TV + Your Kids, What You Need to Know

Have you ever used your smartphone, iPad, or the TV to entertain your child while you get things done?  I have.  And while many of us have assumed it’s probably not the best thing for our kids, it’s not until recently that we’ve been able to monitor it’s effects on a child’s brain development.  Since a child’s brain is developing more rapidly than their body, I thought this was something we all should pay some attention.

Dr. Patricia Kuhl is the lead on researching that question among many others.  A Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences and co-director of the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, she is also the first to use a machine called the magnetoencaphalograph, or MEG.  This extraterrestrial looking machine measures the brain’s magnetic field from outside the head.  Because it can effectively scan images in moving patients, this is the first machine to monitor a young child’s brain in their waking hours.

Dr. Kuhl was so kind to answer some questions for us in between her many speaking engagements.

Dr. Kuhl, how does our modern world of technology affect a child’s brain development?  Language development?

During childhood, children’s brains are rapidly developing and forming connections based on their experiences and interactions. Both good and bad experiences will strengthen connections in the brain if they happen frequently. When a child engages in activities such as sports, music lessons, or learning a new skill, they are building those connections in their brain. For infants and toddlers, learning in the context of social interactions with other people is especially important for brain development.

Children are growing up in a world where screens are everywhere.  One of the main concerns in our modern world of media is that time spent with media is time spent away from other activities important for brain growth and development. This is called displacement. For example, one concern is that children are passively watching television and not engaging their brain as they would during interactions with other people. However, interactive media may affect us differently than passive viewing. Recent research shows that toddlers can learn new words by video chatting with another adult, but they have difficulty learning the same words from watching a traditional video. Research on children’s ability to learn from interactive media such as iPads and iPhones is still in the early stages.

At what age can a child begin to learn from media?

There is no magic age when a child will learn from all media. Children get better at learning from media with age, but they continue learn best from live, face-to-face interactions with adults.

There are many factors that determine what and when children can learn from screen media.  Three big factors are the content of the media, the context in which the child is using the media, and the unique qualities of the individual child. Content refers to whether the program is high quality, educational and based on research. The context refers to whether media is being used intentionally or is just on the background of another activity. Children have the most learning opportunities when media is used intentionally. In fact, background media has been shown to disrupt children’s play and reduce conversations between caregivers and children. Context also refers to whether an adult is present to support the child’s learning from the media. Children learn more from screen media when an adult is engaging with them by asking questions and describing what they are watching or doing.  Finally, individual child factors include a child’s developing abilities and whether the child’s age is appropriate for the media they are using or viewing. Notably, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages use of any screen media with children under two years of age.  They recommend screen media exposure be limited to 1-2 hours per day for child over age two.

On your website you talk about the importance of the child’s first 2,000 days of life.  What activities do you recommend?  

One theme that keeps coming up in our research is the importance of early experiences for children’s development and learning. Children learn so much during the first five years of life and this learning happens during interactions with other people and with the world. Since these early experiences are so important for building children’s foundational skills, it’s important that children have high quality experiences.

We’ve learned more and more about what makes everyday experiences high quality. The most important ingredients of high-quality interactions are the people themselves. Children learn best from other people. For example, young infants only learn the sounds of language by playing with a live person, but do not learn by watching video or listening to language sounds on a CD. In face-to-face interactions, adults can respond to a child’s needs and interests in the moment. This back-and-forth exchangehelps the infant learns by observing the caregiver’s eye gaze, points, and gestures. This is how a caregiver and an infant build a connection before real conversations begin.

In addition, the language used by caregivers in interactions also helps children learn. Both the number of words that children hear and the type of language are important. Youngest children learn best when they listen to infant-directed speech, orparentese”. Fathers, siblings, teachers, grandparents and other adults use parentese naturally. It sounds like a sing-song, or exaggerated tone of voice. Babies love to listen to it! Science shows that babies who hear more parentese actually speak more. Caregivers can also build language in other ways. For example, talking a lot, using new and different words, asking questions, and having playful conversations builds children’s language.

For parents who utilized technology with their children at a young age, are their ways to re-strengthen the brain on time lost?  

It’s never too late to spend time in face-to-face interactions with your children! Although the first five years of life are a period of rapid brain growth, the brain continues to develop beyond adolescence. It is important to remember that screen media can be an educational tool when the content, context and child are taken into consideration. Parents can help make media use a learning experience by engaging in the media with their child.

You’ve developed learning modules for parents and caregivers.  Can you tell me a little about these modules and what we’ll take away from them?  

I-LABS is building an online library of resources for early learning professionals, parents, caregivers, policymakers, and interested community members. The online training modules are designed to share the latest science of child development with the broader community. Each module explores a particular topic of science, such as early brain development, children’s imitation, or language acquisition, and nests it within the larger landscape of child development. Modules are designed to be useful for informing systems-level programs and policies, but also for everyday interactions with children.

And that concludes my interview with Dr. Kuhl.

In conclusion, it seems as though a young child watching TV is damaging to their brain in that it is valuable time lost during the brains most critical development period.

Are the findings enough to change your technology patterns with your children?  What tips do you have to engage your children in non-technological ways?

Here are a few ways activities that have helped me keep my kids exposure to TV minimal:

  • Letting them help me in the kitchen (stirring, salting, cutting with a butter knife)
  • Having them help clean with spray bottles filled with a water/vinegar solution and arming them with a rag to dry things up
  • Letting them set the table or sweep up messes I make while cooking (and thanking them!)
  • Letting them paint or draw in the same area as me while I cook
  • For babies: I moved Annabel’s playmat into the kitchen and often have her playing in their or strapped to me while I cook.

Please share your thoughts and tips!

SIDENOTE: If you do continue to utilize media for children of any age, please check out Magicalis and utilize their application to rate and find the right programs/activities.  This app was created to help parents shape their child’s media diet.

Blueberry Summer Salad

Our family loves enjoying this salad outside on a warm summer day.   The basil adds a refreshing depth and the blueberries are little bursts of sweetness. Keep it simple or add more impact with some or all of the optional ingredients.  If your kids are like mine, they will pick out the peas and blueberries and then eventually eat the rest of it.  The dressing is magic.  As an entree this will feed 4.  As a side I find that it works for 6-7.  

 

BLUEBERRY SUMMER SALAD

  • 5-6 large handfuls of fresh salad greens (I like a romaine mixture)
  • 1 small handful of basil
  • 1 handful of organic blueberries
  • 1 small handful of fresh peas
  • 1 small handful of raisins
  • 1 small avocado, diced

Optional:

  • Grilled asparagus
  • Grilled peaches, sliced
  • Fresh cut cucumbers
  • Other herbs (such as dill and cilantro)
  • Goat cheese
  • Walnuts

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I always get raw to keep the nutrients)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I always use unrefined)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp tamari
  • ½ tsp stoneground mustard (I’ll double this if I’m in a mustard mood)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp of honey (I use raw to keep the nutrients)

To make the dressing, add all of the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it.  I always double the recipe and keep it on hand to use during the rest of the week.

Lightly dress the greens and basil.  Start with just a few tablespoons and increase the amount of dressing to your taste.  Add the rest of the ingredients over the greens.  I sprinkle the raisins, blueberries and fresh peas last because they make the salad a feast for the eyes as well.  Enjoy!

What’s your favorite summer dish?

I’m Back!!

I’m back from my “I had a baby” break!  We gave birth to our little girl Annabel Leah Van Der Beek on January 25th.  She’s a piece of heaven.  I can’t wait to share her birth story and photo with you all!

In the meantime I have lots more easy and yummy recipes coming your way.  I also have a few life-changing obsessions I’ll be sharing.  My mattress, water filtration system and home filtration system (I’m a clean air and water addict now), are all worthy of their own blog posts.

Please let me know anything else you are interested in my blogging about.  And for those of you not following my Instagram, I’m so much better with my food posts and such on there.  My username is: vanderkimberly.

Sending you all lots of love!

 

NRDC Green Gifts

Growing up my mom occasionally gave me “green gifts.”  She’d adopt an animal in my name or donate money to an environmental cause.  Even as a kid this kind of gift made me happy and put life into prospective during what had become a very material holiday.  I was flooded with enough other presents anyhow.

So, when I saw that the NRDC had made it easy to give green gifts this year, I just had to share it with you.  I was impressed by the selection to satisfy every animal, earth and ocean lover on one’s gift list.  And for kids it’s always fun to “adopt” one of their favorite animals.  Click here to order!

 

Pregnancy Cravings Talk + Belly Bump Dressing at the GQ Men of the Year Party

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Me and James at the GQ Men of the Year Party

James and I got out for a date at the GQ Men of the Year Party. And what do you talk about at such a party? Pregnancy cravings, of course. People documented my silly speak of needing non-gelatin gummy bears from the UK at 4 A.M. one morning. I’ve since found out that I have options for such a product here in the country (yay! but not helpful for the early morning NEED).  What have been/are your pregnancy cravings?

And why no gelatin you may ask? Gelatin is created by boiling skin tendons, ligaments and/or bones and usually comes from cows or pigs. I’m not really into that. I prefer to use a seaweed derived product, agar agar, (available online and at natural foods stores) for my gelatin needs. Just to confuse you, this product is occasionally marked as gelatin in the ingredients, although companies will usually proudly list it as agar agar.

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Me, James, Jesse Tyler, Weird Al Yankovic, Suzzane Yankovic and Justin Mikita

As for the fun stuff, it’s always nice to have a reason to get dressed up. That said, it’s getting more and more difficult to dress the bump in a flattering fashion.  Last night was all about being creative. I’ve had this gorgeous robe from Agent Provocateur for a few years now that we had a seamstress line and sew up to create my gown for the night.  I paired it with Aldo shoes and a Jimmy Choo clutch. James was in a Todd Snyder wool plaid suit, Tommy Hilfiger shoes and his favorite, Gallant & Beau socks.  Unfortunately, I was ready to fall asleep at the dinner table half way through my meal.  Hot date I am these days.

Tell us about your cravings and give up those baby bump dressing tips below!

9 Ways to Help Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

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More than 9 million people have been affected in the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan swept through the land, killing an estimated 10,000 people.  Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water.  Mashable has listed 9 Ways to Help Victims of Typhoon Haiyan.  Please help in any way you can so that we can keep the death toll from rising and serve those in great need.  

If you know of other ways to support victims of Haiyan, please leave it in the comment section below.

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