Music and Child Development

We’ve talked about music in terms of resilience and mental health – but what other benefits can children gain from experiencing music?

According the Environmental Rating Scales Institute, children can gain language skills, fine motor skills, social skills, balance and coordination, expressing emotions, creativity, a sense of rhythm, and listening skills through music and movement. It can also promote group learning in settings like a small group, child care, or preschool. Awesome things for our kids, right?!

Plus, music can also support cultural diversity for children. According to our publication Supporting Cultural Diversity, which can be found under any age on the Everyday Parenting page of Science of Parenting, music supports cultural diversity through “instruments, music, folk songs, and dances from different countries. Music activities are great activities for building relationships and learning English and other languages. The repetitive nature of songs allows children to become familiar with new words and phrases.”

With all of these benefits related to music, the next question is, “now how do I help my child get all of these benefits?” Well have we got some good news for you – music can be super easy to incorporate into your child’s life. Some simple strategies can include listening to (age-appropriate) music together in the car together, singing your child’s favorite songs before bed, encouraging your child to use instruments (simple ones like maracas for your younger kiddos or having an older child involved in band), or even just having dance parties on the weekends.

Learn more about the science behind music and the child’s brain from our previous blog, Is it Magic? Or is it Music? from guest blogger, Elizabeth Stegemöller, PhD and Board Certified Music Therapist from the ISU Kinesology Department.

After all this music talk, let us know how you incorporate music throughout the day to encourage your child’s development!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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Music and Mental Health

Last week, I spoke of a lyric in a song that sparked an entire blog post. That idea is the perfect lead into what I wanted to write about this week, as May is Mental Health Awareness Month – music as a tool to help regulate emotions and support mental health.

As someone who has experienced both anxiety and depression I know the importance of finding the right outlet for my emotions. Although struggles with mental health are not always solved by practicing self-regulation, oftentimes they help to de-escalate a situation. An individual may choose to go for a run, meditate, or talk to a friend. For me, music helps.

Music is not only about a musician playing the right notes on a staff – it can provoke a physical and emotional response from many that allows movement and reflection. An upbeat song might get you tapping your toe or up out of your seat. A slow song might be just what is needed to drift off to sleep for a brain that is otherwise anxiously analyzing the next day. Songs with good lyrics also can have a strong impact – like last week’s blog post mentioned, a song might encourage you. Sometimes, there’s a tearjerker that helps you process your emotions in a way that you couldn’t on your own.

I can’t forget to mention that it’s not just about listening to music –there is benefit to singing and playing the music yourself. For me, singing a song as loud as possible in the car for is liking writing those thoughts out in a journal for others. I also play the cymbals, and I’m sure you can imagine the physical release that those allow.

Music can help both children and adults regulate their emotions! In place of “Stop. Breathe. Talk.” My tactic in a high-stress situation might actually be “Stop. SING. Talk.” When our littles are crying hysterically, humming a soft tune might help steady their breathing and calm their mind.

Next week, we’ll look deeper into the “science” side of Science of Parenting and discuss more benefits of music and movement for children!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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Music and Resilience

This morning as I was driving to work, I was listening to the new song, “Youth,” by Shawn Mendes and Khalid. The lyrics spoke about feeling hopeless but not letting pain turn to hate, which really hit me in relation to the last few blogs. The words made me think about experiencing situations that might have a negative effect, but then reminding myself “nope, I’m not going to let those feelings overtake me. I’m going to find ways to overcome this.”

Last week, Mackenzie Johnson talked about the research and reality of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), child abuse prevention, and starting at home.

Often, when talking about ACEs, we get the response of “okay, so what now?”. I’ll be the first to admit that when someone asks me this question on the spot, I get a little clammy trying to decide which resource would be the best fit, how to quickly and effectively respond to meet the needs of their situation, and how I can include all of the crucial pieces without oversimplifying. It’s that step of the process in which we help to build RESILIENCE, but the whole process of trauma informed care can feel complex.

Although there are many ways to reach the end goal, the ACE Interface explains that the structure of a successful trauma-informed community is three-tiered in what they call “Core Protective Systems.” Thriving communities support caring and competent relationships (like a positive parent-child connection), and these relationships support individual capabilities such as self-efficacy and self-regulation.

Individual capabilities lead to a sense of security, the ability to regulate emotion, and adapt to social situations, among other things. It gives us the ability to step back and say the words that were echoed in song, as I heard this morning.

Individual capabilities also give us the ability to know which tools work best to help us express self-regulation, like listening to music – but I’ll talk more about that next week.

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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#GreatChildhoods Starting at Home

As we mentioned before, last month was Child Abuse Prevention month, and Science of Parenting is still thinking this important conversation. As you know, as Science of Parenting, we like to talk about research and reality. So that’s how we’ve decide to break this down.

RESEARCH

The research on abuse- whether physical, sexual, or emotional- is pretty clear that there are long-term outcomes for people who experience abuse as a child. As you can see on the Parenting Research tab of our website, research on the thoroughly-studied Adverse Childhood Experiences shows that child abuse is related to outcomes like depression, poor health outcomes, poor academic achievement, alcoholism, increased likelihood of future violence, and more.

Just looking at the research, it’s easy to think about abuse as something that other people need to worry about. It can be easy to see this information, and think about how we are glad it isn’t happening to our kids and move right along.

REALITY

According to a 2016 Iowa ACEs Study, “56 percent of Iowa adults have experienced at least one of eight types of child abuse and household dysfunction”. The reality is that child abuse has happened and is happening in Iowa. It’s happening in big cities, small towns, and on country roads… It’s not just those people over there who need to think about preventing child abuse. As parents and caregivers of young children, we need to think about it too. And a good place to start is right at home!

Starting at Home

RESEARCH says child abuse leads to negative outcomes. REALITY says some parents are do lose their temper and cross the line… (But let’s remember one of the potential outcomes of being abused as a child is the increased likelihood of being violent as an adult. Not every person had the luxury of an easy childhood or having great role models for parents.)

RESEARCH says staying calm in a frustrating moment with your child makes you better able to be intentional in your parenting. REALITY sometimes says “holy cow, how does this child that I love so much make me this angry?!”

Fortunately, Science of Parenting has a technique to help us all be more successful parents – Stop. Breathe. Talk. Whether you are prone to losing your temper or just need a technique to be intentional about your parenting, Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help you take that moment to check yourself before you act and potentially cross a line.

Here at Science of Parenting, we want to help all parents and caregivers help give their kids #GreatChildhoods! Stop. Breathe. Talk. can help us all along the way!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Busy Families can create #GreatChildhoods

Analogue, classic, clock

April is Child Abuse Prevention month, which means Science of Parenting is thinking about what makes #GreatChildhoods. For me, I fondly remember singing in the car with my mom, standing on the end of the grocery cart, weekends by the lake, and doing lots of puzzles.

As much as we love our kids, sometimes it feels hard in the chaos of life to carve out good quality time with them. I find myself saying things like, “well it will be better after next week” or “we will have more time after we get through [fill in the blank]”. At times I feel like I’m just floating from one day to the next trying to get by. Whether it’s work commitments, transporting kids, trying to squeeze in some exercise, community service commitments, or finding time with your significant other, being a parent in this generation can feel like we are constantly trying to beat the clock. How do we have special moments with our kids when we come home from work exhausted and still have to get supper on the table before bath and bedtime? Does it always have to be big family vacations and long weekend trips to the lake? The answer….

No, you don’t have to have big chunks of time to have special moments with your kids. Though carving out large amounts of time for things like family vacations can be beneficial (check out a #throwback on this topic – Family Vacations Radio Show), great childhoods can be built in the midst of life’s other commitments and responsibilities. We can look for “little moments” or pockets of time throughout the day to just spend a few minutes talking with your child. In fact, a lot of the memories I have of my childhood came in between big commitments. The singing in the car often happened on short trips to and from a traveling sports team game in a neighboring town. The goofing around on the grocery cart happened while my mom picked up our food for the week. Those “weekends at the lake” sometimes were actually only two hours on a Saturday morning before a commitment that night. The puzzles often happened at the table while supper was being made.

As I think about my own parenting, learning about the benefits of little moments is great news! Focusing on creating #GreatChildhoods in the little moments is a saving grace, because at times I’ve felt like I’m being the best parent I could be because of other constraints on my time. So join me as I try to move beyond saying “it will get better after [blank]”, and let’s look for ways to create special moments now! Yes, things are crazy right now at my house, but I can sing songs with my daughter in the car on the ride home. Yes, we still have to make supper tonight, but maybe our school age kiddo can help stir the pot on the stove or we can ask our toddler about the magnet letters on the fridge while we cut up some veggies.

Take a moment right now, and think about a little moment with your child you can have today. Be intentional about making a plan that’s realistic for you, and then decide how to carry it out (get creative if you need to – e.g. video calls or writing notes). All of these moments can add up to #GreatChildhoods!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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SANE consequences

We’ve been talking a lot about challenging behavior lately. And yeah, even us Science of Parenting folks have children who challenge us!

Today we want to look at how we can respond to challenging behavior. Maybe your preschooler has been testing out new lies, or your school age child has been skipping homework, or your preteen is throwing attitude around like it’s confetti, or your teen is not touching base when they are out and about. Whichever one resonates with you, finding a way to respond to problematic behavior can be a challenge. How do we strike a balance between too harsh and too lax?

Luckily, the National Institute on Drug Abuse looks at research on how parents can help their kids stay on the right path, and they have a handy little acronym for helping parents identify appropriate consequences – SANE (and I mean that acronym has all kinds of double meaning, am I right?).

  • S – Small consequences are better 
    • When we are especially angry or frustrated with our child, chances are we are more likely to fly off the handle a bit with our consequences (Stop. Breathe. Talk. to save the day again!). Instead, try to find small consequences that relate directly to the child’s behavior. Like if your child is being difficult at bedtime because they want to watch more TV, you might consider taking away TV privileges for a few days.
  • AAvoid consequences that punish you
    • When we give consequences to our child, it needs to be something we can and will follow through on. But when we choose consequences that make our lives as parents more difficult, we might be less likelihood to carry out the consequences like we originally planned. So if your teenager is abusing their school permit, you may decide that they need to lose that privilege for a few days. You can avoid this from punishing you (by you having to drive them) by having your teenager have to find their own ride to school or maybe ride the bus.
  • N Nonabusive responses
    • Yup, we sometimes are very angry with our kids when they don’t meet our expectations, but we don’t want that anger to have so much power that we respond to our children in unhealthy ways. As we say at Science of Parenting, “Hitting Harms. Yelling Hurts.” (Another place where Stop. Breathe. Talk. can be our saving grace!)
  • EEffective consequences
    • Effective consequences are consequences that are under your control and that actually help deter your child from wanting to do that behavior again (non-rewarding). Of course, this is the whole point of consequences right!

So when we are thinking about consequences, try to stay SANE (you see what I did there?).

 

Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/family-checkup/question-4-setting-limits

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Teenagers

Teenagers… Wait, what was your reaction when you read that word? Maybe an eye roll, a sigh, or perhaps a smile? Each of us have a different experience with raising teenagers – some parents think it is the most fun age during their parenting journey while others dread it. Some of us may even fall into the tendency to paint a mental picture of the teenage years filled with back talk, conversations about curfews, and loud music behind closed doors. But there is a flip side to that coin – seeing your teenager live out their values, getting the opportunity to watch them achieve and excel in their passions, and having meaningful and heartfelt conversations.

Regardless of which way you tend to view the teenage years, most of us who have raised teenagers know that these are the years when friends become a really BIG DEAL, right? Teens care what their classmates think about their looks and what they say and do. And as parents, you watch them grow closer and closer to friends, and it might feel like they are slipping away from you. But great news – they’re not. Sure, your teen is probably growing stronger relationships with their friends, but adolescents (a.k.a. teenagers) still care a lot about their parents and what they think! So don’t lose heart – your teen does hear what you say, and your opinion matters to them!

So continue to communicate your values to your teenager, even if you think you already have or if they give you the “I know this already” look. Sometimes the teen years bring their own challenges, but so does every age (I gotta say, I bet your teenager doesn’t cry while you cook supper like my toddler does, so that’s a plus J). Remember that while you are going to have some challenging moments here and there, you are also going to have some pretty amazing ones too.

Do you have more questions about navigating challenging parenting moments with your teenager? Check out the Parenting in Challenging Moments page on our Science of Parenting website. You can find resources for parenting a child of any age under the Guidance by Age section.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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I Love My Child. I Love My Child…

“I love my child. I love my child. I love my child.”

Seriously, I do love my child, but sometimes I have to remind myself in the heat of the moment. For example, right now my daughter is in this phase where she stands at my feet screaming while I try to cook supper. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the kitchen for three minutes or thirty, I can count on her to find me and whine “Momma, Momma, up, up, up!” and then proceed to cry when I can’t hold her while simultaneously cooking on the stove. It can be seriously crazy-making. (I think the part that makes me craziest is that she doesn’t do it to my husband when he cooks supper!).

But here’s the thing – I know she is doing it because she wants to be with her momma. I know her behavior is worse than usual right before supper time because she is hungry. I also know there might come a day when she is older that she doesn’t want to be with her mom all the time. I KNOW all of those things, and yet in the heat of the moment in front of the stove I’m tempted to lose my cool (again). I hear my voice go from “hey silly goose, can you go play with your blocks for a little bit?” to calling to my husband to “get her out of here” much quicker than I’d like to admit…. Sometimes I’m proud of how well I do during these moments in the kitchen, and other times I wish my patience had lasted a bit longer for me. But one thing that is consistent – every time I choose to Stop. Breathe. Talk. instead of go with my first reaction, I do better. Sometimes I remember to pause and take a deep breath right away when I start to feel frustrated, and other times I don’t remember until I’ve already gotten more irritated than I should have. But it doesn’t matter how far into the situation I am – when I take that extra moment to think about what I want to say and how I want this interaction with my child to go, I know it helps me be a more effective and responsive parent.

 “I love my child. I love my child. I love my child”.

Seriously, we do love our children, and sometimes we say this phrase to ourselves because we are beaming with pride or soaking in a sweet moment – like watching your child take their first steps, or having a warm conversation with your teenager, or hearing your school-age kiddo was kind to someone. These amazing moments help make up for the not-so-good ones. But the reality is that the journey of being a parent is a mixture of amazing moments with challenging ones sprinkled in between. Maybe your challenging moments look like mine where your child is really testing your patience and you are about to lose your cool (or already started to). Or maybe your moment is something bigger like navigating your new role as a stepparent or responding to your child being bullied.

Whether your challenging moment is one where you forget to think or one where you’re thinking a lot, Science of Parenting wants to help. We believe that you love your kids and want to do what is best for them, so we want to help you find trustworthy information that is based in research so that you can know what you are doing is helping your child. If you are experiencing a challenging moment, go take a peek at our Parenting in Challenging Moments page to see what the research might say about what you’re experiencing.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Baby-Led Weaning – Just the Facts!

Have you all been hearing as much about baby-led weaning as we have? We decided it’s time for us to take a look at hot topic! To start us off, let’s first look at two common methods for introducing foods to an infant.                                                                       

  1. Spoon-feeding (often referred to as “the traditional method”)
    • In this method parents either buy or make pureed foods (typically starting baby cereal, and then fruits and vegetables) for their infant and spoon-feed them. Parents gradually transition their child from totally pureed foods, to thicker purees, to chunky purees, until they are ready for solid food.
  2. Baby-led weaning 
    • In this method, infants are encouraged to self-feed solid foods (non-pureed/whole) from the start.

Here’s what research shows about babies who do baby-led weaning (BLW):

    • Tend to get more protein and fat (which is good!)
    • Less likely to be rated as a “fussy eater” at 18-24 months by their parents
    • Some studies suggest that these children may be better able to eat based on their hunger (rather than food just being present), but the data is not considered conclusive
    • There is a slightly higher rate of choking than with spoon-feeding, but this is also tied to the fact that BLW parents are more likely to offer foods that pose choking risks for infants (ex: apple slices, crackers, sausage)
    • A recent study shows that baby-led weaning does NOT decrease likelihood of a child being overweight later in life
    • No difference from spoon-fed children on fruit, vegetables and carbs consumption
    • Tends to be messier than spoon-feeding
    • BLW babies are more likely to eat with their family rather than at a separate time
    • Parents claim it is more convenient because they don’t have to prepare separate food just for the infant

That’s what the research is currently telling us about baby-led weaning. Yet, we know that there is always a dose of reality (and personal preference) that goes into making a decision on which method you want to use with your own child. So here are some other things we think may be helpful for you to consider:

  • Research shows that children are less likely to become obese if they’re parents have a responsive feeding style. Basically this means that we let our child determine how much they eat and when to be done eating, rather than parents saying “there is still half of a container left, let’s just finish it”. Consider how you can use this style regardless of which feeding method you decide on!
  • Many parents who use BLW mention that babies do lots of gagging (which is different from choking) when they are getting started. Consider if this is something you are comfortable with. And regardless of which method you choose, always be on the lookout for when a child is actually choking.
  • Children need to be able to sit up unsupported, bring food to their mouth, and chew and swallow food before they are regularly offered solid food options. The World Health Organization currently recommends waiting to introduce solid food until a baby is six months old.
    • Note: many people remember when the recommendation was four months old. Few infants can do all of things listed above at four months, which is why spoon-feeding became extremely popular.
  • Introducing food to children before they are four months old is recognized as a high risk factor for being overweight, with introducing before six months also having a (weak) correlation with being overweight
  • Consider the food you’re offering to your infant. If you’re baby-led weaning, remember to keep an eye out for foods that are particularly high in sodium or saturated fat and avoid feeding those to your child. Also be sure to avoid foods that pose a high risk of choking.
  • Many pediatricians do not support this method because of their concerns about choking as well as nutrient intake (not much definitive research on nutrient intake yet). Consider how important the support of your pediatrician is to you personally.

This is what research currently shows about the baby-led weaning method, but we still have lots to learn! Remember, at the Science of Parenting, we don’t advocate for either method but rather work to provide you the facts so that you can make a decision about what is best for your child and your family.

Source: Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date

Have more questions about your child that are kind of specific to their age? Go explore the As Your Child Grows information under the Everyday Parenting section of the Science of Parenting website. You can find information specifically for your infant, toddler, preschooler, elementary age child, preteen, or teenager!

 

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Nutrition and Wellness for Families

 

Human Sciences Extension and Outreach has three subject areas, including Nutrition and Wellness, which covers a variety of topics from what’s on your plate to food safety to preservation to exercise. Some of these apply to families, some address aging, and some are adult specific.

A lovely domestic scene of a cute little boy with Down Syndrome baking cupcakes with his dad at home in their kitchen. This is an authentic scene using ambient lighting and real people.One of our best tools for nutrition that is available is Spend Smart. Eat Smart.  I know that Barb highlighted it back in July,  but it has so much going on, I wanted to remind you. From the county perspective, it is an easy way to introduce individuals to healthy meal choices and cost saving when I don’t have as much expertise on the topic as the specialists do!

Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is great for anyone who plans, cooks, or eats food. Every recipe on the website follows specific nutrition guidelines and lists the cost per serving. This way, you can make delicious meals that are both good for your family AND your bank account! The site also helps you save money by providing a lesson on unit pricing (and the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a unit pricing calculator!), assisting in meal planning,  as well as other ways. To promote good nutrition, in addition to the recipe following those specific guidelines, the website provides nutrition labels with every dish. There is also a tab to explain what the information on those labels means!

Beautiful African American woman and her daughter cooking in the kitchenI’ve only included a few benefits of Spend Smart. Eat Smart. – so check it out!

On the Science of Parenting website, you can find a link to the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website under the Everyday Parenting tab, and the Nutrition and Wellness for Parenting heading. In including the Nutrition and Wellness for Parenting section, we hoped to narrow down the wide variety of resources available to a few of our favorites that fit parenting more specifically. Perhaps once you go and take a look at what’s available – you’ll end up planning supper for tonight!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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The Modern Family… are we doing okay?

We often tend to think of the “traditional American family” as being two married parents with 1.5 children, and the whole white picket fence thing. But actually we see that two-parent families have been declining over the last few years. We’re seeing changes in the size of modern families as well as the family structure. And actually, we are at a point where there really isn’t a definitive “normal” family structure anymore!

For some people, learning this fact puts them in a panic. They may have a genuine concern about non-traditional families being broken or concern that the children are going to be negatively impacted. However, research says that family structure is not as important as family processes. That’s basically just “research-speak” to say that what your family LOOKS LIKE is not as important as what your family DOES. Sure, there are certain family structures that may be considered “at-risk”, but that doesn’t mean that if kids fall into one of those categories that they are doomed. In fact, any kind of family structure can be at-risk for certain negative outcomes (AND any kind of family structure can have great outcomes).

So if you’re a parent out there, just know that whether you have a “traditional” family OR a blended family OR have recently gone through a separation with your co-parent OR have an “untraditional” family structure –  you aren’t damaging your kids (I mean you knew that all along, but now you can say research backs it up!). What matters is that you spend time together, show your kids you love them, set appropriate limits for them, and encourage family togetherness. These kinds of things matter a lot more than what your family “looks like”.

For this reason, the Science of Parenting website and blog focuses on what parents can be doing rather than what their families look like. We have lots of resources for families with kids of all ages – because we believe that you deserve access to trustworthy information so that YOU can make decisions about what is best for your family.  If you want more information about what you can be doing with and for your kids, Check out the new EVERYDAY PARENTING section of the new website- you can even look at resources based on the specific age of your child.

So go ahead, dig around the new EVERYDAY PARENTING section of the website! Leave us comments about one of your new favorite resources that you find.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Not Just a Blog Any More…

The Science of Parenting

Throughout the last couple of months, as you’ve visited the Science of Parenting Blog, you may have noticed some changes.

We’ve had many conversations about what we, the Science of Parenting team, want to provide to you based on feedback we’ve received, and the overwhelming feeling was to not just provide blog posts, but also to add a “database” of resources that we commonly use that we can easily refer you, our readers, to. Extension and Outreach employees used to refer to ourselves as “the best kept secret,” which we’ve been trying to combat in the past few years, and Science of Parenting is trying to follow suit by making information easily accessible to all Iowans. With that, we’d like to let you in on our secret…

The Science of Parenting blog is now the Science of Parenting website.

Feel free to take a look around. Ask questions about new resources you find. Let us know if there’s anything you’d like to know more about.

For our avid Science of Parenting blog readers, have no fear. We’ll still be regularly posting research-based parenting information and ideas! The blogs will be integrated into the site and will help us stay up to date with information from the first-person perspective. Throughout the upcoming weeks, each of our contributors will be highlighting the new site design and different resources we have available.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the changes and hope you continue to follow us throughout the upcoming years!

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Recent Family and Consumer Sciences grad and Human Sciences Program Coordinator serving four counties in Northwest Iowa. Background editor and occasional contributor of the "county perspective" for the Science of Parenting blog.

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Halloween Snacking

It is that time of year, you know, the time when families hunt for the perfect Halloween costume, or the best treat to distribute next week! Because many families have a desire to eat more healthy, they may be making better decisions about the “treats” they provide, as costume clad children knock on the door. Let me share a few ideas Science of Parenting contributor Rebecca Brotzman, RD, LDN made several years ago, that would certainly be helpful today too!

Do not make the focus entirely on candy. Distract your kids with other activities like making masks, decorating the house with cobwebs, bobbing for apples, going to corn mazes and/or haunted houses.

2.Check stores, online, and in newspapers for coupons. Most major stores will have specials in their circulars the week before Halloween as well. When you combine coupons and specials you can save even more.

3.Think creatively. You do not HAVE to give out candy, and the alternatives can be cheaper and healthier. For example: one bag of 144 spider rings costs about $5.00, or a package of 100 glow sticks costs about $9.00. Both are healthier alternatives, and who doesn’t love glow sticks or spider rings!?

4.Compare prices before you buy. Look at the unit count in the bag of candy before you buy it. Sometimes a 14 unit count bag costs the same as a 21 unit count bag.

When the prices are the same, it is easy to see which bag has a better value (just check the unit count), but you can ALWAYS figure out the value of a purchase by figuring out the unit price (divide the price by the unit count).

5.Do not be afraid to run out of candy. Some people buy way too much and then end up with all that candy left over plus what their kids bring home!

6.Have some control over candy consumption. Do not be too strict (let your kids enjoy the holiday), but have some kind of plan in place to control their intake of candy.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Disaster Preparation and Safety

We are happy to have Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Family Finance Specialist and guest blogger Barb Wollan to share information related to safety and preparation during times of disaster.
September is Disaster Preparedness Month. Recent news about hurricane damage provides a sobering reminder of the importance of being prepared. Here in the Midwest, hurricanes are not part of our reality, but we are at risk for other types of disasters, many of which strike suddenly with little or no warning.

In a disaster, safety is first priority. We need to be prepared to quickly evacuate from a fire or seek shelter in a tornado, for example, and have a way to stay warm if a winter storm causes an extended power outage.

There is a second aspect of preparedness that also deserves our attention: we need to be prepared for recovery and preparing for recovery includes:
1. Having insurance coverage that meets our needs, and reviewing it every couple of years to make sure it is keeping up with changes in our situation;
2. Creating and updating a household inventory (typically via photos or video) to assist in filing insurance claims;
3. Keeping irreplaceable documents (birth certificates, military records, property titles, and more) in a safe deposit box;
4. Having copies of key documents and information stored away from our home – perhaps with a friend or family member in another community, or in secure cloud storage. This includes insurance policies (or at least policy numbers and contact information), financial account information, most recent tax return, along with key medical information (including vaccination records) and contact information for both professional and personal contacts. Pet vaccination records matter too.

The list above is NOT all-inclusive, but it’s a good starting point. Check out this “Your Disaster Checklist,” from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

https://pueblo.gpo.gov/CFPBPubs/CFPBPubs.php?PubID=13036

In addition, check out our resources related to managing stress.

All About Stress

Helping Children Manage Stress

 

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Back to School – Start the Conversation

It’s officially August! That means that back-to-school sales are in full swing and are serving as an ever-present reminder that summer is ending soon. Maybe for some of you this is a relief as you’re ready to get back to a regular routine, but maybe for others you are dreading your kiddos heading back-to-school. Either way, the reality is that it is coming (and probably sooner than we think).

So as if the back-to-school sales and the new AUGUST calendar page aren’t reminder enough, we here at the Science of Parenting blog wanted to get your wheels turning on it too! We have one simple reminder or suggestion for you to consider in order to make the back-to-school transition go a little smoother– start communicating about how things will be different when school starts, BEFORE school starts J

Growing up in my family we usually had these conversations over a “family meeting” where everyone was present and knew we would be having the conversation. Find a way that works for you family to have these important conversations. Here’s a few things you may want to consider discussing around the back-to-school transition:

  1. Logistics, especially things like…
    • What kinds of activities will any of your kids be doing beyond attending school (soccer, theater, chess club, etc.),
    • What time kids need to be at school or any extra activities,
    • Plans are for transportation,
    • Daily routines (who gets up first, who showers in the evening vs morning, bedtimes, etc.)
  2. Family plans and goals
    • Is there anything your family wants to do together during the school year? Maybe you’re looking at preparing more meals in advance, or finding time every week to have an hour where everyone is together, or maybe trying out a new hobby as family.
  3. Give your child a chance to ask questions
    • Having conversations ahead of time gives your child several opportunities to ask any questions they may have. Maybe your school age child needs some clarification on where they go after school? Or maybe your teenager wants to talk to you about a some new privileges this year? Either way, having a time when you kids get the chance to ask their questions in a positive environment can help everyone get in the right mindset.

Consider starting the back-to-school conversation soon to make the transition for your family a smooth one!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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