If you are anything like me, there are times when you leave the pediatrician’s office and want to kick yourself for not asking her the questions you had in mind. Or perhaps you read about a topic or care deeply about a topic pertaining to child development, but are unable to have the conversation with your pediatrician. Well aren’t you glad Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a noted pediatrician from Seattle Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine could join this blog! This is courtesy of a question and answer piece that was at NPR website entitled “Q&A: Blocks, Play, Screen Time and The Infant Mind.”
Dr. Christakis covers some big topic areas for today’s inquiring parents. Perhaps you know that the small children who play with blocks have consistently been found throughout the research to have greater language development skills. He relates it to the way in which blocks tend to facilitate play with children and their parent. In particular, when there is adult child interaction over blocks, language development is greatly enhanced. He talks about how this is true with not just blocks, but any toy that facilitate verbal interaction between parent and child. When Mom or Dad talk to little Susie about what she’s building-the colors, the height, the interesting form, etc, Susie then has this in her comprehension and vocabulary. Blocks are also conducive to solo play. Children love them and get absorbed by them, but are not left with the overstimulation that occurs with too much media.
Christakis fields questions about children and media use, and what is an appropriate time frame for use. Certainly, he sees a oversaturation when it comes to media usage and children. He reports that a typical preschooler today watches four and half hours of television, while they are only usually up around 12 hours. Twenty to thirty percent of their time is spent in front of a screen! He reports that within the last ten years, 90% of children under two are watching television. This is a huge difference from ten years ago and flies in the face of guidelines given from the American Pediatric Association, that advise no television until after aged two. Media saturation upsets the natural process of things in the body. He says the research shows that watching quick sequences of television interferes with executive functioning. While the brain will process the information, it taxes it and over stimulates the senses. There is also an issue of which activities were usurped to make screen use a priority for the child. Not condemning the digital age by any means, he encourages parents to make thoughtful and age appropriate choices for their children’s usage. He encourages parents to ask themselves what is lost otherwise. It is a whole lot more than language development…..
To quote our three and a half year-old, quoting a “Thomas the Tank Engine” movie, ‘I think my head is going to become a Popsicle‘. In fact, I think collectively Western New Yorkers (and New Englanders) everywhere are officially becoming Popsicles. With perhaps a day of January thaw and steady days of cold weather and snow, we are getting freezer burnt! Now February is here and there is little sign of any break in the snow or chill. Before we all start going “mad” with collective brain freeze, perhaps it is best to round-up some great winter activities to embrace the cold or beat it.
The “Buffalo Event Calendar” showcases top-notch winter activities in our area. From skating at Canal Side and Rotary Rink to annual events like the “Farm Show and the “Auto Show,” this is a great online source for individuals and families seeking fun and unique activities to do this season. Check out your town or village’s website for winter festivals and special events. From inside music to outside skating, to vendors, chicken barbeques, lectures, and more, our area municipalities offer many fun things to do in the cold. –Which brings me to our local libraries. Outside the great books and periodicals, many libraries offer in-house movie nights; loan DVDS and video games; and host lectures, book clubs, and other special events to squelch the toughest case of cabin fever. Pick up a book and start an adventure! Go to the library and have a great new experience!
Speaking of ending cabin fever, what do you and your family like to do to beat this “bug”? –Beat it before it beats you! Sometimes ordinary activities just need a nice spin to become a special event in the home. Make movie night, the home drive in, minus the exhaust fumes and mosquitoes! Better yet, perhaps you can go camping after the movies in the great wilds of your living room. Or maybe a game night, turns into a campout replete with storytelling (read or spoken) and a big bowl of popcorn and a side of laughter and good memories.
Which outdoor activity do you enjoy with your family this time of year, sledding, skiing , or riding snow mobiles? Do you want to build a snowman? Snicker, snicker… Maybe going outside has little to no appeal? But perhaps just stepping outside on a beautiful starlit night, or bundling up and taking a walk is just what the doctor ordered. Winter will be over soon enough and time just keeps passing….
Certainly many parents have had an episode like this one. It is when a few minutes seem like hours. Every catastrophic thought races thru your mind. You cannot act quick enough. Our oldest daughter got separated from me at the recent “Disney on Ice.”
Mind you, our ten year-old daughter asked to walk a few feet ahead of our group and check out some souvenirs at the show. I had said yes. (She is confident, responsible, and trustworthy). I was right behind her. I got talking, distracted, lost in thoughts, etc. It had been perhaps a minute. When I looked ahead to see our oldest, she was nowhere in sight. —I mean nowhere! After checking the bathroom, running ahead, and then running back from where we were, she was still nowhere in sight. It wasn’t adding up. I was starting to get beside myself. This just couldn’t be happening to her, to us!
Two dear friends were right by. One ran ahead to look for me. The other friend stayed with our younger daughter. I consulted security. They got her description from me. Somehow, I knew exactly what she was wearing. As my heart dove into my stomach, I described the purple outfit she had on that night. The first security guard notified all security. They looked for her throughout the building. Security monitored the doors. It was every parent’s worst nightmare during that span of time.
I found her after about 15 minutes. When she explained what happened, she had been just getting ready to call me on a cell phone. Our smart girl had thought to politely borrow a cell phone from someone and call me. She had gotten swept by the crowd. We were both visibly shaken and relieved. It was the best type of reunited I have ever known! It was chalk full of lessons for all of us. The importance of staying ever so close was completely underlined, as was the fact that security doesn’t always look like you think they will. At the First Niagara Arena, the majority of their security wore suits and walky talkies that night. I was grateful, so grateful, I knew what she had on that night. That typically is not the case, but an important, vital note to make in a situation such as that night. Having a meeting place, in case of separation, will be something that occurs right away for the children and I. Also, she should have had a buddy if she went ahead of us, even if it was that close by. The distance during those 15 minutes could have been a thousand miles. The assistance and support of my two friends is something I will never forget. Thank you, my friends! The only thing to do with a situation like this one is to learn from it; remember the lessons; and offer up many thanks….
We all know the days we’re just not right and just not “completely there”. Perhaps we woke up late and did not have time to eat breakfast before we rushed out the door. Maybe we had an argument with our spouse that morning or the night before. Or perhaps we had car problems and could not get to work on time or at all because of it. These factors would frustrate and upset the most patient and calm of individuals. We certainly are not at our best functioning when these things occur.
Stay with me here. Think of these circumstances and the recent census statistics that found that the poverty rate for children in Buffalo increased from 45 percent in 2012 to 50.6. In a recent article that ran in Buffalo’s new alternative paper “The Daily Public”, entitled “Staggering Poverty Facing Buffalo Students“, by Florina Altshiler, Altshiler further elaborates on the census findings. I can tell you that it doesn’t sound like a comprehensive economic recovery to me! The Census Bureau recently released its annual American Community Survey. They found that Buffalo’s overall poverty rate is twice the national rate of 14.5, coming in at 31.4%. An astounding 29,726 children of the city’s 58,722 children live in poverty. As a comparison point, Albany’s was 25.7 percent and New York City’s was 20.9 percent.
What does this mean in terms of education on a daily basis? Think back to the beginning of the blog and when you are not at your best because of mitigating circumstances. Now, think of how this would be if these were your constant circumstances. As a Facebook friend astutely commented, the real concern in public education isn’t Common Core right now. It’s poverty!