Picture Books and Eating

Elmo's hereYears ago I often saw two different but similar bumper stickers: ‘You Are What You Eat’ and ‘You Are What You Read.’

I’ve been working on a children’s picture book with vegetables as one part of the tale, that’s why this article in the Mercury News attracted me. As I read it, however, I thought of those two bumper stickers. So, for me that’s the theme of the article and the two bumper stickers come together.

You eat what your read.

You read what you eat.

Three books featuring food are discussed: “Yummy Yucky’ about foods that are yummy and foods that are not. Unfortunately, the yummy foods tend to be sugary. The second book is a Sesame Street book, ‘Ding Dong Elmo’s Here’ has the Sesame Street puppets looking at platesful of mostly fruits and vegetables. The third book, ‘The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond’ is actually an alphabet where the author’s intention was to get children familiar with the vocabulary of healthy eating.

When my daughter was seven she was afraid to eat mushrooms and beans because a friend had convinced her that both of them were ‘dirty.’ It took us a little while to convince her that by the time we cooked them they weren’t dirty anymore. The point is, though, that children are influenced by what they are told about food and books have a part in that.

What will it be in kid books: cupcakes or carrots?


12 Cute Letters From Kids to Veterans

These are more than cute, these are special.

christmas letterI don’t know how our troops feel about letters like these, but when I was in the Army I saw only a handful of letters like these. They came in one envelope and it was the only time during my three years that I saw any letters from children back in the States. I was in Germany so maybe the guys in Viet Nam saw more of them, but probably not very many. The value put on being in the military back then wasn’t anywhere near as great as it is now.

The letters were passed around and most of the guys laughed at them, at the naiveté of the third graders, at their poor spelling and grammar. I thought that was a shame because some of the guys who were laughing were probably embarrassed because they couldn’t spell much better, perhaps not even as well. Of course we were all pretty young and naive ourselves and unable to really understand the curiosity and concern those children were expressing.

The letters didn’t impress us, didn’t touch our hearts. We saw them as just one of those class projects designed by well meaning teachers to kill for students who had no real understanding of what they were doing. We were asked to pick out a letter and respond so I quickly found one I liked (“Do you like football?”) and wrote a nice letter inviting another letter, but I never saw one. I sometimes wonder if the child ever saw it.

I hope the guys who see these letters are touched by them and ignore the spelling and take into account that these are children writing, children who probably do care about them.

12 Cute Letters From Kids to Soldiers.

Children’s Media Diets

Okay, here’s your shocking fact of the day: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children are now spending an average of seven hours a day baby and laptopon entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. How much time does that leave them to play with other children? Are they interacting at all with their parents or siblings? And what about being outside, is their sunshine coming from a screen?

I used to rush home from school to watch my favorite TV show, The Lone Ranger. I would have sat there until dinner watching whatever came on next, but my mother turned off the TV and told me to do my homework or go outside.

An LA Times story a few years ago indicated that children 2 to 5 years old spend close to five hours a day watching TV and kids 6 to 11 fill up on more than 28 hours of TV every week. And that’s just television.

I’ve heard too many stories of parents handing their child an iPad or Kindle to keep them quiet. Sure, the things can be educational, but so can a book or the back-yard.

Most kids complain that they get too much homework, and maybe more than 2-2.5 hours worth per day is a bit excessive, but perhaps the reason they’re complaining is because the homework is infringing on their screen time.

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Too often parents take the easy way out by putting their child in front of a screen instead of finding a way to involve their child in life. It’s much easier to let the TV talk to the children than it is to talk with them and be curious about who they really are. It’s much easier to be a caretaker than it is to be a parent.

via Parents adopt own rules to curb children’s ‘media diet’.

Childhood Agression and Second-hand Smoke

Quite a few women I know quit smoking while they were pregnant, only to begin cigarettethe habit again after the child was born. Their thinking was that the nicotine in their system could harm their unborn child. Once the child was born they believed the threat to the child’s health no longer existed.

A recent study by Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal, reported in the India Times, found that children raised within an atmosphere where they are subjected to second-hand smoke are more likely to be aggressive children when they are older. While the study is bases strictly on statistics the correlation to the effects of second-hand smoke on the young is thought-provoking.

Exposure to “smoke at early childhood is particularly dangerous, as the child’s brain is still developing,” she said.

Second-hand smoke makes kids aggressive.

Among Children, Suicide Can Be Contagious

depressed teenI found this frightening.

Although it’s been a common belief that suicide among young people is contagious, a recent study in Canada found that “12- and 13-year-olds exposed to suicide are five times more likely to seriously consider attempting suicide.” It doesn’t make any difference if they know the person or not. “Vulnerable kids may start thinking about suicide as a solution to their problems.”

Although this study was conducted in Canada and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal it applies to children everywhere.

Although 12-13 year olds are at the greatest risk, kids 14-15 are three times more likely and kids 16-17, twice as likely to consider suicide as kids not exposed to a suicide.

Kids exposed to suicide of schoolmate more likely to attempt it.

Pollution Can Lead to ADHD

Three recent studies lead to some interesting conclusions: if you live near a busy traffichighway there is a good chance your children will be diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and eventually become obese or if you mistreat your child your child has more than a 30% chance of becoming obese.

The first study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggested “by the age of seven, children exposed to the substances (high levels of traffic pollution) are more likley to test positive for ADHD.”

According to previous studies, about 11% of the U.S. populations lives within 100 yards of a four lane highway and 40% of children go to a school that’s within 400 yards of a major highway.

Study #2, “conducted by researchers at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center found that men diagnosed as children with ADHD were twice as likely to be obese in a 33-year follow-up study compared to men who were not diagnosed with the condition.”

Inability to control impulses and poor planning skills are characteristics associated with ADHD that can lead to an unhealthy diet and the tendency to overeat.

The final study by King’s College in London found that “Children who have suffered maltreatment are 36% more likely to be obese in adulthood compared to non-maltreated children.”

Children who live near a busy road are more likely to develop ADHD.

ADHD In Childhood May Lead To Obesity In Adulthood.

Childhood maltreatment linked to increased risk of obesity in adult life.

Are Our Children Really Having Fun?

I’ve written a couple children’s books that will probably never get published. If, by some chance they do got published, very few people are likely to buy them. Why? They promote the idea of children being allowed to roam outside, alone and unsupervised.

One of them has a six year old child roaming her neighborhood which includes a shopping area and a school. One of the people who critiqued it said she cringed at the thought of such a young child running around free.

The other book has a six year old boy exploring his neighborhood trying to find something special to tell his mother about. After the response to the previous book I haven’t submitted this one for a critique.

empty playgroundToday’s children aren’t being allowed to be children. The fear of what could happen to them keeps them indoors. If they go outside they are watched and not allowed to stray out of sight.

Have you ever driven past a playground and seen kids playing anything: on the swings or slide, baseball, football, marbles, or even kick the can – alone? By alone I mean without at least one adult nearby.

If it wasn’t for the sandlot I doubt I would ever have learned how to play baseball or football or basketball. Everyday after school, every Saturday, every Sunday afternoon, every summer day a bunch of us would ride our bikes to a park where ten or more of us would play, sometimes for seven or eight hours away from home, without an adult watching, sometimes as much as two or three miles away from home.

Of course, this is a different day and age. Supposedly there are more crazies out there preying on our children… at least that’s what the newsmedia would have us believe.

Oh, that’s right when I grew up there were fewer than a dozen news sources. Now there are hundreds. The hue and cry when a child goes missing is much greater, much more frightening. And I don’t blame parents for being wary.

However, I believe the children are the ones getting short-changed here. The percentage of children who play outside unsupervised is only six percent. The argument is that they are safer because kids are naive or unaware of the dangers that life presents. That’s true. I fell off of trees, fell off of swings, fell down while running across a street, got hit by thrown balls, sticks and even a couple rocks. I often gave directions to strangers and said hello to anyone who said hello to me. Today’s parents might say I’m lucky to be alive. I did lose a couple classmates when they did stupid things. One disobeyed his father and ran across a busy street. The other rode his bicycle down a hill too fast to stop at a red light.

Today’s children might be safer, but they are missing so much fun, so many opportunities to learn and play, to explore and challenge life and solve the problems playing with other kids can present.

They do get some of that at school or sitting at home in front of a computer. It’s not quite the same though. There are different kinds of energy – physical, mental, and emotional – that aren’t touched in the same way as they are when a child is allowed to be a child and run free. I think that’s one of the reasons obesity is such a problem: children aren’t out in the fresh air running and jumping and burning off those burgers, fries, ice-cream cones, cookies, candy bars and so on. In the end parents are protecting their fun-impoverished, fat kids.

Here’s the video that got me thinking about this: Today’s Kids Held Hostage a Fox Business Video.