Holiday Shopping Tips: Happy Kids and Healthy Brains

Holiday shopping is once again upon us—as your kids make their lists and write their letters to Santa, could the type of gifts they receive affect their brain development, not to mention how home life will be for everyone in the months ahead?

“Yes”, says Dr. Marcia Slattery, UW Health Professor of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry and Pediatrics. “A child’s brain goes through massive developmental changes throughout childhood and adolescence, and the type and variety of experiences a child has can influence the pathways and connections in the brain”.

Parents should keep this in mind as they set out on the challenge of holiday shopping for their children. The goal: selecting gifts that are fun, enjoyable AND promote healthy brain development.

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Screen Time Stress

Many parents may have experienced the challenges of getting kids to turn off electronic devices when time is up, and for some families it can even turn into a struggle with kids refusing to stop. Dr. Marcia Slattery, UW Health child and adolescent psychiatrist and director of the UW Anxiety and Stress Disorders Program, sees many families for whom screen time has become a “battle.”

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Keep Food and Media Separate

Keep Food and Media SeparateTurn back the clock to when you were 3 years old. Sit down to a “satisfying” snack; half banana, sliced cheese and crackers with ice water before snuggling up on a comfortable couch to watch your favorite show- Elmo’s World. You notice two bowls in front of the couch: one filled with bear-shaped graham crackers and the other with corn chips. Throughout the 14-minute show, nine commercials appear advertising corn chips. Despite feeling satisfied, you naturally indulge in the snacks in front of you. Which snack did you eat more of?

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Slimming Down on Screen Time (Giveaway)

We all know that we should be limiting screen time. Studies find that for a child’s best development, there should be no screens for children under 2 years and less than 2 hours a day for kids over 2 years. Ironically, you may have learned this from a tweet, parenting website or blog post. There’s no question that it’s challenging to cut down on screen time. You may even have received a contradictory message at your pediatrician’s office. I talk about limiting screen time at every well child visit. But, I must confess, I do not object when a smartphone video is used to calm a kid and allow for an easier exam. I wonder about this inconsistency.

So, in writing this post, I hope to give you some tools to make limiting smartphone and screen time a little more attainable.

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Why Habits Matter More than Weight

ss_127556750_parent_father_sonThe team at UW Health’s  Pediatric Fitness Clinic, believes that our environments influence our weight. We look for factors in our patient’s lives that could be causing the weight gain.  Many people talk about the obvious reasons, such as lack of exercise and poor eating habits, but let’s dig a little deeper at other contributing factors.

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