Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 2 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut

Two weeks ago, we began a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors. Our first post discussed common parental concerns about rewarding kids for good behavior. This week’s will focus on how to use a reward system effectively.

1. Define the target behavior and set up attainable goals. This involves planning what behavior(s) you want to target over time and then defining the behavior so it is specific, observable, measurable, positively-stated, and attainable:

Specific and Observable:
Avoid using vague terms that cannot be measured such as “Behaving,” “Listening,” or “Being nice.” Instead try “Staying next to parent outside of home,” “Using kind words with brother and sister.” Make sure the target behavior can be observed directly by anyone observing including a parent, nanny, or sitter.

Measurable: The next step is to make sure the goals are measurable. Make sure to focus on behavior and to avoid using thoughts and feelings in the goal because these internal states can’t be quantified by an observer. Also, make sure your goal has parameters like a time of day, number of reminders, or quantifiable amount. For instance, “Completing homework accurately,” could be defined as “Completing homework with at least 75% accuracy.”

Positively-Stated: After goals are specific and observable, they should be reworded if needed to ensure they are positively-stated. Positively-stated goals tell a child what to do instead of what not to do. For example: “Using a big boy voice,” or “Using an appropriate tone of voice,” can be used instead of “Not whining.”

Attainable: 
It’s important to set the target so it’s an improvement over where your child started but not so hard that it’s impossible. You want to find the right balance so you don’t reward things they are already doing and also don’t make it so difficult that they lose interest and your chart starts to collect dust. Adding a set number of reminders or specifying a small timeframe can help make challenging goals more attainable. Then when a child is successful, parents can make the target harder, which shapes the goal closer to the parents’ desired outcome. For instance, a goal of “Keeping hands and feet to self with 2 or fewer reminders in the afternoon,” can be changed to “1 or fewer reminders” after a child is consistently successful with 2 reminders.

2. Select Appropriate Rewards. Once targets are set, parents need to establish rewards based on their child’s preferences. Parents should brainstorm privileges, activities, and tangible items that would be enjoyable for their child. Examples of privileges or activities are extra screen time, extra story time, a board game with a parent, a craft or activity with a parent, a later bedtime, or an outing. Tangible items can include stickers, small prizes in a grab bag or treasure chest, a special treat, or items a child wants such as Pokemon cards, Legos, downloading a song or game, or gift cards. Parents should make sure the reward is something the child does not already get for free, such as offering an additional 20 minutes of screen time when current screen time is unlimited. They will also want to make sure they are comfortable withholding the rewards if the child does not earn them. For instance, a parent who is trying to help a child make more friends may not want to use play-dates as a reward. In general, younger children and children who have trouble waiting respond best to daily rewards and older children can wait for larger rewards.

3. Preparing Your Child: It’s important to prepare your child in advance by discussing briefly during a calm time. In this discussion you would want to let your child know what he or she will be working on and why, review how rewards can be earned and what types of rewards will be provided. You will also want to get input from the child about rewards.

4. Starting the Program, Giving Feedback, and Monitoring Progress: Once you start the system, it’s important to monitor and give feedback consistently after every opportunity to earn. Feedback should be praise when your child meets the goal and neutral feedback when he or she does not. For instance, positive feedback could be, “Great job getting dressed on your own with only one reminder.  You earned something from your reward list.”  Alternatively, on a tougher day, feedback could be, “I had to give you three reminders to get dressed today so you didn’t earn your reward.  We’ll try again tomorrow.”  You could also help problem solve with your child any difficulties depending on their age and ability.  In addition to regular verbal feedback, formally tracking progress is important to assess the effects of the program and determine next steps.  Having a visual such as tokens, a marble jar, or a behavior chart with stars or stickers helps the child understand the system and their progress. Visuals also can be important cues to busy parents that remind them to use the system.  In addition to providing a visual cue, behavior charts are particularly helpful for tracking progress over time to help parents decide when to make the goal easier or harder.

5. Troubleshooting: A number of problems can come up with reward systems. It’s important to consider several causes if your child is not responding or was responding and then stopped. One possible problem is your child’s motivation. Consider whether they are motivated by the reward, if the reward is too far in the future, and if the reward is something they already get for free. Sometimes refreshing the reward menu periodically can significantly help motivation and prevent a child from getting bored of the system. For children who are hard to motivate, pay attention to how they are spending their free time and what they are asking for. Some children are very motivated by parent attention and respond best to individual time with a parent or parent-child activities.  If it’s not a motivation problem, parents should consider whether they are giving regular and clear feedback consistently and should take steps to improve consistency by using reminders on a phone and/or placing the chart in a visible area. For parents with children who argue about their behavior, parents should make sure their feedback is given right when they see a behavior, let their child know that parent decisions are final, and then ignore arguing consistently.

Behavior charts can be very effective in changing behavior over time when used correctly. If you’ve tried these steps without positive results, you may want to consider professional guidance.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Earth Day Kids’ Activities

Kidz Central Station Earth Day

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22, 2018.  Did you know that Earth Day was started in 1970 to spotlight environmental causes and now is the largest globally celebrated non-religious event?  It’s never too early to get our kids involved and there are many activities for them in NYC this weekend.  Get moving!

Earth Day Activities in NYC

EvFruiggie 2ery day is Earth Day at Fruiggie, a 100% organic, eco-friendly, non-toxic creative space in Brooklyn with art classes and workshops for children.  Fruiggie uses recycled supplies in most arts and crafts projects and even edible paint.  Explore your child’s creativity in making a unique nature collage that uses cereal boxes, twigs, leaves, flowers, and bottle caps to make beautiful landscapes.  Fruiggie offers art classes and an eco-art camp for the summer.

Check out your local New York Public Library branch for various activities this Friday and Saturday.  From eco-crafts classes to storytime for toddlers to science projects for teens, there’s something for the whole family.  Our partner Art Farm in the City will be giving a LIVE animal presentation at Epiphany Library on Friday.

On Saturday, take a walk through the cherry blossom festival at Randall’s Island.  Lots of kid-friendly activities—face painting, kite flying, and even “yoyo balloon fishing.”   We’re going just to find out what that is.

Start your Sunday with a yummy family breakfast at the Queens Zoo.  The Wildlife Conservation Society has prepared a full day for families to visit the animals and take part in projects such as planting flowers or building birdhouses to teach our kids how to support local wildlife.  Or, if you’re near the Staten Island Zoo, try out their eco-crafts and hands-on activities to celebrate Earth Day.

Drive over (or back) to Manhattan and teach your young fashionistas to “upcycle” old clothes into new eco-fashion.  The Fashion Class will help budding designers and beginners take a button down shirt and transform it into a fabulous dress.  Sounds like a great way to channel our kids’ ingenuity.

Let’s get our kids involved this Earth Day and make them leaders in caring for our planet!

April is Autism Awareness Month

autismimageApril is Autism Awareness month as many organizations such as Autism Speaks and Autism Society promote awareness and acceptance of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is the fastest growing developmental disorder and now affects about 1 in 68 children (according to Autism Science Foundation). Considering this prevalence, ASD likely affects a family you know or your child knows. This is why Kidz Central Station is committed to helping educate our parents and community about both the challenges and the joys of children with Autism.

The Quad Manhattan is a top NYC school for children with learning differences. Teachers and clinicians work with students both one-on-one and in small groups to allow kids to move at their own pace of learning. Quad Manhattan offers a six-week summer camp for children ages 5+. Enroll in a free open house to learn more.

Music for Autism hosts FREE concerts for kids with autism and their friends, family, and loved ones. The Kidz Central team attended the March event and came away with a new appreciation for music in a loving and interactive setting. Our kids especially enjoyed dancing and playing instruments along with the music, as well as the tasty snacks. Two April events are upcoming in Park Slope and Manhattan.

Our partner NYU Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, offers many well-researched and FREE webinars for our parents on a range of helpful topics, including strategies for helping kids with social anxiety, safety awareness for kids with ASD, medication management for ADHD, or dating with ASD.

Please join Kidz Central Station this month and throughout the year by promoting understanding and acceptance of all of our children! Take a class, participate in a walk, donate, educate yourself with a webinar, or just spend time with someone with Autism.

Keeping Your Kids Ahead of the Class

gadda1With abundant choices available from daycare to nannies to 2s programs to pre-school, parents in New York City have a tough decision to make about childcare in the early years. More and more parents are looking for a one-stop solution that nurtures their child from infancy through pre-K while developing a familiar, social experience with a structured, learning environment.

With this in mind, the Kidz Central Station team recently toured the newly opened pre-school/daycare on 2nd Avenue called The Goddard School of Murray Hill in Midtown East. This is a play-based school with a focus on meaningful interactions with the children. 

We met Owner Rami Singh, a former Finance exec who developed a passion for early childhood education after becoming a father of two super adorable children who are now enrolled at the school. Like many of us, he found a void when considering the childcare debate. What is the choice for those of us who want a family feel experience for our kids that takes full advantage of these early, impressionable years?  His answer was to build it himself.

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A great advantage of The Goddard School of Manhattan in Murray Hill, which opened in November 2017, is the facility.  It is housed in a clean, vibrant space full of sunlight and brand new and spacious classrooms. And by clean, we mean the space is cleaned 3x a day!  The hallways are decorated with fun animal shapes, a world map, daily schedules, teachers’ curricula, and inspirational quotes. An outdoor rooftop playground is soon to come! There are more than enough areas to store strollers inside the building. Singh’s thoughtfulness for his venture shines through in the details, such as the international themes in the decor and even the intricate details in the rock climbing wall in the gym.  It is a truly modern space. We will say, from our experience, this is not easy to find in Manhattan. When many of us were searching for daycare years ago, we found many schools in the basements of buildings with cramped spaces that did not appeal to us.

Fantastic space aside, the curriculum and teachers are the real stars at this new school.  More than anything, the school strives to go beyond typical daycare and provide a “whole child experience” that appreciates each child’s individuality and taps into each child’s way of learning.  To that end, the curriculum is designed and then refined with the focus on the children, not the teachers or the parents, but the children.  The toys, the activities, the class layout, the schedule all focus on the children’s age and abilities.  We were intrigued by their philosophy of  F.L.EX to provide “a Fun Learning EXperience.”  That means giving children the freedom to have fun while discovering and exploring with hands-on activities, customized lessons, and nurturing encouragement.  In our opinion, the school was succeeding in this.

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We witnessed the positivity and warmth of the teachers firsthand as we toured the school.  The classrooms were filled with smiling faces and the teachers were happy to meet with us and let us see their classrooms in progress.  Each teacher is responsible for constructing the curriculum for his/her classroom to balance independent and cooperative learning with outdoor playtime.  For example, a Toddler full day schedule would include music, social skills, creative arts, yoga, nature studies, sign language, and Spanish among many other activities.  A Preschool schedule would include many of the above mentioned activities in addition to handwriting, math, science, dramatic play, computer lab, chess, reading readiness, and language arts.  It’s a full day schedule with many breaks built in such as nap/quiet time, snack and lunch as provided by the school, outside play, and circle time.

Many current parents give high marks to the school and enthusiastically recommend it to others.  They are are sent daily reports via app with photos and videos from the day.  They feel included in a cooperative and collaborative environment that takes their children’s progress and needs into account. The parents tout the engaged teachers, the beautiful facilities, the custom curriculum and the caring owner as pros.

The school is open through the summer and offers a camp that incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning.  They are developing a variety of themes to tailor to each child’s interests using play-based learning both inside and outside of the classroom.  And the rooftop playground (again, a huge plus in our books) is expected to be completed in July when camp opens.

We, also, want to highlight the several security measures in place at drop-off and for entering the building. Parents/caregivers must check in on a touch screen with a security code at drop-off and pick-up so that every child is accounted for. And there is a security code and Biometric Hand Scanner required to enter the school facility.  We appreciated this added layer for the children’s protection. 

The Goddard School of Murray Hill is a franchise of the nationwide The Goddard School and is currently accepting applications and tour requests. It is located at 751 2nd Ave between 40th and 41st Streets. It welcomes children from infancy to age 6 and offers year-round full day 7AM – 6:30PM schedules or half day depending on your needs. Please check them out for yourselves!  Click here.

Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 1 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut


This is the first post of a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors.

Most parents have found themselves uttering something to the extent of, “If you are good, I’ll buy you a piece of candy,” at one point or another.  Although rewarding appropriate behaviors can help modify behavior over time, parent concerns about rewarding and incorrect use of rewards often get in the way.

Frequently, parent concerns center on the principle of rewards. Common concerns along with considerations for these concerns include:

“I don’t want to reward my child for something he/she should be doing.” This concern often arises when there is a mismatch between parent expectations and the reality of child behavior. While this can happen for a number of reasons, parents ultimately have a choice here of accepting the behavior as is or working to change the behavior over time. For instance a parent whose 3 year old tantrums in stores when she is told no could simply accept the tantrums as the reality of shopping with a young child. However, most parents will be compelled to either try things in the moment that may make the behavior worse or avoid stores with the toddler, which does not teach the skill of staying calm and listening in these settings. Rewards used strategically can help turn a behavior that a child is not doing but “should be” into a routine habit.

“My child will become dependent on rewards.” This concern revolves around the idea that a child will need rewards in order to do anything and may even refuse tasks in absence of a reward. Here, it’s important to remember that rewards help facilitate skills and change habits over time. Once habits are formed, rewards are no longer necessary. Many parents have experience with this if they used small prizes for toilet training and can chuckle at the absurdity of giving their teenager M&Ms for using the potty. It is true that some children try to negotiate for rewards once they understand how rewards work. Negotiation can be reduced by having a clear and specific reward plan in place from the beginning.

“Rewards ruin a child’s intrinsic motivation.” This concern comes from research on rewarding and motivation. Findings from this research have fueled a backlash against incentive systems. When considering rewards for your child, it’s important to remember that there are more details to these studies that have been overlooked at times. Specifically, one of the major studies examined motivation for tasks that were enjoyable to participants before they were rewarded. If you are considering rewards for your child, there’s a good chance that your child does not find the task enjoyable and motivating on its own.

“Rewards are unnatural and not the way the world works.” Some parents worry that rewards do not prepare children for adulthood. While there are a number of examples of rewards in everyday life including working for a paycheck, another consideration here is that the use of rewards to form positive habits in childhood helps increase the likelihood of success in adulthood.

“Reward systems don’t work.” Parents will often say that they’ve tried rewards and they don’t work.

Stay tuned for our second post on rewarding kids for good behavior, which will discuss tips to help you use incentives effectively to address problem behaviors.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

The Route to Success?

SA_2017_BeeBots_002When it comes time to apply to kindergarten in New York City, many parents are considering charter schools, and that often means exploring Success Academy’s well-known programs. While there is no single way to find the best kindergarten for your child, talking to the school and listening to parents are great ways to start. Kidz Central Station spoke with Success Academy and with Success Academy parent Alpa Patel to ask some questions you might have. So, if you are wondering, “Is Success Academy right for my child?” or “Should I apply to a charter school in New York?”, read on.

Kidz Central Station: What makes Success Academy different from other charter schools and from other schools in general?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are distinct from other schools in our firm commitment to progressive pedagogy and to educating the whole child. We believe deeply that doing is at the core of learning, and Success scholars receive only 80 minutes of direct instruction (teacher up front) throughout the day. The rest of the day is devoted to discussion, small-group instruction, and hands-on learning — including inquiry-based science five days a week beginning in kindergarten (our students carry out more than 100 experiments each year!).

Our scholars explore and create through arts, chess, sports, recess, board games, creative writing, and project-based learning — and for kindergartners, blocks play and choice time. We believe that schools vastly underestimate the capacity of each child to think and achieve at a high level. Giving scholars the opportunity to do the “intellectual heavy lifting” as they grapple with challenging, complex problems and ideas makes learning not only engaging and appealing, but also deep and lasting. This progressive approach cultivates in our scholars a true zest for learning, and prepares them for the rigor and independence needed to succeed in college and in life.

Kidz Central Station:  Why/how did you choose Success Academy for your child?

Success Academy Parent: This past year, we switched our son to Success Academy for 3rd grade. After attending K-2 at our zoned public school, he was unmotivated and disinterested in school and adopting lazy habits. We were frustrated with the lack of communication and feedback to parents. We had heard about Success Academy Union Square, which is in our neighborhood, from other local parents and knew of its reputation for academic rigor. At first, we were concerned that he might not be able to adapt to such a steep step up in standards, but we also knew he couldn’t continue on the apathetic path he was on. Kids accept challenges more easily than we think. Now, we wish we’d moved to Success Academy  sooner

Kidz Central Station: Describe the typical Success Academy student

Success Academy: There is no “typical” scholar at Success. Our curriculum and instruction are very rigorous, and at the same time our schools are designed to ensure that every child receives the support and attention they need to meet their full academic potential. We provide individualized supports to scholars who need them, and acceleration for scholars who are ready to skip ahead. We celebrate, and work hard to cultivate, the “ACTION” values of Agency, Curiosity, Try and Try, Integrity, Others, and No Shortcuts. Our scholars tend to work hard, treat each other with great kindness and respect, and have a real enthusiasm for learning.

Kidz Central Station:  What do you and/or your child like best about Success Academy?

Success Academy Parent: Our son constantly praises Success Academy when comparing to his old school. He enjoys being recognized for his achievements. He clearly understands what is expected of him and receives frequent updates on his progress. We like best that Success Academy has taught him to enjoy learning while understanding that school is important.

Kidz Central Station: We hear students take on advanced topics in early grades. Could you give some examples?

Success Academy: We introduce scholars to advanced ideas and concepts from a very young age through rich texts, complex problems, and purposeful discussions that help them make connections between their intuitive understanding and academic content. For example, any five-year-old can — with great precision — divide a cookie in equal parts to share with two friends. In kindergarten math, we introduce basic concepts of division and fractions through these kinds of real-world problems.

Our project-based learning (PBL) units use engaging topics to tap into scholars’ natural curiosity and push them towards advanced analysis and mastery. For example, during our second-grade Brooklyn Bridge PBL unit, scholars conduct experiments to learn the engineering principles behind bridge construction, build their own model suspension bridge, and paint the Brooklyn Bridge in art. In social studies, they read different historical accounts of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and debate the question of whether Emily Roebling was indeed the project’s chief engineer, as many historians now believe. They learn about labor and transportation conditions in New York City at the time the bridge was built, and write letters as 19th-century New Yorkers advocating for the bridge or for safer working conditions.

Kidz Central Station: What are kids reading in various grades?

Success Academy: Our approach to teaching literacy stems from our deep-seated belief that if children love reading and read exceptionally well, they can teach themselves anything. To that end, our literacy curriculum introduces scholars to great literature and emphasizes critical thinking, knowledge-building, and the thoughtful discussion of ideas.  Kids read and analyze poetry, biography, history, fiction, myths, and fables, and write copiously in a range of genres.

In kindergarten, titles include The Story of Ferdinand, Caps for Sale, and Corduroy; in third grade, they might read My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, The Whipping Boy, and The Wizard of Oz. In fourth grade, titles include The Phantom Tollbooth, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, and The Rescuers. We are also passionate about poetry and by the end of fourth grade scholars have read poems by Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou, Victor Hugo, and many others.

Kidz Central Station:  What is parent involvement like at Success Academy schools?

Success Academy Parent: If you have chosen Success Academy, then you will be involved in your child’s education. Many parents attend Community Circle meetings, volunteer as class parents, chaperone field trips, or meet with teachers to discuss schoolwork. We can text or email teachers and expect quick responses. When my son was sick one day, his teacher called and texted updates from the nurse’s office. Parents are accountable for their child’s homework completion and attendance. For example, my son’s class has been rewarded for 10 consecutive days of no absences or tardies a few times this year. And that takes dedication from parents.

Kidz Central Station: What is the one thing parents who are considering Success Academy should know, more than anything else?

Success Academy: Success Academy schools are truly joyful, celebratory houses of learning were scholars feel seen and loved. We place a huge emphasis on fun and silliness, and have regular, themed “spirit” days when scholars and teachers dress up as Dr. Seuss characters, superheroes, or 100-year-olds (to celebrate the 100th day of school). Days our peppered with dance parties, wiggle breaks, and celebrations of scholars who have displayed exemplary ACTION values like kindness to others and curiosity. Each class develops a strong identity as a team and community, striving to outdo other homerooms with class cheers, dances, and skits at Community Circle each week. This premium on joy and engagement informs our entire academic and co-curricular program. As our CEO puts it, “We believe that to fall in love with learning, schools have to be incredibly joyful places where kids are engaged, puzzled, and inspired every day. For that reason we prioritize things like chess, science five days a week, field studies, art, soccer, and music.”

Success Academy is currently accepting applications. The lottery deadline for the 2018-19 school year is April 1, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

 

Great Sports Summer Camp Options

Not many years ago the best way for a young athlete in NYC to get a solid summer sports camp experience was to attend a sleep away camp outside of the city. Not anymore! In today’s robust youth sports scene, NYC is home to a wide array of summer sports day camps for kids of every age and skill level. Here are some great choices for this summer. As with other sought after programs spots are filling up quickly so don’t wait!

Downtown Giants
A mainstay of the Lower Manhattan youth sports scene since 2006, Downtown Giants runs two football camps for players ages 7-17. The June camp at the Battery Park fields focuses on flag football with drills, skills and games. A July camp, held at Chelsea Waterside field adds some tackle football drills to its flag football lineup. Whether your child is looking to get better for the fall flag or tackle football seasons or is just looking for a fun time, both camps will meet your needs. Highly skilled and energetic DTG coaches run both weeklong camps.

Mo’ Motion
Mo’ Motion offers several exciting summer camp options including its full-day Camp Motion Hoop & Travel (boys grades 4-8), Multi-Sport (co-ed grades K-6), Overtime (co-ed grades 5 and up) and its Camp Motion Hoops half-day camp (co-ed grades k-4 in AM and grades 5-10 in PM sessions). The camps provide targeted basketball training, top-level instruction, games and exercise as well as visits to other parks, ping-pong tournaments, bowling and boxing. Camps are held outdoors in Riverside Park and indoors at the Brearley Field house on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Columbia Sports Camps
Not only do attendees of Columbia University’s Little Lions Day Camp (co-ed ages 6-12) get to enjoy the school’s historic campus in Morningside Heights, they also have access to its top-notch athletic facilities. Little Lions is a kid-centered, fun-based camp that aims to keep kids physically and creatively active with a combination of classic PE games, backyard favorites, sports, arts and crafts, and special surprises run by a highly trained, eclectic staff. For older kids Columbia also runs 17 specialized sport-specific camps run by Division I coaches and Columbia student athletes.

Grapplin’ Gorillas
Grapplin’ Gorillas’ is one of the few youth wrestling programs in New York City, but it’s summer camp is about more than grappling and takedowns. In fact, it’s all about movement. In addition to teaching wrestling fundamentals, the camp incorporates non-wrestling games, dance and yoga into each day’s activities. Wrestling groups are created by both age and skill. The camp is open to boys and girls ages 4-13 and takes place at The Center at West Park on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Outdoor activities such as nuke ‘em, kickball and capture the flag are played in Central Park.

Riverside Parks
Taking advantage of the scenic fields and courts in Riverside Park between 96th and 110th streets, the Riverside Parks Conservancy offers a weekly low-cost, high-quality sports camp experience for children ages 4 to 14. Sport choices include baseball (run by Kids of Summer), basketball, soccer (run by the Carlos Oliveira Soccer Academy), tennis (Riverside Clay Tennis Association), flag football and multi sport. The camps run from June 4 – August 24.

Dutch Total Soccer
For budding soccer stars, Dutch Total Soccer is running a series of camps that offer instructional training and game play. Camps are held at Aviator Sports in Brooklyn and are for boys and girls ages 5 – 15 (camp for players ages 5-7 are half-days).  All camps are geared to help players progress through team play and age-appropriate individual skill development and to challenge them mentally, all in a fun camp experience.  A low staff to camper ratio means all participants will have the benefits of a personalized training environment.

PGA Golf Camp
Just a short drive to the Dunwoodie Golf Course in Yonkers offers beginner to intermediate golfers (ages 8-14) the opportunity to participate in a four-day PGA Junior Golf Camp.  There are four sessions running from July 9 to Aug. 23. Each day includes three hours of hands-on instruction lead by certified PGA Professionals who focus on developing golf skills (full swing, short game, rules and etiquette) while keeping the experience fun and engaging (games and activities). Half-day camps are designed to inspire new golfers and further the development of those playing at an intermediate level. Campers are always grouped by age and playing level. Students will also receive on-course playing time.

PSG Academy NY
Given their belief that the US has many talented soccer players with promising futures, PSG NY works to provide those players with high-quality practices led by certified and experienced coaches from countries that built world champions. As such, PSG Academy’s NY summer camps offer training similar to top European academies with emphasis on technical work, small-sided game and scrimmages. In addition to NYC camps on Randall’s Island and in Brooklyn, PSG also holds camps in New Rochelle and the Hamptons. Coaches provide players with personal evaluations on technical and physical skills at the beginning and the end of each week.

Kids in Sports
Kids in Sports summer camps are filled with the sports and activities kids love including baseball, basketball, floor hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball. Cooperative games emphasizing the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship are a staple of all camps and all ages.  Camps always feature a low ratio of coaches to campers.  Younger campers also participate in arts and crafts, story-time and other free-play activities.  Choose from indoor camp in Manhattan (ages 2.5-6) and outdoors on Randall’s Island (ages 4-8 with transportation included)

Kids in the Game
Kids in the Game runs weekly camps for kids ages 4-14 in Park Slope, the Upper West and East Sides, Inwood and Riverdale. Camp counselors include current and former college athletes, teachers, and fitness coaches to ensure kids get the most fulfilling and enriching experience possible. Activities include sports, arts & crafts, zumba, and swimming.  Offsite field trips have included visits to a NY Yankees/Mets games, Bronx Zoo, LEGOLAND, and area museums.

How to Support Your Transgender or Gender Expansive Child

transGender is not as simple as boy or girl and is composed of many parts. A child’s sex assigned at birth is an assignment or classification given to an infant based on physical anatomy. Gender identity is an individual’s sense of being male, female, neither, both, or other genders. For many individuals, their sex assigned at birth and gender identity match (i.e. they are cisgender). For other individuals, sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not match (i.e. they are transgender or gender expansive).

Transgender and gender expansive youth face a number of challenges in the community due to stigma and discrimination. They are at high risk for mental health issues including suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression when they are not supported in their identities.

Here are some suggestions to help parents and caregivers best support their transgender and gender expansive youth. Regardless of where your family is on the gender journey, these ideas can help you provide the most supportive environment for your child.

1. Listen, validate, and accept: Parental acceptance is the single largest protective factor for transgender and gender expansive youth. Youth who have support from their families have similar mental health rates and diagnoses when compared to cisgender peers. Provide a space for your child to have open conversations. Ask open ended questions like: “How do you describe your gender?” or “What does gender mean to you?” Follow your child’s lead and provide a supportive stance. Use the name and pronouns that your child prefers.

2. Find support for your child (if needed): Your child might feel like they would like support from the community or from mental health providers, though it is certainly not required. If they do, look for clinicians who provide gender affirmative care. You might want to find a team of gender affirming providers including primary care, psychology, and endocrinology if your child is medically transitioning.

3. Require respect within the family and promote pride in your child’s gender identity: Always promote that family members and friends use preferred name and pronouns for your child. Celebrate your child’s identity and encourage others to do so.

4. Advocate: Transgender and gender expansive youth have a number of different challenges that they face on a day to day basis. For example, these children and teens might not know how to talk to their school about their preferred name and pronouns, what restroom to use, or how to correct someone who is misgendering them. Parents can play a huge role in helping advocate for their child by talking to the school administration or becoming more involved within the transgender community. Learn as much as you can through reading and take part in advocacy groups.

5. Find support for you: It is normal for parents to have their own emotional processes around their child coming out as transgender or gender expansive. It is important for parents to find their own support if they feel as though they are struggling with their own reactions. Parents can join support groups aimed towards parents or confide in friends and family.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Samantha Busa, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She sees patients for evaluations, individual therapy, and group therapy as part of the Gender & Sexuality Service  at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone. She also conducts individual and group therapy for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, tics and Tourette disorder, trichotillomania and body-focused repetitive behaviors, and school refusal using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, and habit reversal training.

Top Flu Facts to Keep Your Child Healthy This Winter

faverAs a pediatrician in a busy New York City practice, I have been asked lot of questions from concerned parents about how bad this year’s flu season has been. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked this flu season.

Why should I bother with the vaccine if it’s not effective?
While there have been a lot of headlines about how this year’s vaccine is not that effective, it is still a good idea to get vaccinated—while the vaccine is certainly not 100% effective, we still recommend parents vaccinate their children (and get the vaccine themselves!).  The latest midseason estimates by the CDC show that the vaccine is about 36% effective overall (25% effective against influenza A H3N2 virus strain – which is the most commonly circulating and virulent strain this season so far, 67% effective against influenza A H1N1, and 42% effective against influenza B virus strains). Among children aged 6 months to 8 years, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of seeking medical attention because of the flu by more than half – about 59%! Even if your child contracts the influenza virus after having received the flu vaccine, the severity of your child’s illness will likely be decreased. Additionally, the side effects of the vaccine are very minimal and significant adverse events are exceedingly rare, so the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks.

Can I get the flu from the flu vaccine?
No, the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The vaccine that is administered this season is the inactivated flu vaccine, which contains virus particles that have been altered such that it is impossible for them to cause infection. Generally, the vaccine may at most cause a low-grade fever, headache, nausea, or soreness at the site of injection. Remember that it is still possible to get the flu even after having received the vaccine, but it would likely be less severe. Also, keep in mind that we tend to administer the flu vaccine in fall or winter months when other viruses are already circulating so it is entirely plausible to fall sick with another virus shortly after receiving the flu vaccine.

Is it too late to get the vaccine now?
The earlier you get the flu vaccine the better, but I would still encourage anyone to get it now, especially as we are seeing such a high incidence of the flu. The flu season is likely to last several more weeks at least. The flu vaccine is one of the only ways to help reduce your risk of contracting influenza and spreading it to others. Keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to generate antibodies to help protect yourself from the flu virus.

I see in the news that people are dying of the flu—how worried should I be?
Influenza is a viral illness that can and does cause severe complications and possibly death in some patients every year. However, it is important to remember that most people who contract the flu develop relatively mild illness and recover fully within one to two weeks. There are certain individuals who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications. These people include children under the age of 5 years (and especially under the age of 2 years), adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease. That being said, there are ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Firstly, get the flu vaccine every year and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is one of the most important steps in protecting yourself and your child from influenza-related complications. Secondly, practice good hand hygiene and avoid contact with anyone who might be sick. Thirdly, if your child does get sick with flu-like symptoms, please be proactive and bring your child in to be evaluated as soon as possible – there are things that we as doctors can do to help. Ask your child’s pediatrician if your child would benefit from antiviral treatment for the flu.

Should I avoid taking my child to the pediatrician, with so many sick kids in the waiting room?
In general, most practices have a way to isolate people who are sick and sanitize waiting areas and exam rooms. For children who have fever and/or cough, we offer medical masks for them to wear if they are able when they check in. If you’re setting up a well appointment for your child, I’d recommend you see if there is a time of day to come when there aren’t as many people in the waiting area, to minimize flu exposure. That’s especially important for small infants or newborns—I’d suggest coming in first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. You shouldn’t skip it altogether though; it’s still a good idea to see your doctor whenever you or your child needs to.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Madhavi Kapoor, MD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, and a pediatrician at NYU Langone at Trinity.

Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz

Meet Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz—Founder and Director of Launch Math + Science Centers—and an amazing parent!SH-with-Kids

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Launch Math + Science Centers?
I’m an aerospace engineer by trade, with many years of experience running small businesses. When I was growing up many of my friends did not appreciate math and science. Until they entered college and realized that math was the language of the many fields they wanted to pursue (physical therapy, architecture, etc.) did they realize they made a mistake by choosing not to pursue math and science courses throughout high school. Launch’s mission is to inspire and motivate children to love and learn math and science in the hope that kids will realize that these subjects are the key ingredient to doing “fun stuff” as an adult (like building rockets!). We accomplish this goal by providing engaging math instruction and exciting STEM enrichment classes for kids from toddlers to 8th graders.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
It’s difficult. There is no secret. I am an absolute workaholic but I also try to be the best dad I can be. I have two girls ages 5 and 2. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than with them.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I’m not sure if this story applies but… Before I got married I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted kids. Indifferent you might say. I also wasn’t sure I had the patience for kids. So what did I go and do? I started a business that requires 100% involvement with kids. I didn’t do it because I loved kids. I did it because I was extremely passionate about inspiring kids to pursue math and science. The bonus that came from the experience of starting the business was that it turns out I love kids and I do have patience for them (more for them than myself).

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The challenge has been to accept less than perfection in my professional life so as to provide what I want for my kids (in terms of time).

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That I would enjoy them as much as I do because I might have started earlier!

If you could give other dads one piece of advice what would it be?
Expose your child to as much as you can (in terms of what the world has to offer), and let them decide what they want to do with their lives. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful than anything else.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? Iggy Peck Architect
What has been your favorite kids’ class (other than your own!)? Swim class, mainly because it’s a full morning family activity on Sundays.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Besides swim class, going to the playground.
What is your favorite rainy day escape? A princess movie with my 5 year old.

Learn more about Launch Math + Science Centers and reserve your child’s spot now for their upcoming STEM-focused winter break and summer camps.