Archive for July, 2011

I was a bit appalled at the results and video in this post on the filthiness of McDonald’s playplaces:


But I have to say kudos to the mom who put this together – who also happens to be a developmental psychologist – for launching her campaign to get these play structures cleaned up.  Since my little guy is still a bit too small to play on the equipment at McDonald’s, I haven’t yet been in the position of having to make a decision about whether to allow him to play in these structures.  I’ll definitely be thinking twice about it now.

Here’s the full video:


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As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I am a total craft junkie.  Crafting is my therapy.  There is something very soothing to me about the act of creating something new and letting my creative juices flow.

I also recently had an absolutely AMAZING experience at a local yard sale.  I had been drawn by all of the advertisements suggesting that the sale would predominantly feature a large amount of craft supplies for cheap.  If there’s anything I like better than making crafts, it’s buying craft supplies.  As it turned out, the sale was being run by the stars of Creative Juice on the DIY Network, selling excess supplies from their studio to make room for new product.  It was so fun to meet them, and I picked up 6 or 7 different varieties of Mod Podge to play with (along with some fabric paints, acrylic paints, chalkboard paints, and a few new rubber stamps) – all on the cheap!

I’ve only recently discovered that awesomeness that is Mod Podge.  In working on craft ideas for my MOPS group next year, I’ve started experimenting with it.  Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Mod Podge projects to date – photo coasters.

To give credit where credit is due, I first saw this idea on Frugal Girls:

Frugal Girls – How to Make Photo Coasters

Basically, all you need are some photos, some single ceramic tiles from any home improvement store (usually less than $0.16 each), paint for the edges, mod podge, a brush, some acrylic sealer, and felt and a glue gun.  This is a ridiculously easy and inexpensive project to do.  I recommend starting with painting the edges of the tile to give it a more finished look, then cut and hot glue a piece of felt to the back side of the tile.  This will prevent your coaster from scratching the furniture.  Then, paint a layer of Mod Podge on the front of the tile and center your photo on top.  Paint over that with a layer of Mod Podge and allow to dry.  Finish with a generous coat of acrylic sealer (to keep the moisture from glasses from ruining your coaster).

The process sounds a bit long and drawn out in that tutorial, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  I found that a single medium-thick layer of Mod Podge on the picture was sufficient.  It takes a little while to dry, but it doesn’t necessarily need multiple coats over multiple days.  I do recommend painting the edges of the tiles first and allowing it to dry.

Here’s a photo of the coaster I made featuring a waterfall on the Big Island of Hawaii (ignore the unpainted edge there – I failed to follow my own advice…):

Enjoy!  Hope this inspires you to get creating (if that’s your thing)!

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Though this isn’t necessarily a psychological study, per se, I was really intrigued by one of the new pre-release, web-published studies in Pediatrics on vehicle safety for children with grandparent drivers versus parent drivers.  Here is the link to the study (currently available for free online):

Grandparents Driving Grandchildren: An Evaluation of Child Passenger Safety and Injuries

Looking at data from vehicle crashes over a 4-year period, Henretig, et al., found that while grandparents were more likely to practice unsafe restraints of the kids (e.g. allowing kids to sit in the front seat, incorrectly installing child safety seats), kids had a lower risk of injury in crashes where grandparents were the drivers instead of parents.

It’s an interesting quandary.  On the one hand, grandparents were riskier with how the kids were restrained.  Grandparents also tended to drive cars associated with higher injury risks.  However, on the other hand, the overall risk of injury in collisions was lower.

Henretig, et al., suggest that perhaps different driving styles between parents and grandparents might explain the odd pattern of results.  When I think of elderly drivers, I generally assume that their reaction times are slower, leading to higher risk of accidents.  However, as the authors suggest, it’s possible that having a “baby on board” helps grandma be even more cautious and drive more defensively.

When and where to allow others to drive your kids is a significant decision facing parents on a regular basis.  Certainly these findings would suggest that it is a good idea to work with grandparents to make sure they are up to date on current vehicle safety recommendations – whether this is done on a large scale or just by going over things carefully with grandma before letting her drive.  Although the risk for injury is lower, there is certainly room for improvement in child vehicle safety with grandparents.  Of course, no research study is a good replacement for using your own good judgment about whether grandma is an adequate chauffeur for your children, but the study findings also suggest that riding with grandma might not be as fraught with peril as you may fear.

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While browsing today’s newly released studies from the journal, Pediatrics, one new title caught my eye – Mother-Child Bed-sharing in Toddlerhood and Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes (Barajas, Martin, Brooks-Gunn, & Hale, 2011).

This particular paper comes out of a multi-year longitudinal study in New York looking at predominantly low-income families.  Families were assessed on a generally yearly basis from birth to age 5.  In this particular paper, the researchers examined whether co-sleeping in the toddler years was associated with behavioral problems at 5 years.

Overall, the authors found that while co-sleeping predicted behavioral problems, once other mother and child characteristics were accounted for, the association between co-sleeping and behavioral problems went away.  In plainer English, although co-sleeping initially seemed to predict behavior problems in kids, other factors better explain later behavior problems.

I found the overall premise of the study to be quite interesting.  Co-sleeping is a hotly debated topic in the parenting community.  Safety advocates are quick to point out potential hazards with co-sleeping, such as unintentional injury to the child.  In contrast, within the attachment parenting community, co-sleeping and family beds are generally widely encouraged.  Attachment parenting advocates claim that co-sleeping improves the bond between mother and child by allowing the mother to be more immediately responsive to the child’s needs.

I found it interesting that the authors seemed to zone in on negative behavior outcomes.  Granted, they concluded that co-sleeping does not significantly contribute to later negative behaviors in kids, but the focus seemed somewhat negative overall.  If attachment parenting gurus are on to something, then wouldn’t it be expected that co-sleeping would be linked to more positive behaviors and outcomes later?  I would love to see a study on that topic.

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Obesity and CPS

I just read a somewhat unsettling article on Yahoo! News today about whether parents of extremely obese children should have their children removed and placed in foster care for neglect.  Check out the article here:


Apparently the hubbub is being sparked by an editorial appearing in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in which a respected pediatrician advocates state involvement in cases of severe obesity in kids.

It’s a provocative issue – on the one hand, some of the cases detailed in the Yahoo! News article do demonstrate improvements in weight after removing kids to foster care with foster families who implement diet and exercise restrictions.  On the other hand, no mention is made of the long-term psychological effects of separating kids from their parents.  And, as any good student of psychology knows, relationships with caregivers are important and disruptions have long-term consequences.

Certainly in cases of clear verbal, physical, and emotional abuse we’ve reached a point in society where it is considered acceptable and commendable to step in and protect the child from abuses.  The question is – is having an obese child a sign that you are abusive or neglectful as a parent?  I’m sure it depends on the case and the details.  Certainly there are likely families with extremely obese children where a change of environment may be the best solution.  But who makes those decisions?  If obesity were the only significant issue, I would find it difficult to advocate for removal from the home.   Ultimately, I would hope that if it comes to it, most families in this situation would be given support and interventions to help improve health and maintain the family intact.

Interesting things to ponder on a Thursday morning…  What do you think?

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So, I’ve been busy lately.  Life got in the way of blogging recently, so I missed this story when it was first hitting the news and the blogosphere.  But hey, better late than never, right?

So, there’s been a bit of buzz surrounding a new study just released in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Here’s the link to the abstract:  http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/1/e78.abstract.

Basically, Giles et al. (2011) found that mothers who reported a significant amount of depressive symptoms at multiple data points during toddlerhood had children with higher rates of internalizing (e.g. depression, anxiety, social withdrawal) and externalizing (attention problems, behavior problems, etc.) problems at age 5.  BUT, for recurrent depressed moms who had their child in at least 1/2 day per week of formal daycare, there were significantly fewer behavioral problems at age 5.

There have been a number of studies demonstrating the link between depression in moms and negative outcomes in kids.  Being depressed during your child’s early years has been shown to lead to problems with getting in sync and attaching well to your child.  It’s very interesting that the new study finds that having your child in a situation where he/she would be likely to form attachments with other caregivers can protect against some of the negative outcomes.

I would be very interested to see more studies on this topic.  As other writers have pointed out, the quality of the childcare itself was not assessed in the study.  It would be interesting to know if things like certain child/teacher ratios predict better outcomes.  Or if informal care through easily accessible means, like having a friend take your child for a few hours or using a childcare service at your place of worship also has the same effect.

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Living to 100

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about aging and the future.  I think part of it is that moving into the child-raising stage of my life is making me more aware of my own mortality and putting some things in life more into perspective.  And, with the current economic climate, I think I also have some general concerns about what life and our finances will be like when we reach retirement age.

In the midst of stewing for a bit about whether we’re actively doing enough to prepare for the future, I had to take a continuing education class on aging.  “Great,” I thought, “more grist for the worry mill about all the negative things I have to look forward to when I’m old.”  I will admit it – I sometimes tend to buy in to the cultural bias that aging is bad.  And I’m also a little uncomfortable with the whole notion of death and dying, but that’s a whole separate post.

Without much premeditation, I went to my favorite online course provider and dutifully ordered the aging course in the length I needed to fill my requirement.  I somehow fortunately stumbled upon a course on aging from a positive psychology perspective.  For those who are unfamiliar, positive psychology, a movement started by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, focuses on studying things like optimism and happiness – all the positive things in life that psychologists sometimes forget about in their unending studies on depression, anxiety, neuroticism, etc.

I have to say, my perceptions and attitudes about aging were really challenged in a good way.  The bit that is sticking with me the most was the notion that people who live to be very old (i.e. 100 years +) tend to always have a purpose in life.  It doesn’t seem to matter so much what the purpose is, you just need to have one.  Centenarians also tend to not have disabilities until their 90s, tend to be self-reliant, and tend to be generally cheerful, optimistic people who focus on the good and stay active and engaged in life well into their later years.  They place importance on relationships and build new friendships throughout their lives.  They are altruistic, connected to their communities, and manage their health well.

After reading all of this, I thought, “man, I really want to be like that when I’m old.”

Certainly, genetics also plays a huge role in the human lifespan, but there is something to be said for the notion of self-fulfilling prophecies when it comes to aging.  If you think that aging is a horrible process, then it really may not be pleasant for you.  But, fortunately, attitudes can be changed for the better.

Many of these findings about longevity have come from the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, among other studies.  From their research findings, lead NECS researcher, Thomas Perls, M.D., has even devised a life span calculator that you can use to predict your own estimated life span:

The Living to 100 Calculator

My estimate was 91 – not too shabby and plenty of room for improvement.

I was quite inspired by this quote from Stephen Vincent Benet:

Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.

It’s a good reminder to sit up, engage in life, and enjoy each minute to the fullest – regardless of how many total minutes we each get.

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