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Sharing what Mary wrote about CTY

posted 2011 Apr by Martha New

Just wanted to say THANKS again for a wonderful class today.  Luke and I had a great time!  I truly LOVE the whole experience and always leave CTY with such a relaxed, wonderful feeling.  Just like I wrote before, the class covers everything...I had fun (and got a workout) with just the mama exercises, I loved holding Luke through poses and bonding with him, I ALWAYS LOVE the massages, I enjoyed interacting with friends, I felt I could relax and breathe and take some time for myself, I got to stretch which is sooo important, AND YOUR SONGS ARE AMAZING!  Luke (and I) love music and your voice is so beautiful- a highlight for us!  I sang him the "climb on me" song before putting him down tonight.  :)  Just wanted to say thanks again!  Cheers, Mary (and Luke)

The Crash and Burn of Autism Guru

posted 2011 Apr by Martha New

By SUSAN DOMINUSPublished: April 20, 2011  As people streamed into Graceview Baptist Church in Tomball, Tex., early one Saturday morning in January, two armed guards stood prominently just inside the doorway of the sanctuary. Their eyes scanned the room and returned with some frequency to a man sitting near the aisle, whom they had been hired to protect.
The man, Andrew Wakefield, dressed in a blazer and jeans and peering through reading glasses, had a mild professorial air. He tapped at a laptop as the room filled with people who came to hear him speak; he looked both industrious and remote. Broad-shouldered and fair at 54, he still has the presence of the person he once was: a conventional winner, the captain of his medical school’s rugby team, the head boy at the private school he attended in England. Wakefield was a high-profile but controversial figure in gastroenterology research at the Royal Free Hospital in London when, in 1998, he upended his career path — and more significant, the best-laid plans of public-health officials — by announcing at a press conference that he had concerns about the safety of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (M.M.R.) 

If you would like to read more of this article please click HERE to go to the New York Times site.

CTY at Santa Barbara Public Library This Friday

posted 2011 Apr by Martha New

 Fabulous Fridays: Join us for a free event at the Santa Barbara Public Library, Faulkner room

Older Parents - More Joy

posted 2011 Apr by Martha New

By PAMELA PAUL Published: April 7, 2011 THE GIST Older parents are happier than younger parents.

THE SOURCE “A Global Perspective on Happiness and Fertility” by Rachel Margolis and Mikko Myrskyla, published in Population and Development Review, March 2011. IN the ongoing debate over whether children bring joy or whether they make parents more miserable, the gloom contingent appears to be gaining, with a recent New York magazine cover story (“Why Parents Hate Parenting”) escalating into a collective Internet-aired “Yes!” and culminating in a book deal for its author. But not all parents are made wretched by their offspring. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and the University of Pennsylvania found that people over the age of 40 are happier with children than without. If you would like to read more of this article please click HERE.

FDA Considers Warnings for Food Coloring

posted 2011 Apr by Martha New

 F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings for Artificial Food Colorings


Published: March 29, 2011 
WASHINGTON — After staunchly defending the safety of artificial food colorings, the federal government is for the first time publicly reassessing whether foods like Jell-O, Lucky Charms cereal and Minute Maid Lemonade should carry warnings that the bright artificial colorings in them worsen behavior problems like hyperactivity in some children.

Froot Loops cereal contains artificial dyes. A 2006 art installation in San Francisco featured Jell-O, which could be affected by the review. Kraft is making some of its macaroni and cheese without dyes.

The Food and Drug Administration concluded long ago that there was no definitive link between the colorings and behavior or health problems, and the agency is unlikely to change its mind any time soon. But on Wednesday and Thursday, the F.D.A. will ask a panel of experts to review the evidence and advise on possible policy changes, which could include warning labels on food.

The hearings signal that the growing list of studies suggesting a link between artificial colorings and behavioral changes in children has at least gotten regulators’ attention — and, for consumer advocates, that in itself is a victory.

In a concluding report, staff scientists from the F.D.A. wrote that while typical children might be unaffected by the dyes, those with behavioral disorders might have their conditions “exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

Renee Shutters, a mother of two from Jamestown, N.Y., said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that two years ago, her son Trenton, then 5, was having serious behavioral problems at school until she eliminated artificial food colorings from his diet. “I know for sure I found the root cause of this one because you can turn it on and off like a switch,” Ms. Shutters said.

But Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif., said evidence that diet plays a significant role in most childhood behavioral disorders was minimal to nonexistent. “These are urban legends that won’t die,” Dr. Diller said.

There is no debate about the safety of natural food colorings, and manufacturers have long defended the safety of artificial ones as well. In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said, “All of the major safety bodies globally have reviewed the available science and have determined that there is no demonstrable link between artificial food colors and hyperactivity among children.”

In a 2008 petition filed with federal food regulators, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, argued that some parents of susceptible children do not know that their children are at risk and so “the appropriate public health approach is to remove those dangerous and unnecessary substances from the food supply.”

The federal government has been cracking down on artificial food dyes for more than a century in part because some early ones were not only toxic but were also sometimes used to mask filth or rot. In 1950, many children became ill after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1 dye, and the F.D.A. banned it after more rigorous testing suggested that it was toxic. In 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. It was then replaced by Red No. 40.

Many of the artificial colorings used today were approved by the F.D.A. in 1931, including Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 3. Artificial dyes were developed — just as aspirin was — from coal tar, but are now made from petroleum products.

In the 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist from California, had success treating the symptoms of hyperactivity in some children by prescribing a diet that, among other things, eliminated artificial colorings. And some studies, including one published in The Lancet medical journal in 2007, have found that artificial colorings might lead to behavioral changes even in typical children.

The consumer science group asked the government to ban the dyes, or at least require manufacturers to include prominent warnings that “artificial colorings in this food cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.”

Citizen petitions are routinely dismissed by the F.D.A. without much comment. Not this time. Still, the agency is not asking the experts to consider a ban during their two-day meeting, and agency scientists in lengthy analyses expressed skepticism about the scientific merits of the Lancet study and others suggesting any definitive link between dyes and behavioral issues. Importantly, the research offers almost no clue about the relative risks of individual dyes, making specific regulatory actions against, say, Green No. 3 or Yellow No. 6 almost impossible.

The F.D.A. scientists suggested that problems associated with artificial coloring might be akin to a peanut allergy, or “a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties” of the dyes themselves. As it does for peanuts and other foods that can cause reactions, the F.D.A. already requires manufacturers to disclose on food labels the presence of artificial colorings.

A spokeswoman for General Mills refused to comment. Valerie Moens, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods Inc., wrote in an e-mail that all of the food colors the company used were approved and clearly labeled, but that  the company was expanding its “portfolio to include products without added colors,” like Kool-Aid Invisible, Capri Sun juices and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Organic White Cheddar.

The panel will almost certainly ask that more research on the subject be conducted, but such calls are routinely ignored. Research on pediatric behaviors can be difficult and expensive to conduct since it often involves regular and subjective assessments of children by parents and teachers who should be kept in the dark about the specifics of the test. And since the patents on the dyes expired long ago, manufacturers have little incentive to finance such research themselves.

Popular foods that have artificial dyes include Cheetos snacks, Froot Loops cereal, Pop-Tarts and Hostess Twinkies, according to an extensive listing in the consumer advocacy group’s petition. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, refuse to sell foods with artificial coloring.       

Rear Facing Car Seats Advised

posted 2011 Mar by Martha New


Rear-Facing Car Seats Advised for Older Toddlers

Published: March 21, 2011

Toddlers are usually switched from rear-facing to forward-facing car seats right after their first birthday — an event many parents may celebrate as a kind of milestone.

But in a new policy statement, the nation’s leading pediatricians’ group says that is a year too soon.

The advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, issued Monday, is based primarily on a 2007 University of Virginia study finding that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a crash if they are facing the rear.

“A baby’s head is relatively large in proportion to the rest of his body, and the bones of his neck are structurally immature,” said the statement’s lead author, Dr. Dennis R. Durbin, scientific co-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “If he’s rear-facing, his entire body is better supported by the shell of the car seat. When he’s forward-facing, his shoulders and trunk may be well restrained, but in a violent crash, his head and neck can fly forward.”

The new policy statement also advises that older children should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, and 8 to 12 years old. A booster seat allows the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt to fit properly, meaning the lap portion of the belt fits low across the hips and pelvis, and the shoulder portion fits across the middle of the shoulder and chest.

“Our recommendations are meant to help parents move away from gospel-held notions that are based on a child’s age,” Dr. Durbin said. “We want them to recognize that with each transition they make, from rear-facing to forward-facing, to booster seats, there is a decline in the safety of their child. That’s why we are urging parents to delay these transitions for as long as possible.”

Safety advocates applaud the new policy, but say the transition from rear- to forward-facing is usually the one that parents are least willing to delay.

“People cheer when they turn their kid around at one year, but hopefully some day they’ll cheer at how long they were able to keep their child rear-facing,” said Debbi Baer, a labor and delivery nurse in Baltimore who has been a car safety advocate for children for more than 30 years.

The academy’s previous policy, from 2002, said it was safest for infants and toddlers to ride facing the rear, and cited 12 months and 20 pounds as the minimum requirements for turning the car seat forward. But Ms. Baer, a certified child passenger safety technician, said parents tended to take that as a hard and fast rule.

“A lot of parents consider turning the car seat around as another developmental milestone that shows how brilliant and advanced their child is,” she said, “and they don’t realize that it’s making their child less safe.”

Ms. Baer says the evidence from other countries is compelling: Sweden, for instance, where children face the rear until age 4, has the world’s lowest highway fatality rate for children under 6.

Seven years ago, Ed Weissberg and his wife, Edda, of Baltimore, took Ms. Baer’s advice, and say it saved their daughter Renana’s life.

The couple and their three children were traveling north on Interstate 95 when they were broadsided by a car that had had a blowout. Their minivan flipped into the air, sailed over three lanes of traffic and landed on the shoulder, upside down.

“The E.M.T.’s told me later that as soon as they saw our car, they were ready to take out our bodies,” said Mr. Weissberg, who now lives in Israel with his family. Instead, they found the entire family nearly unscathed, with all three children suspended upside down, still securely strapped in their car seats.

“People thought we were crazy for keeping our 2-year-old rear-facing, but if she had been facing forward, she wouldn’t be alive today,” he said.

Dr. Alisa Baer, a pediatrician at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York (and Debbi Baer’s daughter), said Renana Weissberg’s case was far from unique.

“It’s a horrible term,” she said, “but E.M.T.’s call the rear-facing seat ‘the orphan seat’ because in a bad car accident, that child is often the only one who survives.”

Until recently, most car seats that could be turned to face the rear did not accommodate children weighing more than 20 pounds. Today, however, the limits are closer to 30 to 35 pounds, and a few go to 45 pounds.

Dr. Baer said she felt so strongly that if a parent wants to install a forward-facing seat for a child younger than 2, “I tell them, ‘If you really want to make a stupid decision for your child, you can do it, but I’m not going to help you.’ ”

She noted that parents often told her that their 2-year-olds would be uncomfortable with their legs squashed against the back of the seat, and that they might be more likely to break their legs in a crash. Neither is true, she said.

“I always reassure parents that just because it looks uncomfortable to you doesn’t mean that it is for a child,” said Dr. Baer.

Santa Barbara News Press Write up

posted 2011 Mar by Martha New

Home » Life    
All aboard! : ClimbTime Yoga nurtures the parent-child bond

March 15, 2011 5:35 AM

On a recent weekday, a group of seven moms gathered in a sunny Milpas Street studio.

They cooed, smiled and made silly faces at their newborns, as any parent would. But unlike just any parent, they were perched atop inflated exercise balls.

Some tried sliding on top of the balls, belly first, with their arms extended, looking a bit like flying superheroes, only decked out in yoga gear and giggling.

One mom, balancing her torso on a ball, pushed her arms off the floor and clapped her hands a few times, while lifting her legs — a challenging move for the abs, legs and backside.

"Hi," she said, gazing and grinning at her baby as he rested on the plush mat floor in front of her. "What's Momma doing?"

Momma was doing ClimbTime Yoga, a new form of parent-child partner exercise, created by Marty New, a Santa Barbara-based certified yoga instructor.

It's the kind of class that can create a respite for busy moms and dads, while fostering the bond between kids and their parents, as everyone gets a workout.

While the babies in this class weren't doing a whole lot of yoga themselves — they rested on their backs and in their mother's arms or were gently lifted overhead — the older kids in other classes can get really active, with intrepid tykes crawling, tumbling and even launching off their parents' bodies.

Ms. New started offering the classes after moving to Santa Barbara a year and a half ago.

She developed the curriculum in New York City, where she was a professor at New York University, teaching movement and voice for actors.

ClimbTime grew naturally out of her rigorous yoga practice as a single parent.

"I was a big yoga mom," she told the News-Press later. "It was just too expensive to pay for a yoga class and a baby sitter and do it on a frequent enough level."

She noticed the way her son, Somerset, now 7, would grip onto her when he was an infant. As he grew up, he'd climb on her while she was doing yoga. At the time, she simply thought it was amusing.

"He would climb on and flip off and (friends) would go, 'Oh my God! What are you doing here?!' and I'd go, 'I'm doing climb-on-me yoga.' "

Encouraged by friends, she thought she'd take a year off from teaching actors to develop a parent-child yoga class. "Of course, it took five years," recalled Ms. New, an alumna of the Yale School of Drama, laughing.

Along with her son, she developed sequences for children and their parents involving stretching, toning, strengthening, relaxation and more.

She drew from traditional yoga; acro-yoga, in which one partner often balances on top of the other; exercises using inflatable and solid balls; Thai massage; and different forms of movement.

With ClimbTime, of course, it's the kids who clamber onto their parents. For example, in the Butterfly Asana, a child can balance, airplane-style, on top of his mom's outstretched legs and feet, or in the Mad Cow, a youngster might sit on her dad's back while he moves his body in different ways.

It may look a bit like horsing around, but it has a well-defined structure and the safety of participants in mind.

The classes are held in Aikido of Santa Barbara's studio, which is padded with thick mats over a sprung floor, so students are free to tumble and experiment. Each class has no more than seven adults and seven children; one adult is paired with each child.

While creating ClimbTime Yoga, Ms. New consulted with experts, including a child psychologist and speech pathologist, to develop an approach that pays heed to the developmental needs of children, including their cognitive and language skills. She tries to model conscious parenting techniques, like healthy nonverbal and verbal communication, in class.

"I took five years to develop ClimbTime, because I really didn't want to be like Baby Einstein where I created something and it did the opposite of what I said it was going to do," she said.

Separate classes are offered based on age group: newborns to 6 months; 6 to 18 months; 18 months to 3 years; 3 to 5 years.

Ms. New created two additional classes in Santa Barbara: ClimbTime Family Yoga for kids 5 and older, which includes the whole family, and ClimbTime Adult Yoga. She's also working on a class for special needs children.

Each section is offered about two or three times a week, and Ms. New now teaches 13 classes, with help from several assistants whom she's been training.

Vivian Valentin, a certified yoga teacher, began taking ClimbTime classes about four months ago and has started assisting some classes.

"It's like a stress release and a good core workout, all at the same time I'm playing with my baby," said the Santa Barbara resident, as her 7-month-old, Cianne, crawled around on the floor before the infant class began.

She brings her 3-year-old daughter, Evi, to another class. With Evi, "I see her laughing and giggling, she bounces on the ball and does flips and things," she said.

A central tenet of ClimbTime is focusing on the individual participants' needs, based on their skill levels, abilities and energy.

The idea is to work incrementally and steadily on building strength and flexibility without any pain or injury. People often go beyond their limits to keep up with the person next to them in yoga classes, but Ms. New feels that goes against the spirit of yoga.

"If you're pushing yourself too hard, you're not being compassionate and not connecting to yourself," she said.

At the same time, she tries to keep the classes interesting and vary the sequences so there's some challenge and stimulation.

With ClimbTime Yoga, "you can do a gentle practice that is still vigorous. And an advanced yogi could come in here and get a really good workout by approaching the asanas (or sequences) differently."

"It's important as a human being to have that feeling of ... doing something you never thought you could do," she added. "It opens up your eyes in a way you can't believe. The confidence you get from doing a really strong physical practice, it teaches you. It reassures you in other parts of your life."

And parents can be role models for their children when they challenge themselves and take risks.

In classes with newborns, an emphasis is on creating a supportive, relaxing environment for moms.

"As much as having a baby is so exciting, it's also deadly exhausting and stressful," said Ms. New. "The first five classes are about really de-stressing the mothers, making them feel supported, in a place where they can talk about things."

They learn that they don't have to show up exactly on time and that it's OK if their kids are "screaming and gassy."

With the toddlers and older kids, "there's a lot of free play," said the instructor. "You watch how they're playing and what they're playing, and you create the games or sequences from them. What you see in front of you is what they're ready to work on."

One day, for example, some triplets started running around, jumping and sliding on the exercise balls. She showed the boys how to roll off the balls and fall in a safe way, while their parents guided them.

There's a sense of community in the classes, as adults take turns keeping an eye on each other's children. The teacher might swoop in and soothe a crying baby, as his mother works on a pose.

And throughout the classes, Ms. New weaves in songs that she wrote, which she teaches to participants and encourages them to sing. They range from earnest songs about respecting and loving life on the planet to silly ditties about how fun it is to tickle.

"Squeeze me, rock me, roll me," goes the song "Climb on Me." "Lift me to the sky/Every day I'm climbing higher/ With you by my side."

" 'Cause I love you, love you,/ love you, oooh yes I do.

"Oh, I love you, love you, love you,/ Child, and I know you love me too./ Climb on me."

Santa Barbara Public Library workshop

posted 2011 Mar by Martha New

 We will be doing Fabulous Fridays at the Santa Barbara Public Library again on March 18th from 10:30 to 11:30 AM.  Please come join us.  This is a Free event that has been very fun and very popular!  A great time to socialize with your toddlers.

santa barbara library workshop

posted 2011 Feb by Martha New


Risk taking in Teens

posted 2011 Feb by Martha New

February 3, 2011, 2:30 pm

Teenagers, Friends and Bad Decisions


Why do otherwise good kids seem to make bad decisions when they are with their friends? New research on risk taking and the teenage brain offers some answers.

In studies at Temple University, psychologists used functional magnetic resonance imaging scans on 40 teenagers and adults to determine if there are differences in brain activity when adolescents are alone versus with their friends. The findings suggest that teenage peer pressure has a distinct effect on brain signals involving risk and reward, helping to explain why young people are more likely to misbehave and take risks when their friends are watching.

To test how the presence of peers influences risk taking, the researchers asked 14 young teenagers (ages 14 to 18), 14 college students and 12 young adults to play a six-minute video driving game while in a brain scanner. Participants were given cash prizes for completing the game in a certain time, but players had to make decisions about stopping at yellow lights, and being delayed, or racing through yellow lights, which could result in a faster time and a bigger prize, but also meant a higher risk for crashing and an even longer delay. The children and adults played four rounds of the game while undergoing the brain scan. Half the time they played alone, and half the time they were told that two same-sex friends who had accompanied them to the study were watching the play in the next room.

Among adults and college students, there were no meaningful differences in risk taking, regardless of  whether friends were watching. But the young teenagers ran about 40 percent more yellow lights and had 60 percent more crashes when they knew their friends were watching. And notably, the regions of the brain associated with reward showed greater activity when they were playing in view of their friends. It was as if the presence of friends, even in the next room, prompted the brain’s reward system to drown out any warning signals about risk, tipping the balance toward the reward.

“The presence of peers activated the reward circuitry in the brain of adolescents that it didn’t do in the case of adults,” said Laurence Steinberg, an author of the study, who is a psychology professor at Temple and author of “You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 25.” “We think we’ve uncovered one very plausible explanation for why adolescents do a lot of stupid things with their friends that they wouldn’t do when they are by themselves.”

Dr. Steinberg notes that the findings give a new view of peer pressure, since the peers in this experiment were not even in the same room as the teenager in the scanner.

“The subject was in the scanner, so the friends were not able to directly pressure the person to take chances,” Dr. Steinberg said. “I think it’s helpful to understand because many parents conceive of peer pressure as kids directly coercing each other into doing things. We’ve shown that just the knowledge that your friends are watching you can increase risky behavior.”

Dr. Steinberg notes that the brain system involved in reward processing is also involved in the processing of social information, explaining why peers can have such a pronounced effect on decision making. The effect is believed to be especially strong in teenagers because brain changes shortly after puberty appear to make young people more attentive and aware of what other people are thinking about them, Dr. Steinberg said.

The study results are borne out in real-world data that show teenagers have a much higher risk of car accidents when other teenagers are in the car. More study is needed to determine if the effect shown in the game study is the same when teenagers are in the presence of an opposite-sex friend or romantic interest. In the study, there were no meaningful differences in risk taking among boys and girls. However, some real-world driving data suggests that teenage boys take more risks behind the wheel when one or more boys are in the car, but drive more carefully if they are with a girlfriend.

For parents, the study data reinforce the notion that groups of teenagers need close supervision.

“All of us who have very good kids know they’ve done really dumb things when they’ve been with their friends,” Dr. Steinberg said. “The lesson is that if you have a kid whom you think of as very mature and able to exercise good judgment, based on your observations when he or she is alone or with you, that doesn’t necessarily generalize to how he or she will behave in a group of friends without adults around. Parents should be aware of that.”


Free Event at sb public library 1/21 10:30 am

posted 2011 Jan by Martha New


Come join us at the Public LIbrary's Faulkner room for a free demonstration of ClimbTime Yoga.  10:30 AM to 11:30 AM.  

Effort to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum

posted 2011 Jan by Martha New

Published: January 5, 2011

Brian Blanco for The New York Times
SARAH WILSON was speaking proudly the other day when she declared: “My house is a little messy.”
Ms. Wilson lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., a small town in the Poconos. Many days, her home is strewn with dress-up clothes, art supplies and other artifacts from playtime with her two small children, Benjamin, 6, and Laura, 3. “I let them get it messy because that’s what it’s here for,” she said.

Ms. Wilson has embraced a growing movement to restore the sometimes-untidy business of play to the lives of children. Her interest was piqued when she toured her local elementary school last year, a few months before Benjamin was to enroll in kindergarten. She still remembered her own kindergarten classroom from 1985: it had a sandbox, blocks and toys. But this one had a wall of computers and little desks.

“There’s no imaginative play anymore, no pretend,” Ms. Wilson said with a sigh.

For several years, studies and statistics have been mounting that suggest the culture of play in the United States is vanishing. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen, educators and parents lament — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year. And only one in five children live within walking distance (a half-mile) of a park or playground, according to a 2010 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control, making them even less inclined to frolic outdoors.

Behind the numbers is adult behavior as well as children’s: Parents furiously tapping on their BlackBerrys in the living room, too stressed by work demands to tolerate noisy games in the background. Weekends consumed by soccer, lacrosse and other sports leagues, all organized and directed by parents. The full slate of lessons (chess, tae kwon do, Chinese, you name it) and homework beginning in the earliest grades. Add to that parental safety concerns that hinder even true believers like Ms. Wilson.

“People are scared to let their kids outside, even where I live,” she said. “If I want my kids to go outside, I have to be with them.”

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, concluded, “Play is just a natural thing that animals do and humans do, but somehow we’ve driven it out of kids.”

Too little playtime may seem to rank far down on the list of society’s worries, but the scientists, psychologists, educators and others who are part of the play movement say that most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life and work are first developed through childhood play. Children learn to control their impulses through games like Simon Says, play advocates believe, and they learn to solve problems, negotiate, think creatively and work as a team when they dig together in a sandbox or build a fort with sofa cushions. (The experts define play as a game or activity initiated and directed by children. So video games don’t count, they say, except perhaps ones that involve creating something, and neither, really, do the many educational toys that do things like sing the A B C’s with the push of a button.)

Much of the movement has focused on the educational value of play, and efforts to restore recess and unstructured playtime to early childhood and elementary school curriculums. But advocates are now starting to reach out to parents, recognizing that for the movement to succeed, parental attitudes must evolve as well — starting with a willingness to tolerate a little more unpredictability in children’s schedules and a little less structure at home. Building that fort, for example, probably involves disassembling the sofa and emptying the linen closet. (A sheet makes an excellent roof.)

“I think more than anything, adults are a little fearful of children’s play,” said Joan Almon, executive director of the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit pro-play group. “Some people have a greater tolerance for chaos and have developed a hand for gently bringing it back into order. Others get really nervous about it.” Megan Rosker, a mother of three (ages 6, 3 and 2) in Redington Shores, Fla., has learned to embrace the disorder. She set aside the large sunroom in her home for the children and filled it with blocks, games, crayons, magazines to cut up and draw in, as well as toys and dress-up clothes. “I think a big part of free play is having space to do it in, a space that isn’t ruled over by adults,” she said.

“The other key is not to instruct kids how to play with something,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many board-game pieces have been turned into something else. But I let them do it because I figure their imagination is more valuable than the price of a board game.”
Roberta Golinkoff, Leslie Bushara and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek were organizers.

But, Ms. Rosker added, “I won’t claim any of this has been easy for me or my husband,” noting that her husband used to be “a total neat freak.” She said they have learned to live with disarray and to take other difficult steps, like strict limits on screen time.

Ms. Rosker has also campaigned, although unsuccessfully, to bring recess to her son’s elementary school. But school officials were too worried about potential injuries, unruliness and valuable time lost from academic pursuits to sign on to her idea and, she was surprised to find, many parents were similarly reluctant. “They said: ‘I’m not going to sign that. I’m sure there is a good reason why this is good for our kids — our school has good test scores.’ “

To try to reach more parents, a coalition called Play for Tomorrow this fall staged what amounted to a giant play date in Central Park. The event, known as the Ultimate Block Party, featured  games like I Spy, mounds of Play-Doh, sidewalk chalk, building blocks, puzzles and more. The National Science Foundation was closely involved, advising organizers — and emphasizing to parents — the science and the educational value behind each of the carefully chosen activities. Organizers were hoping to attract 10,000 people to the event. They got more than 50,000.

“We were overwhelmed,” said Roberta Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Delaware and a founder of the event along with Dr. Hirsh-Pasek. They are now working with other cities — Toronto, Atlanta, Baltimore and Houston, among them — to stage similar events, along with making the Central Park gathering an annual one.

The goal, in some ways, is to return to the old days.

“When I was growing up, there was a culture of childhood that children maintained,” said Jim Hunn, vice president for mass action at KaBOOM, a nonprofit group that is a leading voice in reducing what it terms the “play deficit.” He noted that he learned games like Capture the Flag from other children. To revive that culture, he said: “Parents have to reassert themselves in this process and teach them how to play. It’s critical that parents take some ownership and get out and play with their children.”

But promoting play can be surprisingly challenging to parents. Emily Paster, a mother of two in River Forest, Ill., a Chicago suburb, tries to discourage screen time and encourage her children to play imaginatively. That usually works fine for her 7-year-old daughter, who is happy to play in her room with her dolls for hours. But her 4-year-old son is a different story, especially in the cold weather when he’s cooped up.

“If he wants to play, he always wants me to play with him,” Ms. Paster said. “This child has a million toys. Every kind of train you can imagine. But he really wants a partner. If I’m meant to get anything accomplished — dinner, laundry, a phone call — then it’s really difficult.”

Encouraging brother and sister to play together only goes so far. “It seems like there’s a ticking time bomb,” Ms. Paster said. “Someone’s going to decide they’re done before the other one’s ready.” Sometimes, a video screen is the unwelcome but necessary alternative.

“If I want to get anything done it’s like, ‘Here’s the Leapster,’ “ she admitted, referring to a Leapster Explorer, a video-like device for preschoolers.

But once they’re used to it, Mr. Hunn said, children will direct their play themselves — a situation Ms. Almon recalls from her own childhood. “Our neighborhood gang organized a lot of softball games,” she said. “There was no adult around. We adjusted the rules as we needed them. Once the adults are involved it becomes: Here are the rules, and we have to follow these rules. It still can be a good activity but stops being play.”

In the vast world of organized children’s sports, a few parent-coaches are getting that hands-off message. Ms. Almon knows of a soccer coach who started allowing children to organize their own scrimmages during practice while he stood silently on the sidelines, and a hockey coach in Chicago who ends practices by shooing all the adults off the ice and letting the kids skate as they please.

There are more formal efforts, in addition to the Ultimate Block Party initiatives. The US Play Coalition, a group of doctors, educators and parks and recreation officials, plans a conference next month at Clemson University on the value of outdoor play. KaBOOM has built 1,900 playgrounds across the country, most in low-income neighborhoods, and in September helped organize “Play Days” in 1,600 communities. It also has added do-it-yourself tools on its Web site to help parents organize and create neighborhood play spaces themselves. Another Web site scheduled to start this spring,, aims to create a broad educational source for parents and teachers.

“Our first big push will be on play,” said Susan Magsamen, the executive director of the group.

An important part of the movement is teaching children themselves how to play. The average 3-year-old can pick up an iPhone and expertly scroll through the menu of apps, but how many 7-year-olds can organize a kickball game with the neighborhood kids?

Toward that end, at the Central Park event, parents were given a 75-page “Playbook” outlining research on play and offering children ideas for playful pursuits — things that generations past did without prompting and that may evoke in today’s parents feelings of recognition and nostalgia.

“Climb on the couch with your friends and pretend you are sailing on a ship to a distant land,” reads one idea. Another, from the section on construction play: “Lay a toy on the floor and figure out how to build a bridge going over the toy with blocks.”

“Make paper doll cutouts from old newspapers and magazines,” a third suggests, “and let your imagination fly!” 

Love and Joy all year around

posted 2010 Dec by Martha New



posted 2010 Oct by Martha New

I Phone NYT 10/15/10

posted 2010 Oct by Martha New

‘Hi, Grandma!’ (Pocket Zoo On Hold)

Published: October 15, 2010

THE bedroom door opened and a light went on, signaling an end to nap time. The toddler, tousle-haired and sleepy-eyed, clambered to a wobbly stand in his crib. He smiled, reached out to his father, and uttered what is fast becoming the cry of his generation: “iPhone!”

TAP, TAP Brady Hotz, now 2, has been playing with his parents’ iPhones since he was 6 months; his mother, Kellie Hotz, lends hers for the 15-minute commute to school.

The iPhone has revolutionized telecommunications. It has also become the most effective tool in human history to mollify a fussy toddler, much to the delight of parents reveling in their newfound freedom to have a conversation in a restaurant or roam the supermarket aisles in peace. But just as adults have a hard time putting down their iPhones, so the device is now the Toy of Choice — akin to a treasured stuffed animal — for many 1-, 2- and 3-year-olds. It’s a phenomenon that is attracting the attention and concern of some childhood development specialists.

Natasha Sykes, a mother of two in Atlanta, remembers the first time her daughter, Kelsey, now 3 1/2 but then barely 2 years old, held her husband’s iPhone. “She pressed the button and it lit up. I just remember her eyes. It was like ‘Whoa!’ ”

The parents were charmed by their daughter’s fascination. But then, said Ms. Sykes (herself a BlackBerry user), “She got serious about the phone.”

Kelsey would ask for it. Then she’d cry for it. “It was like she’d always want the phone,” Ms. Sykes said. After a six-hour search one day, she and her husband found the iPhone tucked away under Kelsey’s bed. They laughed. But they also felt vague concern. Kelsey, and her 2-year-old brother, Chase, have blocks, Legos, bouncing balls, toy cars and books galore. (“They love books,” Ms. Sykes said.) But nothing compares to the iPhone.

“If they know they have the option of the phone or toys, it will be the phone, ” Ms. Sykes said

Brady Hotz, who will be 2 at the end of this month, was having a hard time getting out the door of his family’s home near Chicago the other day. He’d woken up late — 6:45 instead of 6:15. His mother, Kellie Hotz, was in a rush. She got him dressed, gave him milk and cereal, and announced, “We’re ready to go.”

Brady, not budging from his position near the couch, dug in. “Mickey!” he said plaintively. “Mickey!” (Translation: I’m not going anywhere till I get to watch “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on TV.)

Ms. Hotz, a veteran of such standoffs, switched instantly to what she called her “guaranteed success tool.”

“What about Mickey on the phone?” she suggested.

That’s all it took. Mother swept up the now entirely cooperative toddler, cued up the show (via YouTube) on her little iPhone screen, and strapped him into her car, where he sang happily along with the video for the 15-minute ride to day care.

Then trouble began again. Brady wanted to stay in his seat with the iPhone. Finally he put it in his coat pocket and went inside — where Ms. Hotz was able to surreptitiously reclaim her gizmo and leave for work. But it’s not always that easy. “Sometimes I’ll need it because someone is calling, and he is not at all willing to give it up,” she said.

Apple, the iPhone’s designer and manufacturer, has built its success on machines so simple and intuitive that even technologically befuddled adults can figure out how to work them, so it makes sense that sophisticated children would follow. The most recent model is 4.5 inches tall, 2.31 inches wide and weighs 4.8 ounces: sleek, but not too small for those with developing motor skills. Tap a picture on the screen and something happens. What could be more fun?

The sleepy-eyed toddler who called for the iPhone from his crib is one of hundreds of iPhone-loving tykes starring in videos posted throughout the Internet, usually narrated by parents expressing proud wonderment at their offspring’s ability to slide chubby fingers across the gadget’s screen and pull up photographs and apps of their choice.

Many iPhone apps on the market are aimed directly at preschoolers, many of them labeled “educational,” such as Toddler Teasers: Shapes, which asks the child to tap a circle or square or triangle; and Pocket Zoo, which streams live video of animals at zoos around the world. There are “flash cards” aimed at teaching children to read and spell, and a “Wheels on the Bus” app that sings the popular song in multiple languages. Then there’s the new iGo Potty app (sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies training pants), with automated phone calls reminding toddlers that it’s time to “go.”

Along with fears about dropping and damage, however, many parents sharing iPhones with their young ones feel nagging guilt. They wonder whether it is indeed an educational tool, or a passive amusement like television. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advised parents not to let their children watch any TV until they are past their second birthday. Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, a pediatrician who is a member of the academy’s council of communications and media, said the group is continually reassessing its guidelines to address new forms of “screen time.”

“We always try to throw in the latest technology, but the cellphone industry is becoming so complex that we always come back to the table and wonder should we have a specific guideline for cellphones,” she said. But, she added, “At the moment, we seem to feel it’s the same as TV.”

Jill Mikols Etesse, a mother of two daughters, aged 3 and 8, outside of Washington, believes her younger daughter is further along in vocabulary, reading and spelling than her older daughter was at the same age, and she attributes this progress to the iPhone and iPad. The 3-year-old has learned to spell compound words like “starlight and fireworks” through an app called Montessori Crossword, her mother said. “She uses words that I don’t use, so I know it isn’t coming from me,” Ms. Etesse said. “She says ‘That’s peculiar.’ I don’t use the term peculiar.”

But Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist in Vail, Colo. said: “Any parent who thinks a spelling program is educational for that age is missing the whole idea of how the preschool brain grows. What children need at that age is whole body movement, the manipulation of lots of objects and not some opaque technology. You’re not learning to read by lining up the letters in the word ‘cat.’ You’re learning to read by understanding language, by listening. Here’s the parent busily doing something and the kid is playing with the electronic device. Where is the language? There is none.”

Despite Ms. Etesse’s generally positive experience, she and her husband decided to set limits when their two daughters spent six hours straight staring at the iPhone during a car trip. Now they allow each child no more than one hour a day of screen time. (That means the iPhone and the iPad; neither girl is interested in TV, she said.)

Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University’s Barnard College Center for Toddler Development (where signs forbid the use of cellphones and other wireless devices) worries that fixation on the iPhone screen every time a child is out and about with parents will limit the child’s ability to experience the wider world. “Children at this age are so curious and they’re observing everything,” she said. “If you’re engrossed in this screen you’re not seeing or observing or taking it in.” (Though some, like Renee Giroux-Nix of Cedar Park, Tex., a suburb of Austin, applaud the iPhone’s photo function. She said her 3-year-old, Bella, took a series of photos during a shoe-shopping trip, focusing on her mother’s feet and legs. )

As with TV in earlier generations, the world is increasingly divided into those parents who do allow iPhone use and those who don’t. A recent post on , a popular and often contentious parents’ Web site, asked if anyone had found that their child was more interested in playing with their iPhone than with “real toys.” The Don’t mothers pounced:

“We don’t let our toddler touch our iPhones ... it takes away from creative play.”

“Please ... just say no. It is not too hard to distract a toddler with, say ... a book.”

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor at Temple University who specializes in early language development, sides with the Don’ts. Research shows that children learn best through active engagement that helps them adapt, she said, and interacting with a screen doesn’t qualify.

Still, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, struck on a recent visit to New York City by how many parents were handing over their iPhones to their little children in the subway, said she understands the impulse. “This is a magical phone,” she said. “I must admit I’m addicted to this phone.”



posted 2010 Oct by Martha New


Language Development NY Times 10/12/10

posted 2010 Oct by Martha New

Understanding ‘Ba Ba Ba’ as a Key to Development

Juliette Borda
Published: October 11, 2010

As a pediatrician, I always ask about babble. “Is the baby making sounds?” I ask the parent of a 4-month-old, a 6-month-old, a 9-month-old. The answer is rarely no. But if it is, it’s important to try to find out what’s going on.

If a baby isn’t babbling normally, something may be interrupting what should be a critical chain: not enough words being said to the baby, a problem preventing the baby from hearing what’s said, or from processing those words. Something wrong in the home, in the hearing or perhaps in the brain.

Babble is increasingly being understood as an essential precursor to speech, and as a key predictor of both cognitive and social emotional development. And research is teasing apart the phonetic components of babble, along with the interplay of neurologic, cognitive and social factors.

The first thing to know about babble is also the first thing scientists noticed: babies all over the world babble in similar ways. During the second year of life, toddlers shape their sounds into the words of their native tongues.

The word “babble” is both significant and representative — repetitive syllables, playing around with the same all-important consonants. (Indeed, the word seems to be derived not from the biblical Tower of Babel, as folk wisdom has it, but from the “ba ba” sound babies make.)

Some of the most exciting new research, according to D. Kimbrough Oller, a professor of audiology and speech-language pathology at the University of Memphis, analyzes the sounds that babies make in the first half-year of life, when they are “squealing and growling and producing gooing sounds.” These sounds are foundations of later language, he said, and they figure in all kinds of social interactions and play between parents and babies — but they do not involve formed syllables, or anything that yet sounds like words.

“By the time you get past 6 months of age, babies begin to produce canonical babbling, well-formed syllables,” Professor Oller said. “Parents don’t treat those earlier sounds as words; when canonical syllables begin to appear, parents recognize the syllables as negotiable.” That is, when the baby says something like “ba ba ba,” the parent may see it as an attempt to name something and may propose a word in response.

Most of the time, I ask parents: “Does he make noise? Does she sound like she’s talking?” And most of the time, parents nod and smile, acknowledging the baby voices that have become part of the family conversation.

But the new research suggests a more detailed line of questions: by 7 months or so, have the sounds developed into that canonical babble, including both vowels and consonants? Babies who go on vocalizing without many consonants, making only aaa and ooo sounds, are not practicing the sounds that will lead to word formation, not getting the mouth muscle practice necessary for understandable language to emerge.

“A baby hears all these things and is able to differentiate them before the baby can produce them,” said Carol Stoel-Gammon, an emeritus professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington. “To make an m, you have to close your mouth and the air has to come out your nose. It’s not in your brain somewhere — you have to learn it.”

The consonants in babble mean the baby is practicing, shaping different sounds by learning to maneuver the mouth and tongue, and listening to the results. “They get there by 12 months,” Professor Stoel-Gammon continued, “and to me the reason they get there is because they have become aware of the oral motor movements that differentiate between a b and an m.”

Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills. Television doesn’t do it, and neither do educational videos: recent research suggests that this learning is in part shaped by the quality and context of adult response.

To study babbling, researchers have begun to look at the social response — at the baby and the parent together. Michael H. Goldstein, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell, has done experiments showing that babies learn better from parental stimulation — acquiring new sounds and new sound patterns, for example — if parents provide that stimulation specifically in response to the baby’s babble.

“In that moment of babbling, babies seem to be primed to take in more information,” he said. “It’s about creating a social interaction where now you can learn new things.”

A study this year by this group looked at how babies learn the names of new objects. Again, offering the new vocabulary words specifically in response to the babies’ own vocalizations meant the babies learned the names better.

The experimenters argue that a baby’s vocalizations signal a state of focused attention, a readiness to learn language. When parents respond to babble by naming the object at hand, the argument goes, children are more likely to learn words. So if a baby looks at an apple and says, “Ba ba!” it’s better to respond by naming the apple than by guessing, for example, “Do you want your bottle?”

“We think that babies tend to emit babbles when they’re in a state where they’re ready to learn new information, they’re aroused, they’re interested,” Professor Goldstein said. “When babies are interested in something, they tend to do a furrowed brow,” he continued; parents should understand that babble may be “an acoustic version of furrowing one’s brow.”

Right there, in the exam room, I have that essential experimental combination, the baby and the parent. It’s an opportunity to check up on the baby’s progress in forming sounds, but also an opportunity to help parents respond to the baby’s interest in learning how to name the world — a universal human impulse expressed in the canonical syllables of a universal human soundtrack. 

Teething Time

posted 2010 Oct by Martha New


Questions Asked of CTY

posted 2010 Oct by Martha New


Just to clarify is the $90 for 5 classes i.e. $18 each class? So you pick a day and show up the same day each week? Can mamas do drop in one time visits or only series?

Hello Holly!
Good questions.  Do you mind if I share these questions on our blog?  The series of five classes is as you say, $90 or $18 and you can come consecutively or space them out like a drop in or once or twice a week. (We haven't set a time period for the use of the series as yet - I'm not sure if we need to)  In the new schedule each age group has 3 classes offered each week, so if you miss one day you can go to the class another day that week.  We have found twice a week an excellent way to build up the strength and familiarity with the sequences that build into the next level.  And when it's a regular day of the week the Sanga or group is created and supported by the regularity of attendance - and that is a special magic of its own.  Children and parents get to know each other very well in a great environment.  It lends itself to the creation of a very healthy support system. One time visits or drop ins are fine - we will always work with where the person is in the class.  Challenging each child/parent to their appropriate level.  It was really so lovely to have you and Kaia in the workshop.  My only regret is that I did not take pictures during that wonderful session. Look forward to seeing you both soon.



Thanks Marty! Of course feel free to post this on blog. Hopefully we will make it to class this week. Nightime sleep has been difficult with teething so sometimes we just stay in more than usual!



Yoga Soup Workshops

posted 2010 Sep by Martha New