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Why Boys Should Read Books About Girls

Mar-08, 2021

A boy reading a book under the covers with a flashlight

Is there such a thing as a "boy's book" and a "girl's book?"

To many people, the answer to this question is "Yes, of course! Girl's books are about girls." This is a very damaging statement, and sends a very negative message to boys and girls alike. Not only does it devalue literature written about girls, but it prevents boys from connecting to stories that they would probably love reading. The Harry Potter series has been one of the most phenomenal franchises in recent years, with girls and boys alike swept up in the fantasy of the wizarding world. But what if the series was called Hermione Granger? Would it have had the same critical acclaim and appeal?

When it comes to reading, there is a definite gender gap that appears as students progress through elementary school. Teachers, librarians, and authors have struggled for years to get boys to stay interested in reading as they grow up. Studies have shown that boys tend to read slower than girls, demonstrate lower reading comprehension than girls, and value reading less than girls do, with almost 40% of boys describing reading as "boring" and "no fun."

Does that mean we should give up on reading as an activity for boys? No way! Lots of boys love to read, and all boys benefit from strong language arts skills. If your son struggles with reading, the key is to find the kind of material that they will enjoy. First of all, don't discount the many forms of reading that aren't what we would think of as traditional children's or YA books. Graphic novels, magazines, comic books, newspapers, and articles all contribute towards building reading skills and sparking the imagination.

We can also be mindful of the subject matter we choose for our boys to read about. Fuel natural curiosity by providing reading material on topics that interest your child. Find material written about the hobbies your son enjoys, the sports they participate in, or the projects they create. Reading can be an extension of these interests.

Another factor which may discourage boys from reading is parents deciding what their boys should or shouldn't read. Recently, several female authors have gone on record saying how parents can discourage boys from reading books about girls. Librarians, teachers, and bookstore employees have also encountered this issue. And as they are quick to point out, a story about a cat isn't written to be read by cats, so why should a story about girls be only for girls?

While many, many children's books are written about boy protagonists, YA novels for tweens and teens have mostly female protagonists. And while this shift reflects readership, since most readers in that age bracket are female, it can further discourage boys from reading if parents don't even consider suggesting these books for them.

The challenge for us as parents, when choosing materials to suggest to our sons to read, is to find material, fiction or nonfiction, which aligns with their interests, and use that as an opportunity to break negative stereotypes and our own preconceptions about what a "girl's book" or a "boy's book" can be. To get you started, we've compiled some books to add to your son's reading list, based on interest.

Sports

  • Sisters: Venus & Serena Williams by Jeanette Winter (Ages 3+)
  • Players in Pigtails by Shana Cory (Ages 5+)
  • Maime on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball's Negro Leagues by Leah Henderson (Ages 6+)
  • Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky (Ages 10+)

Outerspace

  • Look Up! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Astronomer by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon (Ages 4+)
  • Caroline's Comets: A True Story written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (Ages 5+)
  • The Care and Feeding of a Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas (Ages 8+)
  • 5 Worlds Book 1: The Sand Warrior by Mark Segel and Alexis Segel, illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockafeller, and Boya Sun (Ages 9+)

Superheroes

  • The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Phan (Ages 5+)
  • The Adventures of Jo Schmo by Greg Trine and illustrated by Frank W. Dormer (Ages 6+)
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World (A Squirrel Girl Novel) by Shannon and Dean Hale (Ages 8+)
  • Zita the Spacegirl Trilogy by Ben Hatke (Ages 9+)

Happy reading!


Should Kids Play Outside During Winter?

Dec-28, 2021

A young girl on a sled sliding downhill while her father watches

Wintertime can be a very special time for families, when we enjoy time off from work and school, celebrate holidays together, and share uniquely wintery activities that just aren't possible or as fun at the other times of year.

However, wintertime can often lead to stagnation. Days are shorter, temperatures drop, and there's definitely an impulse to cocoon ourselves on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, a mug of cocoa, and shut out the world until Spring. But if we do that, we're not only missing out on what makes winter so special, we're also doing a disservice to our kids. Kids need physical activity all year round, and they can't get it without being let outside to play, no matter the season.

But why is it so important that our kids get daily exercise? Is it just to control their body weight, and counteract the effects of couch sitting and popcorn munching? Though physical activity is most often linked in pop culture to weight loss and weight management, the truth is that staying active has a wide variety of benefits, both for kids and adults. Just as weight is not the only indicator of good or bad health, physical activity can have only a minor connection to a person's weight. When it comes to child development, the positive effects of physical activity are various.

Children over 6 years old should have at least 1 hour of physical activity per day. Their bodies are developing every day, so physical activity helps them build strong bones, muscles, nervous systems, and vascular systems. Physical activity also increases flexibility, stamina, balance, fine motor skills, and posture. All this activity is good for the brain as well as the body. Not only does physical activity improve cognition in kids, but is also linked to self-esteem, mental health, and socialization.

With so many various benefits for your child, there is no reason to limit their physical activity at any part of the year. So, why do so many parents keep kids in the house for much of the winter months? What are the risks associated with outdoor activity in cold weather?

Many parents avoid extensive time outdoors with their kids due to fears of illness. Cold weather has always been thought of as causing the spread of germs or a weakened immune system, so much so that we've dubbed common nose and throat infections "colds." So, is this reputation scientifically true? Yes and no.

Studies suggest that being cold does weaken the immune system. So yes, when our kids walk around with their coats undone or underdressed for the season, it does make them more likely to catch a cold. However, this is an easy fix, and all the more reason to encourage activity when children are outside to keep their heart rates and body heat higher. Cold air is also drier than warm air, and breathing in dry air over time can affect the body's ability to fight infection. Room humidifiers or taking a hot shower after prolonged exposure to cold, dry air are good ways to counteract this effect.

Another reason that winter is associated with colds is because we tend to go outside less often. Germs are more likely to be spread indoors than outdoors, so the longer you're inside, the more likely you are to get sick. Additionally, in wintertime we tend to get less sun, which is a vital source of Vitamin D. Absorbing sunlight through the skin helps keep our immune system in check and fight fatigue and general achiness.

As long as proper precautions are taken, outdoor activities are essential to a child's health in the wintertime. Plus, there are so many unique wintertime activities you don't want to miss out on!

Firstly, we know that not every area experiences winter the same way. In many places in the US, the temperature does not drop enough to form ice and snow. However, there are places most of us can visit close by in wintertime that do. So, if you're in a place which doesn't usually experience below freezing temperatures, maybe plan a trip for the family and create new memories!

Here are some of our favorite wintertime activities in snowy or icy environments!

  • Snow painting
  • Frozen dreamcatchers
  • Snowball fights
  • Snow-based desserts
  • Ice block building

And here are some activities you can do at any temperature!

  • Creating bird feeders
  • Window painting
  • Bonfires
  • Winter gardening
  • Flashlight tag

So, will you be encouraging your kids to spend more time outside this winter? Be safe and have fun!


How To Deal with a Temper Tantrum

Nov-30, 2020

crying child, child being comforted, temper tantrum, family

It's one of the hardest things for a parent to deal with: the temper tantrum! Whether it's in public or in private, at the dinner table, the grocery store, before school, or at bedtime, they are a major cause of stress for parents of toddlers and preschool aged children. Kids have meltdowns for many reasons, and it's an unavoidable part of their development. While this may be an unpleasant reality for parents, the truth is that children don't enjoy having tantrums, either. As a child becomes self-aware and autonomous, they will encounter many difficulties and, not knowing how to deal with them, they break down in a mixture of anger and sadness. As adults, it's our job to learn why temper tantrums happen, how we can help our kids avoid being pushed to their breaking point, and how to modify their behavior to discourage future meltdowns.

What causes temper tantrums?

While the specifics of what exactly triggers a temper tantrum can change with age, experts agree that the root of tantrums is the child not getting what they want. Babies signal when they need attention by crying, but as a child begins to be more aware, they understand that there are other ways to communicate. However, pre-verbal children lack the proper communication skills required to accurately convey how they feel, and the frustration of not being understood can lead to a meltdown. As children age, they become better at communicating their needs, but encounter the frustration of their desires not being met. As children age more and begin to be more independent, frustration can manifest when they are unable or not allowed to do things on their own. Even elementary aged children can experience tantrums from time to time when unable to process their emotions, or if they feel that throwing a tantrum will get them what they want. While the occasional tantrum is unavoidable, properly dealing with and anticipating the behavior is the best way to limit the number of meltdowns your child has, and to teach them that it is not the way to get them what they want.

What NOT to do when your child has a temper tantrum!

While it may seem counterintuitive, showing comfort to our children when they have a temper tantrum is actually not the best way to respond. Remember, the child is frustrated, not sad. The tears are just a side effect. We've all seen how a tantruming toddler can squirm away from our hugs and kisses, how grandpa or grandma intervening with affection can make their meltdown even worse. This is why. Comfort is not addressing the issue at hand. A child who is sad or scared absolutely needs to be shown love and affection. But a tantruming child does not. It is not the response they are looking for and can be confusing and compound their frustration. Instead, seek to comfort the child after the tantrum has passed, when they have a better grip on their emotions. Generally, they will seek out your comfort at that point, since they are exhausted and maybe even disoriented. That's when you can give them the stability of your love and care.

The biggest mistake a parent can make is give a tantrum positive reinforcement. This can include giving in when the child has been told no, offering a bribe for good behavior, or even an excess of attention. All of these reactions teach the child that screaming, crying, and causing a scene are the fastest way to get them what they're after. It also undermines a parent's authority when they say one thing and do another. Remember, our children are learning EVERYTHING from us. They have no frame of reference other than the media they consume. This means that the standards we set are the only ones they understand. One-time exceptions don't really mean anything to a 2-year-old. It can be very, very difficult sometimes not to try everything when our kids are acting out or melting down, especially in public. We feel embarrassed, maybe even ashamed. But every time you give in, imagine the number of tantrums your child will ever have multiplied, because you have reinforced the behavior with a reward. If we are strong, firm, and follow the correct methods, we will only have to deal with these difficult moments a few more times in our life before our child learns better behaviors.

The BEST things to do when your child has a temper tantrum.

The most effective method in nearly every situation is to ignore the tantrum. Children cycle through emotions quickly, and if the tantrum isn't getting the result they want, be it a cookie, a toy, or just attention, they will eventually come back to the parent for comfort, as we discussed earlier. Experts suggest acknowledging tantrums after the fact, but referring to them in the past. If the tantrum is over something rules related, like bedtime or cleaning, the same advice applies. Remember, tantrums do not get children out of their obligations, we just wait until they have regained control of themselves and then move forward. Positive attention at this stage can be helpful, praising the child for calming down and regaining their composure. As they age and gain experience, they will understand that a temper tantrum does not yield any positive results, and all it does is make them feel bad.

As parents, one of the best things we can do for our children is avoid situations that cause temper tantrums. And no, that doesn't mean giving in to your child's every whim! Instead, we need to anticipate their needs, and try to think the same way they do. A great way to do this is to understand and communicate how they view time. Giving a child "five more minutes before bed" or "fifteen more minutes in the park" is meaningless if they cannot tell time. Instead, use concreate examples, like "Once this TV show is over, it's time for bed," or "Two more laps on your bike around the park and then we're leaving." These are concepts that your child understands, and they won't feel surprised when it's time to move on to the next activity.

Being keenly aware of your child's eating and sleeping schedules will also help avoid tantrums. Kids are always more prone to emotional outbursts when they are hungry or tired, so try to avoid potentially triggering activities before lunch, dinner, naptime, or bedtime. Remember, don't use sweets or snacks as a bribe. Instead, use snacks before an activity, like a serving of cheese crackers before going to the grocery store. The idea is to empower your child and give them a feeling of control to hold onto. Consider giving them options to choose, making lists, and other ways to make them feel like participants, not bystanders. This will also help them to feel more autonomous, and be less discouraged when things don't go their way. Our children's minds are constantly changing and developing. When we do whatever we can do think like they do and support them as they grow, the happier they will be!


How to Create the Best At-Home Learning Space

Aug-07, 2020

girl, at home learning space, homework, working on laptop, home office, organization

As we discussed when we made our ultimate back-to-school checklist, every child needs their own space, whether they are doing a full day of remote learning or just a few minutes of homework. A good at-home learning space provides your child with a peaceful area within the home dedicated to their education. How can you maximize the efficiency of your child's at home learning space? Let's go over some pro-tips.

Avoid Distractions

Your kid's learning space should feel separate and under their control. Try to find a space in your home away from tv's, gaming consoles, and other distracting devices and toys. If your child's learning space is in their room, consider an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach, and make sure all items that could potentially distract are put away in bins or even moved to another area of the house entirely. Also, avoid highly trafficked areas in your home like the kitchen. While a kitchen island may be a good place to work on homework together, it can break a child’s focus when cooking is happening and they are trying to work. Also consider how sharing a home office may affect your child if your work requires making frequent phone calls. Consider the kind of working environment you feel most productive in and try to duplicate.

Get Organized

We all do our best work in an organized space. Identify all the items your child needs daily and have those within arms' reach. Items that are used occasionally should be stored close by but not directly on the desk or table to avoid clutter. If utilizing a file cabinet or larger storage container, try to find a way to break up shelving into smaller sections with baskets or dividers, and use labeling. You don't want your child to be digging through stacks of books and papers or large dumps of supplies to find the one thing they need, especially during a live teaching session.

Incorporate the Natural World

Try to find a place in your home with lots of natural light. Sunlight for children is more important to their health and development than you might think. In the normal school environment, they may not have the chance to soak in sunshine, so take every opportunity you can! Also consider a small plant or two for your child to care for if you have room. Plants bring joy to a house, and are the perfect companion for a child working on their studies. We forget sometimes that plants are living creatures just like we are, and unlike a pet which may bother your child for attention and maintenance, a houseplant will provide silent support throughout the day.

Purchase Supplies Secondhand

While we may be tempted to go all out and create a Pinterest or Instagram worthy at-home learning space for our kids, the truth is that organizational supplies can be very expensive, and highly marked up in price specifically if they are cute or trendy. Consider shopping secondhand for your supplies. Many local teachers host buy-sell-trade groups online where they sell supplies to one another. If you buy from them, you're being fiscally responsible, supporting sustainability, and helping out a teacher in your community who, let's face it, deserves it more than anyone!

With these tips, you can turn any corner of your house into the perfect at-home learning space to set your child up for success!

 

Want more help for your kids this school year? You can get homework help, math, and language arts instruction from real teachers at an affordable monthly rate by checking out our link!


Navigating the Pandemic as a Working Parent

Aug-07, 2020

mom and kids, annoyed mother, working from home, parenting

While working from home has been an aspiration for many, these were definitely not the circumstances anyone dreamed about. What started as a new challenge with many pros and cons has evolved into what may be a way of life for us for the foreseeable future. Factor in differences of opinion between key decision makers in various administrations, the mental fatigue of living through a crisis, and the uncertainty of our future health and financial prospects, and you have a recipe for extreme stress and a temptation to completely shut down.

While the working parent can comfort themselves with the fact that they are still able to have a job during the pandemic, this cannot combat all of our negative emotions, alleviate all of our worries, or solve all of our problems. So how do we navigate the realities of the pandemic as working parents? Let's take a look.

Form a Pod

First of all, let's learn from the spring of 2020 - we cannot do it all ourselves. Many working parents reported high stress and anxiety as their children began to come home with their supplies and devices to support remote learning provided by their schools. Juggling transitioning from the regular office to the home office while supervising kids 24/7 proved a tough task. This year, if kids are not returning to school, get out ahead of their back-to-school date with a solid plan. Is it safe for a family member to visit your home, or for them to supervise kids at theirs, even for a few days a week or a few hours each day? Can you partner with neighbors in a similar situation? This kind of group quarantining is known as "pods," and forming one may be an essential component of daily life for a working parent.

Get Serious About Your Boundaries

When things feel uncertain, the comfort of a routine can be extremely important. By now, you have a very good grasp on your own schedule, whether you work from home or go back into an office setting. Build your child's routine around yours. Throwing yourself and your work into turmoil will not help anyone. If you're up at 5 or 6 am, try to keep your kids to the same schedule so they aren't trying to stay up late when you need to sleep and souring the end of each night. If your day starts later, theirs can, too. That way they aren't tip-toeing around the house early in the morning, creating stress to start their day and potentially shortening your sleep.

It's also important to set up dedicated spaces in the house for everyone to do their work. If it's convenient, dedicate part of your home office as a learning space for your child. We've spoken before about how to create the perfect learning space for your child or children. The most important thing is to find a space where all supplies can be gathered in one area, and you don't need to interrupt your work to be fetching supplies. Your children's office set up should be just as detailed and well stocked as yours for maximum efficiency.

Don't Forget About Recess

Just because our kids have to stay-at-home, doesn't mean we are trapped in the house. As a working parent, it may sometimes feel like you're not giving your children enough. But kids have incredible imaginations, energy, and a capacity to be flexible. A great way to keep everyone in the family's morale up is to embrace recess. Now might be the time to invest in some nice bicycles, a sandbox, an inflatable pool, or other outdoor gear. Sitting and staring at screens for hours on end can be very detrimental to our health, so make sure to factor in plenty of fresh air, physical activities, or even 1-minute dance parties!

We hope that with this advice, navigating the pandemic as a working parent will be a little easier. If you want more support at home, considering enrolling in Best Brains. Many centers are offering daytime learning, where your kids can connect face-to-face with real teachers from the US and Canada who lead children through fun activities, homework help, and learning exercises. You can get started here.


Virtual Learning Advice for Stay-at-Home Parents

Aug-07, 2020

mother and daughter, online learning, watching videos, parent and child

While people might initially assume that the current COVID situation has not affected stay-at-home parents very much, this could not be further from the truth. Between school aged children now being required to be at home all day, after school activities canceled or moved online, and partners either working from home or not working at all, things have dramatically changed for stay-at-home parents.

A major aspect of this change has been stay-at-home parents taking on the role of teacher as well as caretaker. While being used to provide support and assistance to their kids, this extra expectation has become a source of added stress. We've compiled some tips so that stay-at-home parents can navigate the current situation and flourish!

Take Time to Connect

One of the major challenges facing stay-at-home parents has been loneliness. When partners and children leave the house every weekday, the stay-at-home parent is left behind. This can cause major feelings of loneliness and separation, which can lead to depression and resentment. While many stay-at-home parents maintain support groups to share feelings, vent frustrations, or simply to socialize, they can't always replace the attention and togetherness of family.

Now that kids and partners are home-based, there are still separations that occur. Children still need to do the majority of coursework on their own to make sure they are learning independently. When not doing school work or after school studies, they may want to play in isolation with tablets, computers, or gaming consoles. And while partners may be physically present, they are still on the clock and not able to engage. Having people in the home but not being able to connect with them can be incredibly frustrating for a stay-at-home parent dealing with loneliness.

We advise that families in this situation embrace family time as a means to combat these feelings. While everyone's mental well-being is important, it is vital that the rest of the family embrace and support the stay-at-home parent as loved, needed, and appreciated. Use family dinner an anchor point to keep everyone connected.

Share the Work

As the stay-at-home parent, you are probably the primary caretaker for not only the kids, but the entire family. Your family is probably not used to seeing what you do all day to keep things running, and probably don't notice the extra cooking and cleaning generated by their constant presence in the house. A lot of stay-at-home parents feel an obligation and a sense of pride from taking on the caretaking, but in extreme circumstances you are not expected to be superhuman!

Taking on the added time and effort to help your child with their virtual learning means that some things are not going to get done the way you and your family are used to, and that's okay. Having kids help you with the chores or making lunch is a great way to break up their day, get them away from screens, and have bonding time. You can even incorporate elements of the work they’re doing in school into the tasks. Little kids can count out how many grapes go on their plate. Use laundry as a way for slightly older kids to practice their multiplication tables ("If there are 2 socks per bundle, and there are 4 bundles, how many socks are there in total?"). We've discussed in our blog before the benefits of chores for our kids, so embrace it!

Also, if you do have a partner or other family members at home, now is the time to involve them with the running of the house. While you may under normal circumstances be embarrassed to reach out to them, circumstances are anything but normal. And who knows? They may be waiting for you to reach out and ask for help, and don’t offer for fear of hurting your pride or making you feel embarrassed. Just like we teach our children, be honest and open about your feelings, and don't keep it inside.

Seek Help from Others

If stay-at-home parents were meant to be teachers, we wouldn't have schools at all. But the truth is that, especially now, there is so much to learn and so many distractions and hurdles that get in the way of that learning. The current situation is just the latest and the largest.

Being a kid in the 21st century is not easy. Many parents today were kids themselves in this current century, and as millennials we are still navigating how expanded technology, social media exposure, and ever-increasing divides between groups affects us on a fundamental level. Fortunately, there are places to turn to when you need help, particularly when it comes to assistance with virtual learning.

Solutions like private tutors or pod learning, hiring a full-time teacher to offer in-person class for a group of 3-6 kids hosted out of a home, may be out of reach for many. An affordable option many parents have turned to is signing up for online learning through Best Brains. Their staff of certified teachers has gone fully online, offering weekly sessions in Math and English once a week to keep kids on track. They also offer homework help for normal classwork, so stay-at-home parents have someone they can turn to for difficult math questions, organizing research projects, or crafting essays. Plus, unlike many online learning companies that have only opened in the last few month, Best Brains has been an established brand for almost a decade.

Whether you've been a stay-at-home parent for years or have been made one by the current situation, know that you are not alone. There are resources out there and plenty of people whose job it is to support you and your family through this difficult time. Together, we will get through this better than ever!

 

Want to sign up for online learning with Best Brains? Let's get started!