Child Development

Yogurt, Good God Y’all, What is it Good For?

Cartoon characters on food packaging add to the problem.

Yogurt is dessert under the guise of a healthy food.

One tube of Yoplait GoGurt Bikini Bottom Berry flavored Low Fat Portable Yogurt contains the same amount of fat and sugar per ounce as a Jello chocolate pudding cup. The gogurt is fortified with some vitamins. Fortified which means you could just take a vitamin supplement with your pudding cup to get the same thing. To make matters worse, the gogurt has artificial coloring. Artificial food coloring is banned in several countries because it is linked to brain cancer, nerve-cell deterioration, and hyperactivity in children. read more »

Child Development

Inhibitory Control

John Wayne in True Grit

I recently gave a presentation at New Orelean’s Bar Camp, an un-conference hosting by the New Orleans tech and small business start-up community.  This year I spoke about a characteristic that is more important for academic success than I.Q.- inhibitory control.

Inhibitory control is the ability to resist temptation or impulse. Basically, its self-control and focus. Inhibitory control came on the scene with a now-classic experiment called the Marshmallow Test. The test gave preschool-aged children the option to eat one marshmallow whenever they wanted or two marshmallows if they could wait 15 minutes. They timed how long the children could wait and compared those times to how they fared in many other things throughout their lives. read more »


Smoothie Summer: Purple Blackberry Basil

An important smoothie disclaimer is that 14 grams of sugar is 14 grams of sugar, even if it comes from fruit. (High fructose corn syrup might be an exception.) “Natural fruit sugar” acts the same in your body as the sugar in that slice of cookie cake.

The difference between eating fruit and eating other things that contain sugar is that when you eat fruit, you also get nutrients and fiber. That fiber slows your digestion of the food and causes the sugar to be released more slowly into your bloodstream, keeping your blood-sugar level more steady. On the contrary, something like a cupcake causes a spike in your blood-sugar level. Avoiding spikes in your blood-sugar reduces cravings and drowsiness. A steady blood-sugar levels is what helps people on the Atkins diet lose weight, even if they are still clogging their arteries with bacon fat (mmm… bacon). read more »

Child Development

Parenting in Other Cultures: Oh, the Things We Could Learn

I recently wrote an article that claimed that children in some other cultures are more capable and responsible than American children because they are trusted with more responsibility at a younger age.

My experiences abroad support the idea the children in other places are given relatively more chores, trusted with more  responsibility and allowed to do more dangerous things. Traveling and working with children in China, I saw girls as young as five carrying their infant siblings on their backs as they accompanied their mothers in the market. From what I have seen, children in Istanbul, Turkey are also trusted with more responsibility. Young school children take the city buses to school everyday without adult chaperon.

Of course, the differences in other culture’s child-rearing practices extend far beyond matters of responsibility and chores. From how babies are carried, to what children are fed, to how they are rewarded and punished, it is fascinating to see the differences. (For a fun glimpse at these differences from your own living room, I highly recommend the movie Babies.) In fact, it was the cross-cultural differences in parenting that I observed abroad and learned about as an anthropology student that first piqued my interest in child development and set me down the path of making it a career. read more »

Child Development

Could American Children be More Capable and Responsible?

The use of machetes by three-year-olds may develop skills and independence. Picture from Vietnam, 2004

I recommend the article Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?  The author reports that children in some other cultures are far better behaved, more skilled, more self-motivated and harder working than American children. Among a certain tribe living in the Peruvian Amazon, children are able to care for themselves and preform all the necessary skills for survival in their culture by the time the reach puberty. read more »


Smoothie Summer: Pineapple Green Tea

There is a current trend in cooking for children of hiding beets in chicken nuggets and spinach in brownies. I see the appeal (remember Avocado Brownies.) I like getting nutrients into children, even if it is coated in cheese. My concern is that these dishes give children the false expectation that its OK to eat only mac and cheese and hot dogs, when what they need to do is work towards acquiring a taste for healthy foods. read more »

Child Development

Can Kids Teach Themselves To Read?

This is talk by Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the One Laptop per Child initiative, about solutions for educating some of the poorest children in the world. About 11 minutes in, he describes his latest project to teach kids to read using technology. He is sending tablets to villages where no one is literate and seeing if the children will learn how to read with only the books, programs, and games on the tablet. Its an ambitious project that has implications for education the world over. read more »

Child Development

Memory Game

Memory card matching games improve cognitive abilities.

One day in my 3 year old classroom, I introduced a memory game. I had 5 pairs of Easter egg picture cards (that I made myself using two copies of a coloring sheet). I laid them out face down and had the players take turns trying to find matches.

Games like these exercise “working memory.” Working memory turns out to be correlated with IQ and with other cognitive skills such as reading comprehension, problem solving and even one’s ability to focus. Playing games that require working memory can actually improve working memory.

read more »

Child Development

Scoring the Grit Scale

For questions 1, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 12 assign the following points:

5 = a. Very much like me
4 = b. Mostly like me
3 = c. Somewhat like me
2 = d. Not much like me
1 = e. Not like me at all


For questions 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 11 assign the following points:

1 = a. Very much like me
2 = b. Mostly like me
3 = c. Somewhat like me
4 = d. Not much like me
5 = e. Not like me at all

Add up all the points and divide by 12. The maximum score on this scale is 5 (extremely gritty), and the lowest scale on this scale is 1 (not at all gritty).  read more »


Smoothie Summer: Yellow Pineapple and Pepper

This is the second post in a series in which I provide a smoothie recipe for every color. Last week I started with red.  Today, yellow.


My smoothies are usually just fruits and vegetables, sometimes with some dairy or soy milk. I like to think of them as nutrient bombs. I generally avoid the smoothies you can order at coffee shops and ice cream stores because they often have a lot of sugar and artificial flavoring. If I’m going down that road I just assume order ice cream.

Here is my yellow smoothie recipe. It uses an entire yellow bell pepper, and its quite refreshing: read more »