Does story time with an e-book change how parents and toddlers interact?

Study suggests that parents and children talk and interact less with electronic books compared to print books

New Mom Guilt: Why You’re Not Failing as a Mother

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I’ve gotten a lot of emails from women saying they feel overwhelmed by motherhood. Not in a dangerous way, just in an “I totally suck and I don’t know how I’m supposed to manage all this” kind of way.

To this I say, you’re not supposed to.

If you think about it, if you had a baby thousands, if not hundreds of years ago, you would have had your mother, all your sisters (all of whom were probably lactating), and your nieces all taking care of your baby. They would help with food preparation, show you how to manage, and make sure your baby wasn’t eaten by a bear. Your kid’s feet probably wouldn’t have touched the ground until they themselves would be able to carry around an infant.

Back then the point of a child was to have free labor in the fields and someone to take care of your old ass down the road, and not much more.

As for the past generations that like to tell you that they raised six kids on their own and did it without a washing machine? Well, sort of. Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it – I used to walk to the store in my bare feet to buy my father’s cigarettes when I was a kid. As a mother, you cooked, you cleaned, but nobody expected you to do anything much more than keep your kids fed and tidy.

The Good Old Days.

My grandmother used to tell the story about how she forgot my mother at the grocery store in the early 40s. She walked up to the store with my mother sleeping in her carriage, parked it outside with all the other sleeping babies (I’ll let that sink in), went inside to do her shopping, then walked home forgetting that she’d taken the baby with her. She quickly realized her mistake and walked back and retrieved my mother who was still sleeping outside the store.

There were no flashcards, there was no sign language (unless you were deaf), there were no organic, free-range bento boxes – your job was to just see a kid through to adulthood and hope they didn’t become an idiot.

Hey, I’m not judging, and I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I’m just saying that we are part of a generation that considers parenting as a skill. Like a true skill that needs to be mastered and perfected and if we don’t get it right, we think our kids suffer for it and that’s hard shit to keep up with. That’s not to say other generations didn’t have it tough or think parenting was important, but there just wasn’t the same level of scrutiny that could be liked, tweeted or instagramed all at once.

You are in the trenches when you have a baby.

To the untrained eye it seems pretty straightforward and easy – you feed them, you bathe them, you pick them up when they cry – but it’s more than that. It’s perpetual motion with a generous layer of guilt and self-doubt spread on top, and that takes its toll.

Feeling like you also need to keep on top of scrapbooking, weight loss, up-cycled onesies, handprints, crock pot meals, car seat recalls, sleeping patterns, poo consistency, pro-biotic supplements, swimming lessons, electromagnetic fields in your home and television exposure, is like trying to knit on a rollercoaster – it’s fucking hard.

We live in a time when we can google everything, share ideas, and expose our children to amazing opportunities, but anyone that implies that they have it figured out is either drunk or lying (or both) so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Basics and Gravy.

Your job is to provide your child with food, shelter, encouragement and love, and that doesn’t have to be solely provided by you either – feel free to outsource because they didn’t just pull that “it takes a village” proverb out of the air.

Mommy and Me classes, homemade lactation cookies, and learning Cantonese is all gravy, and if you can throw them in the mix once in a while, good on ya, Lady.  I have about 9,000 things I’ve pinned on Pinterest and I think I’ve done four of them which is fine by me because those are above and beyond goodies, and not part of my just-scraping-by norm.

It’s an amazing and exciting time to have a baby right now, but always keep in mind, no one has ever done it like this before – you are pioneers that have to machete through the new terrain. Chin up. Hang in there. And remember, you’re doing a great job.

Perfect chocolate chip cookies for kids



These perfect chocolate chip cookies are adapted from the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s bag! So easy and SO addicting.


  • 15 tablespoons salted butter (about 225 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Put the butter in the oven in a stainless steel bowl as it’s preheating until about half of the butter is melted. Turn the oven off. Let the butter come back to room temperature – it doesn’t have to harden completely but just so it’s not hot anymore.
  2. Add the sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter. Cream with electric mixers until well mixed. Add the eggs and beat on high speed for 1 minute.
  3. Measure in the flour, baking soda, and salt. You can do this in a separate bowl, but I usually just dump it all into the mixing bowl. Slowly mix with the electric mixer on low speed, scraping the sides, until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more, until firm. I refrigerated mine overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the dough is firm, roll 2 tablespoons or more into high, round balls. Place on a baking sheet a few inches apart and bake for 8-12 minutes. Sorry for the discrepancy – our oven here is so hard to read (literally, there are no temperature markings) so I usually just watch them after 8 minutes to see when they look ready. You want to take them out when they are puffy and just a tiny bit brown on the tops and edges. Let stand for a few minutes – they will lose a little of their puffiness but they should stay thick and hold together well.


Our butter measures differently here in the Philippines and it is very salty. So based on the comments, I have adjusted the amount of butter to be slightly less than 1 cup and to call for salted butter. If your first batch still comes out flat, I would suggest adding more flour (up to 1/2 cup). These are not meant to be flat!  I tried baking these on two different pans – one was a cheap aluminum baking sheet and one was actually Calphalon brownie pan (!), and both kept the cookies nice and thick. When you first take them out of the oven, they will look more pale than a normal golden-brown cookie but that’s normal. They start to look more even as they cool. These cookies should stay really thick and chewy even a day or two later. I like them stored in the refrigerator so they are firm and cold, but still buttery and soft. It’s important to consider your altitude, humidity, oven tendencies, etc. when baking these. 

You’re Expecting. Congratulations! Now What?

By Pamela Kramer

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\When Rebecca Brandt's home pregnancy test came out positive, one of the first things she did was call her ob-gyn to schedule an appointment for the next day. "I couldn't wait to confirm the results, and I already had a lot of questions about diet, exercise, and whether it would be safe to take over-the-counter medicines," says the Portland, Oregon, mom, whose daughter was born 15 months ago. But to Brandt's surprise, her doctor wasn't in nearly the rush that she was; she was told that he wouldn't need to see her for another two weeks, when she'd already be two months into the pregnancy. "I asked the nurse if she at least had some guidelines to send me, but she had nothing. So I just stopped taking Advil for my occasional back pain and hoped for the best," says Brandt.

Indeed, many doctors wait to see moms-to-be until 8 or even 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Why not sooner? Home pregnancy tests are extremely reliable; also, before two months there's no fetal heartbeat and it's too early to do an accurate pelvic exam. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't start taking steps now to make your pregnancy - and the months following it - as healthy and seamless as possible.

Here's what you need to know and do as soon as you discover there's a baby on the way.

Boost Nutrition

If there was ever a time to eat right, it's in the first weeks of pregnancy. This is when a baby's bones, organs, and nervous system begin to form, and a well-balanced diet helps them develop properly, according to Marcos Pupkin, M.D., chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercy Medical Center, in Baltimore. One way you can help yourself to the right mix of nutrients: Take prenatal vitamins. Your doctor can recommend a brand to you over the phone before your exam. If morning sickness is making you feel too queasy to stomach them, try taking them at a different time of day when you're feeling better.

But if you haven't taken any prenatal vitamins or paid attention to your diet until now, don't panic. "Most babies are born healthy even when Mom hasn't been sticking to a strict regimen," says Andrew Rubenstein, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center, in New Jersey.

Now and throughout the pregnancy, here's what to aim for in the foods you eat:

Protein 60 grams per day. That's one 4-ounce serving of cooked poultry, meat, or fish (about the size of your palm), two tablespoons of peanut butter, and three 8-ounce servings of milk or yogurt.

When I was pregnant, I munched on shelled sunflower seeds that I kept at my desk (one-quarter cup has eight grams of protein). Bonus: They settled my stomach.

Calcium At least 1,000 milligrams per day. Three to four servings of dairy products should do it. One serving is eight ounces of milk or yogurt, one ounce of hard cheese (such as cheddar or swiss), or one cup of yogurt.

Complex carbohydrates Six servings of fruits and veggies and at least six servings of breads, cereals, rice, or pasta per day. One serving of produce can be a cup of raw leafy greens, a half cup of cooked fruits or vegetables, one medium-size piece of fruit, or a half cup of juice. A slice of bread, a cup of cereal, or a half cup of cooked rice or pasta counts as one serving of grains.



Folate (or folic acid) At least 400 micrograms per day. One bowl of Cheerios provides 50 percent of what you need. Other good sources of this nutrient are enriched grain products, orange juice, and spinach.

Click ahead for Exercise and Food Safety Tips

Get Moving

Fatigue may make you feel like sitting out the next nine months on the couch, but exercise is a great way to energize. It also controls weight gain, keeps abdominal muscles toned (important for preventing backaches as your uterus expands), and helps prevent constipation and premature delivery. You'll also be thankful for the extra strength and stamina you've gained when it's time to push the baby out.

Stick with activities that are easy on the joints, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, since hormone changes make you more prone to strains and sprains. Thirty minutes of exercise three or four times a week is an ideal amount; though not if it means pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion.

Brush Up

Those same hormones that loosen your joints can do a number on your mouth as well. A mere week or two after sperm meets egg, your gums become more sensitive to plaque. If it's not removed regularly, you may develop gum disease, which can contribute to premature labor or low birth weight, according to several recent studies.

If you're not in the habit already, make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day and after meals if possible, recommends Cindy Flanagan, a dentist in private practice in Houston. Floss daily as well, and follow that up by rinsing with an alcohol-free antiseptic mouthwash. If your gums start to become inflamed and tender, see your dentist. She may recommend more frequent professional cleaning while you're expecting.

Play It Safe

You already know to steer clear of alcohol and cigarettes, but you may not be aware of other behavior that might be risky.

While most ob-gyns say it's safe to take acetaminophen and many antacids, check with your doctor before using any drug; cough syrups, sleep aids, and other over-the-counter products may contain ingredients that can harm a developing baby. If you're on a prescription medication, don't wait until your first prenatal exam to talk to your doctor. He may want you to stay on course, or he may decide to reduce your dosage or switch you to a different medicine altogether.

The seemingly harmless task of changing your cat's litter box is actually potentially hazardous. Cat feces can contain the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that creates flulike symptoms in grown-ups but potential hearing, vision, or even brain damage in unborn babies. The risk is highest if a woman gets sick during the first trimester. The parasite can also contaminate raw or underdone meat, so cook meat to at least 160 degrees before eating and always wash hands with soap and water after handling raw meat.

Foods to avoid: unpasteurized milk or juice, soft cheeses (such as brie, feta, and roquefort), and bagged salads. These may contain listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause miscarriage. Deli meats may also carry listeria, so even though they're cooked, heat to steaming before you eat them.



Cross raw seafood off your prenatal diet as well; it may contain the parasite that causes hepatitis A.

As for those caffeine-containing espressos, cappuccinos, and sodas, moderation is key. While recent studies have found no link between caffeine and birth defects, caffeine does draw fluid and calcium from your body. "It probably won't harm your baby," says Oliver Jones, M.D., an ob-gyn in private practice in Denver, "but it can't hurt to cut it out or limit yourself to one eight-ounce caffeinated drink a day."

Click ahead for more Pre-Baby To-Dos

Give Your Doctor a Checkup

Your ob-gyn may have handled your routine gynecological care for years - and perhaps even helped you through a previous pregnancy - but now's the time to decide whether she's the one you want for these nine months. Ask yourself, Are we on similar wavelengths on prenatal testing, episiotomies, and epidurals? Is the office staff friendly and accessible? Does she take the time to give clear, thoughtful responses to my questions?

"You should never have to walk out of your doctor's office with unanswered concerns," says Dr. Rubenstein. "If you're not comfortable with your doctor, now's a good time to switch. Check with friends for a recommendation, or call your local hospital and ask to speak to a nurse in the maternity ward. Labor and delivery nurses work with ob-gyns day in and day out - they know who's good."

Pay Down Debt

Having a baby costs a bundle. "The less you owe, the better," says Peter Finch, coauthor of How to Raise Kids Without Going Broke.Eliminate as much debt as possible by chipping away at loans and credit card balances or by transferring all of your balances to one low-interest-rate account, and begin paying it off.

Aim to bulk up your savings as well. The earlier you start, the more money you'll have stashed away come delivery day. The easiest, and surest, way to save a lot of money when you're in a hurry: Have a set dollar amount automatically deducted from each paycheck and deposited directly into your bank account or a mutual fund.

Look Into Leave

"Maternity leave may seem like a long way off when you're only a few weeks pregnant, but it's not too early to begin thinking about how much time off you'd like and can afford," says Carol Buckler, coauthor of Everything a Working Mother Needs to Know. "There's a lot to consider."

While you probably won't want to tell your supervisor about the pregnancy until you've reached the second trimester - when the risk of miscarriage is largely behind you - you can use this time to check out your company's maternity-leave policy. Read the employee handbook, or discreetly ask colleagues with young kids. "They should be able to explain how the employer managed their leave and give you the inside scoop on things they were able to negotiate, such as making the transition back to work on a part-time basis for a few weeks," says Ann Douglas, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. You may also discover that if you start storing up sick or vacation days now, you can use them for a longer leave later.

Make Connections

It goes without saying that you'll get plenty of pregnancy advice both from books and from your doctor, but you should also talk to the real pros - the women who've been there. Get to know new parents in your neighborhood, hook up with moms in your exercise class, or chat online. Parents will be eager to offer tips on everything from curbing morning sickness to shopping for maternity clothes. And when the baby arrives, you'll have a built-in playgroup and maybe even a sitter or two.

Are You Making Bad Behavior Worse?

Written by Dona Matthews, Ph.D

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Anger and defiance are normal responses to feeling threatened or afraid. That’s true for children as well as adults, whether the threat is real and outside ourselves, or inside, as happens when we’re deeply upset or overwhelmed with embarrassment, grief, or disappointment. Anger or defiance can relieve a sense of powerlessness, and temporarily numb the pain.

Young children don’t have the necessary tools for managing their upsets. They don’t have the brain capacity to put their disappointments into context, to soothe themselves, or regulate their responses. Punishing them for being difficult is not only unfair, but it’s also counter-productive. It just makes them feel more powerless, and angrier.

If punishment makes bad behavior worse, what does work when children misbehave? What can you do when your child is angry, difficult, or defiant?

  1. Be fully present, with calm, loving empathy. An angry or defiant child is suffering. They feel threatened. So, resist the urge to yell back or punish. Don’t let your own emotions be triggered by your child’s bad behavior. If you speak harshly or punish them, you’ll be making their world scarier and increasing the likelihood of further explosions. Instead, be a grownup. Take a deep breath and be fully present to your child’s pain. You’ll be modeling the emotional skills your child needs to calm themselves down.
  2. Acknowledge the reason for the anger. By calmly showing your child you understand why they’re upset (whether or not it seems reasonable to you), they will feel safer, and better able to feel the vulnerable emotions driving the anger. That’s true whether they’re feeling grief over a broken toy, hurt over a harsh word, or fear of a bully.
  3. Let them know all emotions are acceptable. Even “bad” emotions—anger, envy, hopelessness, sadness—are honest and real. Don’t tell your child to calm down or to act appropriately. Instead, welcome their feelings, whatever they are, and be grateful they trust you enough to share their feelings with you. Your acceptance allows your child to accept their negative feelings, instead of trying to repress them, which never goes well.  
  4. Tell them they can’t act on their anger. Kids should never be allowed to hit, bite, scratch, or kick others, including their parents. If your child does this, they are asking for you to set limits and help them contain their anger. You might say "You can be as mad as you want, but I won't let you hit me or anyone else. My job is to keep us all safe. You can tell me how mad you are without hurting me."     
  5. Stay close and connected. An angry, difficult, or defiant child is frightened. They need a calm, strong, adult to help them feel safe enough to settle down and figure out how best to move on. Instead of a time-out, try a time-in, where you stay present and connected.  
  6. Do some role-playing, then reverse the roles. Take turns being your angry child, and being the villain of the piece who made your child angry. Feel free to exaggerate. Use props and costumes if you like. Watch tears turn into laughter and creative solutions arise, as your child feels listened to and understood.  
  7. Create a MAD list of healthy options for managing anger. This might include a few rounds of deep breathing, putting on some music, dancing, going to a happy quiet place, pushing the “Pause” button and counting to ten, going outside for a run, working on a hobby, creating an artistic product that expresses the anger, yelling at a stuffed animal, and lots more.
  8. Help your child identify the warning signs. Help your child notice when they’re getting annoyed, before it escalates. With a young child, prevention is your job: make sure they’re getting a good balance of nutrition, sleep, exercise, and cuddles. As your child gets older, help them see what’s happening before it becomes a problem. That’s a good time to go to the MAD list.
  9. Do some collaborative problem-solving. Your goal is to help your child develop the coping mechanisms they need to navigate life’s challenges without getting angry or defiant. Once the storm has passed, find a quiet moment to discuss what happened, and different ways they might handle things in future. Help them feel more powerful, as they learn to prevent problems and gain control of their own reactions.
  10. Take good care of yourself. You’re teaching your child how to behave every minute you spend with them. Do your best to have good healthhabits yourself—sleep, nutrition, exercise, fresh air—so you can respond well when challenges occur. Do your best to be a good role model of positive emotional regulation, dealing calmly and kindly with life’s challenges.
  11. Be patient. Self-regulation takes years of practice and experience. Many adults never get there, so be patient as your child learns to handle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
  12. Get help if you need it. Some people are more volatile than others, and require professional help. If you or your child is frequently aggressive, explosive, or oppositional, and these approaches don’t work, you might benefit from getting help.

By helping your child feel safe enough to express their anger and explore the feelings underneath, you will be giving them an essential tool for success with school and friendships, and, eventually, for building healthy adult relationships, succeeding in their work, and parenting their own kids.

5 Foods That Negatively Affect Your Child’s Mood

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Parents intuitively know that food can impact their child’s behavior and mood. We know that sweets, for example, can cause bouts of hyperactivity. But mood-altering food isn’t limited to sugar – there are other culprits in the snacks and meals that we feed our little ones. The following five foods are the most common contributors to mood and behavioral changes in children.

  1. Dairy – If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to the proteins found in dairy, you may see changes in her mood and behavior. Many children become irritable, cranky, or aggressive. Children with dairy allergies or intolerance also tend to suffer from frequent colds and ear infections. Babies may exhibit colicky symptoms, whereas toddlers and older children may become inconsolable and irritable.
  2. Artificial Coloring – Many countries have banned artificial coloring due to the detrimental effects these chemicals have on children. Linked to ADHD, anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches in children, artificial coloring can also cause significant behavioral changes. Because artificial coloring is found in many sugary foods, parents often blame behavioral changes on sugar. Artificial coloring is also often hidden in unexpected foods like bread and yogurt. Avoid products with yellow No. 5, red No. 40, and blue No. 1 if you’re concerned about your child’s mood swings after consuming food with artificial coloring.
  3. Sugar – Sugar can cause a child to be hyperactive, which is often an immediate indicator that sugar is the culprit. However, sugar is in just about everything the average child eats, unless the child is eating a whole foods-based diet. Sugar has been shown to cause long-term health damage, and a diet high in processed foods has been linked to depression, cognitive delay, and sleep problems.
  4. Preservatives – There are several preservatives that may cause behavioral problems in children. They include but are not limited to nitrates, nitrites, and sodium benzoate. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that also causes mood and behavior changes, including headaches and hyperactivity. Sodium benzoate is commonly found in juice products marketed toward children.
  5. Food Allergens – Common food allergens are dairy, nuts, eggs, soy, and corn. When a child has an intolerance or an allergy to a particular food, it can cause significant health and behavior issues. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint which allergen is making your child sick without the help of an allergist. A food intolerance, for example, is often missed and a child is instead diagnosed with ADHD.

If you notice behavior changes or mood swings in your child, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they exhibit concerning behavior. Try eliminating suspicious foods to see if the behavior changes. While food isn’t the cause of all behavioral issues and conditions, it’s important to make sure that your child is not suffering from something that can be easily remedied.

When do babies start teething?

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When do babies start teething?

Most babies sprout their first tooth when they're between 4 and 7 months old.

An early developer may get his first tooth as early as 3 months, while it may take a late bloomer until he's a year old or more. (In very rare cases, a baby's first tooth is already visible at birth.) Whenever your baby's first toothmakes its appearance, celebrate the milestone by taking pictures and noting the date in your child's baby book.

Teeth actually start developing while your baby is in the womb and tooth buds form in the gums. Teeth break through over a period of months, and they often appear in this order: the bottom two middle teeth first, then the top two middle ones, then those along the sides and back.

Teeth can erupt one at a time, or several can come through at once. They may not all come in straight, but don't worry – they usually straighten out over time.

The last teeth to appear (the second molars, found in the very back of the mouth on the top and bottom) usually come in around your baby's second birthday or in the months after. By age 3, your child should have a full set of 20 baby teeth, and they shouldn't start to fall out until his permanent teeth are ready to start coming in (around age 6).

There's a wide range of normal for when teeth come in, but they do usually appear in a predictable order. Get the scoop on teething and tooth loss. See all baby videos

What are the signs a baby is teething?

Some babies get through teething with no signs at all, but many parents report that their babies do experience discomfort. The most likely signs of teething include:

  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Drooling (which can cause a facial rash)
  • Swollen, sensitive gums
  • Gnawing or chewing behavior
  • Refusing to eat
  • Trouble sleeping

Is it true that teething can cause a fever, diarrhea, or a runny nose?

Some parents say their baby also gets a fever, diarrhea, or a runny nose just before a new tooth arrives, but there's no scientific proof that teething causes these symptoms. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that although a baby's body temperature may rise slightly when teething, a true fever (rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher) and diarrhea aren't normal symptoms. If your child has a fever along with other symptoms such as lack of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, or diarrhea, call her doctor to rule out anything more serious.

How can I help my teething baby feel better?

  • Give your child something to chew on, like a firm rubber teething ring or a cold washcloth that you've chilled in the refrigerator (not freezer).
  • Rub a clean finger gently but firmly over your baby's sore gums to ease the pain temporarily.
  • If your baby is old enough for solids, he may get some relief from eating cold foods, such as applesauce or yogurt.
  • If your baby is old enough to eat finger foods, it may help him to gnaw on a hard, unsweetened teething biscuit, such as zwieback. Just keep an eye on him and be mindful of choking.

Is it safe to give my baby pain medication?

If gnawing, rubbing, or other common methods to ease teething pain don't work, some doctors recommend giving a baby infants' acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies 6 months and older). Ask your baby's doctor for the correct dosage before giving any pain reliever to a child younger than 2.

Are any pain relievers unsafe to give my baby for teething pain?

  • Aspirin: Don't give your baby aspirin (or even rub it on her gums) to ease teething pain because it can lead to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Homeopathic teething tablets and gels: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises parents not to use these products because of reported seizures, breathing problems, and other side effects in children. Researchers at the FDA are investigating these claims, and some manufacturers have stopped distributing them in the United States, but they're still available in some stores and online.
  • Benzocaine: Don't use topical gels or medications containing benzocaine. The FDA warns that the use of teething products can lead to methemoglobinemia, a rare and serious (sometimes fatal) condition in which the amount of oxygen in the blood drops dangerously low.


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Kids Play the Way Scientists Work

Written By By Ashley P. Taylor

Article Published By

Kids are natural scientists, it turns out.

In an article published last week in Science, psychologist Alison Gopnik reviewed the literature about the way young children learn, and she finds that the way preschoolers play is very similar to the way scientists do experiments: Kids come up with general principles, akin to scientific theories, based on the data of their daily lives. Gopnik argues that the research should steer educators and policy makers away from more-regimented, dogmatic kinds of preschool instruction.

Scientists have known for a while—as do most new parents—that babies and small children are phenomenally quick on the uptake. Little ones spend most of their time systematically exploring the world through trial and error, and they grasp what seem like complex concepts very quickly. Babies, we know, have an intuitive grasp of probability: In one experiment, researchers showed babies a box filled mostly with white balls and a few red ones, then drew out a sample of balls and showed it to the baby. If the sample was mostly red balls, the baby looked longer at it than if it were mostly white balls. The infant knew that drawing several red balls out of the bin was unlikely, and therefore noteworthy. Toddlers, multiple experiments have shown, can test hypotheses about how machines work—for example, they can figure out which blocks made a machine play when some but not all blocks trigger the toy.

We have to be careful, though. This exploratory, quasi-scientific approach to the world doesn’t last if adults teach kids to do something else: Kids will let adult instruction override their natural curiosity. Gopnik cites an experiment in which a teacher bumped into a toy and made it squeak, as if by accident, then left the kid alone to play with the toy. The child made the toy squeak, but also figured out several other things about it. When the teacher said, “Here is my toy,” and then made the toy squeak, the child left alone with the plaything only imitated what the teacher had done. Researchers titled the paper about the squeaky-toy experiment “The Double-Edged Sword of Pedagogy.” After the “lesson,” the kids ended up learning less about the toy than they would have if left to simply play.

All this research, Gopnik concludes, argues against adding more instruction to preschool curricula. Let the little scientists play and the world will teach them what they want to know.

10 Current Psychology Studies Every Parent Should Know

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Whether parents are happier than non-parents, why siblings are so different, the perils of discipline, bedtimes, TV and more…

One of the many reasons parenting is an impossible job is that everyone is giving you advice, and much of it is rubbish.

Frankly, it’s amazing we’ve all made it this far.

So, bucking the trend of random anecdote and superstition, here are ten recent psychology studies that every parent should know.

1. Parents are happier than non-parents

In recent years some studies have suggested that the pleasures of having children are outweighed by the pains.

“Ha!” said parents to themselves, secretly, “I knew it!”

Not so fast though: new research has found that, on average, parents feel better than non-parents each day and derive more pleasure from caring for their children than from other activities (Nelson et al.,. 2013).

Fathers, in particular, derive high levels of positive emotions and happiness from their children.

2. Putting your child first is worth it

Underlining the pleasures of having children, research finds that child-centric attitudes are beneficial.

A study by Ashton-James et al. (2013) found that parents who were the most child-centric were also happier and derived greater meaning in life from having children.

Performing child-care activities was associated with greater meaning and fewer negative feelings.

“These findings suggest that the more care and attention people give to others, the more happiness and meaning they experience. From this perspective, the more invested parents are in their children’s well-being — that is, the more ‘child centric’ parents are — the more happiness and meaning they will derive from parenting.” (Ashton-James et al., 2013)

So, what’s good for your kids, is also good for you.

3. Helicopter parenting may be depressing

As with many things in life, though, it’s a fine line between caring and smothering; especially when children have grown up.

Schiffrin et al. (2013) asked 297 undergraduate students about their parents’ behaviour and how they felt about it.

The study found links between ‘helicopter parenting’ and higher levels of depression amongst the students, as well as lower levels of autonomy, relatedness and competence.

“Parents should keep in mind how developmentally appropriate their involvement is and learn to adjust their parenting style when their children feel that they are hovering too closely.” (Schiffrin et al., 2013)

4. Avoid strict discipline

Around 90% of American parents admit at least one instance of using strict verbal discipline with their children, such as calling names or swearing at them.

Rather than helping keep adolescents in line, though, be aware that this may just exacerbate the problem.

A study of 967 US families found that harsh verbal discipline at 13-years-old predicted worse behaviour in the next year (Wang et al., 2013).

And it didn’t help if parents had a strong bond with their children. The study’s lead author Ming-Te Wang explained:

“The notion that harsh discipline is without consequence, once there is a strong parent-child bond–that the adolescent will understand that ‘they’re doing this because they love me’–is misguided because parents’ warmth didn’t lessen the effects of harsh verbal discipline. Indeed, harsh verbal discipline appears to be detrimental in all circumstances.”

5. Regular bedtimes

Regular bedtimes really matter to children’s developing brains.

Researchers followed 11,000 children from when they were 3-years old to the age of 7 to measure the effects of bedtimes on cognitive function, (Kelly et al., 2013).

The researchers found that:

“…irregular bedtimes at 3 years of age were associated with lower scores in reading, maths, and spatial awareness in both boys and girls, suggesting that around the age of 3 could be a sensitive period for cognitive development.”

Regular bedtimes are important for both boys and girls and the earlier these can be implemented, the better for cognitive performance.

6. Do the chores together

Bringing up happy children is easier if Mum and Dad’s relationship isn’t too rocky. One frequent bone of contention between parents is the chores.

A trick for achieving marital satisfaction over the chores is to do them together.

When partners perform their chores at the same time–no matter who is doing what–both people are more satisfied with the division of labour (Galovan et al., 2013).

7. Limit infant TV viewing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should watch no more than two hours of TV per day after two years of age, and none before that age.

Here’s why: a new study that followed almost 2,000 Canadian children from birth found that an extra hour’s TV viewing at 2.5-years-old predicted worse performance later when they attended kindergarten (Pagani et al., 2013).

The more children exceeded this recommendation at 2.5 years old, the worse their vocabulary, math and motor skills were at 5-years-old.

More on this study: One Extra Hour of TV Reduces Toddlers’ Kindergarten Chances

8. Exercise boosts kids’ school performance

Kids are increasingly sedentary and, as I frequently write here on PsyBlog, exercise is a wonderful way to boost brain power, and it has many other benefits (see 20 Wonderful Effects Exercise Has on the Mind).

A new study of 11-year-olds has found that moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with increased academic performance in English, Maths and Science (Booth et al., 2013).

These gains from exercise were also seen in exams taken at 16-years-old.

Interestingly, girls’ science results benefited the most from extra exercise.

9. Dangers of intense mothering

Some women say that taking care of children is more stressful than being at work. There are also links between child-rearing and stress and guilt.

How can we square this with the reports and research findings that children fill your life with joy and meaning?

It may be down to differences in attitudes to parenting. In particular, being an ‘intense mother’ may be bad for you.

In their study of 181 mothers of children under 5, Rizzo et al. (2012)found that mothers who most strongly endorsed the idea that children were sacred and that women are better parents than men, were more likely to be depressed and experience less satisfaction with life.

Yes, nurture your children, but don’t sacrifice your own mental health.

10. Why siblings are so different

Anyone with more than one child will have noticed a curious thing: their personalities are often very dissimilar.

In fact, according to a study by Plomin and Daniels (1987), siblings have no more in common in their personalities than two completely unrelated strangers.

This is very weird given that 50% of their genetic code is identical.

The answer isn’t in the genes at all, but in the environment in which children grow up.

Far from having the same environments, each child has:

  • a different relationship with their parents,
  • a different relationship with their other siblings,
  • different friends and experiences at school…

…and so on.

And all these differences add up to quite remarkable dissimilarities between siblings–often such that if they didn’t look alike, you’d never know they were related.

All this means, of course, that because their personalities are often so different, parenting strategies that work with one child, may not work with another.

It’s just one more challenge of being a parent!

Image credit: Paolo Marconi

New studies show good reading does to toddler’s brain


I loved reading to my boy when he was little. From the very first days after we brought him home from the hospital, he was on my lap and I was reading to him. His room looked like the children’s section of a library.

I always figured it had to do him some good. At the very least, it would make him a lifelong reader, like it did me. (Yes, it worked!)

It’s not like I came with up with this on my own, however. The experts always have known reading to young children is good for them. What they couldn’t explain was the mechanics behind it all. Now two new studies have shown just how good reading to little ones is for their brains and what all is going on, according to a New York Times story.

Turns out a lot of very complex things ares happening when you snuggle up with a child and read aloud, says Dr. Perri Klass, well-known pediatrician and longtime advocate of reading to children. She is the author of the NYT’s piece.

One of the studies looked at the brain activity of toddlers (ages 3-5) while someone was reading to them. The amount of brain activity varied depending on how much time was spent reading to them, the researchers discovered. There was more activity with those whose parents or caretakes read to them, particularly in one region of the brain, which usually occurs later, when children read books to themselves. This study shows it happens when they are younger as well and when someone else is doing the reading, according to Klass. Basically it shows that when young children are listening to a story they also are visualizing it in their heads, something that wasn’t known before, Klass says.

The researchers think kids who have this ability at a young age are ahead of the game when it comes to making images and stories of their own out of words.

Researchers already knew that reading to children expands their vocabulary. But the second study Klass wrote about also determined that the storybooks being read to toddlers expose young ones to words they aren’t hearing elsewhere, thus  bringing even more words into their vocabulary.  (This immediately reminds me of the word “newel post” that was in one of my son’s ABC books. Certainly that is not a term I would have spoken to him!)

So, turn off that TV (sorry, studies show visualization of words on TV doesn’t have the same positive impact) and cuddle up with your little one with a book. What you’re doing for the development of their brain is pretty amazing.

And here’s some added bonuses: you’ll always have a way to calm them down and when they do get to school, they will know what behavior is expected of them when it’s storybook time.

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