The Added Benefits of Taking Music Lessons in Childhood

Kids playing music demonstrating the added benefits of taking music lessons in childhood

 Beyond the obvious benefits of learning music, a study looks at the added benefits of taking music lessons in childhood.

The study was published in the  Journal of Neuroscience.  It states that adults who took music lessons as children have a heightened ability to process sounds. They are also better at listening.

Northwestern University researchers looked at 45 adults who had music training in childhood and compared them to those with no musical training during childhood. Those with even a few years of musical training in childhood had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds.

The participants were divided into three groups: those with no musical training, those with one to five years of lessons, and those with six to 11 years. Most in the study had begun music lessons at about age nine.

The study found that those who had music lessons were better at hearing fundamental frequency. This is the lowest frequency in sound and is crucial for speech and music perception. It enables recognition of sounds in complex and noisy hearing settings.

In a university news release, Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and communication sciences, stated “Musical training as children makes better listeners later in life,” She continued, “Based on what we know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning.

Many children take music lessons for a few years, but few continue with formal music instruction beyond middle or high school. We help address a question on every parent’s mind: ‘Will my child benefit if he or she plays music for a short while but then quits training?”

Note: While the research showed an association between musical training and better listening skills, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

(SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release.

More Information: The American Music Therapy Association: other benefits of music.

 

 

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Dietary Supplements Are Popular, but are They Safe?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at dietary supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But dietary supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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New Year’s Resolutions: A Family Affair

 New Year’s resolutions are a family affair. Adults can help children to understand the meaning of resolutions, and how and why we make them.

The following New Year tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are offered to help parents encourage their children to make healthy resolutions.

resolutionsResolutions for Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets, even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or  I am scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.

Resolutions for Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible, and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get into a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends.I’ll asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Resolutions for Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day. I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games.  I will spend only one to two hours each day, at the most on these activities.  I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community by  giving some of my time to help others.  I will work with community groups or join a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress.  I will exercise, read, write in a journal or talk about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date.  I will always treat the other person with respect and not force them to do something or use violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

 

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Keeping Foodborne Illness Out of the Lunchbox

You can reduce the chance of what the USDA calls a serious public health threat…foodborne illness in the lunchbox. 

lunchboxHere are six top tips for keeping foods safe in a lunchbox.

  1. If you’re packing meats, eggs, yogurt or other perishable food, use at least two freezer packs. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Juice boxes can provide another option: freeze some juice boxes overnight to use with at least one freezer pack. The frozen juice boxes will thaw by lunchtime.
  3. If there’s a refrigerator at school or work, find a space for your lunch. Remove the lid or open the bag so the cold air can circulate better.
  4. Use an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox or bag instead of a paper bag. Perishable food can spoil more quickly in a paper bag.
  5. For a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container. Make sure the container remains tightly closed until lunchtime.
  6. And finally, throw out all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags.

Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reminds us that not all illness comes from the food. It can come from a lunchbox that is not properly cleaned, or from the area where the lunch was prepared.

Please remember that:

  • A dirty lunchbox may contain bacteria that can make a youngster  sick.
  • A lunchbox picks up a lot of grime in a day.
  • Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food.
  • It’s a good idea to put a small bottle of antibacterial gel with a tight-fitting lid in your child’s lunchbox. Your child can use the gel when there isn’t a chance to wash with soap and water before eating lunch.
  • Kids should avoid setting down their food on the table. Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric place mat in your child’s lunchbox that can be washed at home to help keep food off surfaces that may have been used by a number of youth and adults.

When packing a lunchbox:

  • Start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox.
  • Disinfect kitchen surfaces, such as kitchen equipment and refrigerator handles, regularly.
  • Also clean cutting boards, knives, dish-drying towels and sponges or dish cloths daily.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them.

 

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School Time Health and Safety Tips

It’s that time again; it’s back to school time.  It’s time for all the prep and practical planning needed to launch the school year for your children. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares about health and safety tips at the start of the school year. 

picture of a grade school

MAKING THE FIRST DAY of SCHOOL EASIER

  • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy. Assure your child that the teachers will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
  • Point out the positive aspects of starting school.  She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years. Especially when she returned home, after the first day, with high spirits because she had a good time.
  • Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your student can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
  • If it is a new school for your child, attend available orientations and tour the school before the first day.
  • If needed, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.

BACKPACK SAFETY

  • Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
  • Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
  • Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
  • If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs. They may be difficult to roll in snow, and they may not fit in some lockers.

TRAVELING TO AND FROM SCHOOL

Review these basic rules with your student:

SCHOOL BUS

  • Children should board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver. This means the driver will be able to see her, too.
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street. 
  • Your child should not move around on the bus.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times.

CAR

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age and size appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible. Then she needs to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when: She has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat. 
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly. This is usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age. This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees. Her feet should be hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder. The shoulder belt should not be near the neck or throat. The lap belt needs to be low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat, move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible. Then have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, and limit the number of teen passengers. Do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law. Consider using a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver 

BIKE

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

WALKING TO SCHOOL

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic. Consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are walking to a new school, walk with them until you are sure they know the 
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

EATING DURING THE SCHOOL DAY

  • Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home and have them posted on the school’s website. So, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
  • Look into what is offered in school vending machines. Vending machines should stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, water and 100 percent fruit juice.  Learn about your child’s school wellness policy and get involved in school groups to put it into effect.
  • Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Choose healthier options to send in your child’s lunch.

BULLYING

Bullying or cyberbullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood. It can also occur over the Internet, or through mobile devices like cell phones.

When Your Child Is Bullied

  • Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
    1. Look the bully in the eye.
    2. Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
    3. Walk away.
  • Teach your child how to say in a firm voice.
    1. “I don’t like what you are doing.”
    2. “Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
    3. “Why would you say that?”
  • Teach your child when and how to ask a trusted adult for help.
  • Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
  • Support activities that interest your child.
  • Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
  • Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
  • Monitor your child’s social media or texting interactions so you can identify problems before they get out of hand.

When Your Child Is the Bully

  • Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
  • Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
  • Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
  • Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
  • Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors, and parents of the children your child has bullied.

When Your Child Is a Bystander

  • Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
  • Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
  • Help your child support other children who may be bullied.
  • Encourage your child to include children being bullied in activities.
  • Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.


BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CHILD CARE

  • During early and middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and supervise them after school until you return home from work.
  • If a family member will care for your child, communicate the need to follow consistent rules set by the parent regarding discipline and homework.
  • Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
  • If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children from a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
  • If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.

DEVELOPING GOOD HOMEWORK AND STUDY HABITS

  • Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Children need a consistent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
  • Schedule ample time for homework.
  • Establish a household rule that the TV and other electronic distractions stay off during homework time.
  • Supervise computer and Internet use.
  • Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
  • Take steps to help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying. It may be helpful to close the books for a few minutes, stretch, and take a break periodically.
  • When your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help,  atutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.
  • Some children need help organizing their homework.  Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
  • If your child is having difficulty focusing on or completing homework, discuss this with your child’s teacher, or school counselor.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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