Science Says: Stay Bare Down There

Today my son hit a milestone I didn’t think we’d see for several more years: his very first hole-in-the-sock.

My mom laughed as I told her about this monumental moment and said maybe it was time to put some shoes on those little socky feet.

But it turns out, science thinks that maybe I should not only not buy those stupidly expensive slip-ons he’ll “wear” for 3 months before growing out of them but ditch the socks as well.

Did you know that our feet are some of the most sensory-rich parts of our bodies? According to Dr. Kacie Flegal, wearing shoes can inhibit our proprioceptive and vestibular systems which are critical to instinctively learning about our bodies and the space around us, movement, and balance—all extremely important parts of learning to walk. When those sensory systems are blocked by socks and shoes, we’re also blocking neurological pathways that not only help us recognize basic concepts like pressure and texture, but more important functions like emotional control and social interaction.

Pretty sweet!

Many podiatrists encourage going barefoot from an early age whenever possible and safe. I mean, take it easy on the Lego-treading. But definitely try other sensory games for those little piggies, too—like walking through wet grass or a squigging your baby’s toes in a bowl of those weird boba tea balls—and let the neurological pathways light up!

Oh, and don’t forget to bare those soles sometimes too, Mama—apparently we can re-center our brains with a little foot-on-earth action, too.

 

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This is Your Child’s Brain on Music

I’m not expecting my son to become a concert pianist. He’s one of the most okay-ist 11-year old piano players around. And that’s just fine with me.  So why do I keep paying for lessons and nagging him to practice every day? I think his music lessons do far more for him than I can measure and research backs me up. A comprehensive longitudinal study, (German Socio-Economic Panel, 2013) found, “Music improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance.” The study described kids who take music lessons  as having “better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open and ambitious.” Personally, I’ve seen great things from my son as he has studied piano and now violin. When asked, he said that the greatest thing about studying music was that he was proud to be developing a talent. That alone gives me incentive to encourage him to continue and to give my other kids the same opportunity. Want to know what other benefits learning music can give your children?

Improved grades

Probably the most noticeable improvement you’ll see in your child’s academics is the increase in your child’s reading and verbal skills. Your child will also see improved mathematical and spatial-temporal reasoning and raised IQ. Learning to read music is akin to learning a new language and your child will see benefit when learning other languages. Plus, kids that study music are better listeners. Anything to get your kid to listen to you, right?

Slow the effects of aging

With the benefits of improved working memory and long-term memory for visual stimuli. Some studies suggest that music engagement may delay cognitive decline. You’ll be setting your kids up for a life-long skill which will benefit them for the long-term. It may not seem like something to worry about right now but slowing the effects of aging is an immeasurable benefit.

Strengthened motor cortex

There is no question that fine motor skills are important in all aspects of a child’s life.  Virginia Penhune, a researcher at Concordia University said, “Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli. Practicing an instrument before age seven likely boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain, creating a framework upon which ongoing training can build.”

Social-behavioral

The social-behavioral benefits can’t be ignored. My son was a very anxious child. Around the time he began studying piano, I saw that his anxiety began decreasing significantly. I was working hard in other realms to decrease his anxiety but I feel like it certainly contributed to an improvement in my son’s ability to manage his anxiety. A study by researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that a child’s musical background appeared to contribute to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem and those children were better at managing anxiety.

There is a whole lot of research supporting the claim that music benefits your child’s brain. It’s almost difficult to point out all the benefits. Hopefully, your child’s school has a music program and you’ll be able to look on the bright side of your kid playing the recorder non-stop. But even in early-childhood, unstructured play with musical instruments is great exposure. And if you’ve been on the fence about music lessons, consider the many benefits it can provide your child. If you don’t have the resources to provide music lessons, don’t write it off completely. Consider getting a Ukulele and learning alongside your kids – YouTube has a plethora of instructional videos. Consider it time well-spent and reap some of the awesome benefits learning music can have on your child’s brain.

 

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Science Says: A Conversation is Worth 30 Million Words

Have you ever heard of the 30-million-word-gap?

Here’s the gist: A study done in 1995 revealed that children from lower-income families heard about 30 million fewer words in the first three years of their lives than those from higher-income families. And why did that matter? Well, the study also uncovered evidence that the gap was responsible for those lower-income kids’ smaller vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension.

Initially, lower socioeconomic status was thought to be a factor in part because it could account for fewer books, and even televisions in the home—sources from which wealthier kids could glean more vocabulary. However, a new study has shed more light on the subject and leveled the playing field when it comes to encouraging greater language development in all children.

The answer?

Having a conversation. Yep, it’s really that simple.

According to the study, researchers had children (ages 4-6) wear a recorder that was able to measure the number of words spoken by the child, to the child, and, consequently, the number of back-and-forth conversations held between the child and an adult over the course of observation. Unquestionably, the children who had more back-and-forth conversations had higher rates of activity in the speech production and language processing part of the brain, and subsequently scored higher on language comprehension assessments.

Parents who engage their kids in conversation, even from before the time children can form actual words, are giving them a huge leg up socially and scholastically. The cool thing about this discovery is that we needn’t have the fear that socioeconomics plays as much of a role as once thought.

When the resource is conversation (and a little time), it’s pretty easy to come by.

 

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Book Recommendations: 10 of our Favorite Parenting Books

Having a third child has inspired me to doing some reading. Parenting books, specifically.  My new baby has affected my current children and of course they both chose to react differently.  My four year old has begun throwing tantrums (something she didn’t do much of during her toddler years) and my seven year old has become very sensitive to me, and very mean to my four year old.  And of course, it’s been just long enough since having a newborn that I’ve forgotten a lot.  I quickly accumulated a stack of suggested parenting books, and reached out to our other writers about which parenting books they recommend and why.  

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

Here’s who made the list of our 10 Favorite Parenting Books:

 

1. Positive Parenting

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

I love this parenting book!  It was written by a fellow parent and blogger and emphasizes getting away from yelling and nagging:

Eanes shares her hard-won wisdom for overcoming limiting thought patterns and recognizing emotional triggers, as well as advice for connecting with kids at each stage, from infancy to adolescence. This heartfelt, insightful advice comes not from an “expert,” but from a learning, evolving parent. Filled with practical, solution-oriented advice, this is an empowering guide for any parent who longs to end the yelling, power struggles, and downward spiral of acting out, punishment, resentment, and shame–and instead foster an emotional connection that helps kids learn self-discipline, feel confident, and create lasting, loving bonds. 

 

2. The Danish Way of Parenting

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

The Danish have been declared the happiest people in the world and this book looks specifically at what they’re doing to raise children to have them become the happiest people.  I absolutely love reading about different countries and how they parent and why, so this book is at the top of my favorites list!  I especially love that much of their happiness comes from re-framing and having an optimistic outlook in life.  This key topics of this parenting book can be broken down into a simple acronym:

Play is essential for development and well-being.
Authenticity fosters trust and an “inner compass.”
Reframing helps kids cope with setbacks and look on the bright side.
Empathy allows us to act with kindness toward others.
No ultimatums means no power struggles, lines in the sand, or resentment.
Togetherness is a way to celebrate family time, on special occasions and every day. The Danes call this hygge–and it’s a fun, cozy way to foster closeness. Preparing meals together, playing favorite games, and sharing other family traditions are all hygge. (Cell phones, bickering, and complaining are not!)

 

3. Parenting with Love & Logic

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

This parenting book shows you how to raise self-confident, motivated children who are ready for the real world. It teaches how to parent effectively while teaching your children responsibility and growing their character.  It is quickly becoming a staple-I see it on many of my friends shelves!

 

SEE MORE: The 28 ‘Golden Rules’ Of Divorced Parenting

 

4. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

I love lists and this is a 12 strategy list for helping nurture and develop your children’s mind.  By studying how children’s brains develop, it offers insight into the WHY of everything with children:

The authors explain—and make accessible—the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain. No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence. By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.

 

5. New Mom Comics The First Year

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

While this book doesn’t offer parenting advice, it does offer plenty of laughs.  Even with this being my third child I found it quite amusing.  The book is like having a funny best friend telling you all about what to expect in the first year of parenthood. It’s essential reading for expecting or new parents and makes a unique baby shower or new mommy gift.

This is so my life right now:

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

 

6. Nurture Shock

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

This book is so interesting because it covers unique parenting topics and presents a new way of looking at how we parent, using studies that show how some of our new parenting techniques are backfiring.  It covers things like:

  • Why the most brutal person in a child’s life is often a sibling, and how a single aspect of their preschool-aged play can determine their relationship as adults.
  • When is it too soon – or too late – to teach a child about race? Children in diverse schools are less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, not more – so is school diversity backfiring?
  • Millions of families are fighting to get their kids into private schools and advanced programs as early as possible. But schools are missing the best kids, 73% of the time – the new neuroscience explains why.
  • Why are kids – even those from the best of homes – still aggressive and cruel? The answer is found in a rethinking of parental conflict, discipline, television’s unexpected influence, and social dominance.

7. The Smartest Kids in the World

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange….The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).

 

SEE MORE:  Why I Don’t Want My Kids To Be Happy

 

8.  Yell Less, Love More

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

Author Sheila McCraith shares daily thoughts, tips, and motivational personal stories to help you toss out the screams and welcome in the peace. It’s a 30 day guide that includes alternatives to yelling, stories, examples and easy to follow steps!  Whether you have one child or twenty (or one you still yell at who is twenty), need to strengthen your relationships and even need to laugh a little more–this book is here to help!

 

9.  Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

Sleep is soooooooo essential!  This valuable sourcebook contains the latest research on:
 
• the best course of action for sleep problems: prevention and treatment
• common mistakes parents make trying to get their children to sleep
• different sleep needs for different temperaments
• stopping the crybaby syndrome, nightmares, bedwetting, and more
• ways to get your baby to fall asleep according to her internal clock—naturally
• handling nap-resistant kids and when to start sleep-training
• why both night sleep and day sleep are important
• obstacles for working moms and children with sleep issues
• the father’s role in comforting children
• how early sleep troubles can lead to later problems
• the benefits and drawbacks of allowing kids to sleep in the family bed

 

10.  All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

 

A list of favorite books for raising children and parenting

I had to add this book to the list because thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents?  This book was such an eye-opening read for me because it references study after study about us as parents instead of just looking at children.   The book analyzes the many ways children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture’s most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

What are your favorite parenting books that you recommend to everyone?  Comment Below!

 

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