Eating a Healthy Breakfast is Connected to Good Academic Performance

The beginning of a new school year is always challenging for parents and children.  We parents usually have different concerns than our children as we center our attention on how to assist them with doing well in all aspects of school.  Yet, we share with them the goal of good academic performance.  Science has shown that a child who starts the day with a good breakfast is already leaps ahead in performing well in school.

According to an online article on the website for the National Center for Biotechnical Information/National Institutes of Health, the importance of a healthy breakfast cannot be overstated yet it is the most frequently skipped meal, with 20% to 30% of children skipping it.

Studies “generally demonstrate that eating breakfast has a positive effect on children's cognitive performance, particularly in the domains of memory and attention.” Children who eat breakfast have an increase in cognitive performance, meaning an increase in attention skills so that they can perform their lessons well. This also translates to an ability to attend school regularly and remember information that is taught.  Additionally, their behavior in class is dramatically affected because they can concentrate better and perform the necessary tasks.

It is important for us to understand that children’s brains are developing and are different than those of adults.  The article points out that children have a higher brain glucose metabolism than adults.  “To maintain this higher metabolic rate, a continuous supply of energy derived from glucose is needed, hence breakfast consumption may be vital in providing adequate energy for the morning.”

Not only does breakfast assist a child academically, but it also helps the child to maintain proper body weight.  Children who skip are more likely to be overweight and not eat healthy snacks or satisfy the recommended daily vegetable and fruit intake.  Not surprising is the connection between skipping breakfast and “risky behaviors” such as smoking and experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

Plan for healthy breakfasts ahead of time.  Make them easy and fun.  There are plenty of books and online articles with suggested recipes.  Give your children the important start for their school day and help them reach their goals of academic success.

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Should Children Help Clean Their Own Schools?

Photo provided by Singapore Press Holdings

The fact that children in Japan help to clean their own classrooms and schools is back in the news.  That is nothing new though, as they have been doing so for many years.  It is a tradition called o-soji (cleaning).

According to Fino Menezes, author of the online article Should Children Clean Their Own Schools? Japan Thinks So, Japanese children are better for it.  How? “They are learning to respect their surroundings. They are learning that it’s better not to make a mess if you are the one who has to clean it up.”

Children spend about 20 minutes a day, 4 days a week, and then a longer time at the end of each semester cleaning.  Often, students from higher grades assist students from the lower grades.  As a result, young children are being mentored and older children are teaching younger ones.   The cleaning is done to fun music and the children are happy and smiling doing the tasks.

According to Donald Ash, an American who teaches in Japan, in his website article Huh? Japanese Kids Clean Their Classrooms?!?, he was very surprised to see this tradition in practice.  Coming from the public school system in Georgia, he never cleaned at the school except if it was part of a school club project.  The common thinking was “Let the janitors handle it.” But, once he was a teacher in Japan, he was awe struck by the children so willingly cleaning.  He comments that even the most difficult students gladly cleaned.

At the end of his article Mr. Ash asks: “Do you think it could ever happen at your school (in the US)?”  What do you think?

For more, read: Should Children Clean Their Own Schools? Japan Thinks So, or Japanese Kids Clean Their Classroom? 

Plan College Visits with Your Children During Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a wonderful opportunity to visit different colleges during your travels.  Let’s face it – a college degree has almost become a must have for a successful future.  By encouraging your children at an early age to begin considering attending college, they will be focused and ready when the time comes to narrow the choices and make the ultimate selection.

My late husband and I did just that.  When we visited family for Christmas vacation one year, we all went to take a tour of a local university in the city.  We made it a family affair: included our two sons, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandma.  Our oldest son complained about it as he just wanted to “have fun” during his Christmas break, but reluctantly went along.  It turned out to be an interesting and informative opportunity to visit the university, tour the grounds, and talk with various representatives.  Our sons took other campus tours at various colleges with their classmates, but guess where both our sons attended college?  Yes – at that same university we toured during that break!

Be sure to visit the college’s website and find out when there are tours available.  It is best to join a formal tour provided by the college than to just wander around the campus not knowing the area.  During the tour, you can ask important questions about scholarship programs, financial aid, dorm living, etc.  You can always wander about after the formal tour!

To learn more about the benefits of college tours, CLICK HERE.

Make Sure Your Children Participate in Vacation Bible School This Summer

Churches have developed wonderful programs for children during the summer that have become known as vacation bible schools or VBSs.  Some programs last one week, others up to one month.  They are excellent programs for your children to learn more about the Word of God, develop friendships, and have a lot of fun.

There are many professional companies that produce annual vacation bible school programs, from teaching materials for teachers, to music videos, song CDs, skits, and bible verse memory cards.  Each program differs but they usually follow a format.  There is typically one simple theme and bible verses are selected that support the theme.  For example, a company has as one of its themes this year “Life is Wild – God is Good” with a jungle motif.   Another theme is “Athens – Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth” with a Greek motif.

The creativity of these programs is amazing.  The appeal to children exceptional.  No longer do church leaders have to be concerned about creating their own study material and music, as everything is prepared and provided for them to lead a successful vacation bible school.

Importantly, vacation bible school is not a babysitting service.  As a lay children’s minister who volunteered as a leader for many VBSs, I was saddened to see that often parents thought of it as that.   It is instead a wonderful learning program where children thoroughly enjoy themselves. 

If your church sponsors a VBS, please enroll your children in it.  If not, research other churches in your community that do.  Your children will truly be blessed by participating!

In Spelling Bees, All Children Are Winners!

We have all seen them – a child standing on a stage, before a room full of people, being given words to spell.  Each child patiently attempts to speak clearly into the microphone to spell the word.  Many of those words are very difficult to pronounce, much less spell.  We think – what a smart and brave child to be standing up there in front of all those people, trying so hard to accurately spell.  What I would also encourage you to think about are the many benefits to having your child participate in a spelling bee.  Here are just a few:

1.    It helps to enhance your children’s vocabulary, as they learn more words and become accurate spellers.

2.    It helps children learn better grammar as they not only learn the meaning of new words but also learn to use them properly in sentences.

3.    It helps children to develop poise and confidence.  Being able to stand in front of a group of people, think on your feet, and handle pressure are important skills that take time to develop. 

4.    Since it’s a competition, competitive skills are being developed as well.  Friendships are being built and competition brings excitement.

5.    For those children who do not win, it gives them the opportunity to figure out what they could have done better as well as how to lose gracefully. 

If your child wants to participate in a spelling bee, it is very important that he gets the support he needs both at school and at home.  It takes discipline, diligence and hard work.  And, the rewards are tremendous!

The Best Way to Prepare Your Children Academically for Preschool is by Reading

From the day of their birth, children are learning languages, and the words that they are exposed to for the first few years of their lives influence their language development and academic performance for the years to come.  When preparing your children for preschool, it is critical that you take time out of each day to read to and with them.

For generations, parents have read stories to their young children and for good reason - the developmental benefits are endless. The transition from daycare to preschool will be much easier when reading has been a part of their daily routine.  

When you read a story, don’t just read it quickly as if it is a task that needs to be finished right away.  Take your time.  Talk about the meaning of a word if it is a new word.  Encourage your children to look at the pictures on each page.  As a children’s author, I know the importance that not only words have on each page in a book, but also the pictures.  I hired a children’s artist to design and paint the pictures, according to my direction and input.  Pictures convey a specific message so I wanted to ensure that each picture told the message that I wanted the child to know and learn. 

In addition to looking at the pictures and discussing them, a parent should make reading fun by changing the intonation of his voice.  Also, if it is a woman speaking, try to speak as a woman.  The same thing if it is a man.  Make a silly voice if the character is a funny character.  I think you get the gist of what I am trying to convey. 

Try not to limit your reading times to bed time.  If there is a lull in the afternoon on a weekend, pull out a book to read to your children.   There should always be plenty of books in each room in the house.   Or, ask one of your children to find a book that you can read to them. 

We parents want our children to be prepared for preschool.  The foundation of literacy is the most important and lasting foundation that you can give them.