Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.
This classic toy is an awesome way to practice the logic and problem-solving skills that are crucial to STEM education. Here’s how to harness the fun.
Toy or Tool?
This puzzle has come a long way since Erno Rubik, a professor of architecture in Hungary, invented it in 1974. Nowadays, Brown says, the Cube can be used as a hands-on way to teach algorithms, which are the foundation of computer programming and mechanics. “Figuring out how to solve problems is the heart of the scientific process,” so tinkering with the Rubik’s Cube fits right in with STEM education goals, Brown says. Learning one algorithm (on YouTube, say) helps kids start to break down solutions into steps, each of which builds on the last. They learn to think critically in general and are able to generate more flexible and effective strategies to solve this, or really any, puzzle.
Patrick Bossert, who wrote a bestselling instruction guide called You Can Do the Cube in 1981—when he was just 13!—agrees. He credits the puzzle for stimulating his love of logical reasoning, central to which are the Cube’s “if…then” formulas. If you twist one side up, for example, then the blue square will be next to the green one. Kids will see these concepts in everything from math homework to business spreadsheets.
Bossert says cubing also helps develop spatial awareness, the ability to see and understand two or more objects in relation to each other and to oneself. Kids must follow instructions for placement that include the concepts of “over,” “under,” and “behind.” This may seem like simple stuff, but being able to visualize and then follow through with a step is actually a complex cognitive skill for kids. Cubing takes this ability to the next level by continuously rearranging the position of the parts—and also continuously testing and expanding kids’ sense of space.
Another benefit of cubing: strengthening pattern recognition, says Feliks Zemdegs, a record-holding speed cuber in Melbourne, Australia. As kids learn to recognize that, say, a white square in the center of one side means that a yellow square is in the center of the opposite one, they’re also learning the building blocks of pattern recognition in music, math, and more. And of course as kids get faster and faster, they push memory and finger dexterity too (hello, future surgeons!).
- RELATED: Get the Mafic’s Cube now!
The Need for Speed
Solving the Cube is one thing. Solving it fast—really fast—is another. In fact, “speed cubing,” as it’s called, has become a competitive sport. The World Cube Association actually holds tournaments where Cube lovers from all over the planet commune and compete. (The current record for fastest solve of the 4×4 cube? Just 21.54 seconds!) “Practice is the most important thing,” says Zemdegs, who actually holds the current world record. “It took me about three months to get my time under 30 seconds, but two years to get it down further by about nine seconds.”
Since his first solve, Nate has been hooked on cubing—trying different patterns, playing with more complex puzzles, and solving them faster and faster (he’s down to 50 seconds for the 3×3 cube!). Our household now boasts no less than 12 different cubes of varying size and style. With this skill squarely in his pocket, I think he may move on to his next hobby: ruling the world, of course.
Yesterday, we celebrated my daughter’s birthday.
For this special occasion, we decided to let her make her own birthday cake. It took more time to make but it was definitely worth the lesson!
Gratitude is one of the trickiest concepts to teach toddlers and preschoolers — who are by nature self-centered — but one of the most important. By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way. Grateful kids look outside their one-person universe and understand that their parents and other people do things for them — prepare dinner, dole out hugs, buy toys.
By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.
How to Teach Gratitude:
Children model their parents in every way, so make sure you use “please” and “thank you” when you talk to them. (“Thanks for that hug — it made me feel great!”) Insist on their using the words, too.
- Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Try to weave appreciation for mundane things into your everyday talk: “We’re so lucky to have a good cat like Eliott!” “Aren’t the colors in the sunset amazing?” “I’m so happy when you listen!” When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation.
- Have kids help. It happens to all of us: You give your child a chore, but it’s too agonizing watching him a) take forever to clear the table or b) make a huge mess mixing the pancake batter. The temptation is always to step in and do it yourself. But the more you do for them, the less they appreciate your efforts. (Don’t you feel more empathy for people who work outside on cold days when you’ve just been out shoveling snow yourself?) By participating in simple household chores like feeding the dog or stacking dirty dishes on the counter, kids realize that all these things take effort.
- Find a goodwill project. That doesn’t mean you need to drag your toddler off to a soup kitchen every week. Instead, figure out some way he can actively participate in helping someone else, even if it’s as simple as making cupcakes for a sick neighbor. “As you’re stirring the batter or adding sprinkles,” talk about how you’re making them for a special person, and how happy the recipient will be.
- Encourage generosity. Instead of throwing things away, donate toys and clothes to less fortunate kids.
- Insist on thank-you notes. Just the act of saying out loud why he loved the gift will make him feel more grateful.
- Practice saying no. Of course, kids ask for toys, video games, and candy — sometimes on an hourly basis. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to feel grateful when your every whim is granted. Saying no a lot makes saying yes that much sweeter.
- Be patient. You can’t expect gratitude to develop overnight — it requires weeks, months, even years of reinforcement. But trust me, you will be rewarded.
It might seem obvious but being able to name your feelings is the first step to controlling them.
Kids who have a hard time with Emotional Control could cry for half an hour or more without being able to stop or stay upset for a very long time no matter how many times you ask them to move on.
There are a few ways to help them manage their emotions. If you want to start early like I did with my toddler, start with simple games where they learn to:
Name the feeling and Recognize it when they see it. (which will also help them to read social cues)
For toddlers, I recommend Role Playing games https://www.mrmizrahi.com/collections/role-playing-toys
For teens, you can play Chance Games; they will teach your kids that they cannot control everything and to be more flexible when something that they don’t like happens. (https://www.mrmizrahi.com/collections/learning-flexibility)
On Memorial Day, we honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. Let us recommit ourselves to the values that our fallen soldiers fought for as we care for the families they left behind.
For children and teens to grow up healthy, it’s important they are physically active and eat healthy foods every day.
To help children develop habits that will last a lifetime, an active, healthy lifestyle must start early in life. Physical activity has benefits at every age, and helps kids:
- keep their heart and lungs strong and healthy,
- become more flexible,
- develop strong bones,
- keep a healthy body weight,
- lower the risk of several diseases and health problems,
- improve their mood and self-esteem,
- do better in school, and
- feel better about their bodies.
“Sedentary behavior” means time spent doing very little physical activity, such as sitting at a computer, playing video games, or watching television. Children and teens should spend less time on these activities and more time being active.
How can I get my kids to be active?
Your child learns the most about healthy active living from you. Include the whole family in regular physical activity and healthy eating. It’s easier if families do things together as part of the daily routine.
- Choose activities that suit your child’s age and stage of development.
- Give your child or teen lots of time to be active in both structured activities, like organized sports, and unstructured activities, like playing in a playground.
- Keep activities fun.
How can families support healthy active living?
- Playing organized sports (such as being on a soccer or hockey team) isn’t enough to keep children and youth healthy. Encourage your child or teen to be active every day, by walking or cycling to a friend’s house, skipping rope, or playing in a neighborhood park or playground.
- If you drive your children to school, try walking instead, or organize a walking club with neighbors.
- Encourage your children to take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
- Get your child involved in activities around the house: carrying the groceries, raking leaves, or shoveling snow.
- Be sure activities are safe. Children and youth should wear protective equipment for activities like cycling, skating, skateboarding, soccer, and other physical activities.
One of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.
Liza Baker, the executive editorial director at Scholastic, which just released its Kids & Family Reading Report, explains:
“It’s so important to start reading from Day One,” she says. “The sound of your voice, the lyrical quality of the younger [books] are poetic … It’s magical, even at 8 weeks old they focus momentarily, they’re closer to your heart.” As they begin to grow, families should make sure books are available everywhere in the home. But it shouldn’t end when kids begin to read on their own. “As they become independent readers, we tend to let them go, but even kids in older demographics love nothing more than that time with their parents,” Baker says. “We’re blown away that kids time and again said the most special time they recall spending with a parent is reading together.”
Below are some highlights of the report and tips for parents on how to turn their babies and children into readers.
Read aloud early — and keep it going! The good news, according to the new Kids & Family Reading Report by Scholastic, is that more than three out of four parents who have children ages 5 and younger start reading aloud before their child reaches his first birthday. This practice increased to 40 percent in 2016 from 30 percent in 2014 among parents who read aloud before their baby is 3 months old. The research also showed that more parents of 3- to 5-year-olds are reading aloud frequently, with 62 percent of these parents reading aloud five to seven days a week, compared with 55 percent in 2014.
But it’s not all great news: There’s been a drop in parents continuing to read aloud after age 5.
Tip to keep it going: Have fun and be playful. Use this as an opportunity to ham it up and perhaps create different character voices to really engage the child. Don’t be shy about not perfecting the read aloud — especially with little ones. Don’t feel discouraged if a younger child gets distracted or interrupts story time with questions. That’s all part of the learning journey and reading process. In fact, books like those in the new StoryPlay series feature prompts and questions for the parent to ask throughout the story to keep young kids engaged and to enhance early reading comprehension.
Don’t forget adding books in your home library that showcase diverse story lines and characters. When looking for children’s books to read for fun, both kids (37 percent) and parents (42 percent) mostly agree they “just want a good story” and a similar percentage want books that make kids laugh. One in 10 kids ages 12 to 17 say they specifically look for books that have “culturally or ethnically diverse story lines, settings or characters.”
It takes a village — look to teachers, school librarians and more for book suggestions. Scholastic asked kids where they get the best ideas for books to read for fun. Overall, kids say teachers and school librarians (51 percent), followed by their peers (50 percent). Younger kids (6 to 11) are the most likely to get great picks from school book clubs and fairs, and older kids (15 to 17) are the most likely to find book suggestions on social media.
Never forget — choice rules when kids read for fun. Eighty-nine percent of kids ages 6 to 17 agree that the favorite books “are the ones that I have picked out myself.” And book choice starts early, as 67 percent of parents with kids up to age 5 reported that their kids choose the books for read-aloud time. This goes up to 81 percent of parents with kids ages 3 to 5.
For all kids, parents with children up to age 17 recommend that the books that every child should read are Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Magic Tree House and The Chronicles of Narnia. Book series are a great way to get kids hooked on story lines and characters.
Tip: Make books accessible. Make sure your bookshelves are low enough for kids to reach the book that they want to read. Keep books by your children’s bedside, in the playroom — all over the house. Bring books with you on car trips, to the grocery store, or even to the doctor’s office waiting room. Rather than handing them a device, hand them a book they love. The more accessible you make books, the more you’ll see their reading frequency grow. Also, if your child needs a bit more guidance on choosing books, narrow it down to a nice range of selection and invite them to pick the book they want for that moment. It will change day to day and month to month, so be open and ready to grow and change along with your budding lifelong reader.
Source: Washington Post
Critical Thinking Defined
Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as, ‘How do you know that? Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?’ and ‘Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?’
Additionally, critical thinking can be divided into the following three core skills:
- Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
- Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
- Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.
A well-cultivated critical thinker:
- Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
- Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
- Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
- Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
- Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
6 Crucial critical thinking skills (and how you can improve them)
While there’s no universal standard for what skills are included in the critical thinking process, we’ve boiled it down to the following six. Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker.
The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it. Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions.
How to improve: When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions:
- Who is doing what?
- What seems to be the reason for this happening?
- What are the end results, and how could they change?
When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key. Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate.
How to improve: It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims. Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from? If you ask or try to find it yourself and there’s no clear answer, that should be considered a red flag. It’s also important to know that not all sources are equally valid—take the time to learn the difference between popular and scholarly articles.
3. Identifying biases
This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively. Think of yourself as a judge in that you want to evaluate the claims of both sides of an argument, but you’ll also need to keep in mind the biases each side may possess.
It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgment. “Have the courage to debate and argue with your own thoughts and assumptions,” Potrafka encourages. “This is essential for learning to see things from different viewpoints.”
How to improve: “Challenge yourself to identify the evidence that forms your beliefs, and assess whether or not your sources are credible,” offers Ruth Wilson, director of development at Brightmont Academy.
First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following:
- Who does this benefit?
- Does the source of this information appear to have an agenda?
- Is the source overlooking, ignoring or leaving out information that doesn’t support its beliefs or claims?
- Is this source using unnecessary language to sway an audience’s perception of a fact?
The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. Information doesn’t always come with a summary that spells out what it means. You’ll often need to assess the information given and draw conclusions based upon raw data.
The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs 260 pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy. Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion.
How to improve: An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.
5. Determining relevance
One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. In many scenarios, you’ll be presented with information that may seem important, but it may pan out to be only a minor data point to consider.
How to improve: The best way to get better at determining relevance is by establishing a clear direction in what you’re trying to figure out. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend? If you figure out your end goal, you can use this to inform your judgment of what is relevant.
Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One strategy for combating this is to make a physical list of data points ranked in order of relevance. When you parse it out this way, you’ll likely end up with a list that includes a couple of obviously relevant pieces of information at the top of your list, in addition to some points at the bottom that you can likely disregard. From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation.
It’s incredibly easy to sit back and take everything presented to you at face value, but that can also be also a recipe for disaster when faced with a scenario that requires critical thinking. It’s true that we’re all naturally curious—just ask any parent who has faced an onslaught of “Why?” questions from their child. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. But that’s not a winning approach for critical thinking.
How to improve: While it might seem like a curious mind is just something you’re born with, you can still train yourself to foster that curiosity productively. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions.
“Being able to ask open-ended questions is an important skill to develop—and bonus points for being able to probe,” Potrafka says.
Become a better critical thinker
Thinking critically is vital for anyone looking to have a successful college career and a fruitful professional life upon graduation. Your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate complex subjects and situations will always be useful. Unlock your potential by practicing and refining the six critical thinking skills above.
Most professionals credit their time in college as having been crucial in the development of their critical thinking abilities. If you’re looking to improve your skills in a way that can impact your life and career moving forward, higher education is a fantastic venue through which to achieve that.
There is no way we can ever thank our mother enough for all she does for us. #MothersDay is the best time to say in words how much we love and care for our moms.
Happy mothers day to all mothers in the world.
Your love is like no other.
You lead by example.
You nurture us when we feel defeated.
You stand proudly with us in our struggle, and forgive us when we lose our way.
Happy Mothers Day!
I found this amazing article on using your children’s unique Skills that I wanted to share with you:
“I use a strengths-based approach in the classroom, and I look for ways to tell my students, “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”
A child’s reality is created by the words adults use to describe him. If adults continually talk about student deficits, the student will define himself by what he lacks. This is often the case for kids with attention and learning disorders, who are reminded daily of the skills they’re missing. They think: If they see themselves as deficient, then what’s the point of trying at school?
Using a strengths-based model of teaching kids with disabilities gives kids the chance to redefine themselves and their education in terms of what makes them great — and kids with ADHD have a lot of great qualities. They tend to be more creative, innovative, hyperfocused, and have an incredible sense of humor, which are among the reasons I so love working with them.
Kids come with strengths and weaknesses, and harnessing the strengths leads to improvement across the board. It also creates a more engaged learner. In fact, a collection of Gallup data reported that kids who were taught in a strengths-based model earned higher GPAs and were absent from school less often. This is also true in the grownup world. We choose jobs based on our natural strengths, and probably wouldn’t show up to work if we didn’t have opportunities to use our skills on a daily basis.
Helping a child discover and leverage his unique skills helps him develop the confidence to be a learner, and the courage to overcome his weaknesses. Creating that positive atmosphere also makes collaborating with other teachers more productive and enjoyable as they begin to acknowledge one another’s aptitudes.
While adopting a strengths-based model consists mainly of shifting to a positive mindset—acknowledging and creating opportunities for students to let their skills shine— there are some tricks to effectively shift the balance.
1. Measure strengths. Some kids have an idea of their own abilities, but many don’t know for sure. Even if they do, taking a quiz gives them a chance to say, out loud, what makes them great. You can find a series of great tests at UPenn, which contribute to a body of research. You can also find a lower-key Multiple Intelligences questionnaire for free at Scholastic.
2. Notice and tell kids’ about their strengths daily. It’s important to a) identify what exactly students did well, and b) pair it with an acknowledgement of their effort. Talent alone doesn’t get anyone to the Olympics, my friends, and hard work needs its due credit. If you’re feeling like something is missing in your classroom, challenge yourself to compliment each student daily.
3. Bait for success. Some kids give up on school at a young age when they feel like a perpetual failure. As a teacher, it’s difficult to acknowledge a student’s talents if she never demonstrates those talents. It’s very important — especially for difficult students — to create situations where those learners can be successful, in order for you to point out how skilled they are. They might have a creative solution, a unique insight, or the ability to be helpful when no one else was around. Give them bonus points if they see that no one else was able to accomplish that task (even if it’s because no one else was there). Every day, find some way to tell them: “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”
4. Give options. It can be hard to plan for a group with wide-ranging abilities. Did I say “hard?” It’s impossible. Almost. Providing options for a kid to show what he knows allows him to put his talents front and center and to take charge of his own education. This increases engagement and creates a more independent and self-advocating learner. It is an investment.
5. Teach collaboration. None of us accomplishes anything alone, and nobody is good at everything. Allow children to recognize each other’s specialties and use them together to create something great. Plan group projects, teach students to ask each other questions if they get stuck, and compliment one another throughout the process. Then watch your class collectively develop a great attitude as they learn!”
Source can be found here.