All posts by Eugenia

Children and toxic stress in times of war

Children and toxic stress in times of war

Millions of children around the world are living their most important years of development in situations of war. War can be incredibly stressful for adults – but can be much worse for children. In this moment of development, children are living in fear and uncertainty, sometimes losing their home, access to food and water, and even family members. In other situations, children might be able to depend on the adults around them to help deal with the stress. However, wartime often taxes the capacities of adults as well, if the adults are around in the first place.

The current situation in Syria is an example of the need to help the most vulnerable – children who are living their most important developmental years in dire situations and chronic stress. The actual crisis – which was sparked by anti-government protests and culminated in civil war – has led almost four million people to flee Syria, most of whom are women and children. Syria’s neighbors, such as Lebanon and Jordan, are overwhelmed with the amount of refugees coming into their countries every month. Even within Syria, there are approximately another 6.5 IDPs (internally displaced person), which means approximately 1 out of every 2 Syrians has fled their home. The United Nations has announced that almost 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, of which 7.5 are children (OCHRA, 2015). Continue reading

Beyond Kinedu: Social Impact Initiatives

At Kinedu, we often talk about the importance of the early years in forming solid brain architecture. In the last decade, science has really made it clear that early experiences form the basis for either promoting health and development, or stunting it. Child development, especially from birth to age five, is a foundation for a skilled work force, a responsible community, and a thriving economy.

During this period, the child’s brain is most sensitive to the influence of external experiences, for better or worse. Responsive, dependable interactions with adults can lead to healthy emotional and cognitive development. On the other hand, toxic stress, caused by poverty, abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse or mental illness, or exposure to violence without supportive relationships with adults can interrupt normal brain development. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and later health problems, such as alcoholism, depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Toxic stress can also impair the development of executive function, or the brain’s ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, and filter distractions. This set of skills is critical for school achievement, the preparation of a future workforce, and avoiding a wide range of population health problems.

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New mom: What I’d like my legacy to be

I recently found out that I’m going to be a mom this fall. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s the big life changes headed my way, but I’ve definitely been more reflective lately.

One of the bigger concerns that I’ve been going over -and one I’m sure I share with many moms-to-be and new moms- is what I want to teach my children. More than just academics, I really want to pin down a set of tenets for living our lives that I can pass on to them. Hopefully, I’ve gathered some good tools from my psychology background and by working in early childhood. The list is not definitive by any means, but I’ll try to keep honing down what I really value and what I want my kids live and learn.

Here is my current set of ‘rules’ –with many changes, additions, and improvements to be made in the coming months (and after that, I’m sure).

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Christmas traditions: In with the old, and in with the new!

What do you most remember from your childhood? Many people point to the traditions they had with parents, friends, or others as some of the best – and most memorable – times of their lives. Christmas and the holiday season is a particularly tradition-laden time of year. We took this opportunity to ask the Kinedu team to share the Christmas traditions they cherish the most. Hopefully these ideas will serve as fodder for starting or renewing your own holiday traditions!

When I was young, my family and I would place the sheep from the Nativity scene close to the Christmas tree. If my siblings and I were well-behaved, we would get the chance to move the sheep closer to the tree. If not, we couldn’t move it any closer. At the end of the day, we would always discuss what we did that day, and whether the sheep should move or not. Mine always made it to the tree by Christmas!

In my family, we would always try to get the person receiving a gift to guess what it was before opening it. We used riddles to try to get them to guess! Another of the traditions that I’m fond of is celebrating December 25th with my family, and the 24th with friends and friend’s families. We would always be able to make the other parties we were invited to!
-Beto Continue reading

Bilingualism and the brain

Many parents know the benefits that learning more than one language can have for a child’s future. However, many parents are not aware of the additional benefits that learning a second language can have! The language-learning experience changes the brain, and with it, alters the course of development. There have been multiple studies that attempt to understand the effects of bilingualism, and the surprising conclusion is that learning a second language (or even third or fourth) has an effect on development beyond the linguistic realm.

The social brain

The idea of theory of mind is central to getting a glimpse into what we know about how bilingualism can affect social processes. Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as one’s assumptions or ideas of how others think of something. ToM requires the mental representations of both your own self and others’, and realizing that your mind and knowledge is separate from others’.

In an important study on the effects of bilingualism on social cognition, researchers Nguyen and Astington compared groups of children of 3 to 5 years of age on a series of measures, including a false-belief task to test theory of mind. In this task, also known as the Sally-Anne test, a child is shown a story in which Anne moves Sally’s toys when Sally is not looking. The child is then asked to point to where Sally will think the toys are. A child that demonstrates theory of mind will recognize that Sally will still think the toys are where she left them originally, because she doesn’t have all of the information that Anne, and the child, have. In the study, one group of children had been exposed to both English and French from birth or before the age of 8 months, while others had mostly been exposed to either French or English. The study found that bilinguals significantly outperformed monolinguals on the false-belief tasks after controlling age and language proficiency. Working memory was also significantly increased in bilinguals.

Kinedu News: Premium New Feature Coming in the Fall

Hi Readers!

I met up with Cristy and Samantha, two of Kinedu’s Lead Content Creators and Resident Psychologists, to chat about Kinedu Tracks, a premium new feature that they’ve been working on. Keep reading to find out more about this awesome new feature that’s coming in the fall.


E: So, what exactly is Kinedu Tracks?

C: Tracks is a new program we’re currently working on that works to develop a specific skill such as sitting, standing, walking. Unlike a Kinedugram, that works to boost development holistically, Tracks are composed of activities that work towards one specific goal.

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