Friday, September 28, 2012

Accelerate Center: What We're All About!


What is Accelerate Center?
Accelerate Center is a clinic composed of therapists, specialists and professionals that understand and help children and adults with special needs. We offer services in: Speech & Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Educational Therapy, Psychological Evaluations and Early Intervention.

What is the Function of Accelerate Center?
-Provide quality and effective services to those with special needs
-Provide parent education through involvement and classes
-Enrich advocacy skills (Anyone can be an advocate!!)
-Build communication within our community between peers, parents, schools, etc.
-Promote awareness within our community

Who Should Come to Accelerate Center?
Anyone and EVERYONE! If you or your child is experiencing any concerns regarding learning abilities, please do not hesitate! Here at Accelerate Center, we strive to provide services to all who may need them regardless of abilities, finances, education, etc.

For additional information:
Please visit our website at  OR call us at (650) 752-6346.

"Exceeding Expectations, Accelerating Outcomes"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kids May Need Parents Help in Making Friends

One of the questions parents most often ask teachers is whether their children have friends in the classroom.

Friendship seems to come easily for some children while others find it more elusive. Children aren’t born knowing how to be friends; they need to learn it.

Very young children consider anyone they are playing with in the moment a friend and remembering not to grab toys or hit each other are skills they are learning. As children get older, the skills involved become more complex.

There are some ways that parents and caregivers can help children learn to relate well to others:

• Help your child tune in to how other people are feeling to develop empathy. This is more natural for some children than others. Name feelings and learn what people may look or act like when they feel a certain way. Many children’s books are helpful in teaching this. Parents can talk with children about expressions on faces of people they see in magazines or around them.

• Help provide opportunities for socializing, especially if your child does not have unstructured time to interact with other children. Parents can set up play dates with other children or enroll a child in some different activities or groups where they might meet others. A child’s teacher or group leader may have some suggestions about other children your child seems to get along with especially well and perhaps assist with facilitating communication between the parents.

• Decrease meanness. If you see your child being unkind, talk to her or him about it in private. Mention signs you see that the other child was hurt.

• Help your child learn how to make amends after hurting something or someone else. For example, ask a child, “What can you do to help ___ feel better?”

• Emphasize kindness to others and help your child learn some techniques for solving conflicts with others, including quick fixes such as flipping a coin or compromise. If your child has siblings, do not tolerate cruelty between them. Sibling relationships provide opportunities for children to become aware of the impact of their words and actions on others.

• Encourage your child to use strength and cleverness to help other people. Talk about what makes someone a hero. Help teach the difference between fear and respect.

If a child is struggling with friendship issues, a parent or caregiver can listen, empathize and share confidence that the child will figure out what to do. A school-age child who continues to struggle may benefit from participating in a friendship-skills group

Read more here:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Toys and Child Development

There are a variety of toys in the market that can enhance intellectual, social, emotional, and/or physical development. Such toys allow learning such as pre-math skills and hand-eye coordination, writes Nanjinia Wamuswa

Like many mothers looking to incorporate fun in the development of her child’s gross and fine motor skills, Sophia Mbui bought various toys for her two children, Muthandi Mbui Wanjigi and Maina Mbui Wanjigi.

Having realised that play is the mechanism by which children learn — how they experience their world, practice new skills, and internalise new ideas — and is therefore the essential “work of children”, she set out to buy them all sorts of toys she deemed fit for their age.

However, as they grew older, Sophia further noticed the two boys preferred motorcycles over other toys such as cars, puzzles, books, animals, aeroplanes, human soldiers and teddy bears. The other toys remained untouched for long, which forced her to give them out to children of her relatives.

Focused fun

“After this realisation I stopped wasting money purchasing toys that did not interest them. Every time I took them to toy shops, they would pick BMX motorcycles. These are the toys I have been buying them since then,” she says.

Sophia, 40, a lawyer by profession had no idea her children were building sports careers out of liking toy motorbikes.

Today, Muthambi 14 and Maina ten are already making headlines in motorcycle racing, commonly known as motocross. Recently Muthambi and Maina were part of a team that represented the country in an international motocross competition held in Kampala, Uganda.

She says: “All signals show they have chosen motocross as their sports, and perhaps careers too.”

Mercy Bosire’s daughter, Michelle developed a penchant for toy aeroplanes at a tender age, despite having plenty of other toys at her disposal.

Early this year Michelle, ten, and in Class Four pestered her parents to take her to see ‘the real big’ aeroplane.

“We gave in to her desires and took her to Wilson Airport to see aeroplanes. She was extremely delighted and vowed to become a pilot,” her parents disclosed.

However, her parents are not sure whether Michelle is genuine with her dream of becoming a pilot or it is just childish whims. But they encourage her to work hard if she wants to fly a plane.

Playing with toys is a continuous and expanding process, which with early skills give rise to new ones and new experiences are integrated with previous ones. Through play, children learn about the world and engage in activities that encourage their cognitive, emotional, and social development.

For example, when a child bangs on a drum, she learns she can create a sound. Through play, she learns the important concept of cause and effect. And with time they develop a skill that can see them become percussionist.

Parents are hence required to intentionally select toys that meet a child’s unique needs.

Although toys are provided to children largely to entertain them as they play and keep them busy, they, however, proffer plenty of other benefits in the child’s development life.

Dr Ken Ouko, a Sociologist at the University of Nairobi says toys play an important role in children’s development.

“Depending on the type of toys received and preferred, a child is able to craft his or her thinking around the construct of the toy. In many cases, toys have shaped ‘career affinity’ in children making them feel suited to be associated with specific careers represented by the toy,” says Dr Ouko.

Citing Maina and Muthambi motocross case, Dr Ouko says many people have developed careers in the same way. He challenges Michelle’s parents to provide her with the environment that would make her realise her flying dream career.

“The little girl (Michelle) might be very serious about flying. After all, her mind seems fixed on planes. Time will tell,” says Dr Ouko.


It is through playing with toys that children grow and learn about the world around them. Toys help them to discover their identity; bodies grow strong, explore relationships and practice skills they will need as adults.

Dr Ouko advises parents to buy their children toys because they make them feel appreciated. Their sense of self worth and esteem are greatly boosted by the gesture.

Having appreciated the importance of toys, every parent should provide toys to her children. Toys can be purchased or improvised using locally available material such as carton boxes, which can make toy houses, cars, buses and lorries.

He also says toys help a child to play, which relaxes the child and enhances his or her development both physically and psychologically. And some toys form basis for friendships, especially where they help each other to build block or sand castles among others.

Sophia who has watched her children develop to become feted sports children advises parents to pay attention as their children play with toys and thus nurture their preferences.

Toys can be divided into several groups, depending on the part of the child it helps to develop. For example, toys that help develop gross motor skills, which involves greater movement such as running and jumping that use the larger muscle are wagons, bikes, brooms, and shovels.

Other toys are used to develop the sensory system of touch, sight, sound, taste and smell. Such toys include water toys, musical instruments, bubbles, play dough, and sand toys.

There also exist toys that are used for make-believe and social development such as dolls, dress-up clothes, cars, trucks, games, and books. And finally toys for creative and intellectual development, for example, clay, crayons, paints, books, paper, and scissors.

Toys for different ages

Infants need bright-coloured toys of various textures and making distinctive sounds, which are washable, non-breakable, and have no sharp edges that might cut or scratch. They should not have small-attached pieces that could be pulled off and swallowed.

?Toddlers are active and need toys for climbing, running and jumping. They also are interested in doing things with their hands as the small muscles in their fingers become more developed. Toddlers also are interested in sensory materials such as paint, play dough, crayons, and chalk.

Physical play

Preschool are dramatic, creative and need toys that propagate cooperation. They are interested in active physical play and also increasingly curious about the world around them. Realistic toys such as farm and animal sets, grocery store prop boxes, model cars, and trains will be good for them.

Early school-age children are involved in active games and will need ball games, biking, swimming, and hiking. There is also an increased interest in table games that require two or more players. These include games that use simple number skills and increased co-ordination. Toys should contain a puzzle, problem-solving technique, or mathematical proposition.

Dr John Wachira Mwangi, a paediatrician at Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital warns that while play remains a vital part of a child’s development and while safer than ever before, parents should remain vigilant about hidden hazards posed by toys.

“Parents should understand safety marks and labelling to ensure that the right safety checks have been carried out and considerations when giving and receiving used toys,” he warns.

They should first determine the age of the child. Toys are designed for specific age sets. According to a standard compliance requirement for toy manufacturers, toys must always come with an indication of age suitability.

Concerning gender, boys should play with toys for boys such as tractors and girl toys such as dolls for girls.

Ride-on-toys with high backs such as horses are very hard for young children to get on and off safely.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Friday: Create Your Own Crayons

  • Multi-colored old crayons
  • mini cupcake tray, or other molds that won't melt in the oven
  • Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees, put pieces of different colors of crayons in a mini cupcake mold (don´t forget to use paper cups or spray the mold with vegetable oil).
  • Place the mold and let it melt for about 10 minutes, they melt very fast.
  • Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before giving them to the kids.
  • You can also give them to take home in a favor bag

Share with us what happened with the crayons you made! Any fun shapes you were able to create?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Study Says Autistic Brain Responds Differently

The brains of people with autism respond erratically to sights, sounds and touch, unlike those of others, said a study published Thursday in the journal Neuron. That difference might explain such autistic behaviors as repetitive motions and the urge to learn detailed information about narrow topics.

"Imagine you have the experience that your world is completely unreliable," said New York University psychologist David Heeger, one of the study’s authors. "Every time you look at something it looks slightly different, or every time you hear something you hear it slightly differently."

That might make the world a scary place for those on the autism spectrum, said Heeger and Marlene Behrmann, a co-author and an autism expert at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University.

In the study, 14 high-functioning adults with autism and 14 people without the disorder did a task while lying in a magnetic resonance imaging machine. As they stared at a computer screen, they saw patterns of dots, heard a series of beeps and felt puffs of air on their hands. Scientists watched how their brains responded to the simple stimuli.

The typical people had fairly predictable brain responses, but the people with autism were all over the lot, Behrmann said. Some reacted strongly to the sounds but weakly to the dots, while others had erratic reactions to the same stimulus from one trial to another.

Variations in the brains of autistic people may help explain why some with the disorder are hypersensitive to noises or touch, or have trouble with balance and gait, Behrmann said. It also may be one reason why people with autism are more likely to have epilepsy.More broadly, it could be what underlies the repetitive motions that some children with autism make, or the fixation some of them have on developing expertise on such narrow topics as types of trains or baseball statistics, they said.

If an autistic child’s environment seems unpredictable, Heeger said, "one way to deal with that is you might repeat an activity that you can do over and over, and that might be comforting."
But they stressed that they are speculating about the link between these behaviors and the brain imaging results. They hope to design further experiments to test their hypothesis.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Study says pacifiers stunt emotional development in babies

Parents who don’t want their baby boys to grow up emotionally stunted may want to pocket their pacifiers during the daytime.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests frequent pacifier use during the day may disrupt the emotional development of baby boys because it limits their opportunity to mimic the facial expressions of others — a tool that may help them better understand emotions and learn empathy.

The study assumes babies can’t smile, pout or furrow a brow with a pacifier in their mouths, and many parents may beg to differ with that.

Girls appear to make sufficient progress emotionally, despite pacifier use, suggests the research published in Tuesday’s issue of the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

Humans of all ages read each other’s emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions, which helps them process what the person is thinking and feeling by creating some part of the feeling for themselves, says the study’s lead author, Paula Niedenthal, a University of Wisconsin psychology professor.

A baby with a pacifier in his mouth is less able to mirror expressions and the emotions they represent, she said.

Niedenthal and her team of researchers conducted three studies to test the relationship between pacifier use and emotional information processing, both in the United States and in France.

In the first study, researchers found 6- and 7-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as young children were less likely to mimic the emotional expressions of faces in a video they were shown. In the next study, college-aged men who reported (by their own recollections or their parents’) more pacifier use as kids scored lower than their peers on common tests of perspective-taking, one of many components of empathy.

The third study involved a group of college students who took a standard emotional intelligence test measuring the way they make decisions based on assessing the moods of other people. The men in the group who had heavier pacifier use as babies scored lower.

“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data,” Niedenthal said. “There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development.”

Why the gender difference?

“It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated,” Niedenthal said. “That’s a girlie thing.”

Suggesting that a pacifier can have lifelong consequences is far from popular among parents, Niedenthal acknowledged.

“They take the results very personally,” she said.

The study’s results are suggestive, and should be taken seriously, Niedenthal said. But she acknowledged further research is needed.

“It’s fascinating and challenging to many assumptions made about emotional development,” said Joseph Campos, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “It makes students of emotional development take notice. But as professor, Niedenthal acknowledges, there is much more work to be done.”

Mothers report babies can show oral expressions of emotion, even with a pacifier in their mouth, Campos said. And there are other facial components of emotion, including eyebrows, cheeks and wrinkles around the eyes, not affected by a pacifier, he said.

Not all researchers agree there’s a connection between the ability to mimic facial expressions and the ability to perceive others’ emotions.

And then there’s the gender question.

Figuring out why girls seem to be immune — or how they compensate — is an important next step for researchers, Niedenthal said.

Ruby Natale, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine, co-wrote the book “Pacifiers Anonymous: How to Kick the Pacifier or Thumb Sucking Habit.”

The book notes that roughly 75 percent to 90 percent of all infants suck a pacifier or thumb. In the past, thumb-sucking was the No. 1 choice. But the latest estimates of pacifier use in the U.S. puts it at about 74 percent. One study found 20 percent of children sucked pacifiers beyond age 3. They’re affectionately referred to as “paddicts” (pacifier addicts).

Natale, who has a 5-year-old daughter, became interested in the effects of pacifier use when she had concerns about its effect on breast-feeding. Both the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend limiting pacifier use to promote breast-feeding and because of its connection to ear infections and dental abnormalities.

“There’s research that pacifier use can cause speech delays because they don’t mimic the parents’ speech,” Natale said in an interview Monday. “If a child can’t mimic the parents’ emotional expressions, it takes it one step further.”

She agreed that further research is needed.

What is your opinion on pacifier use? Do you allow your children pacifiers? What are the reasons behind your decisions?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Targeting Childhood Obesity Early

This is the second installment in a three-part Harvard Medical School series on childhood obesity.

With childhood obesity now affecting 17 percent of American children, the nation is rallying around the concept that serious action is required. In 2010, President Barack Obama established the first Task Force on Childhood Obesity, aimed at reducing the rate of such obesity to just 5 percent by 2030.

Although many of the plan’s 70 recommendations focus on approaches such as improving access to healthy, affordable foods; increasing physical activity; and empowering parents to make smart nutrition choices, a large chapter of the report is dedicated to reducing the risk of childhood obesity early in life. Since the president released his Task Force Call to Action, two Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports have emphasized the need for early interventions to prevent obesity.

That’s welcome news to researchers like Matthew Gillman, Elsie Taveras (who is a member of the IOM Committee on Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies), and their colleagues at Project Viva, a longitudinal research study that examines a woman’s lifestyle and other factors during pregnancy and, after birth, the effects on her health and the health of her child.

Taveras is an associate professor of population medicine and pediatrics and co-director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School’s (HMS) Department of Population Medicine. Gilman is a professor and director of the program.

Since 1998, the project has studied thousands of expectant mothers and their children, including more than 1,110 visits with 7-year-olds. Thanks in large part to Project Viva’s findings, a growing body of evidence has found that childhood obesity begins in utero, and early intervention can go a long way toward quelling the problem.

There’s good reason to start preventing childhood obesity as soon as possible. It’s well established that more than half of obese children are already overweight by age 2. Approximately one in five children will be overweight or obese by age 6. In addition, many of the racial and ethnic differences in risk factors for childhood obesity appear to occur early in life.

One large Project Viva study, published in the April 2010 issue of Pediatrics, found that black and Hispanic children were more likely than white children to have gained weight rapidly during infancy. What’s more, they spent less time breast-feeding, were introduced to solid foods sooner, consumed more fast foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, slept less, and had television sets in their bedrooms during the first three years of life — all risk factors for childhood obesity. Black and Hispanic mothers were also more likely to begin their pregnancies overweight or obese, to have depressive symptoms during pregnancy, and (Hispanic only) to develop gestational diabetes.

Although the exact reasons for such disparities are still largely unclear, researchers continue to find associations of these and other risk factors with childhood obesity, including:

Maternal habits. What’s good for a pregnant mother is good for her child, and the inverse holds true, as well. One 2007 study by Gillman, Taveras, and their colleagues found that children of mothers who had gained more weight in pregnancy had about four times the risk of being overweight by age 3. Other Project Viva findings suggest that children whose mothers smoked while pregnant have twice the risk of being overweight by age 3 as those whose mothers did not smoke.

C-sections. A 2012 study by Project Viva researchers found that 3-year-olds who had been born by cesarean section were twice as likely to be obese as those who had been delivered vaginally. That may be because babies born by C-section have different bacteria in the gut than those born vaginally, and some emerging data suggest that this microbiome could be important for energy balance.

Breast-feeding. Studies suggest that children who are breast-fed have a lower risk of obesity, possibly because breast-fed children may learn to self-regulate how much they eat — and mothers may learn to control how much they feed their children — by responding to hunger rather than other cues. A study by Gillman and colleagues in the March 2011 issue of Pediatrics sheds light on formula-fed infants, too. Those who were introduced to solid food before 4 months old had a sixfold increase in their odds of being obese at age 3, compared with those whose parents waited until they were at least 4 to 6 months old to introduce solids.

Infant sleep. Research by Taveras suggests that adequate sleep during infancy is just as important to babies as it is to their weary parents. Her 2008 Project Viva study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, was the first to examine the effects of sleep during infancy. She found that babies who slept less than 12 hours a day were twice as likely to be obese by age 3 as those who got more shut-eye, possibly because sleep is crucial for a proper balance of the hormones that regulate appetite.

Starting the fight early. Findings like these are helping physicians, public health advocates, and others make recommendations to parents even before a child is born. “It’s becoming obvious that early prevention is a big part of the answer to childhood obesity,” said Gillman. The goal, he stresses, isn’t to blame parents. “We’re focusing on expectant and new mothers, because most women are especially receptive to making positive changes for their child’s health during and right after pregnancy.”

Early interventions may have impressive effects on children’s behavior. In a study published in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of Maternal and Child Health, Taveras and her colleagues assigned new mothers and their babies (ages birth to 6 months) to two groups. One group received an intervention that included conversations with pediatricians, motivational counseling by a health educator, and group parenting workshops. The other group received usual pediatric care.

After six months, the researchers found that infants in the intervention group breast-fed longer and were less likely to be introduced to solid foods, watched less TV than their peers, and slept more. “If we can help parents change some of these risk factors early in life,” said Taveras, “we may be able to protect against obesity later on, and possibly decrease the disparities we see with the disease in many nonwhite populations.”

But what about children who, at age 5 and older, are past the point of such early interventions?

“It’s certainly easier to start preventing childhood obesity very early on,” said Gillman. “It may be more difficult as kids get older, but we do need to continue making changes throughout their lives.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Boost Your Baby's Brain Through Healthy Eating

Kids can be finicky eaters? You don't say! But chef and mother Miko Shino wants to change this. Shino believes that if your baby is introduced to worldly flavors and spices at a young age, he or she will not only become more adventurous, healthy eaters later in life, but you'll also be helping his or her crucial, early brain development. She translates this philosophy in her new, easy-to-make cookbook, "Smart Bites for Baby."

How can having a more diverse diet promote a child's brain development?

The mouth is the first place where the world becomes tangible. Everything goes into their mouths in order for infants to understand it -- you name it, it goes in there. This is how they make connections. Providing diversity in a diet means providing the most variety in what your child learns and understands about the world, which will mean stimulation for the body and the brain. If a child is given the same food, of, say, mashed potatoes for every single meal, it would not be surprising that the brain stimulation as the nutritional intake would be quite poor.

Why is it important that parents push new, healthy foods versus masking them, like many
popular kids cookbooks advise?

Masking foods actually enables picky eating by pretending that certain foods should be hidden from view and avoided. If, from the very beginning of being introduced to foods, babies and toddlers are taught that healthy, whole and organic foods are delicious, they won't doubt the deliciousness of those foods later on in life. Every child goes through a picky phase, but I believe kids will go back to accepting what they were initially introduced to.

Speaking of picky phases, do you have any tips for parents of picky eaters?

Just keep trying. If your child has suddenly turned against the broccoli that she loved until yesterday, just keep serving it. And remember: If parents can adopt a healthy approach to eating from the very start, it often curbs the severity of the fussy period.

The main thing is to have patience and not show frustration. You don't want your child to associate eating with something negative. A fussy phase is just that -- a phase.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun Friday: 2 Ingredient Bread Recipe

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 cup of Greek or natural yogurt
  • Extra flour for dusting the board

  • In a bowl, combine the flour and yogurt and bring together to form a ball.
  • Turn out onto a floured board to knead and roll.
  • Knead for 5-8 minutes

  • This quantity is suitable for one pizza. This makes a great base that you can use for so many other things such as cheese, garlic, raisins, sultans, chocolate etc. to your bread.
  • If the dough seems a little wet when you mix it, just add a sprinkling more flour. The more you knead it the better it comes together.
  • I thought in the beginning that there was no way this will work but as I kneaded it, the dough became pliable and stretchy.
  • This recipe was created by Jennifer Cheung for Kidspot, Australia's best recipe finder.

Send us pictures or tell us what you added to your bread and how it turned out!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Study Debunks Myths About Organic vs. Conventional Produce

When asked why people purchase organic foods, many respond with “they’re healthier.” That’s a pretty broad generalization, and one that may not be entirely true. It depends on what you’re measuring to be “healthier” – pesticide content or nutrition.

A study released on September 4, 2012 in theAnnals of Internal Medicine studied organic and conventional produce. This meta-analysis looked at 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods to examine the differences in nutritional content and pesticide content between organic and conventional foods.

The findings? Nutritional content was basically identical between organic produce and conventional produce. Many people will claim that everyone knows organics aren’t nutritionally superior to conventional, but there are also a huge number of people out there that falsely believe an organic apple will give them ten times the nutrition of a conventional apple.

Of course, this study may overlook specific food differences in nutritional content. For example, a 2010 study found that organic strawberries were higher in Vitamin C compared to conventional strawberries – but they were also lower in potassium. While it’s possible that certain produce items may have a nutritional benefit when grown organically, it seems that on a whole – it’s probably not very clinically significant to our bodies.

What did differ between conventional and organic items though was pesticide content. This makes sense, as the purpose of organic farming is to avoid use of potentially harmful pesticides. Over 35% of the conventionally grown produce contained pesticide residues, compared to just 7% of those organically grown. This being said, few items exceeded the EPA-determined recommended limits for pesticide contamination though, whether they were conventional or organic.

Some individuals feel the pesticide standards are set too high though - or may not be stringent enough for children - and may wish to eliminate as many pesticide residues as possible from their diet. The results of this research show that you can reduce your consumption of these pesticides by switching to organic produce. If you are concerned about the pesticide content in produce, stick with purchasing organic foods for the dirty dozen and conventional for the clean fifteen, as recommended by the Environmental Working Group. These lists contain the 12 produce items with commonly high pesticide contents, as well as the 15 items that typically have low pesticide content.

Dirty dozen:
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Nectarines
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Blueberries
12. Potatoes

Clean 15
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Cabbage
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Eggplant
10. Kiwi
11. Cantaloupe
12. Sweet potatoes
13. Grapefruit
14. Watermelon
15. Mushrooms

Read More:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Helping Your Child Fight Obesity

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and as kids go back to school, health authorities are asking parents to make sure their youngsters stay fit during the school season.

Over the last 40 years obesity rates in children have skyrocketed. According to the American College Of Sports Medicine, more than 23 million children and teens, in the u.S., ages two to 19, are overweight or obese. These children are at greater risk of having heart problems, joint pain, sleep apnea, even psychological problems.

So as school starts, health officials are suggesting ways to make sure your child has a healthy school year.

During the summer many kids get out and play, but as classes begin, they tend to sit more. Fitness experts recommend you make sure to let your children play at least thirty minutes to an hour after they get home from school. And that doesn't mean in front of a TV. That means getting out and moving.

Pack a healthy lunch. And if your kids buy lunch, stress the importance of eating a balanced meal, which most schools now provide. Donuts and soda are not lunch.

Take your child for a physical. Know their body mass index, which indicates if they are overweight. If they're participating in a sport, make sure they get the ok from their doctor that they're healthy enough to participate.

And wherever possible, have your children walk to school and other activities. Studies show kids, who walk, are leaner and fitter than those who take the bus or are driven everywhere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Keeping Kids Active

The number of overweight preschoolers has doubled over the past ten years. Try these tips for keeping your child’s day filled with activity and learning.

  1. Encourage outdoor games: Classic games like Tag, Follow the Leader, the Hokey Pokey, and Hide and Seek will keep little ones on the go. Most young children are active learners, so games like Hopscotch and Four Square will help them learn their numbers while also keeping them physically fit.
  2. Explore the world around you: Dig in the dirt. Chase after shadows. Throw sticks in a puddle. Plant a garden. The world is your playground.
  3. Make TV time active time: Kids don’t need to slump on the couch as they watch favorite programs. Encourage them to sing, march and dance along as they watch characters like Barney, or the Boohbahs.
  4. Limit TV time: When a program is over, turn the TV off and suggest one of the activities below to promote active learning.
  5. Provide healthy snacks: Active kids need the right fuel for their growing bodies. You’ll find kid-friendly recipes for nutritious snacks like Ants on a Log and Grapecicles that you can make together at the Zoom CafĂ©.
  6. Do chores together: Dust. Sweep. Wipe off the table. Give dolls and trucks a bath. Not only will you stay active, you’ll make your child feel like a grown-up, responsible member of the family.
  7. Set a good example: When you exercise regularly and eat healthy foods, you set an example that will shape your child’s habits for life.

What do you do to keep your kids healthy and active?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Edgy Veggie: Packing nutrition into the kids' lunchbox

Fresh vegetables, ripe fruit, calcium-rich yogurt, whole grains, energizing nuts and seeds - that's a lot to pack into a lunchbox. But it's what you want to pack into your kid (not to mention yourself). Fear not. Back-to-school season offers new lunchbox-ready products promising to ease parents' anxiety while providing maximum kid nourishment.

Greens Vegan Original Superfood Crisp ($1.99, 40-gram bar) is gluten-free organic and vegan. Primary ingredients include peanut butter, brown rice crisps and chia seeds, but what you taste is wheat grass and chlorella. Green super food, yes; delicious treat, no. Despite the crispy rice, the texture is chewy, verging on dental cement. One bar contains 160 calories, 7 fat grams, 6 protein grams, 115 milligrams sodium and 5 grams fiber.

Veggie-rich, organic, gluten-free, vegan and chocolate, too? That's Betty Lou's Just Great Stuff Organic Chocolate Dream Greens ($1.89, 42-gram bar). The question is, can kale and chocolate coexist in one bar? Not happily. Austere flavor and dry texture make mass kid appeal unlikely. One serving has 180 calories, 8 fat grams, 4 protein grams, 25 milligrams sodium and 2 grams fiber.

Trade greens for Greek yogurt with kid-friendly Rickland Orchards Greek Yogurt Bars ($1.79, 40-gram bar). Available in six fruity, grainy flavors, they strike the right balance between crunchy and chewy, healthful and fun. The shelf-stable yogurt lends creamy mouth feel without the tartness. One cherry almond bar contains 160 calories, 6 fat grams, 7 protein grams, 45 milligrams sodium and 5 fiber grams.

Fun food meets serious nutrition with Navitas Naturals Power Snacks ($8.99, 227 grams). Available in three flavors, these chewy, yummy, organic, vegan, gluten-free cubes are loaded with super foods like goji, chia and hemp. Blueberry hemp snacks provide an antioxidizing punch and taste sweet and buttery, besides. A 28-gram serving (a small handful) contains 130 calories, 7 fat grams, 3 protein grams, 40 milligrams sodium and 2.5 fiber grams.

All these products are available at natural food stores, but remember, man does not live by bars and cubes alone. The American Dietetic Association recommends pairing power snacks with fresh produce to boost energy and fill you up.


Commercial power bars are marketed as good-for-you treats despite their abundant sugar and fat. Do-it-yourself power squares let you put healthy whole foods in your bar and into your family. Feel free to swap any nut butter for peanut butter, substitute your favorite nuts for almonds, and use any dried fruit in place of apricots.

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup almonds, chopped small

2 tablespoons hulled sunflower or pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped small

1 cup unsweetened crispy (not puffed) brown rice cereal (such as Nature's Path or Erewhon)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly oil an 8-inch-square baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix oats, nuts, sunflower seeds and ground flaxseed. Spread onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 8 to 10 minutes, or until oats and nuts smell buttery and just start to turn golden.

Remove from oven and let cool. In the meantime, heat peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat for just a few minutes, until mixture just comes together and is warmed through.

Return the oats mixture to the large bowl. Add dried fruit, rice cereal, cinnamon; stir to combine. Pour in peanut butter mixture. Mix well with a large spoon until ingredients are lightly coated and slightly moistened.

Pour mixture into baking pan. Moisten your hands with a little water and press mixture firmly into pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. When well-chilled and firm, cut into squares.

Keeps refrigerated and well-covered for several days. Makes 16 bars.

Per bar: 99 calories (29 percent from fat), 3.3 g fat (0.4 g saturated, 0.9 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 26 mg sodium.

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What type of healthy things do you pack for your kids to help keep them going?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pros and Cons of Teaching Babies Sign Language

Every parent has been there: The frustration of trying to figure out what a crying baby wants or needs.

Now, some parents say a new tool helps open lines of communication with children even before they can talk: Sign language. Or at least a limited form of the signing long used by the deaf or those with hearing loss.

Baby First, a cable channel devoted to infants and toddlers, was one of the first to latch on to the trend. The network recently released a sign language DVD for little ones.

"It is pretty amazing, but babies eight and nine months old can actually express exactly what they want with signing," says Sharon Rechter, co-founder of Baby First.

Rechter says they have the ability to learn basic signs, and that a 1-year-old can pick up as many as 10 to 15 signs.

Signing provides a way for the child and their parent to communicate and save a lot of frustration, and that's the main benefit, she says.

But some child development experts offer words of caution.

Dr. Penny Glass, who heads the Child Development Program at Children's National Medical Center, says signing is no substitute for basic interaction. Before babies learn to sign, they need to focus on what she calls "common gestures."

The gestures are as simple as an infant extending its arms as a sign it wants to be picked up and held, or a child responding to a cue from an adult.

"Very often parents forget the power of the 'point' gesture where you are able to say to the baby 'show me, show mommy' and the child points at the direction of what it is that they want," says Glass.

She says the best course is to mix these gestures with talking to the baby. Glass notes that before infants can talk, they key in on the sounds of words and facial expressions.

"What nine month olds are doing ... they are watching adults' mouths a lot and they are forming their mouths even in shapes the adult is doing," Glass says.

She says nine months is far too young to learn sign language, and parents should fight the urge to give their babies an edge by watching a DVD. Instead, she suggests talking to the child and gesturing, which will help communication come naturally.

Have you had any experience, successes or failures, in teaching your child sign language? Or perhaps you chose not to? What were your reasons for what you chose, and how did it work out for you?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Research supporting pretend play in preschool found to be flawed

Study after study has suggested that engaging in pretend play contributes to healthy development, especially in the areas of creativity and intellect. A recent review of research conducted by University of Virginia, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, suggests that idea is not founded in valid research. Should this new information lead to taking pretend and fantasy play out of the preschool setting? Not necessarily.

Angeline Lillard, a professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, lead the review and research that came to this conclusion. She states that any of the previous “evidence” and research was found to be flawed since there is no way to tell if the testers were biased by previous information. Having said that, Lillard also indicates there could still be correlations in development, just not the ones previously believed.

"We found no good evidence that pretend play contributes to creativity, intelligence or problem-solving," Lillard said. "However, we did find evidence that it just might be a factor contributing to language, storytelling, social development and self-regulation."

Lillard does note that pretend play is clinically important for toddlers (ages 18 months to two years). The absence of pretend play in toddlers can be an indicator of neurological concerns such as autism, which should be discussed with a professional.

The benefits of pretend play are difficult to quantify simply because there are so many factors involved that it would be almost impossible to control for them all. In addition preschool children do not necessarily respond correctly to standardized testing. What we do know however is there are several outcomes parents and teachers can expect for allowing and encouraging pretend and fantasy play with preschool children.

Pretend play includes not only the typical house area in preschool, but a variety of other situations where children are encouraged to pretend. Oh Look it's a box! We're in a restaurant today. The fire fighters will help put out the fire. And on and on with no limits besides the children's imagination.

While participating in pretend play, children are able to create, pursue their interests, interact with peers and additional objects they may not experience otherwise. When there is caregiver/teacher guidance and support, additional learning experiences can be brought to the children in a context that interests them the most. For example, a teacher carefully sets up a pretend grocery store for the children. Several of the Michigan Standards for Pre-K can be accomplished through one play interaction including nutrition education, social interactions, pre-reading skills, writing skills, number operations, and many more.

At a time when play is under attack, preschool teachers need to be informed of and stand up for the benefits of play including pretend play. The absence of play and hands on experiences leads to higher academic demands with no true improved outcomes. Play and playful experiences are important in school to provide developmentally appropriate learning for children.

What is your opinion on this new idea that pretend play may not be as crucial to as many aspects of development as previously thought?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Music Makes Kids More Empathetic

Exposure to music can makes kids more empathetic, a recent study has found.

The University of Cambridge research, though preliminary, may affect how school systems,policymakers and educators view music and its relationship to a child's development.

The yearlong study, conducted in the U.K. by researchers Tal-Chen Rabinowitch and Ian Cross, both members of the music faculty at Cambridge, found that children between 8 and 11 years old who engaged in group musical activity were more likely to develop empathy than those in control groups where music was not included.

The study defined empathy as a child having an understanding of the emotional state of another. A total of 52 children – 28 girls and 24 boys – were split, randomly, into three groups. One met weekly and was immersed in interactive musical games and was composed of 13 girls and 10 boys. A second group undertook activities involving the use of written texts and drama, but no music. Another group had no interactive activities at all.

The study found that children involved in musical group interactions scored higher on an empathy test that was given to all the children both before and after the activities.

"Analyzing these two domains theoretically, led us to hypothesize that certain processes and underlying cognitive mechanisms should be naturally shared between musical group interaction and empathy," said Rabinowitch, the lead researcher.

Some involved with arts education find the study intriguing for how it underscores the effect the arts has on young students.

"In the intense focus on academic performance and test scores, we can lose sight of the social and emotional dimensions of learning and child development," said Joe Landon, executive director of the California Alliance for Arts Education.

"In fact, the two are related," Landon said. "Quality arts programs have the potential to empower and engage students in ways that can promote learning across the board. Students who have a positive sense of themselves are more likely to embrace learning new things and find success in school."

The study confirms what Sacramento Philharmonic tubist Julian Dixon believes about the benefits of group music activity. Dixon leads such activities as part of the orchestra's outreach programs.

"With music I find kids develop more understanding, and it makes them more empathetic," Dixon said.

The most telling example happened last April during the orchestra's "See the Music, Hear the Art" outreach program at Sacramento's Mustard Seed School – a school established to meet the needs of homeless children. It was there that Dixon said he encountered Elijah, a 9-year-old with a reputation for being disruptive in group settings. He had been street-toughened by living in transitional housing. Dixon led him in a group activity.

"I began seeing his face soften. It became more childlike in expression," Dixon said. "Later, he offered to carry my stuff to my car. He reached out."

In the University of Cambridge study, music activity stressed what researchers called "entrainment," wherein players become rhythmically attuned to each other during the course of the musical games. Imitation and sharing of musical goals were key. Imitation games demanded that one child do something musically, with the next child imitating it, and the next imitating the imitation. These happened in mostly unstructured, improvisational situations. Each child playing a musical instrument also had to attend to other children.

Rabinowitch wanted to establish whether strengthening or refining those activities in a group context would also focus and strengthen them in an everyday context.

"Empathy is considered to be a precursor of pro-social behavior, a crucial ingredient in our daily social lives," said Rabinowitch. "Empathy keeps us 'together,' connected, and aware for each other."

To establish whether the children developed empathy, the researchers gave children a 22-question test called the Bryant's Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents. The test asked hypothetical questions such as "If you saw a friend had fallen over, would you go over and help them up, soothe them, or laugh?" A nonverbal test of matching faces and a memory task game also were part of the testing.

"Overall, the capacity for empathy in children that participated in our musical group interaction program significantly increased," said Rabinowitch.

It was an effect the research team did not see in the children from control groups – which included children who participated in equivalent sessions of games and special tasks, but without any music.

In the nonmusical groups, the researchers used drama and storytelling in similar ways in a group activity setting. The expectation was that children who participated in the control-games groups would also show an enhanced capacity for empathy following the program.

"Such an effect was not found, but still, we're very hesitant to draw definitive conclusions, as the sample size of this particular group was small," said Rabinowitch. "While this is a preliminary study, replication of its findings with larger groups in different cultural contexts would have significant implications for the value of music in education."

The research holds a certain interest for Ross Thompson, professor of psychology at UC Davis. "It's a well-designed investigation," he said. "The results are not strong, as the authors recognize, but they lend support to the idea that attentiveness to another's feelings and goals … can generalize to other situations involving sensitivity to another's feelings."

Thompson believes the research raises interesting questions, given that much of musical instruction nowadays is geared to individual performance – such as a piano recital – rather than for improvisational group performance.

"The characteristics of empathy-promoting musical components may not be common in the typical experience of young children learning a musical instrument," Thompson said.

What do you think? Dose this study seem to make sense paired with your own experiences? If the results can be duplicated and further proved in future research, what do you think this could mean for school systems? Especially with the current trend of removing arts from the school?

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Play Really Is A Child's Work: Stages of Play

"As a pediatric speech pathologist, my work ranges from evaluating newborns’ earliest communication skills to helping young adults up to 16 years of age with their speech and language difficulties. What my colleagues and I have found is that a child’s language skills are tied very closely to his or her play skills. In fact, how a child plays relates to just about every aspect of development—physical, emotional, social, cognitive and language. This is because play is a child’s work.

Children, especially at the youngest ages, learn about themselves and the world around them by exploring their environment. The cues they receive during that exploration help to assist in their development.

Take for example, the first time a newborn rolls over. While he doesn’t understand the words his parents are speaking, their tone of voice communicates a message of encouragement, letting the child know he is doing something good. When he sees the emotional cue of a smile on his parents’ faces, he gets a lesson in happiness. The child’s social development is fostered simply through the interaction with his parents. And, his cognitive development is furthered as he learns to use various toys to aid in rolling over.

When we evaluate these young children, we want to see this type of interaction and make sure there is a developmental progression in their communication. Even at the earliest ages, back and forth communication should be taking place, such as cooing, babbling and eye contact games such as ‘peek-a-boo’.

For this reason, it is important to surround children with opportunities for interactive play in which their language development can thrive. Television and technology have their place, but they are not interactive and do not provide the cues that will aid in a child’s development."

Stages of Play

As children develop and grow, we expect them to progress through these stages of play.

  • Solitary (0-2 years) – This is when children play alone, interacting little with other children.
  • Spectator (2-2.5 years) – At this stage, a child begins to watch other children play, but will still not play with them.
  • Parallel (2.5-3 years) – Children begin playing alongside each other, but not together.
  • Associate (3-4 years) – At this point, children may begin to interact and even cooperate in their play.
  • Cooperative (4+ years) – Children begin to play together and experience supporting each other and conflicts. By primary school age, children often play in same gender groups.

Are Your Child’s Play Skills Where They Should Be?

Taking it a step further, we look at the play skills children exhibit to help determine if there are and/or will be language difficulties. I’ve listed some examples of what we look for at specific ages.

Up to 6 months
  • Makes eye contact
  • Tends to put toys and object in mouth
  • Can play alone with toys and uses both hands

6-12 months
  • Explores through the mouth and hands by touching objects
  • Imitates simple facial expressions
  • Copies basic movements, such as dropping an object
  • Likes interactive games, such as peek-a-boo
  • Can explore toys alone

12-18 months
  • Begins to learn through trial and error, such as banging objects together to explore different sounds
  • Starts to play with adults and notices other children
  • Plays and 'talks' alone

18 months- 2 years
  • Looks at other children playing but does not join in the play
  • Likes playing with adults and playing alone
  • Likes repetitive actions

2 - 3 years
  • Begins to use symbols in play (a stick becomes a sword)
  • Starts to exhibit “parallel play”
  • Starts to transition from learning by trial and error to using reasoning skills
  • Copies adults and other children
  • Begins to exhibit 'imaginative' play such as talking to toys

3 - 4 years
  • Recognizes shapes, letters and colors
  • Solves jigsaw puzzles through mixture of thinking and trial and error
  • Plays co-operatively together and take turns with other children
  • Shows more reasoning skills and asking questions for instance 'why' and ‘how’.
  • Exhibits more ‘imaginative’ play

4 - 6 years
  • Begins to read and write
  • Uses reasoning and understands experiences
  • Begins to understand simple rules in games
  • Plays co-operatively, taking turns and enjoying table-top games

6 - 8 years
  • Enjoys playing with small groups and making up games with rules
  • Enjoys playing co-operative games, but may struggle with losing
  • Likes to play with children of same gender

What To Do If You Suspect An Issue

If your child is not playing typically, or if you have questions or concerns regarding your child's overall development, make sure to talk to your pediatrician and ask if your child would benefit from an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist or another developmental specialist (e.g. Developmental Pediatrician, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist).

We would love to hear your stories about how your child plays, or if there is a development issue, what worked/is working for you!

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