(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - With many parents making plans to get out of town this spring, it’s the perfect time to introduce fun toys that can turn a road trip or visit to Grandma’s house into a learning opportunity.
Whether you’re playing peek-a-boo, singing nursery rhymes or reading a book to your little one, experts suggest that learning through play is imperative to a child’s development.
“Engaging children in play at an early age is incredibly beneficial to their physical and mental development, but it’s important that they’re getting the right kinds of interaction,” said Dr. Lise Eliot, early brain development expert and member of the expert panel at VTech, a world leader in interactive learning toys for all ages.
To help create the right toy for every age, VTech works closely with doctors such as Eliot, as well as its expert panel of early childhood education and development experts to ensure its toys help children meet important milestones. The result is an extensive range of more than 100 baby, infant and preschool learning products that cater to each child’s unique age and stage.
“Learning begins at birth, and babies absorb much more than we realize from their moment-to-moment interactions with the world around them,” said Dr. Eliot. “As parents strive to do what’s best for their child, they can introduce activities that help him or her learn through play. Babies are strongly motivated to reach developmental milestones all by themselves, and toys in VTech’s baby line can encourage them, make learning fun and grow with your little one over those important early years.”
To help discern which toy is right for your child, VTech has taken the guesswork out of the decision with its easy-to-follow milestones guide. The recommendations include some toys that are great for travel, such as:
For babies, VTech’s Crinkle & Roar Lion features buttons, sounds and tactile fabrics for little hands to discover, and a baby-safe mirror to help introduce self-awareness. It can be attached to carriers, strollers and more, making it the perfect take-along toy.
Infants will love the working Spin & Learn Color Flashlight, which introduces opposites, colors, letters and animals. They can spin the color-changing ring and explore buttons to hear fun melodies, nature sounds or play an interactive game.
For long car rides, the Count and Learn Turtle encourages early math skills with toddlers and preschoolers, and lets them explore colors, shapes and instruments. Kids can also exercise their memory and hand-eye coordination skills with a fun repeating sequence game.
For more information, visit www.vtechkids.com/milestones.
(BPT) - Suzanne Lang fondly remembers asking her then 5-year-old son, Alec, what he wanted to be for Halloween.
“The king,” he said, beaming.
So they went to the craft store and picked out red velvet and white fur for a cape. Lang made a scepter out of cardboard and spray-painted it gold.
“When I put the crown on his head, he looked at me with big eyes, full of confidence and joy,” she says. “Sadly, I wouldn’t see that look again for many years.”
There had been hints back in preschool that something wasn’t right. Alec’s speech was slightly off. He had trouble in kindergarten with letters and words. But at the same time, he was very bright, creative and inquisitive.
In first grade, things began to unravel. Every day the class would spend time writing in their journals. And every day Alec would try hard but only manage to write one word - and he’d spell it wrong, too.
School became unbearable for him. He began chewing through pencil erasers. He’d come home after school yelling or crying, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. In third grade, when his school evaluated him, he told the staff he was “stupid,” even though the evaluation found he actually had a very high IQ.
“My little ‘king’ seemed so far away,” Lang noted.
Eventually, the Lang family discovered that Alec had dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These issues aren’t uncommon: one in five children struggle with brain-based issues related to reading, math, writing, attention and organization.
“Back then, all I knew was that I needed to start looking for ways to help my son,” Lang says. “But I hit a roadblock I never expected; few parents wanted to open up to me about their children’s struggles.”
It’s an uncomfortable subject, after all. It’s also invisible - no one can tell by looking at a child that he can’t read or write.
“I turned to the Internet, but it was beyond frustrating. Most websites were full of confusing education jargon. And if I found a site I liked, I kept wondering, ‘Can I really trust this information?’”
Lang spent countless hours tracking down experts, eventually finding a reading specialist named Margie Gillis.
“She helped us understand two very important things: why my son was struggling and how I could help him,” Lang says.
That knowledge marked a turning point for the Langs. They found a middle school that gave Alec the chance to meet other kids with learning and attention issues. This helped build his confidence and gave him a sense of community.
“I remember him saying, ‘I never thought there were so many people like me,’” Suzanne says.
Once he had the kind of instruction and support he needed, Alec started to make progress. By the end of middle school, he even started talking about wanting to go to college.
“Even as Alec started to thrive, a sadness came over me,” Lang says. “I thought, ‘How many other parents are out there looking for answers?’”
That’s when she embarked on a new mission - to help other parents whose children have learning and attention issues. That journey led her to join the team at Understood.org, a comprehensive resource that empowers parents of kids with learning and attention issues.
Understood was created by 15 nonprofits that care deeply about kids with learning and attention issues. Its mission is to empower parents with clear explanations and practical advice about learning and attention issues. This powerful new resource offers parents daily access to experts, personalized support and connection to other parents in a safe online community. One of the site’s interactive tools, Through Your Child’s Eyes, allows parents to experience the challenges of living with learning and attention issues, like ADHD or dyslexia. All for free.
“Understood launched in October 2014, and my greatest hope is that it becomes a lifeline to every parent who is looking for answers,” Lang says.
Alec is now a college freshman studying engineering. He’s on the dean’s list and is thinking about what he’ll do after graduation.
“I asked him when he visited over spring break if he knew what he wanted to do, having so many options,” Lang says.
While Alec doesn’t exactly know yet, he did let his mother know that he wanted to do something cutting edge - something that will “change the world.”
“He was confident, almost beaming,” she says.
Her “king” was back.
(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Most parents know the best way to get kids to read later in life is to read to them early and often. But even parents' best efforts to create bookworms sometimes fall flat -- especially in today's world of lights and action best seen from a screen.
Yet, studies continue to suggest that the benefits of reading from an early age not only teach kids the rules of syntax and expand their vocabulary, but, according to one study released last year, also activate the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language.
Because of its interest in closing the reading gap among children in this country, RRKidz Inc., home of the beloved children's brand Reading Rainbow, embarked on a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. Through generous donations by its legions of fans, the company raised more than $6.4 million in 35 days.
As a result, Skybrary Family, the award-winning digital library of books and videos, was released. On the heels of this successful introduction, RRKidz Inc. is proud to announce the launch of Skybrary School, an educator-specific version with features designed to increase reading frequency and build literacy skills.
This new digital library, especially for early elementary school students (K-3) and their educators, offers close to 1,000 fiction and non-fiction books, all in the hopes of creating life-long readers and learners.
"Teachers devote their lives to giving students the tools needed to succeed in reading, and we want to make sure we are doing the same for them," said LeVar Burton. "With Reading Rainbow's Skybrary Family and now Skybrary School, we are offering a comprehensive solution to assist both educators and parents in providing engaging and relevant content to develop children's literacy and learning skills."
In addition, the service features more than 200 educational video field trips hosted by Burton, such as a trip to the White House, peeking inside the Mars Rover at NASA, behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil and other locations. Other benefits to Skybrary School include:
Working with acclaimed publishers such as National Geographic and Britannica to discover books that meet children's interest and reading level
Forty standards-aligned, themed lesson plans inspired by books and videos in the library
Instructional programs with flexible online and offline activities
A web-based subscription service with on-demand access to read and learn anytime, anywhere
New books and videos added to the service every week
RRKidz Inc. is also giving Skybrary School to 10,000 classrooms nationwide for free.
For more information, please visit www.readingrainbow.com.
(BPT) - Middle school is a make-or-break time for budding scientists.
The subject matter gets more difficult, test anxiety often occurs and other interests emerge. U.S. students rank 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries scored, according to the latest research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That lagging interest in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is contributing to an ongoing U.S. shortage of highly-skilled workers that may reach 3 million by 2018.
3M, a company rooted in science, understands the need for the next generation of science innovators, inventors and leaders. For decades, 3M scientists and engineers have developed products that solve problems and improve lives. A shortage of STEM-savvy workers will slow innovation across all industries.
If your child has a passion for science, encourage their curiosity. Here are some ideas from 3M science experts on how to further foster a love of science:
1. Find an after school program or STEM mentor.
A high-quality STEM after school program leads to improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM knowledge and skills; and higher likelihood of pursuing a STEM major in college according to a study from the Afterschool Alliance. Another option is to find a mentor. Teachers, college students and working professionals are often eager to share their knowledge with budding young scientists. Many universities and businesses encourage mentorship, and your school's science teachers might have some suggestions on where to find one that's right for your child.
2. Plan at home experiments.
According to 3M science mentors, taking science out of a book and applying it to real life is one of the best ways to spark an interest in science. You can find plenty of science experiments to conduct inside your home. A great resource is www.scienceofeverydaylife.com, which features fun activities that explain science principles, like how solar energy works by cooking a pizza with the sun or how chemical reactions function by making homemade ice cream.
3. Encourage exploration.
As interest grows, students are eager for more challenges. For instance, with the Summer Olympics on the horizon this year, a sport-loving student may want to explore more about the forces that impact gold medal-quality swimming, running or cycling. Linking science to another interest can further their passion.
4. Give them a challenge.
A range of opportunities exist for interested students at science-based summer camps, after school programs or fairs. If your child is already on a path of science experimentation and innovation, consider encouraging him or her to enter science challenges and competitions. Each year 3M and Discovery Education partner to develop the Young Scientist Challenge. Students in grades 5-8 can enter the contest by creating a one to two-minute video on a proposed solution to solve an everyday problem. All video entries must be submitted online at www.youngscientistchallenge.com by April 20, 2016.
5. Hit the road.
Going to an observatory or space museum is fun, but also a major learning opportunity. Before taking the trip, view the destination's website with your child and identify areas of particular interest. That will build anticipation and really amplify the visit.
Over its nine years of involvement in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, 3M has seen the tremendous impact a parent, family member or mentor can make in a child's curiosity and confidence in science. That foundation yields strong critical thinking skills and opens the door for rewarding career opportunities with lasting benefits.
(BPT) - As this time of year approaches, kids start staring at the clock, counting down the minutes until the last day of school. But as a parent, you're likely not wishing this time away so quickly, especially if you haven't finalized any day care or day camp plans.
The sheer number of summer day camp options can leave any parent feeling overwhelmed. And there's more to consider than just sing-alongs and friendship bracelets. The best camps provide your kids with lifelong memories and the skills they need to be successful. With an endless stream of possibilities, how do you navigate and find the best fit for your child?
Erin Cox, senior manager for Life Time Fitness' Kids Programming, shares four things you need to consider before signing your child up for a summer camp:
A history and well-trained staff
It's important to send your kids to a camp run by an organization you trust. There is something to be said about a camp that's been in operation for several years, and a well-trained staff definitely has something to do with it. The staff should be background checked and certified to take care of children on a daily basis. Before you sign up, ask about safety standards and what the camp's protocols are for camper-staff interactions.
A mix of activities
Whether it's a camp with a theme or a general kids' day camp, kids do well when presented with a variety of options when it comes to activities. From arts and crafts to field trips, sports, swimming and games, find a camp with activities your child will love. Your child will thrive at a camp that offers full days of play, thrilling field trips and healthy activities, like the camps at Life Time - The Healthy Way of Life Company. And don't forget to pack a swimsuit and sunscreen.
Healthy meals and snacks
Active kids need to be properly fueled during the day, so make sure whichever camp you choose provides adequate and healthy nutrition and time for breaks. Sugar-filled, processed foods are often the norm and it's always okay to question the menu. And, don't forget to ask about how the camp handles food allergies. Make sure whichever camp you choose makes nutrition and hydration a priority.
Flexible drop-off and pick-up options
Just because your kids have the summer off doesn't mean your schedule becomes more flexible. Look for camps that offer the option to drop them off early so you can still make to work on time. Similarly, many camps offer later pick up times, often key for working parents. Life Time Kids camps offer early drop off for just $20 per week if your kids are signed up for a camp that starts in the morning.
There's no need to worry about finding the right kids' camp when you know what to look for. Use this as a checklist and your child will be on their way to a summer full of fun and adventures. For more information on kids camp options visit lifetimefitness.com.
(BPT) - Do you hear that? It's the cheering of students as they run through the hallways on the last day of school. They're excited for three months of playing outside with no teachers and no assignments. What will they get into this summer that will keep them entertained, active, using their brains and socializing with peers?
"It can be tempting for kids to fall into the old habit of lounging on the couch in front of the TV all day when out of school. Students often don't get an adequate mix of challenge and fun during the summer months," says Ellen Marks, Curriculum Director of Bricks 4 Kidz(R), an award-winning summer camp and after-school program. "Summer is an ideal time for them to take on new challenges, engage in critical thinking and have fun with peers in an energetic atmosphere."
Luckily, you have somewhere to turn to shift your children's summer break into a fun learning opportunity. The last day of school comes faster than you think, so there's no time to waste. If you're looking for a way to combat couch-potato syndrome and keep your child entertained, an exciting summer camp program may be just what your family needs. A pool of talented Bricks 4 Kidz camp teachers are waiting to help your children grow while having a blast. Your child's summer camp should:
Use relatable and engaging tools
LEGO Bricks are the ultimate informal learning tool, especially in the summer when kids are wishing for more fun playtime. Not only do they prompt kids to naturally practice methods of engineering through hands-on building, they also engage their imaginations and boundless creativity. Gears, motors, robotics, and LEGO computer software programs also help children grasp technology in ways they might not during the school year, so they'll experience a whole new level of amusement. When building with LEGO Bricks, it's only natural that kids will develop enhanced spatial awareness, visual processing, and fine motor skills. Even better, the Bricks 4 Kidz proprietary models and camp activities are centered around popular themes that kids love!
Get children away from TV and video games
Don't let your kids sit at home in front of a screen all summer. "Children need a chance to experience working in a group setting as well as on their own," says Michelle Cote, founder and president of Bricks 4 Kidz. "Group work allows them the opportunity to collaborate and learn about their peers, while working alone helps build self-confidence. Creative and imaginative play is also beneficial to child development, so help your kids get up off the couch and into an environment that encourages both playtime and learning."
Kids can easily avoid brain drain this summer when they learn through playing. Put them in a program that will employ their minds while having fun and making friends along the way.
To find a program in your area, visit www.bricks4kidz.com. You can learn more about their programs and new summer camps by searching for a location by state or zip code.
(NewsUSA) - It’s recognized as a "silent epidemic" among our nation’s youth.
We’re talking sports-related injuries. Every day nearly 8,000 young athletes sustain an injury bad enough to send them to an emergency room, and -- if that’s not chilling enough -- just look at these numbers from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
In the past year alone, 48 youths died due to sports injuries.
About 30,000 high school athletes are hospitalized every year.
Concussions account for 90 percent of high schoolers’ 300,000 annual head injuries.
That explains why a new program called "Athletic TIPS" (Towards Injury Prevention in Sports) has garnered the support of everyone from health care professionals to athletic directors to sports stars like football legend Michael Strahan. The retired New York Giants defensive end, in fact, narrates the introductory video on behalf of the not-for-profit group behind the initiative.
The program’s goal? To foster "a safer experience" for athletes at the kindergarten through college levels by focusing on the recognition, prevention and management of sports-related injuries -- all done through community workshops, online learning, and other grassroots initiatives.
"Athletic TIPS answers a critical need for educating school-age athletes, their parents, and advisors about sports-related injuries," says Ed Goren, the former vice-chairman of Fox Sports Media Group, who’s backing the initiative. "Hopefully, parents will feel more confident encouraging their sons and daughters to reap sports’ substantial benefits and life lessons."
The workshops target four key areas: concussion recognition and prevention; nutrition in sports management; preventing dehydration and heat-related conditions; and recognizing, managing, and preventing musculoskeletal injuries.
To learn more or schedule an Athletic TIPS Community Workshop in your area, visit www.TIPS4Sports.org.