Category Archives: Parenting Tips

Motivating Children by Developing a Growth Mindset

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By: The Kumon Team

“Motivation is the most important factor in determining whether you succeed in the long run. What I mean by motivation is not only the desire to achieve, but also the love of learning, the love of challenge, and the ability to thrive on obstacles. These are the greatest gifts we can give our students.” – Carol Dweck

Parents often ask how they can help their child become more motivated to learn, especially material that is above grade level. Stanford University Professor of Psychology, Carol Dweck demonstrates that communication to children about their effort, successes, and setbacks often shapes a child’s mindset and motivation.

Here is how it works:

–The author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck postulates that people have either a “fixed mindset” or “growth mindset” that influences our perspective and communication.
–When we believe that success is based on innate ability, we are said to have a fixed theory of intelligence, otherwise known as a fixed mindset.
–When we believe that success is based on hard work, learning, and perseverance, we are said to have a growth theory of intelligence, also called growth mindset.

Parents and Instructors are most effective when they praise effort and results equally. Praising effort means recognizing errors as learning opportunities that lead to improvement and success. The brain is a muscle that becomes stronger through hard work and learning from our mistakes. We can motivate children to develop a growth mindset and achieve their goals through communication about effort, learning, and persistence.

“I’ve got to have a growth mindset, man. That’s what it’s about, me still trying to improve even at 30 and (after) 12 years in the league.” – LeBron James

Interested in Kumon’s programs? Check out all available NYC programs and locations here!

The Harvest of Your Child’s Education

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By: The Kumon Team

With the arrival of October, many families have thoughts of pumpkins, trick-or-treating and Thanksgiving just around the corner. For the colonial founders of America, this time of year was harvest time, or the time for reaping the ripened fruits of their labor from the spring and summer. The same sentiment is still present, especially in the minds of high school seniors as they begin preparing their college applications this autumn. After years of hard work and studying, these students will soon reap their rewards through exceptional SATs scores and early acceptance letters from top universities across the country.

Although your children may be a long way away from applying to colleges, remember the long-term benefits of the Kumon Program. For example, the daily routine of Kumon homework helps remind your children that success is a step by step process and can be achieved by working hard each day. In addition, the confidence that the Kumon Program builds in your children helps encourage them to tackle new challenges, such as joining the debate team or striving to make the honor roll.

The Kumon Program requires diligent practice and commitment by both students and parents to attain academic success.  As Kumon Students, your children will learn to commit to completing Kumon homework on a daily basis, understanding it will help them to achieve their long-term academic goals.

Kumon has convenient locations around New York City. Visit the Kidz Central Station website to find the location nearest to you, and to learn about how the Kumon Program helps children reap a bountiful harvest later in their academic careers.

Interested in Kumon’s programs? Check out all available NYC programs and locations here!

The First Day of Preschool: Preparing your Child for Success

first-day-preschool

By Pam Wolf, Founder & CEO, NY Kids Club

Preschool is a significant milestone, and as a parent it’s natural to feel conflicted. You want your child to transition and acclimate successfully, but there is always pain in change and in parting. As a mother of four, I faced many moments like these! Here are some helpful tips for preparing your child to enter a new world with confidence and excitement.

Keep it light.
Though you may not know it, children can easily sense when their parents are overwhelmed, anxious or frustrated. If you are uneasy, your child will determine that she should also be uneasy. You hold all the power when it comes to her perception of school, so implement a strategy to manage your stress and hers. Be calm and easy when you talk about school. Be positive and steady as you set out to prepare her in the weeks leading up to the first day. Remember that you are her rock, and she will likely mirror the example you set.

Act it out.
Prepare your child in the weeks leading up to the first day of school by previewing what he can expect. Act out scenarios taking turns in the roles of child, parent and teacher. Here are a few fun things to practice together:

• Taking off and hanging your coat
• Saying goodbye to Mommy or Daddy
• Eating lunch from a lunchbox
• Reading stories (about preschool, if possible!)
• Singing songs
• Taking naps
• Playing outside

Also be sure to rehearse picking him up from school so he will understand that the day has an endpoint. Acting out these skills and routines is also an opportunity to answer his questions and reassure him that preschool is a safe place to learn and grow.

Pay a visit.
Take your child to visit her school and meet her teachers before the program begins. (This is a great time to ask questions of your own and learn how to better prepare her.) You may also want to arrange a few play dates before school starts to create a positive association.

Set new routines.
You want to work smarter, not harder. Two to three weeks before school starts, begin to alter your weekday routine to resemble the routine of the school year. You may think you want to savor those last few weeks by preserving your normal schedule, but you’re making more work for yourself in the long run! Here are some suggestions for getting organized and making the transition less jarring:

• Go school shopping for a backpack, just the two of you. If possible, let him choose it to empower him as “big kid” starting preschool.
• Label the backpack and other loose items (lunchbox, jacket, etc.) with his name and his teacher’s name in permanent marker.
• If your child takes medication on a daily basis, contact the school and take care of the paperwork in advance.
• Know how your child will be getting to and from school. If you have arranged for afterschool help from a neighbor, caregiver or friend, be sure your child understands how he’ll be cared for.
• Change “summer bedtime” to an earlier “school bedtime.” Healthy sleep habits will help him adjust to a school schedule before it starts, which is much nicer for you.
• Establish a special but simple “goodbye” routine. I found I could minimalize separation anxiety by blowing three kisses to one of my children, while another wanted me to sing a few lines of his favorite song. Whatever it is, make sure your child plays a part in creating this comforting coping mechanism.

Watch and listen.
Be on the lookout for verbal and nonverbal signs of worry in your child. She may be especially nervous the night before school, so keep things light and relaxed. Be sure she goes to bed on time, and let her pick out the clothes she will wear to save time in the morning. Before bed, try to talk about something other than school.

If she expresses any worry, listen, don’t dismiss. Let her know that her feelings are completely normal—you might even share a story about a time you felt worried and how you got through it. By allowing her to share her fears, you can walk her through them and show her how to deal with them. (Try this great list of phrases to help calm an anxious child.)

Make your exit.
Plan to stay for 15-20 minutes while your child acclimates to the classroom. When he starts to relax, it’s time to go! If he doesn’t seem comfortable, ask a teacher to stay with him when you leave so that an adult will be there to support him. It will be hard, but try to resist the urge to come back if you hear him cry. Responding to his distress by reappearing sends the message that he can’t be happy if you’re not there. Preschool teachers are experts at helping children adapt to school, and you can help make their work easier by not lingering.

Best of luck in the coming school year, and above all, remember to stay positive. Your child’s new routine will feel natural soon enough!

From the Enrichment Experts at NY Kids Club:

Pamela Wolf founded the NY Kids Club and NY Preschool in September of 2001, which have grown to become the premiere enrichment centers for children two months to12 years. Ms. Wolf has been recognized as a Business Mentor of the Year, Best Entrepreneur, and one of the top female entrepreneurs of the year by Entrepreneur magazine. Ms. Wolf’s extensive business background and simultaneous experience as a mother of four have allowed the NY Kids Club to successfully expand to sixteen locations in New York and twelve in China. The company received INC 500/5000 list recognition in 2014. Of the several successful businesses Pamela Wolf has owned in New York, she is most proud of the NY Kids Club.

Raising Our Children in Manhattan – So Many Choices!

I raised my daughters in Manhattan. When they were young (my youngest recently graduated from Northwestern University) there weren’t a lot of programs to choose from, and mostly we young parents just hung out at playgrounds and in each other’s living rooms and let our children play freely. When I first started offering Music Together classes on the UWS and UES in 1992, there wasn’t much else around. These days, you are inundated with choices from art to music to soccer to cooking and on it goes. I can’t possibly imagine how challenging it is, the dilemma that you must face making the decision about what class or classes to enroll your child in. What’s best? What’s the most fun? Which one will my child love the most?

I can’t speak to any of the other programs that are out there because I don’t attend them, but I can speak to Music Together. As a mom in a Music Together class first, I was struck by how grounded it was, how well thought-out it was. It made sense for the child. Sure, the teacher asked me to sing with strangers – who later became friends – and dance around even if I wasn’t holding my child. I didn’t get what good that could possibly do my infant daughter. What I learned, though, is that just like all the other habits our children learn from us through observing, watching, emulating, and generally wanting to BE us as they grow, the same holds true for making music. It’s simple. When they see us doing it, they want to do it, too. And that cycle sets up a life-habit.

At Music Together we provide a classroom setting where children can thrive and grow, with music that isn’t dumbed down but is rich, interesting, stimulating – and FUN. Story songs; train songs; songs in Spanish, Japanese; songs from a diverse array of cultures; songs without words at all; and so much more. Music Together is award-winning music that even you can listen to. Our teachers are trained educators, excellent musicians, and understand what your child needs to grow musically. There is a method to our madness and your child’s music development is our top priority. 

The landscape of children’s programming in Manhattan has changed dramatically since I started ESWS Music Together all those years ago and we are proud that we have thrived despite economic downturns, the ebb and flow of families in and out of Manhattan, and the phenomenal increase in activity choices for families with young children. Parenting in New York City is a unique and beautiful thing. Make Music Together a part of your family’s journey. It’s a solid choice.

Written by Deanna deCampos, Director of Eastside Westside Music Together

Music Matters: Benefits of Music for Young Children


By Pam Wolf, Founder & CEO, NY Kids Club

I became pregnant with my first child in 1991, the year the “Mozart effect” sent millions of ambitious parents running to CD stores. The theory was coined by psychologist Frances Rauscher, who claimed that listening to classical music boosts a child’s brainpower. As a mother-to-be I joined the cult following, holding headphones with twinkling and melodious sonatas to my belly.

Now, the question is: Did it work? Did Mozart make my daughter smarter? While studies since have shown mixed results on Wolfgang Mozart’s particular brain-enhancing qualities, the link between music and childhood development is indisputable.

According to Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, a child’s musical intelligence is of equal importance to their logical and bodily intelligence. Gardner states that engaging with music and sound play heightens a child’s day-to-day cerebral abilities such as language, numerical skills, memory, attention, and problem-solving.

Since babies and toddlers perceive the world around them through colors, shapes, and sounds, Gardner’s theory on music intelligence holds significant truths. Think back to being taught that blaring sirens warn of emergency, a dog goes “woof”, and a doorbell ringing signals an arrival. Music and sounds are a relatable medium from which a child can recognize rhythmic patterns, melodies, and the diversity of instruments—skills that set the foundation for everyday activity and elevated brain functioning.

A further study at Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience laboratory concluded that music particularly enhances speech and communication. The study found that the level of precision used in processing music (discerning, pitch, key, and instruments), is even higher than that of processing speech. Therefore, musical studies can lead to earlier literacy and the ability to communicate at an earlier age, whether that be through language, body signals, or sounds.

I used music as a means of communicating emotion with my children. With my baby in my arms, I would dance around the living room to The Beatles to convey upbeat happiness, a Bob Dylan ballad to communicate sadness, or a James Taylor tune to evoke contentment. These were unique moments with my children where we could connect emotionally on a non-verbal level. As my children grew older I encouraged them to make their own music on pots and pans, produce at-home renditions of Les Miserables, or have a dance party with friends. They used music as a means of expression.

I built NY Kid’s Club from the experiences I had with my own children. Since music was an integral part of my parenting method, I infused NY Kid’s Club curriculum with dance and sounds. In our Musical Tots and Musical Kids classes, a professional guitarist and talented singer introduce children to jazz, rock and roll, nursery rhymes, and sing-alongs, for example.

Take every opportunity to introduce your child to music early in life. It not only contributes to future success—it makes for a more joyful journey.

From the Enrichment Experts at NY Kids Club:

Pamela Wolf founded the NY Kids Club and NY Preschool in September of 2001, which have grown to become the premiere enrichment centers for children two months to12 years. Ms. Wolf has been recognized as a Business Mentor of the Year, Best Entrepreneur, and one of the top female entrepreneurs of the year by Entrepreneur magazine. Ms. Wolf’s extensive business background and simultaneous experience as a mother of four have allowed the NY Kids Club to successfully expand to sixteen locations in New York and twelve in China. The company received INC 500/5000 list recognition in 2014. Of the several successful businesses Pamela Wolf has owned in New York, she is most proud of the NY Kids Club.

It’s OK to Be Scared: Tips on Helping Your Child Brave a Vaccine

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It is natural for children as they get older and understand more to be afraid of shots—it’s uncomfortable to receive vaccines. Here are some tips to help your little one get through vaccines at well visits:

1. Try to stay calm yourself. Even though it is upsetting to watch your little one cry, as an adult you can understand that they are getting vaccines to keep them healthy. Your child will look to you for your reaction; if you are calm and reassuring they will handle things better. Of course, once the shots are over, cuddle your little one and empathize with older children that you know it can be painful. You can also reward them with a small toy or sticker afterwards for doing a good job.

2. Don’t say things like “that mean doctor” or “that bad doctor.” While shots are uncomfortable, the doctor or nurse doesn’t want to make your child cry either. Both you and your pediatrician are doing your jobs to keep your child healthy. For older kids, explain that shots do hurt and you don’t like getting them either, but they are important to keep your body healthy. You can say things like, “Thank you Nurse Stephanie for helping keep Sarah healthy.”

3. Be honest. If your child asks if they are getting shots, tell them the truth. You can tell them it will hurt a little bit and afterwards they will get a small prize. It is important not to lie or your child will not trust the doctor at the next visit. If you know your child will be anxious, schedule the appointment early in the day to get it over with. That way they can move on and enjoy their day.

4. It’s okay to cry. Shots hurt and it’s okay for your little one (or big one) to be scared and cry. If a child is upset, I will often tell them it’s okay to scream even before the vaccines start; the screaming often distracts them during the actual vaccine. Some older kids like to roar like a lion during the shots, which can work too.

5. Give them a choice. While most pediatricians have child-friendly Band-Aids, if you think your child will benefit from having chosen their own Band-Aids beforehand this can be helpful. This allows your child to feel some level of control and ownership over the process.

6. Provide a distraction. This works best for younger children. Sing songs or play a favorite video. If your child has a lovey or a favorite toy, bring that along. Distraction can work for older children as well. Older kids can be told to cough during the vaccines or imagine they are blowing out birthday candles. If you want to get fancy, you can bring along a pinwheel for your child to blow during the vaccines.

7.  Play doctor at home. Toddlers love to pretend play. Before the visit invest in a doctor’s kit and have them give you a “check-up.” When you get a shot in this pretend visit say “ouch” and move on from it. You can say thank you doctor for keeping me healthy. Children often work out anxieties and fears through play so this can be very helpful.

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

Deena N. Blanchard, MD, MPH, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center and a partner at Premier Pediatrics.

Equation Motivation for Kids: The Importance of Math in Everyday Life

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By: The Kumon Team

“When will I use math?” This question is often posed by students, who wonder how topics like factorization and algebra will play a role in their everyday lives. What many people don’t realize is that we use math in everyday activities like making purchases, tracking cellphone minutes, and even baking.

Looking for a few ways to motivate your child to enjoy math? Encourage him or her by discussing the importance of math for snagging potential dream jobs. Here are few ideas to get started:

• Animator. An animator uses linear algebra to show how an object is rotated and shifted and made larger and smaller.

Computer Scientist. Creating the next generation of gadgets and apps involves more math than one may think. Theoretical studies of algorithms are just a small part of the process.

Fashion Designer. Fashion designers use area, perimeter, and diameter as well as mathematical algorithms to create designs and calculate the amount and cost of fabric required.

Astronaut. Astronauts use math to make precise mathematical calculations, from how a spacecraft leaves Earth’s atmosphere to how astronauts pilot the craft.

Architect. Architects use math to calculate the square footage of rooms and buildings, to lay out floor space dimensions, and to calculate the required space for other areas such as parking, plumbing, etc.

Many careers require a solid foundation in mathematics. Whether your child dreams of becoming a math professor, research analyst, Pixar animator, or fashion designer, give him or her the tools needed to succeed. Ranging from basic counting to advanced calculus, the Kumon Math Program enhances problem solving techniques and improves mental calculation and reasoning skills—tools that can help your child find lifelong success.

Interested in Kumon’s math program? Check out all available NYC programs and locations here!

Smart sunscreen choices

Sunscreen tips for New York kids
With summer upon us, we know everyone will be spending a lot more time in the park, at the beach, and outside in general. In addition to making sure you have cool drinks and a beach blanket, your first priority should be applying sunscreen – early and often. It’s important for the entire family but especially for kids. It’s easy to forget in New York City, but kids can get some serious sun just in an afternoon of shopping with their parents or shuttling between playdates.

Many of us turn to ewg.org for their guide to sunscreens, this year in its 10th annual edition. They offer helpful categories such as best sunscreens for kids (and worst sunscreens for kids), best beach and sport sunscreens, plus tips for other ways to protect yourself from the sun. It’s our first stop every summer! Check out the guide now.

An Important Milestone: Reading Proficiency in the Third Grade

Kumon_GroupBy: The Kumon Team

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is considered one of the most important benchmarks in a student’s academic journey. Students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade start falling behind in their knowledge and comprehension across all subjects. This effect “snowballs” as these students often fall further behind each year.

This is significant because the national average percentage of public school students reading proficiently in the beginning of fourth grade was only 34% in 2013. The other 66% of students are considered basic readers, and are four times more likely to drop out of high school. This finding comes from research conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which linked factors in students who drop out of high school. Many states have cited this report when making changes to their educational policies.

The Kumon Reading Program strengthens students’ reading abilities by building many essential literacy components such as vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension. It’s important for students to read often and be exposed to a variety of genres to maintain reading proficiency throughout school. Getting into good study habits and developing strong reading skills as early as possible sets an important foundation for school success. Studying ahead of grade level enables Kumon students to read proficiently and be confident in their reading abilities.

Interested in Kumon’s reading program? Check out all available NYC programs and locations here!

Ready, Set, Play: The Importance of Raising Active Children


By Pam Wolf, Founder & CEO, NY Kids Club

We live in an age of digital dominance, where children abandon their bikes and tree houses for the comfort of indoor entertainment. Media’s rapid advance is accompanied by urban growth and the associated precautions, leaving behind the carefree days when parents allowed children to roam their neighborhoods and playgrounds unaccompanied. According to the University of Michigan’s Institute of Social Research, in the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors as 43% of adults believe a child should not play outdoors unsupervised. Given this, the average American boy or girl now spends fewer than 30 minutes a day engaging in outdoor activity, leaving nearly 11 hours for electronic engagement.

While safety is of utmost concern, childhood independence and outdoor exploration are key in promoting a sense of well-being and raising active children. This shift toward indoor activity profoundly impacts a child’s emotional and physical health. It is scientifically proven that physical fitness boosts confidence, social interaction, and academic motivation while reducing stress levels. Physical movement also leads to a healthy and fit body, which promotes sound sleep, lower anxiety levels, and greater feelings of happiness. Encouraging outdoor activity from an early age will help your children build a foundation for healthy habits moving forward.

Despite the complexities of modern parenting, there is still opportunity to re-introduce your children to the joy of fitness and outdoor play. Doing so effectively requires understanding a few things:

standard_Copy_of_IMG_3135Encourage curiosity. Young children have a knack for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. To them, everything is new. They are naturally inquisitive and instinctively seek out physical activity; if you ask them questions about the world around them, they will likely respond by developing questions of their own. When my children were toddlers, I would ask them questions like, “How many of these steps can you climb?” or, “How far can you throw this ball?” Encouraging them in this way made them unafraid to explore, imagine, and play.

Find age-appropriate activities they enjoy. Choosing activities that coincide with a child’s age keeps him or her interested and focused. While adult-led, structured activities are important for young children, unstructured playtime is proven to increase creativity and boost the brain’s imaginative properties.

Unstructured playtime time allows toddlers and preschoolers to develop the fine and gross motor skills they need and lays a foundation for more advanced skill sets. Activities such as examining nature; playing tag or follow the leader; throwing and kicking a ball; jumping and running; riding a tricycle; blowing and chasing bubbles; singing and dancing; and engaging in simple obstacle courses; are ideal age-appropriate learning scenarios. Although unstructured, older children enjoy these activities too and can use the experience to further develop their skill sets to include more traditional sports such as tennis and basketball, as well as specialized activities like yoga, skateboarding, and hiking.

Remember, your child does not have to be an intense competitor to enjoy physical fitness. Casual participation is healthy and beneficial!

Age-appropriate activities keep children emotionally, intellectually, and physically challenged and engaged. With each new learning experience, children further their skills and advance to new phases.

Make time for fun at home. Though having an electronic device at the ready keeps children content, carving out screen-free time each day is essential to a child’s well-being. Your home, backyard, and neighborhood are ideal arenas for adventure or projects. Consider planting a few different types of herbs and vegetables in the spring (this can double as an educational activity or a lesson in responsibility), or exploring nearby parks, playgrounds, and museum exhibits. Let your children build Legos or make abstract art in a space where they are unconfined and free to draw outside the lines. My children loved to build pillow forts with my couch cushions, and though I took pride in a tidy house, I found that allowing them to be a little boisterous and messy made them happy and wholesome kids. Make it a priority to have fun together at home.

Be active yourself. Almost as soon as they come into the world, little ones modify their behavior based on the actions of those around them.  Because children emulate what they see, modeling an active lifestyle and a kind and caring attitude will encourage them to do the same.

There is no greater charge than playing a positive role in your child’s early experiences. Setting the foundations for a healthy, dynamic life begins with encouraging curiosity and embracing fun in the form of physical activity.

From the Enrichment Experts at NY Kids Club:

Pamela Wolf founded the NY Kids Club and NY Preschool in September of 2001, which have grown to become the premiere enrichment centers for children two months to12 years. Ms. Wolf has been recognized as a Business Mentor of the Year, Best Entrepreneur, and one of the top female entrepreneurs of the year by Entrepreneur magazine. Ms. Wolf’s extensive business background and simultaneous experience as a mother of four have allowed the NY Kids Club to successfully expand to sixteen locations in New York and twelve in China. The company received INC 500/5000 list recognition in 2014. Of the several successful businesses Pamela Wolf has owned in New York, she is most proud of the NY Kids Club.