Month: July 2013
Why It Works: Benefits of Breastfeeding Past One Year
New Research on The Importance of a Consistent Bedtime
New Study Shows Why You Should Get the Kids to Bed on Time
Going to bed at a regular time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, recent research shows.
A large study published in June found that young children with an irregular bed time fared worse on cognitive tests several years later. Sumathi Reddy explains on Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.
Going to bed at the same time every night could give your child’s brain a boost, a recent study found.
Researchers at University College London found that when 3-year-olds have a regular bedtime they perform better on cognitive tests administered at age 7 than children whose bedtimes weren’t consistent. The findings represent a new twist on an expanding body of research showing that inadequate sleep in children and adolescents hurts academic performance and overall health.
The latest study considered other factors that can influence bedtime and cognitive development, such as kids skipping breakfast or having a television in their bedroom. After accounting for these, the study found that going to bed very early or very late didn’t affect cognitive performance, so long as the bedtime was consistent.
“The surprising thing was the later bedtimes weren’t significantly affecting children’s test scores once we took other factors into account,” said Amanda Sacker, director of the International Center for Lifecourse Studies in Society and Health at University College London and a co-author of the study. “I think the message for parents is…maybe a regular bedtime even slightly later is advisable.”
The researchers suggested that having inconsistent bedtimes may hurt a child’s cognitive development by disrupting circadian rhythms. It also might result in sleep deprivation and therefore affect brain plasticity—changes in the synapses and neural pathways—at critical ages of brain development.
Sleep experts often focus largely on how much sleep children get. While that is important, “we tend to not pay as much attention to this issue of circadian disruption,” said Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t involved with the study.
Insufficient sleep and irregular bedtimes may each affect cognitive development through different mechanisms, Dr. Owens said. “The kid who has both [problems] may beat even higher risk for these cognitive impairments,” she said.
The study, published online in July in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, examined data on bedtimes and cognitive scores for 11,178 children.
The children were participants in the U.K.’s Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative longterm study of infants born between 2000 and 2002.
Mothers were asked about their children’s bedtimes at 3, 5 and 7 years of age. Nearly 20% of the 3-year-olds didn’t have a regular bedtime. That figure dropped to 9.1% at age 5 and 8.2% at age 7. Mothers were also asked about socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and family routines.
When the children were 7 years old, they received cognitive assessments in reading, math and spatial abilities. The poorest test scores were recorded by children who went to bed very early or very late, and by those who had inconsistent bedtimes, said Dr. Sacker. But once other factors in the home were taken into account only the inconsistent bedtime was associated with lower scores, she said.
A consistent pattern of sleep behavior mattered. “Those who had irregular bedtimes at all three ages had significantly poorer scores than those who had regular bedtimes,” Dr. Sacker said. This was especially true for girls who didn’t establish consistent bedtimes between 3 and 7 years old.
Yvonne Kelly, a co-author of the study and a professor in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said the researchers aren’t sure why girls seemed to be more affected. She noted that the difference in scores between these groups of girls and boys wasn’t statistically significant for the reading and spatial tests, but it was for the math test.
“I don’t think for one moment that boys are immune to these things and girls are more affected,” Dr. Kelly said.
The researchers didn’t have data on the total number of hours children slept overnight because mothers weren’t asked about what time the children woke up.
In general school-age kids—kindergarten through eighth-grade—should be getting about 10 hours of sleep, while 3- and 4-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including day-time naps, said Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University.
Dr. Paruthi said the good news from the study is that the majority of the children went to bed at a consistent time, reinforcing advice from sleep specialists. “The younger the child is, the better it is to get into the habit of a regular bedtime,” said Dr. Paruthi, who wasn’t affiliated with the study. She recommends a 15-minute, pre-bedtime routine to help the brain transition from a more alert to a quiet state.
And in order to keep the body’s internal clock in sync with the brain, bedtimes on weekends and in the summer should only stray from the normal time by an hour or less, Dr. Paruthi said. “The internal clock in the brain and the body like to have consistency every day,” she said.
Write to Sumathi Reddy at email@example.com
Kombucha: Fermentation, Fungus, Bacteria Goodness!
So, the truth comes out. I’m kind of a nerd.
I made this bacterial fungal fermented tea at my house that is supposed to be full of probiotics and other good stuff and I’m super excited. I was even more excited until I found out it could make you sick or kill you (very rare).
But then I figured that people have been doing this for thousands of years so how bad could it really be. Also, one of the arguments is that there haven’t been any human studies (only animal studies and, interestingly, Kombucha did not harm rats and in some instances resulted in health improvements on the little guys).
Then a friend of mine made an interesting point. She said, “I figure the large population of people making Kombucha at home IS our human study.” Very wise. If Kombucha were killing people right and left we’d be hearing a lot more about it. The Bird Flu and West Nile Virus get a lot more attention than home-Kombucha-making ever has so I figure I should be good to go. I have been told that if you’re immuno-suppressed or compromised this might not be the drink for you.
The only thing you really need to watch out for is the mold and there are a lot of pictures and descriptions on the web to help you with that. The samples below do NOT have mold on them. Based on my research, I have deemed these healthy Kombucha samples.
Although you might think the above three pictures of the same bottle of Kombucha is moldy, it’s not. That big blob of stuff is called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). The scoby eats the sugar and ferments the brewed tea that I added to it. The brown specks are from loose tea that made its way into the jar. The white part is actually smooth, not fuzzy like you would see on cheese.
If it is fuzzy like the mold you find on cheese or bread then you throw everything out and start fresh. I looked for information telling me I might die from the mold but I couldn’t find anything that remotely suggested that, so that was comforting.
So here’s some good info: “Mold tends to grow especially when the Kombucha mushroom is lifted out of the liquid by its own gases. Keeping it covered with liquid in the later stages, i.e. when the new Kombucha mushroom starts growing, can successfully prevent mold from growing.” (Wikipedia)
With each batch a new round white disc grows on the top. This is the new Kombucha “mushroom” as some like to call it. Also, I read that it is important to disinfect and clean your hands and the jars with white vinegar, not soap. Somehow soap can lead to the introduction of bacteria.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Below are various views of the same jar of seven-day fermented Kombucha. You’re not supposed to fiddle around with the stuff while it is brewing. I did take a peek a few times to make sure I didn’t see any mold growing. It was interesting to watch the bubbles start to develop as the yeast and bacteria were eating up the sugar. Similar to the process of rising when you make bread.
MAKING THE KOMBUCHA
So the way you make Kombucha is to brew about a quart of tea and dissolve a little over a cup of sugar in the warm liquid. When it is warm (not hot) add it to the scoby that is resting in your gallon jar in a few inches of water or Kombucha from the last batch.
Fill the remainder of the jar up with water leaving a few inches of room at the top.
Cover the jar with a paper towel and put a rubber band around the top. This is to prevent fruit flies from getting in. I had fruit flies in my kitchen from the compost and they didn’t bother my Kombucha in the dining room at all.
The Kombucha needs to be stored in a warm, dark place. Some people store their Kombucha in a dark cupboard but my cupboards are all full so I left it on the dining room table with a towel over it to keep out the light.
Brewing takes a minimum of seven days. The further out from seven days you go the more acidic or vinegar-like it gets. I prefer it a little sweeter so I went right up to seven days and then took it out.
I have a second jar I’m going to let go until 10 days so I can see what the difference in taste is. If you let it go several weeks it will get to some vinegar like state and you can do something with that but I’m not sure what. You can also experiment with green and black teas. Some say they need to be caffeinated. Teas with oils as flavors (like Earl Grey) are not recommended as they can harm the scoby.
Flavors from fruits can be added later, after the brewing is done, but I haven’t tried that yet either.
On the left, the jar with the paper towel on it has a scoby on the bottom. This is my scoby hotel where I am going to store my scobies for use as I want them. The jar on the right is the one that I haven’t poured into jars yet and am going to let ferment for a few more days.
WHAT TO DO WHEN IT IS DONE
Below you will see the plastic and glass jars that I poured my completed Kombucha into. I will store them in the fridge until I’m ready to drink them. I’m hoping they won’t lose their carbonation in the larger containers if I only drink some at a time. I think it will be like any soda. If there is a large amount of air in the container, the Kombucha will eventually lose its fizz.
Refrigerate, drink and enjoy! I know I will. Hopefully I’ll survive 🙂
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kombucha-tea/AN01658 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kombucha http://kombuchablog.com/kombucha/
Smallest Theater In Minneapolis? Maybe…But Also One of the Best!
I love taking my child to the theatre and I’m pretty sure she likes it to. However, the major children’s theater in Minneapolis/St. Paul, despite its amazing performances, can be pretty pricey. Tonight I discovered a new, community-based theatre that I fell in love with. The theater is the Open Eye Figure Theater and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The show we saw was Milly and Tillie, and it truly was silly.
I paid full price for our tickets and I believe the total was around $15.00 for both of us. So, given the price and the extras you’ll soon find out about, I was awestruck at the quality of the performance and how the whole experience was truly tailored to children, while keeping adults engaged as well.
The whole theatre seats 90 people. It is so cute and warm and inviting! Notice the benches in the front. They are about six feet from the stage so the little ones can really get in on the action.
Tickets are available on-line or in person on the night of the show. They also had a “pay what you can” option that you could select on-line. Furthermore, they have a “no one will be turned away due to an inability to pay” so just show up for the show you want to see and pay what you can. They are bound to have empty seats.
The theatre is just east of 35W between Franklin and Lake Streets. It looks like a renovated warehouse. From the outside you wouldn’t even know there was a theatre if it weren’t for the chalk drawings on the sidewalk outside. The inside is so warm and cozy and quaint…Just a great feel to it.
This particular performance used both stage actresses, puppets and silhouettes or shadow puppets. The pace was good and the energy amazing. Child and adults alike were entertained for the duration.
The theater was only about a two-thirds full and there was plenty of seating available upfront on the low couch-like pews that are meant for the younger set. If you’re interested in showing up for a performance at the last minute, I would say go for it! Otherwise you can pre-order your tickets on line and just give them your name when you arrive. They have a printed out list of names. Nothing fancy. No frills.
The best two things about the Open Eye Figure Theatre (besides the price and the quality) are the sidewalk chalk that children can use before and after the performances and the free ice cream cones that they handed out in the lobby following the show. The show was only 45 minutes long so no intermission was needed. We had a choice of butter brickle or strawberry ice cream in a cake cone. Many patrons hung outside after the show, chatting and socializing.
While we were waiting for the performance to start a little six year old Latina girl came in and plopped herself down in the front row. One of the three staff came over and checked in with her to see if she was by herself. When she said yes, the staff person said, “That’s okay. That’s cool. Just checking.” I introduced my daughter to her and they became fast friends, getting water together, sitting next to each other on the bench, holding hands while getting ice cream. The little girl said she lived in the neighborhood, which is economically and socially challenged. It was so nice to see that she had a place to go on a Saturday night that was safe and free. During the course of the show I learned that she had seen the performance before. She consoled my four year old during the thunderstorm scene and when Tillie was dressed like a shark she told my daughter that the shark wasn’t real, that is was actually one of the sisters.
I would say this is truly an under-explored community gem…a great place for families, kids and friends, and a community service. Bringing art and drama to low income families. If you have a chance, take your family to see a performance at the Open Eye Theatre. You won’t regret it and your wallet and your spirit won’t either.
Tamarack Nature Center: A True Childhood Learning Experience
This is a view overlooking the large, multifaceted play area (aka Discovery Hollow) of the Tamarack Nature Center located in White Bear Township, Minnesota. Tamarack Nature Center is run by one of our local counties and is a 20 minute drive north from the downtown area. It consists of three main areas: the Waterway area, the Log Play area and a huge vegetable and herb garden. (There is also a large “Garden Kitchen” which I assume they use during the camps and summer programs.)
Here is a sign marking the water way areas. There are two sources of water that feed into the sand beds. One is up higher and the other down lower.
The best part of Tamarack Nature Center is the Waterways. They have a huge sand bar that is fed with water by human operated systems. When the water goes off, one touch and you can turn it back on. It goes for about a minute and so you get to keep turning it back on as the children desire. (My four year old learned how to turn it on so that made things easy.) The water was also REALLY cold which was nice for such a hot day. As you can see, the children were enjoying the water and sand play both viscerally and intellectually, depending on their age and desired play activity.
Here are a few shots of a Dad and his son making a dam in the water area.
In addition to the water and sand area there was a more shaded area with logs and branches that the children could move around to create forts or whatever their imagination desired. I saw a father instructing his young child on the physics of paddling a canoe while sitting on a log with a stick-for-a-paddle in hand!
In general, the park was also just plain beautiful. It sits on a very large piece of undeveloped land. Here’s a shot looking out over the field just adjacent to the play area.
This was another little area. I assume they use it for presentations or for preschool activities and the like.
Not far from the play area the rocks and flowers were a source of attraction as well.
I love the windwill and this view of the park.
Inside the Nature Center itself there was also a large room with live animals (turtles, salamanders, bees). It had a beautiful high ceiling and lots of windows looking out over the meadows and the bird feeders. There was a kids’ corner with books and nature puzzles.
I believe there are also paths to walk and more nature sights to see. I look forward to our next foray into the Tamarack Nature Center! Perhaps in the winter?