(BPT) - When school dismisses for the summer, parents across the country worry about how much their children will forget over the vacation months. Will all those hours helping them with math and reading dissolve with the carefree hours spent at the pool or playground?
“While a break from the long days of school is needed, studies show that most kids lose up to two months of their math skills between school grades,” says Dominique Ciccarelli, Ed.M., education specialist for Kumon North America. “The brain is like a muscle and needs a regular dose of exercise to stay strong. Connections in your brain multiply when you learn new topics, and through this process, you get smarter.”
Added to this concern is how much time over the summer parents will be able to commit to helping their children retain and reinforce what they learned during the previous school year. While millions of children are eager for the freedom of summer, parents are coming up with plans to keep the learning momentum going.
Here are seven fun ways to keep your child engaged over the summer with enriching experiences.
Have a scavenger hunt at the museum. One way to turn a visit to the museum into a fun and educational experience is to make it a scavenger hunt. If you’re going to an art museum, your list can include things you might see in paintings or sculptures from a certain country. If it’s a natural history museum, you can include dinosaurs and animals.
Find the right learning program. For families with children looking for enrichment activities, the right learning program is invaluable. With nearly 1,500 centers throughout the United States, Kumon uses an individualized approach that helps children develop a solid command of math and reading skills. To help students continue learning through the summer, Kumon is offering free registration in June at participating centers.
Develop their green thumb. Gardening allows children to not only play and build something - as they might do in a sandbox - but learn about the life cycle of plants and the importance of nutrition. One way to make this more exciting is to try to grow something giant, like a huge squash or zucchini that will provide an end goal to the entire experience.
Let them be your travel agents. Before you set off on your summer vacation, get your children involved in the planning process. Let them help you search for lodging within your budget and in the area you want to stay. Together, you can learn about nearby attractions and plan your visit accordingly. The entire process not only builds confidence, but serves as a finance, geography, history and social studies lesson all wrapped in one.
Have adventures in reading. Reading is one of the most important skills to maintain and develop. Reading to your children each day establishes a positive association in their mind and makes them excited to read on their own. Be sure to stay up to date with the activities at your local library, which provides fun and sociable learning opportunities.
Make something. While there are plenty of kits out there to promote STEM learning skills, you can encourage your children to use their creativity and knowledge to build projects from common household materials. Some classic examples of this would be making a raft out of empty milk cartons or plastic bottles, a homemade volcano using vinegar and baking soda or a homemade electromagnet.
Become a collector. A great way for children to get hands-on knowledge of the natural world is for them to build a collection while discovering the outdoors. Rocks, plants, bugs - these are the things that excite a young mind. Search for different kinds of leaves to press at home, then work with your children to identify their types.
(BPT) - You’ve probably heard of Down syndrome, but did you know:
About one in every 700 babies in the U.S. is born with this condition?
A 45-year-old woman is 10 times more likely to conceive a child with Down syndrome than someone who is 35 years old?
Down syndrome is only one of several chromosome abnormalities called trisomies, and that two of the others, Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13, are much more serious?
“Most women know very little about their risk of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome. Many know nothing at all about other trisomy conditions that cause the majority of miscarriages, and are much more life-threatening to the baby,” says Dr. Jill Hechtman, medical director of Tampa Obstetrics. “With today’s highly accurate, non-invasive prenatal genetic screening tests (NIPTs), they can find out as early as nine weeks from a simple blood draw if their unborn child is at risk.”
What is a trisomy?
A trisomy condition means that some or all of a person’s cells have an extra chromosome. How a trisomy affects a person will depend on which chromosome is affected and other factors. Health issues associated with the condition can range from mild intellectual and developmental disabilities and physical abnormalities (learning differences or infertility) to life-threatening problems with the heart or other organs.
What are the most common trisomies and their risks?
Trisomy can occur with any of a person’s 23 pairs of chromosomes, but the most well-known syndromes are:
Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome.
About 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome and about 6,000 U.S. babies are born with this condition each year. People with Down syndrome usually have mild-to-moderate intellectual and developmental disability and heart abnormalities. They also are at risk for hearing and vision loss and other health conditions. Although children with Down syndrome will need extra medical care, most will live into their 60s.
The chance of having a child with Down syndrome increases as the age of the mother increases. At 35, a woman has about a one in 350 chance of conceiving a child with Down syndrome. But by 40, the chances are one in 100, and at 45, they go up to one in 30.
Learn more at National Down Syndrome Society
Trisomy 18, also called Edwards syndrome.
This is the second most common trisomy syndrome and occurs in about one in 7,000 live births each year. Babies with trisomy 18 have severe intellectual disabilities and birth defects that typically involve the heart, brain and kidneys. A small number of infants (more often girls) with the condition are able to live into their 20s and 30s, although they require full-time caregiving because of their significant developmental problems.
Only about 50 percent of babies who make it to term will live longer than one week and about 5-10 percent will live past one year. As with Down syndrome, trisomy 18 is more prevalent among older mothers.
Trisomy 13, also called Patau syndrome.
This condition occurs in about one in 10,000 live births. Trisomy 13 infants will have severe intellectual disabilities as well as physical disabilities that could include heart defects, brain and spinal cord problems, and extra fingers and/or toes.
Although about 5 percent will survive the first year. More than 80 percent of babies with Trisomy 13 have birth defects that may involve the heart, brain, kidneys and other organs. Survivors experience severe intellectual disability.
How can I find out if my child is at increased risk for Down syndrome or other trisomies?
Prenatal genetic screening tests from a simple blood draw that can be done in a physician’s office can determine your chance of having a baby with these conditions or other abnormal or missing chromosomes is increased or decreased.
Keep in mind, however, that not all NIPT tests are the same. For example, the Natera Panorama screening test is the only one currently available that can differentiate between mom and baby’s DNA.
Genetic screening tests are not replacements for diagnostic tests such as the CVS or amniocentesis. It is important to discuss all test results with your health care provider and obtain any recommended follow-up testing.
For more information on prenatal as well as other genetic tests, go to natera.com/awareness.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Just in time for Earth Day, a new book introduces young readers aged 7 to 11 to a whole new world of unique and compelling endangered species, environmental awareness, teamwork and, best of all, a rollicking, outlandish group of characters that entertain the whole family.
The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, by Tracey Hecht, focuses on a group of animals who form an unlikely team to solve the mystery of why other nocturnal denizens of their forest are disappearing. Dawn the fox, Tobin the pangolin and Bismark the sugar glider embark on a fantastic adventure that takes them to the depths of the earth and places their survival at stake.
R.L. Stine, author of the bestselling Goosebumps children’s series, describes the book as “an enchanting story about a group of animals who band together to protect their friends and find adventure. The characters are delightful, and the nighttime landscape is captivating. It was just as I expected -- because the best stories always take place in the dark!”
The book is aimed not only at children, but at their parents, and is written with an ear toward being read aloud to educate all ages about the importance of protecting animals and the environment. The story combines snappy dialogue with plot twists and action, and slips in education about different types of animals and how they live and behave.
Author Tracey Hecht noted in an interview that the benefits of shared reading aren’t limited to pre-readers.
“I didn’t stop reading aloud to my kids -- I still haven’t -- and it’s the best part of my day,” she said. “I keep books everywhere and I think of reading like a conversation -- just have it. Just pick up a book and have it. You’ll be amazed at how well it bridges the gaps,” she emphasized.
Children, parents and teachers can visit www.nocturnalsworld.com for more information about the book, including a sample chapter that introduces the main characters. In addition, the website offers bonus animated shorts, activities and educational materials, including a Next Generation Science Guide, templates for animal trading cards and library resources including guidelines for middle grade book clubs.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - If choosing the right Mother’s Day gift has been your biggest challenge over the years, try taking a cue from mom herself.
Millions of dollars have been spent researching and/or polling what moms desire most, so use it to your advantage! Thank mom, a mother figure or wife for all that she does -- from giving you style advice to motivating you when you needed it most -- celebrate your unique bond with a gift she will celebrate for many years to come.
Mom has always been there when you needed it, and she deserves the best. Below are a few ways to treat her on Mother’s Day:
Handwritten Letter. Showing your appreciation for mom with a handwritten note takes time and thought, and she’ll recognize this. Remember all of the moments that mean the most to you and express your gratitude in a way that is unique to the bond you share. It will be a letter she’ll cherish.
Time to Unwind. A thoughtful way to thank mom for all she does is to give a gift that helps alleviate her busy schedule so she can relax. Whether giving a spa package or simply cleaning the home, research has shown that moms expressed wanting to have time to themselves as a top Mother’s Day gift.
Create Unexpected Wrapping Paper. Because mom wants a thoughtful gift, why not put extra care into how you wrap it? A unique way to showcase the special bond you share is to create custom wrapping paper decorated with photos of the two of you at different stages of your life.
Jewelry. Research has shown that jewelry is one of the best-received gifts on Mother’s Day. The question then becomes which jewelry to choose for the one-of-a-kind woman in your life.
Country singer Jessie James Decker and wife to football player Eric Decker, has her own personal favorite: “I’m a huge fan of PANDORA Jewelry,” says Jessie, herself a mother of two. “Their handcrafted pieces are so customizable that you can have fun stacking and layering them to wear every day or on special occasions. On the top of my wish list at the moment are the Sparkling Love Knots earrings and Sparkling Love Knot Pendant, which can be styled on one of PANDORA’s .925 sterling silver or 14K gold necklace chains.”
PANDORA Jewelry (Pandora.net) released a special Mother’s Day collection of 14K gold and .925 sterling silver rings, bracelets, necklaces, charms and earrings with whimsical blooms, symbolic knots and love-filled hearts sure to be on mom’s “most wanted” list.
Whether the woman in your life is modest or tuned into the latest trends, she deserves a gift that makes her feel as special as she actually is. So this Mother’s Day put some thought into it and give her something she’ll actually want to keep.
(BPT) - Nearly one in six of all U.S. children and adolescents are obese, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. And with some struggling schools forgoing traditional physical education classes, health experts view this issue as a growing concern. The regular physical activity encouraged in PE classes not only helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscle, it has also been shown to improve students’ academic performance.
“Research shows that school is one of the first places where kids establish health habits,” says Jen Ohlson, co-founder of Interactive Health Technologies LLC (IHT), a company pioneering customized P.E. curricula through the use of heart rate monitoring. “As a solution, many health advocates are turning to physical education to positively impact adolescents’ overall health. With the right tools and resources available in school that can extend to home, teachers and parents alike can reach students on an individual level, helping them achieve their own fitness goals.”
Ohlson offers her top five tips for teachers, parents and caregivers looking to help their kids get more active:
1. Set measurable short term goals.
Motivation is all about goal setting. Teaching your kids or students to evaluate their habits and make changes that will improve their well being helps them learn the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Setting goals can be a fun project that teachers, parents and students can work on collaboratively, just be sure the goals are measurable, timely and realistically achievable.
2. Use technology to help them understand.
“Research shows kids in the U.S. are spending more than 7.5 hours a day using technology. Alarming as it may sound, we see leveraging technology as an opportunity to help kids get and stay active,” Ohlson says. “Having worked with adidas to develop adidas ZONE for IHT Spirit, the first wrist-based heart rate monitoring device built specifically for PE, we’re using wearable technology to motivate students to work out to their own individual potential. Harnessing the power of heart rate zone training, these young athletes can reach their goals by running around, jumping, dancing, really any activity that raises their heart rate, no longer needing to race against their classmates or shoot a certain number of baskets.”
3. Make sure they know the “why” and “how.”
For students to excel athletically, they need to understand the “how,” “why” and “feel” behind the skill in their activity. If a child gets involved in a sport simply because their parents pushed them to, they likely won’t be motivated to improve or continue playing. It’s important to help your kids find activities that boost their self-esteem.
4. Be a model for active behaviors.
Show your kids how important staying active is by setting a good example. Younger children tend to follow the lead of their parents, so make sure you’re looking after your own health. Make the physical health of your entire family a priority.
5. Get involved in group activities.
Kids are more likely to be motivated when they receive support from a group of peers. Whether it’s a sports or dance team, running club or an active play date, encourage your kids to get out and be active with their friends.
While rising obesity rates and dwindling physical education classes continue to be a concern, the right approach and resources can help teachers and parents take matters into their own hands. Tools like the IHT Spirit System are certainly a big step forward, and following these tips can also play a part in helping every child get their health on track. For more information and resources visit ihtusa.com/zone.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - With many parents making plans to get out of town this spring, it’s the perfect time to introduce fun toys that can turn a road trip or visit to Grandma’s house into a learning opportunity.
Whether you’re playing peek-a-boo, singing nursery rhymes or reading a book to your little one, experts suggest that learning through play is imperative to a child’s development.
“Engaging children in play at an early age is incredibly beneficial to their physical and mental development, but it’s important that they’re getting the right kinds of interaction,” said Dr. Lise Eliot, early brain development expert and member of the expert panel at VTech, a world leader in interactive learning toys for all ages.
To help create the right toy for every age, VTech works closely with doctors such as Eliot, as well as its expert panel of early childhood education and development experts to ensure its toys help children meet important milestones. The result is an extensive range of more than 100 baby, infant and preschool learning products that cater to each child’s unique age and stage.
“Learning begins at birth, and babies absorb much more than we realize from their moment-to-moment interactions with the world around them,” said Dr. Eliot. “As parents strive to do what’s best for their child, they can introduce activities that help him or her learn through play. Babies are strongly motivated to reach developmental milestones all by themselves, and toys in VTech’s baby line can encourage them, make learning fun and grow with your little one over those important early years.”
To help discern which toy is right for your child, VTech has taken the guesswork out of the decision with its easy-to-follow milestones guide. The recommendations include some toys that are great for travel, such as:
For babies, VTech’s Crinkle & Roar Lion features buttons, sounds and tactile fabrics for little hands to discover, and a baby-safe mirror to help introduce self-awareness. It can be attached to carriers, strollers and more, making it the perfect take-along toy.
Infants will love the working Spin & Learn Color Flashlight, which introduces opposites, colors, letters and animals. They can spin the color-changing ring and explore buttons to hear fun melodies, nature sounds or play an interactive game.
For long car rides, the Count and Learn Turtle encourages early math skills with toddlers and preschoolers, and lets them explore colors, shapes and instruments. Kids can also exercise their memory and hand-eye coordination skills with a fun repeating sequence game.
For more information, visit www.vtechkids.com/milestones.
(BPT) - Suzanne Lang fondly remembers asking her then 5-year-old son, Alec, what he wanted to be for Halloween.
“The king,” he said, beaming.
So they went to the craft store and picked out red velvet and white fur for a cape. Lang made a scepter out of cardboard and spray-painted it gold.
“When I put the crown on his head, he looked at me with big eyes, full of confidence and joy,” she says. “Sadly, I wouldn’t see that look again for many years.”
There had been hints back in preschool that something wasn’t right. Alec’s speech was slightly off. He had trouble in kindergarten with letters and words. But at the same time, he was very bright, creative and inquisitive.
In first grade, things began to unravel. Every day the class would spend time writing in their journals. And every day Alec would try hard but only manage to write one word - and he’d spell it wrong, too.
School became unbearable for him. He began chewing through pencil erasers. He’d come home after school yelling or crying, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. In third grade, when his school evaluated him, he told the staff he was “stupid,” even though the evaluation found he actually had a very high IQ.
“My little ‘king’ seemed so far away,” Lang noted.
Eventually, the Lang family discovered that Alec had dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These issues aren’t uncommon: one in five children struggle with brain-based issues related to reading, math, writing, attention and organization.
“Back then, all I knew was that I needed to start looking for ways to help my son,” Lang says. “But I hit a roadblock I never expected; few parents wanted to open up to me about their children’s struggles.”
It’s an uncomfortable subject, after all. It’s also invisible - no one can tell by looking at a child that he can’t read or write.
“I turned to the Internet, but it was beyond frustrating. Most websites were full of confusing education jargon. And if I found a site I liked, I kept wondering, ‘Can I really trust this information?’”
Lang spent countless hours tracking down experts, eventually finding a reading specialist named Margie Gillis.
“She helped us understand two very important things: why my son was struggling and how I could help him,” Lang says.
That knowledge marked a turning point for the Langs. They found a middle school that gave Alec the chance to meet other kids with learning and attention issues. This helped build his confidence and gave him a sense of community.
“I remember him saying, ‘I never thought there were so many people like me,’” Suzanne says.
Once he had the kind of instruction and support he needed, Alec started to make progress. By the end of middle school, he even started talking about wanting to go to college.
“Even as Alec started to thrive, a sadness came over me,” Lang says. “I thought, ‘How many other parents are out there looking for answers?’”
That’s when she embarked on a new mission - to help other parents whose children have learning and attention issues. That journey led her to join the team at Understood.org, a comprehensive resource that empowers parents of kids with learning and attention issues.
Understood was created by 15 nonprofits that care deeply about kids with learning and attention issues. Its mission is to empower parents with clear explanations and practical advice about learning and attention issues. This powerful new resource offers parents daily access to experts, personalized support and connection to other parents in a safe online community. One of the site’s interactive tools, Through Your Child’s Eyes, allows parents to experience the challenges of living with learning and attention issues, like ADHD or dyslexia. All for free.
“Understood launched in October 2014, and my greatest hope is that it becomes a lifeline to every parent who is looking for answers,” Lang says.
Alec is now a college freshman studying engineering. He’s on the dean’s list and is thinking about what he’ll do after graduation.
“I asked him when he visited over spring break if he knew what he wanted to do, having so many options,” Lang says.
While Alec doesn’t exactly know yet, he did let his mother know that he wanted to do something cutting edge - something that will “change the world.”
“He was confident, almost beaming,” she says.
Her “king” was back.