Can young children learn from educational apps?

A version of this post was originally published by Parenting Translator. Sign up for the newsletter and follow Parenting Translator on Instagram.
Parents often hear about the dangers of screen time for children, but rarely does there seem to be a distinction among different types of screen time. In particular, apps on smartphones or touchscreen devices for children seem to be growing in popularity, even among young children. In fact, research finds that 90% of children aged 2 to 3 years use a touchscreen device and that infants and toddlers on average spend 10 to 45 min per day on touchscreen devices.
Many apps claim to be “educational” and some apps are used as part of the curriculum in elementary school classrooms and even in early childhood education centers. Yet, apps for young children are largely unregulated and the number of choices alone may be extremely overwhelming for parents. Can young children actually learn from this technology? Are apps more educational than TV shows a..

How 10 minutes of mindfulness can help make or break a family vacation

When we dream about summer vacation, we imagine the good stuff: warm days, cool breezes, lots of laughter and good vibes. And time off is definitely good for our health, yet it’s not always smooth sailing.
The divide between our expectations and reality can create dust-ups, especially when unpredictable circumstances and temperamental personalities collide to throw us off course.
Maybe the kayak outing is disrupted by storms, or perhaps, mealtime turns chaotic with differing preferences or lack of cooperation. With big groups or families, this may be par for the course. On my recent week off, we had five consecutive days of stormy weather, my husband got strep throat and we had an ER visit due to a health scare with my dad. He’s fine, thankfully, but it’s not what I’d anticipated, and I found myself feeling a little jangly.
“Vacations and holidays are challenging, says Dr. Michael Irwin, of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. “I have firsthand knowledge,” as do many of us..

How parents can help children with ADHD thrive in friendships

“Vibrant” is how Caroline Poisson describes her seven-year-old son. “He’s incredible, enthusiastic and curious,” she said. “And then there’s a side of what we call kryptonite and we talk about his ADHD brain, where there are some things that are just really hard for him.” Like many kids with ADHD, Poisson’s son struggles with executive function skills – the cognitive abilities that help people plan, stay organized, pay attention, control emotions and make decisions. Without a good grasp on these skills it can be hard to make friends and strengthen the social skills needed to navigate adulthood.
Parents of kids with ADHD often say their kids miss social cues, such as when peers are bored, hurt or offended, according to Amori Mikami, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada. “It can lead to a lot of outbursts or temper tantrums or whining and complaining or arguing with the friend,” she said. Mikami researches peer relationships, specifically focusing on c..

Plenty of Black college students want to be teachers, so why don’t they end up in classrooms?

A growing problem in American classrooms is that teachers don’t resemble the students they teach. Eighty percent of the nation’s 3.8 million public school teachers are white, but over half of their students are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and mixed races. The small slice of Black teachers has actually shrunk slightly over the past decade from 7% in 2011–12 to 6% in 2020–21, while Black students make up a much larger 15% share of the public school student population.
A Black teacher can make a positive difference for Black children. Research has shown that Black students are less likely to be suspended and more likely to be placed in gifted classes when they are taught by Black teachers. Studies have often found that Black students learn more from teachers of the same race.
Teacher diversity statistics in 2020-21. Public school teachers are overwhelmingly white but most students are not.
Chart from the website of the National Center for Education Statistics. (2023). Cha..

Reimagining student engagement as a continuum of learning behaviors

Excerpted from “Reimagining Student Engagement: From Disrupting to Driving” by Amy Berry. Copyright © 2022 by Corwin Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Disrupting to Driving: A Continuum of Student Engagement In 2016–2017, I decided to investigate the concept of student engagement from the perspective of the classroom teacher. I conducted in-depth interviews with teachers to explore their conceptions of student engagement in learning. In particular, I was interested in both the everyday examples of student engagement these teachers described, as well as their descriptions of less common, but often powerful, examples of highly engaged students. In this way, I was trying to capture the full range of engagement that teachers might encounter in the classroom. Since this research, I have had many other opportunities to ask teachers to describe engagement and recount their experiences of student engagement in the classroom. I’ve also received feedback from teachers, parents and others in the ..

How to keep your kids’ grandparents involved without losing your mind

What might happen if I bite my grandmother in the butt? This, I imagine, is what my four-year-old son was pondering the afternoon my mother took over while I enjoyed a nourishing weekend away with friends. Grandma would not be happy, it turns out, but my son and his siblings would find it riotous. I learned about the bite later. Rather than spoil my rare weekend off, my mother sheepishly confessed to the incident only after I pressed her, and even then dismissed it as trivial.
My mother seemed to have understood intuitively the kind of wisdom dispensed by parenting experts. In his book, You and Your Adult Child: How to Grow Together in Challenging Times, psychology professor Laurence Steinberg writes, “being a good grandparent mainly involves making life easier for your child and their partner.” Slate parenting columnist and podcast host Jamilah Lemieux echoed that advice when she told me that the grandparents’ principal role is to stand by their kids. “Parents need to feel supported ..

How Universal Design for Learning helps students merge onto the “learning expressway”

When Kate Smith’s second grade class finished their virtual field trip to a local farm, her students chose how they wanted to share what they had learned. Some kids created postcards or a poster with crayons. Some wrote a letter about the trip and sent it to a family member. Others scripted commercials and shot a video to present to the class. Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an approach where teachers seek to make learning accessible to all students regardless of their backgrounds, abilities, or learning preferences, is at the root of Smith’s lessons. “You’re getting to know your kids — their abilities, their skill levels, what they struggle with, where they excel, their interests, all those kinds of things. And you’re designing [lessons] with kids in mind,” said the teacher, who works in Westminster, Maryland.
Developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), UDL provides a framework for educators to create inclusive learning environments. “It really is about how we..