Posts tagged: studies

Early to Bed…

By , June 9, 2010 8:30 am

“…and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

And it also makes kids learn better!

Debs of Little House on the Lees reports today on an interesting study of the benefits of regular, early bedtimes for young children.  They need 11 hours of sleep per night.

I have always been a huge fan of early bedtime for children so I feel reassured.

Now I can say with certainty that my kids go to bed early not just so I can have my own evening peace and quiet (as a Consistently Substandard Slacker Mom, I’ll confess that has always been my main reason for being a bedtime drill sergeant).  According to the study, by sending them up to their rooms earlier than most of their friends, I am actually helping them learn more easily at school too.

Thanks Debs!

TV and Infant Speech Delay

By , June 23, 2009 9:44 pm

I have been a very minimalist blogger lately, popping in once a week to post the Linky for the Unplugged Project. I guess I have been taking a bit of a refreshing blog break. Time and inspiration permitting, I might be up for writing a bit more often than I have been.

So, here is my first TV-related post in a while for anyone interested in television and its effects on children.

Many thanks to my friend Wishy who is always way more up with current news than I am, and who kindly emails me links to any article she thinks might be of interest on my blog! I guess she is my Director of Current Affairs.

Here is Wishy’s latest find: Even Background TV May Delay Children’s Speech.  This article is nearly a month old, but that’s how long it took me to get around to writing my post.  Oh well.

According this MSNBC article, a new study* has found that for each hour of television exposure (even as background noise), infants heard 770 fewer words spoken to them by adults (a 7% decrease).  There was also a decrease in the number and length of children’s vocalizations, as well as child-adult conversation.

The possible explanation for this?  Here is the researchers’ conclusion:

“Some of these reductions are likely due to children being left alone in front of the television screen,” the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “but others likely reflect situations in which adults, though present, are distracted by the screen and not interacting with their infant in a discernible manner.”

I would imagine that most mothers have been naturally chatting away with their pre-verbal babies since language first began.  But experts now realize that two-way linguistic interaction with adults is absolutely crucial for infant language development.

By the way, one startling fact from this article is that 30% of households have the TV on all the time.  Wow!

A final thought:  I wonder if too much talk radio would also have the same negative effect on language development.  I know when I am trying to listen to the news on NPR, I am not paying a whole lot of attention to what my children are saying either.

This is a good reminder for us all I think.

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* The study, entitled Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns, appeared in the June 2009 issue of The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.  Here is a link to the abstract.  The full article is also available online with membership, or for a one-time access fee.

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(Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com)

TV-Turnoff Week Book Giveaway!

By , April 1, 2008 8:13 pm

URGENT! TIME-SENSITIVE BLOG POST!!

In anticipation of TV-Turnoff Week (April 21st-27th), Diane at dkMommy Spot is giving away a copy of the book Living Outside the Box: TV-Free Families Share Their Secrets by Barbara Brock. Please read Diane’s review of this very interesting-sounding book, which is based on a 1999 study of over 500 TV-free families.

I have heard of the study and the results are quite fascinating. This book is definitely on my “to read” list!

Unfortunately I am so behind with my blogging, emailing, etc. (due to my week away – or perhaps simply due to massive disorganization), that I regret to report that Diane’s giveaway ends tomorrow, April 2, at noon EST. Sorry I didn’t get the word out sooner, but you still have time to hurry over to dkMommy Spot, read her review of this very worthwhile book, and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.

Good luck!

Music and the Mind

By , March 11, 2008 8:29 pm

Since music was our Unplugged Project theme for last week, this seems to be a very appropriate time to talk about an interesting study that was just released by the Dana Foundation. The report shows a correlation between music training (any performance art training, in fact) and higher academic performance.

This has been demonstrated before, but the Dana study brought together cognitive scientists from seven US universities to try to figure out more precisely how and why this correlation exists. According to the Dana Foundation website, this study “…brings us closer to answering the question: Are smart people drawn to the arts or does arts training make people smarter?”

I don’t know how it was when you were in high school, but when I was there, those of us “nerds” in the band and orchestra did seem to be the kids who performed better in school than those who were not involved in music. I always assumed that most children who were in music perhaps had more involved parents, and that was the explanation. Or maybe “smarter” kids were somehow more drawn to music. But now it seems that there might actually also be some concrete scientific reasons for the “smart band kid” stereotype!

Here is a brief summation of the report’s findings (directly quoted from the website’s study summary page):

Here is a summary of what the group has learned:

1. An interest in a performing art leads to a high state of motivation that produces the sustained attention necessary to improve performance and the training of attention that leads to improvement in other domains of cognition.

2. Genetic studies have begun to yield candidate genes that may help explain individual differences in interest in the arts.

3. Specific links exist between high levels of music training and the ability to manipulate information in both working and long-term memory; these links extend beyond the domain of music training.

4. In children, there appear to be specific links between the practice of music and skills in geometrical representation, though not in other forms of numerical representation.

5. Correlations exist between music training and both reading acquisition and sequence learning. One of the central predictors of early literacy, phonological awareness, is correlated with both music training and the development of a specific brain pathway.

6. Training in acting appears to lead to memory improvement through the learning of general skills for manipulating semantic information.

7. Adult self-reported interest in aesthetics is related to a temperamental factor of openness, which in turn is influenced by dopamine-related genes.

8. Learning to dance by effective observation is closely related to learning by physical practice, both in the level of achievement and also the neural substrates that support the organization of complex actions. Effective observational learning may transfer to other cognitive skills.

The Foundation hopes to be able to continue and expand the study to really identify the precise biological brain mechanisms at work in the positive effects on the brain of artistic training.

Although I am opposed to the overscheduling of children that is so common these days, my one “mandatory” extra-curricular activity has always been learning a musical instrument. This study furthers my resolve to have my children learn an instrument. I feel that musical training has had an extremely positive effect on my life, and I want to pass that gift along to my children.

Furthermore, the fact that music and arts training seems to be so beneficial for overall brain development, makes it even more tragic that schools are cutting back on such programs.

Links:

+ About the study: Effects of Instrumental Music Training on Brain and Cognitive Development in Young Children: A Longitudinal Study

+ Summary of findings: Arts and Cognition: Findings Hint at Relationships (Summary)

+ Research Consortium Finds New Evidence Linking Arts and Learning, article by Brenda Patoine – A really interesting summary of the study and what it means!

+ MSNBC Video Report: Better Minds Through Music (Length 2:16) – This very brief news report only covers the work of one scientist involved in the study, Dr. Elizabeth Spelke of Harvard, who found a correlation between musical training and an enhanced abilities in geometric reasoning.

+ Follow-up comments from the public to the MSNBC report

+ Download the full PDF version of study here.

Imaginative Play and Cognitive Function

By , February 21, 2008 3:31 pm

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On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning was a VERY interesting story (“Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills“) about how children’s play has changed in the last century. Instead of engaging in self-directed, imaginative, improvised play, play has become centered around toys and the latest movie or TV show: “Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch” they play “Star Wars with a toy light saber.”

Commercialization is only partly to blame, as child safety has become more of a concern in recent years. Parents are now more reluctant to let their children run loose around the neighborhood. They enroll kids in structured, adult-lead activities.

This change in play-habits has actually changed children’s brains according to researchers. Imaginative play helps kids develop what is known as “executive function,” which is a cognitive skill necessary for self-regulation (controlling emotions and behavior, resisting impulses, and exercising self-control and discipline).

Read this interesting excerpt from the NPR piece:

We know that children’s capacity for self-regulation has diminished. A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn’t stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” Bodrova explains. “So the results were very sad.”

According to executive function researcher, Laura Berk: “Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain.” In fact, good executive function is a more reliable predictor of success in school than IQ. Poor executive function leads to high dropout rates, drug use, and crime. Of course there must be a middle ground here, but the better a child’s ability to self-regulate, the better they will perform in school, and in life.

So here is yet another reason to turn off the TV, ignore the terrible whines, agonizing howls of boredom and claims of inhumane parental treatment and see what happens. They just might surprise you with the games they come up with on their own. And…they will be improving their executive function skills!

I urge you to listen to this fascinating NPR piece (7 min 50 sec), or at least read the online transcript.

+ Some suggestions for activities that promote self-regulation:

(from researchers Deborah Leong, professor of psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver, Elena Bodrova, senior researcher with Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, and Laura Berk, professor of psychology at Illinois State University, found on the transcript page of the NPR website):

– Play “Simon Says”

– Encourage “complex imaginative play” (child plans and acts out scenarios, invents own props, etc. Best if play lasts for several hours)

– Activities that require planning (the examples given are: games with directions, patterns for construction, recipes for cooking)

– Read storybooks with your children

– Encourage children to talk to themselves (“fosters concentration, effort, problem-solving, and task success”)

+ A related Unplug Your Kids post: Let Your Kids be Bored

(Photo (taken in Madagascar) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and photographer Harald Kreutzer.)

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