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Fresh ideas, insights, and tips

brainBoost  Brain boost!  brainBoost 

Everyone knows that physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that it can also go a long way toward children’s brain development? The results of several studies involving grade school children suggest that daily vigorous physical activity can greatly improve children’s development in areas such as a child’s attention, memory, self-control, strategies and goal-setting.
In general, these skills develop rapidly through the elementary school years and then develop at a slower pace during adolescence.[1] The more vigorous exercise a child gets, the more the development of these skills increases and is reinforced. Think of kids on the playground who learn that by pushing themselves to run faster, they can catch who’s “it.” Or consider children shooting hoops who learn that, though it may be frustrating when they miss, the more they practice, the more consistently they’ll make it. 
One researcher suggests that:
 …in a period when greater emphasis is being placed on preparing children to take standardized tests, these studies should give school administrators reasons to consider investing in quality physical education and vigorous activity programs, even at the expense of time spent in the classroom. Time devoted to physical activity at school does not harm academic performance and may actually improve it. [2] 
So what can you do to help boost your child’s brain through exercise? 
Train as a family for a charity run or walk
Celebrate special occasions—like birthday or anniversaries—with something active such as a hike, a basketball or soccer game or a bike ride.
Play tag, jump rope, dance, or even play a dancing video game.
Get Moving at your local The Little Gym
  
[1]Davis PhD, Catherine L, and Norman K Pollock Phd. "Does Physical Activity Enhance Cognition and Academic Achievement in Children? A Review." Medscape. 
http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/764365 (accessed February 6, 2014) 
[2] Tomporowski, P.D., Lambourne, K., & Okumura, M.S. (2011). Physical activity interventions and children’s mental function: An introduction and overview. Preventive Medicine, 52(Suppl.1):S3- S9.
 
1.   Consider the compliments you give your child. Words of praise mean more when they refer to a child’s specific efforts or new abilities. Try using Specific Positive Feedback to focus on specific feedback rather than simply saying “Good Job”.
2.   Nurture your child’s special interests. Every child is unique, as parents and caregivers it is your job to help your children feel confident about those interests.
3.   Provide endless encouragement for your child. Your child will never forget the way you make them feel – that’s why it is important to be supportive of your child. Encourage them to reach for the stars!
4.   Do not label your child as anything – this may limit them and the way they feel about themselves as they grow.
5.   Extend trust in your child and let them make decisions.
6.   Focus on the glass half full – teach your child optimism. Teaching your child how to have an optimistic mindset will allow their confidence to shine! 

Building self-confidence begins very early in life, it is important to set your child up for success. Use these simple tips to help your child become more confident. 

The times, they’re changing, and it’s becoming even more difficult to keep our kids engaged, happy, and well, out of our hair. I know I’m not alone when I say that I have used my friends: television, computer, and tablet as a distraction for my children when I need 30 minutes of peace. 

As parents, we know it’s not always easy, but are kids being exposed to too much technology? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of 7 hours a day using media including television, computer, internet, video games, and cell phones. In an ever growing media driven world, it’s becoming even more important to make sure your child is getting active every day.

So, how can you encourage your child to get active? Show them that being active is fun! Exercise as a family by going for a nightly walk, jog, or having a family soccer game in the back yard. You can also get your children involved in activities outside of the home like The Little Gym to help them appreciate a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come. Whether you’re running, jumping, or tumbling, get moving with your child to build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits!

 
#BrainBoost!
 
Our friends at Brit+Co chatted with The Little Gym’s Director of Curriculum, Randy McCoy about 7 simple ways to bond with and boost your baby’s development. Keep reading to learn more about what Randy had to share.
As a new parent, you’ve got tons of questions. There’s so much you need to know, like how to deal with separation anxiety as a working mom or how exactly to travel with a newborn. Sure, you read dozens of books about how to parent while pregnant, but now that your babe is here, you don’t have time to read the millions of parenting books out there. You want to spend quality time with your kiddo, but beyond bath time, you’re wondering what you can do to squeeze the most learning and fun into every minute. We chatted with Randy McCoy, the curriculum director at The Little Gym, about seven simple ways to engage your baby in some developmental learning that’s fun for both of you.
Divide and conquer. With the many responsibilities that come with parenthood — diaper changes, baths and meal time — chores such as doing the dishes and sweeping suddenly seem like Herculean tasks. Split the household duties with your partner so that one of you is with the baby and the other is taking care of the little things that keep your house running. “If moms and dads make a concerted effort to divide up and share these responsibilities, then some dads might find themselves with more quality time with their children,” says Randy. If you’re a parent of multiples, consider hiring a housekeeper so you can spend more time with your little ones. It’s totally okay to have a messy house too!
Class it up. It can be tough those first few months without another adult to talk to other than your partner. Look for Mommy, Daddy + Me classes in your area that are age appropriate to socialize with other new parents who are going through the same joys and fears as you. “Not only do Parent/Child programs offer activities that parents can do with their child at home, they also provide valuable developmental information too,” says Randy. Plus, you can bond with other parents about milestones like crawling, eating first foods and rolling over.
Get chatty. From newborns through the first year of their lives, babies are adorable little sponges who absorb every detail, sight and sound around them. So the best thing you can do to boost their language skills is talk to them often, even if it feels a little silly. “Playful speech — higher pitched with inflections — helps develop language skills in babies,” says Randy. “Your baby is listening, watching and taking it all in. They are hearing the sound of your voice, watching the movements of your mouth and tongue and hearing the individual sounds of the words you speak.” Pick up board books to read out loud to your baby. Narrate throughout their diaper change. Talk about your day. Have fun and don’t be afraid to bust out some silly voices too.
Give ’em a song. Music for babies doesn’t have to be limited to nursery rhymes. You can make a playlist of your favorite tunes and sing while giving them a bath. Make up songs about anything and everything. Your baby isn’t judging your not-so-American-Idol voice. They just enjoy the sound of your voice, since they’ve been listening to you since day one from the womb.
Get down on the floor. Play time is learning time for your kiddo and is a great way for some quality one-on-one time. “Putting your baby on the floor with a variety of colorful and interesting things to reach for and look at accomplishes two things. One, it’s a great way to exercise the muscles of their back and core. Two, it stimulates their sense of touch and sight,” says Randy. Randy suggests cuddling, rocking them back and forth and trying out different movements and motions. In short, play like you’re a kid!
Cuddle up. If you’re a working parent, you might be stressing out how to squeeze in all of this quality time before and after your full-time job. Randy says that at least one hour every day will go a long way. Daily activities like diaper changes, getting your baby ready for bed and story time are all times to focus solely on your baby with plenty of kisses and cuddles afterward. “Holding, cuddling, kissing and hugging are all quality moments that allow for maximum parent-child bonding,” says Randy. Those sweet baby cheeks are practically begging for unlimited smooches from Mom and Dad.
Feast for the senses. Your baby’s brain is developing every single day. Provide them with lots of sensory input to get their five senses working. “Make their environment interesting and stimulating. It’s one of the best things you can do with your baby,” says Randy. Let them hang out in their high chair while you cook dinner to engage their sense of smell. Play different types of music or offer musical toys. Give them different textures to feel. Offer colorful toys that make sounds when shaken. Talk about your day with them. Even if they don’t respond to every single thing you’re doing, just know that they’re taking it all in.
Even with a busy schedule and a messy house, you can still make quality time with your baby productive and fun. To learn more about The Little Gym or to find a class near you, visit www.thelittlegym.com.au
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