s the bottom line? "Naps are not wasted time," Spencer said.

Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_140919.html

Daily Dose

Healthier School Lunches

1.00 to read

With everyone back in school after a nice summer break, what better time to discuss school lunches, especially as they relate to healthy choices.  The USDA (Department of Agriculture) has just issued new national guidelines for school lunches which will begin this school year.  The new guidelines include calorie and sodium limits for foods served on the school lunch line and are age dependent.   

The new guidelines also include the recommendation for more whole grains, and dark green, orange or red vegetables (color on the plate). Students buying school lunches must choose at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.  Portion sizes may also be smaller as well. 

These changes are all geared at helping students understand the importance of healthy eating and making good nutritious food choices.  It is hoped that as students get “used” to seeing and eating healthier school lunches, the choices that they make at home may become better as well.  

Students will also be able to choose from fat-free, low-fat and lactose-free milk and will be required to have 1 serving a day.  Flavored milk will be required to be fat free. 

Lastly, half of the grains served in a school lunch must be whole grain and by 2014 school year all grains must be whole grain rich. 

So, if you are planning on packing your child’s lunch this year, remember these guidelines as well. I think that a combo of packing healthy lunches on some days, while letting your child buy a school lunch on other days seems to be the perfect balance.  Let your children help pick out healthy food choices to put in their packed lunch and they might even pick up a few ideas from the new school lunches this year too. 

You can find the new guidelines at http://1.usa.gov/Qzd5Z7

 

 

Daily Dose

Start Good Homework Routines Now

Now that school has started homework has too. For most children homework starts in first grade and continues through out high school. There are often lots of complaints and frustrations about getting homework completed, both from the children and their parents. Like so many things, the best way to begin the school year is with a good plan for getting homework completed.

It is also easier to start younger children with good study habits that will then be maintained throughout their school years. With that being said, do not throw in the towel if you have an older child who still needs a little coaxing and guidance on getting homework done. It is never too late to make changes for the better! To begin with homework needs to be a child’s responsibility. Parents are important helpers with homework, but should not be the doers of the homework. Everyone is a little different as to when homework should be completed. For some it is easiest to come straight home from school and start homework. For others they need some “down time” and may need to run around outside to get rid of some energy before starting homework. You know your child the best, but either way, having a routine to getting homework started is the key to getting it completed. Secondly, good study habits require a good study area. Buying an inexpensive desk to set up a quiet study area will be useful for many years. Setting up this area can be fun for children too and teach responsibility for taking care of their study area. As children get older they will be used to getting their study area organized and this will carry them all of the way through college. Teachers have set expectations for homework, and are a valuable resource in helping you as a parent to know what to expect for the year. Some teachers assign more importance to homework than others; so it is important know this early in the year. Review these expectations with your child too, so that everyone is on the same page. Homework can also be a good time to watch your child at work. This is the only time that you really have a chance to observe how your child is learning. Does it seem that they have a harder time in one area than another? Are there problems with comprehension, or focus? These parental observations are important if there seem to be consistent issues, and if so make an appointment with your child’s teacher to discuss your concerns. Again, doing the homework for them will not correct the issue and tackling learning problems is better at an earlier age. By following good homework basics your child should become independent with their homework and be on the road to a lifetime of good study habits. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

Start the Back-to-School Sleep Routine Now

2.00 to read

Getting back into the routine of school days also means getting back to good bedtime routines.How can it be that school is just around the corner? Getting back into the routine of school days also means getting back to good bedtime routines. With that being said, you have to start the process now to ensure plenty of time to slowly get bedtimes re-adjusted. By starting early you can avoid the battles that some parent’s talk about when discussing bedtimes.

Children need a good night’s sleep to wake up happy, rested and ready to learn. Numerous studies have shown that elementary age kids need about 10 hours of sleep a night while tweens and teens still need a good 8 – 9 hours of sleep. I wonder how many children really get the recommended amount of sleep? I think too few. Unfortunately, I know from my own experience that teens seem to operate on a different sleep schedule and rarely are in bed as early as they should be. Most of us have relaxed bedtime a little during the summer and children are staying up later and sleeping longer in the mornings. This is great during the lazy summer months, when schedules are also different. But within a few weeks the morning alarms will ring forcing everyone to get up earlier to get to school. In order to try and minimize grouchy and tired children (and parents too) during those first days of school, going to bed on time will be a necessity. Working on re-adjusting betimes now will also make the transition from summer schedule to school schedule a little easier. If your children have been staying up later than usual, try pushing the bedtime back by 15 minutes each night and gradually shifting the bedtime to the “normal” hour. At the same time, especially for older children, you will need to awaken them a little earlier each day to re-set their clocks for early morning awakening. Why is it that pre-school children want to get up early, no matter what, while school-aged children are happy to sleep through alarms?  Such is life. Also, make sure that you are not only ensuring that you children get a good night’s sleep during the school year, but they also awaken in time for breakfast! Just like my mother used to say, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day’” and that adage is still true. A good night’s sleep followed by a healthy breakfast has been shown to improve mood, attention, focus and over all school performance, as well as even helping to prevent obesity. Start off the school year on the right foot. It is easier to begin with good habits than to try and break bad ones. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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