Category Archives: Parenting Tips

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.

Why Reading Aloud to Children from Birth is SO Important

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Reading aloud to children is a critical part of the learning process, one that will help them develop the vocabulary and skills necessary to read on their own. In fact, a recent New York Times article discussed the announcement of a new policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which stresses the importance of read-aloud time for infants and their parents. The AAP now urges parents to read aloud to their children from infancy to help build the pre-literacy skills needed for preschool and kindergarten. Studies have shown that children who have developed these pre-literacy skills tend to have larger vocabularies than students without them. Similarly, students with advanced pre-literacy skills perform better academically once they enter elementary school.

The new policy encourages reading, as well as talking and singing, to help increase the number of words children hear during their first few years. The article also suggests that reading should be a fun, daily family activity from infancy on.

While this new policy by the AAP is a recent development, the importance of early childhood education and the development of pre-literacy skills is a crucial concept that has been ingrained within the Kumon Program and the teachings of Toru Kumon. Toru Kumon promoted this idea of reading and developing pre-literacy skills at an early age with the phrase “reading before the age of three.”

In an essay written by Toru Kumon it states, “Children can easily learn to read before the age of three if you have children listen to songs and read to them.” Through the memorization of songs, children can increase their vocabularies and develop the ability to learn by heart, which in turn helps form the basis for self-learning. By exposing children to songs and books at an early age, parents can provide them with opportunities to build their familiarity with reading and help increase their vocabularies. In doing so, children also develop their abilities to think actively while listening to stories and picture the scenes described. By singing songs to your children and reading aloud to them, you can help strengthen their pre-literacy skills and prepare them for their academic futures.

How Exposure to Literature Develops Essential Reading Skills

By: The Kumon Staff

The Kumon Reading Program aims to cultivate a high level of reading ability while introducing a variety of literature to children. Whether the stories are authored by Maurice Sendak or William Shakespeare, the excerpts featured in the books’ worksheets are intended to provoke thought and imagination. In his autobiography, Give It a Try, Toru Kumon said, “I believe that the ability to think is developed by reading books.” By encouraging a love of books early, parents can help their children develop inquisitive minds full of purpose and imagination.

As Kumon students progress through the various levels of the reading program, they enhance their reading abilities by moving from words to sentences to paragraphs and longer passages. The Kumon Method develops academic ability, as well as the mindset and skills needed for students to become critical thinkers. Through continual study and practice, children develop skills that lead to critical thinking. As they reach more advanced levels in the program, they begin developing summary and critique skills.

As students progress into the higher levels of the Kumon Reading Program, they are challenged to look closely at the context of a passage and develop an understanding of the writer’s intention. The ability to observe text closely and discover the subtle meaning in words is an essential part of students’ growth and development. Through the program they’ll develop reading skills that will enable them to become even more thoughtful and inquisitive people. Ultimately, these skills can lead to success in whichever path in life our students decide to take.

To learn more about Kumon’s programs in NYC, click here!
Enjoy 50% off reading program registration, a $25 value, when you contact your local Kumon Center for an orientation before March 31st.

The Power of Practice

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By: The Kumon Team

“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”  ―Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Kumon Program can be compared more accurately to sport and music training than to traditional tutoring. When children learn how to play the violin or baseball, results aren’t expected to happen overnight, although they are asked to practice often. Becoming good at the piano, tennis, math, or reading requires a commitment to steadily practicing and not giving up. Instructors are academic coaches that guide children to improve their skills through practice and to reach specific goals.

There are two stages of learning a particular skill: the thinking stage and the knowing stage.  When children learn how to play basketball, they need to think about how to correctly shoot the ball. But if all the players have to think about it each time, they cannot win a game.  You have to know how to shoot to win a game.  The transition from the thinking stage to the knowing stage is achieved through practice. Practice enables us to know how to do things automatically, and it decreases the risk of making a mistake. This is why, despite being the greatest basketball player in the game, LeBron James stays late after the team practice to deliberately practice his free throw shots. Continuing to practice the fundamentals is how you become and stay excellent.

“Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice ― perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again―and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. . . . spontaneity isn’t random.”  ―Malcolm Gladwell

To learn more about Kumon’s programs in NYC, click here!

NYC Parenting Classes for You, Too!

While our major focus at Kidz Central Station is classes for kids, we also make sure to offer options the NYC parents out there who, like us, need a hand with this whole parenting thing every once in a while. At programs uptown, downtown and in between, there are great NYC parenting classes available, whether you want to get in shape after having a baby, brush up on important safety tips, or learn about the painstaking process of enrolling in preschool. So without further adieu, here are some great programs available right now!

NYU Langone Medical CenterBaby Sitting Happily In Car Seat. One of the best hospitals in NYC, NYU Langone Medical Center offers an array of informative classes to get you through every stage of being a parent—from prenatal to postnatal. Expectant parents can experience a free hospital tour and information session with the Ready . . . Set . . . Baby class, and if you want to brush up on CPR and first aid, there are courses for that too. You can even attend sessions for buckling your little one safely in a car seat—a must for any parent on the go. Bottom line, NYU Langone’s parenting classes cover everything you’d ever want to know about becoming a parent—and if you haven’t read NYU’s weekly expert blog posts, make sure to check them out for parenting topics and tips!

 

92nd Street Ystandard_fit_yoga_pregnantside_lg. The 92nd Street Y has classes for everything—you have probably seen a wide variety of their kiddie programs on Kidz Central Station. What you might not realize is that they also offer some amazing classes and workshops for new and experienced parents as well—from semester classes you can join for a season to drop-in workshops on various parenting topics. Expectant parents can check out classes like Lamaze Complete Childbirth Preparation and Caring for a Newborn, and newbies to the job can get back into shape with Yoga For Mommy and Baby or learn the basics of breastfeeding with a weekly Breastfeeding Workshop. Even experienced parents have their pick: you can learn how to best navigate the stresses of parenthood with workshops like Planning Your Child’s Early School Years and Motherhood and Your Professional Identity!

JCC ManhattanHappy Young Father is Playing with his newborn baby girl at home, and kissing noses together.  Vintage style color filter.. For Upper West Siders (or anyone nearby!), the JCC Manhattan offers a variety of great classes for kids (swimming, dance, sports, and more) as well as classes parents will definitely appreciate. If you’re new to the whole parenting game and want to meet others in your shoes (and eat!), there’s a Dad’s Meet Up Brunch and a New Moms Breakfast you won’t want to miss out on, as well as weekly parenting sessions ( called Parents Talk: Everything from A to ZZZs) that cover important topics such as baby sleep schedules and safety and first aid. And that’s not all—check out the full selection of parenting classes here!

standard_Postnatal_fitness_group14th Street Y. Whether you want to get in shape or bond with other parents, this downtown program has a class or workshop to meet your needs. Want to tone with baby in tow? There are some awesome fitness classes in yoga, pilates, barre, and more (prenatal yoga too!). Find out the answers to your burning questions about raising a toddler? The Parenting Your Preschool class is a series of informative sessions focusing on preschool age kids. Topics such as helping your child adjust to the demands of preschool, limit setting, language development, and even topics YOU bring to the table will all be covered throughout the semester. Conveniently located in Stuyvesant Town not too far from Union Square, this program draws parents from all areas and neighborhoods throughout the year.

Happy Holidays from Kidz Central Station!

BackgroundCHRISTMASLIGHTSv2(red)(LS)withHAPPYHOLIDAYS(E)Happy Holidays! We at Kidz Central Station want to thank you, all of our amazing and loyal members, readers, and followers for your support this year, and for helping us make Kidz Central Station the go-to place for finding and enrolling in NYC kids’ activities! It’s been another great year with lots of exciting accomplishments! In 2015:

The site has almost doubled to include over 5,000 classes, camps, and activities!

We’re going international! Launching in early 2016, Kidz Central Station UK will be the go-to website for finding the best kids’ activities in London’s metro area!

We’ve continued to improve the site, based on your feedback! We now have gift cards (a great holiday gift!) as well as a homepage event calendar that makes it even easier for NYC families to find and book classes in music, gymnastics, tennis, and more! Parents also have a range of scheduling options—from semester classes and drop-in activities to holiday camps and theater for kids.

Our team has grown—three new team members joined this year!

We’ve had some amazing press this year! If you missed it, we were featured in The Wall Street Journal and on WPIX 11 News

We hosted tons of awesome events, including pop-up parties with our favorite NYC kids’ programs and a holiday shopping event at Toys “R” Us Times Square with great sponsors, holiday giveaways, and lots of family activities. We can’t wait to host more fun events in 2016!

Thank you for being a part of our success this year—we appreciate all of your support, feedback, and time spent on the site. We wish you a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year—here’s to a fantastic 2016!

A Love Song For the Ages: Science Confirms Power of Music for Bonding With Babies

f229646b-84aa-4287-876d-b516101f5cd7-oBy Renee Bock

Sometimes science confirms what we know already on a gut level, a truth that we live by every day. I’ve been singing with young children for over a decade. Babies, three year olds, five year olds. They come to me as strangers and immediately connect through song. I don’t yet know their names, but they relax, they trust me, they are present as a group.

This week, scientists at Oxford University revealed that singing bonds people together more quickly than anything else. Over seven months, researchers studied the adult relationships forged in singing groups vs. creative writing or craft making experiences. They found that music makes people feel closer to each other faster and has tremendous power as an “ice breaker” between strangers.

Scientists have long debated the evolutionary value of music to humans. What contribution does singing make to our survival as a species? It doesn’t help with reproduction or self-defense. Is it nothing more than “auditory cheesecake” as cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker asserts?

Here we begin to carve out an answer, one that reminds us as parents, teachers, and caregivers, that singing is an incredible tool for bonding with children from birth, creating deep attachments and expressing love even before spoken language emerges.

Yes, classes in creative writing and craft making brought people together. Adult students shared stories, learned about each other lives, and relationships evolved as familiarity blossomed. Not so with music. When people sang together, they didn’t need time or stories, they just felt connected. Imagine what this means for tribes in early human history, large groups newly interacting, needing to forge immediate ties to find food, build shelter or fight enemies. They’d skip a lot of steps if singing inspired immediate affinity. Congruence, alignment, agreement, harmony, synchronization—the building of social networks. We don’t need to speak the same language to be a force, a community that moves and acts. Perhaps this is why religion is so often accompanied by song, and why we make music as we go into battle. Certainly this is why throughout human history we continued to sing and enjoy singing today.

As someone who sings with babies, this study feels like old but welcome news. We’ve known for a long time that singing generates good feeling, aligns our heart rhythms and produces endorphins. Singing changes our brains and makes us happy. Now we know that singing provides immediate glue between strangers. Babies, who can’t yet talk, share stories of their lives, communicate feelings in words, can bond immediately through music. It’s part of being human. Way more than “auditory cheesecake,” a dessert or afterthought of human evolution. Singing is elemental.

For those parents or caregivers who feel they can’t sing or who simply get embarrassed, the Oxford study reminds us to put those feelings aside and jump right into singing with children to deepen our relationship right away. Your special face, your special smell, and now your special song, will let them know that you are their special someone. The impact will be immediate, a love song for the ages.

Renee Bock is the chief academic officer at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan. She has a master’s in early childhood education and more than a decade of experience in the field.

Resources:
1) http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/10/150221
2) http://mic.com/articles/127865/new-study-finds-singing-brings-people-together-better-than-anything-else
3) http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/16/singing-changes-your-brain/
4) https://theconversation.com/how-music-helps-resolve-our-deepest-inner-conflicts-38531
5) http://mic.com/articles/124457/science-shows-how-singers-brains-are-different-from-everyone-else-s
6) http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00334/abstract
7) http://mic.com/articles/110628/13-scientific-studies-prove-music-lessons-were-the-best-thing-your-parents-did-for-you

 

 

 

Why Kidz Central Station Is Thankful This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Cartoon Clipart

This time of year is truly the best—with Thanksgiving upon us and the holiday season right on its heals, it’s the perfect time to reflect on all of the wonderful things that have happened this year and what we have to be thankful for. So, we’d like to take this opportunity to impart five great reasons why we at Kidz Central Station are thankful this year. We wish all of the Kidz Central Station families out there a very Happy Thanksgiving!

1. We love what we do. We feel truly lucky that we get to go to work each day and help NYC parents (like us!) find classes and activities that make their kids happy. We all know what it’s like to search high and low for the right kids’ classes, so it makes us feel good to know that we’re making life just a little bit easier with Kidz Central Station.

2. We all have wonderful families who support us every day. Period, end.

3. We get to come up with new and unique ways to reach the NYC parenting community. From our recent event at Toys “R” Us to our Best Kids’ Birthday Party Finder, it’s exciting and fun to reach parents in brand new ways, and best serve their needs. If you have questions or suggestions, let us know!

4. We get to meet and learn about lots of NYC families. Each day, parents call and email us with questions about kids’ activities—what’s the best music class for a 6 month old girl? (There are tons!) Do you have soccer for a 3 year old boy? (Yes, of course!) Through these exchanges we learn about what parents are looking for, what they want, and how we can better serve them. Right now we are gearing up for winter classes, so let us know if you need help finding the best classes for your child!

5. We all get to enjoy the upcoming Thanksgiving break. This Thursday on Thanksgiving, we all get to take a moment to sit back, relax, and enjoy some much-needed family time (as well as Thanksgiving activities!). We hope you do too!

3 Kid-Friendly (and Delicious!) Gluten-Free Recipes

happy family with two kids making dinner at home
Last week, our awesome experts from NYU Langone Medical Center wrote about how to enjoy a gluten-free Halloween if you or your little one has Celiac disease or any another gluten intolerance. This week, we’re happy to share some of our experts’ favorite gluten-free recipes—one that’s perfect for Halloween and two others that are both kid-friendly and delicious!

1. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Time to Make: 30 minutes
Makes: 1 cup
Serving Size for Kids: 1/8 cup
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1/4 cup

Ingredients                                                                                                                                                       1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Parchment paper

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Scoop seeds out of pumpkin using a large wooden spoon
3. Separate seeds from pumpkin flesh and rinse seeds
4. Drain seeds in a colander and pat dry with paper towels
5. Mix pumpkin seeds with olive oil and salt
6. Spread mixture evenly on the parchment paper
7. Bake pumpkin seeds for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, turning seeds over halfway through cooking
8. Allow pumpkin seeds to cool off before enjoying!

For Fun: Follow directions above but add your favorite spices for different flavored seeds!
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds: ½ tsp. garlic powder, ¼ tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. cayenne (for spicy seeds!)
Pumpkin Pie Seeds: 1 Tbsp. sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg
Pumpkiny Trail Mix: toss roasted seeds with your choice of dried fruit and nuts for an on-the-go treat!

2. Sweet Peach Smoothie
Time to Make: 10 minutes
Makes: 1 cup
Serving Size for Kids: ½ cup
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1 cup

Ingredients
¼ cup water or coconut water
¼ cup plain, low-fat yogurt
½ cup fresh or frozen peach slices
½ frozen, overripe banana

Directions
1. Add water, yogurt, peaches and banana to blender
2. Blend until smooth

Fun Tip: Turn brown bananas into smoothie ingredients! Simply peel bananas and freeze in a freezer bag, then add to smoothies later!

3. Salad Selfie
Time to Make: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 plate
Serving Size for Kids: ½ Salad Selfie
Serving Size for Adults/Adolescents: 1 Salad Selfie

Ingredients
Cored pear quarters (fresh and ripe, or canned and drained)
Plain Greek yogurt
Cantaloupe or honeydew
Celery sticks
Shredded carrots (long strands, if possible)
Sliced strawberries
Dried cranberries
Parsley Sprigs
Small spinach leaves
Sliced radishes
Sliced kiwi
Sliced Black olives

Directions
1. Rinse fruits and veggies
2. Place half a pear flat down in the center of the plate
3. Take a round scoop of the plain Greek yogurt and place it on the narrow top of the pear (the yogurt should look like the head of a person and the pear is the torso)
4. Use the long strands of shredded carrots or celery sticks to create arms or legs
5. The remaining ingredients can be used to create facial features like eyes, nose, mouth, hair, hands, legs, and so forth!

For fun: Use any fruits and veggies you like. Name your salad selfie and eat!

And don’t forget—to learn more about nutrition and gluten-free foods, join NYU Langone Medical Center in the kitchen! Through a partnership with the Natural Gourmet Institute, the Sylvia Center and NYU Langone Medical Center’s S.Q.U.A.S.H., and Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Programs, kids learn to make fun, healthy, gluten-free recipes with professional chefs. Our next class, a Mexican fiesta, is on October 14, at 5:30pm. Class is FREE and open to the public for kids ages 7 to 12. Register here!

Why Family Mealtime is SO Important


We all know that family mealtime is important, but scheduling time together is often easier said than done. When you get home from work or if you’ve spent the day running around after your kids, it can be tempting to grab food on the go or microwave a quick meal for the kids and order in for yourself.

However, every once in a while it’s important to take an hour out of your day to turn the TV off, put the phones and computers down, and enjoy a healthy meal while reflecting on the events of the day. Take it from us (and our experts at NYU Langone Medical Center who also had something to say about the matter!), your family will benefit in more ways than you know:

It’s important for your family relationship. The only way to foster a close-knit family is to spend quality time together, and weeknight meals are the perfect opportunity. Eating together every night might be a stretch for your family, but a couple nights a week at least, plan a meal where you can sit down together, talk about your day, and find out what’s happening in each other’s lives. What you learn might surprise you!

On that note, you may learn things about each other wouldn’t otherwise find out. We rush around in so many different directions that we often don’t have the time to chat about the little things in life—who your toddler played with at school, the project your wife is spending her days on at work, the amazing book your teenager read at school. Taking the time to spend a meal together—without lots of outside interruptions—will help you understand each other better and address exciting news and/or challenging issues in a more timely manner.

Your picky eater may just try something new. Kids tend to eat pretty early, so it’s not always convenient to eat as a family. However, if you have a picky eater on your hands and you make a concerted effort to eat dinner together as a family, he or she may be inspired to dig in to what the rest of you are eating. It’s not a guarantee, but a major way kids learn is by watching and observing, which is pretty difficult to do if they’re always eating by themselves.

You’ll eat healthier. After a long day, it often seems like the best way to handle dinner is to order in or grab take out and eat as you please. While this might be easier, doing so may not be good for your waistline. More often than not, grab and go meals are much more unhealthy than what you’d make for yourself at home, and eating this way every night can add lots of extra calories and saturated fat to your diet. Home-cooked meals don’t have to be difficult or over the top gourmet. Marinate chicken overnight and throw it on the grill; roast some vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper; and bake a sweet potato in the oven—and there you have an easy and healthy dinner for the whole family.

If lack of cooking time is the reason for your lack of family meals, don’t let it be your excuse! Prep your meals over the weekend when you have the time so all you have to do is defrost or throw it in the oven. You can also search the endless number of cooking sites out there for easy 20-minute meals that literally entail throwing things in a pot. Or, check out Kitchensurfing, a company that sends a private chef to your home to cook, serve, and clean up a meal for your family. This way you can spend more time as a family and less time worrying about what to make for dinner!