Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: August 25, 2020

Let them build forts, creating space for distance learning, and more


The year of fort building

"Apparently, something about COVID is inspiring people around the world to construct forts," writes Krista Langlois at Outside. The cobbled-together shelters are popping up in forests, parks, and pathways everywhere, as kids look to channel their boredom and angst into building their own little safe spaces. "Fort building is a fundamental childhood activity," Tom O'Rourke, director of the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, Minnesota, tells Langlois. "Kids are hands-on, tactical, imaginative creatures, so the idea of using natural materials and problem-solving and thinking creatively affords all these opportunities for them to learn and grow." He suggests parents avoid micromanaging their kids' fort building, though they can help choose their construction materials — materials that are already on the ground are best. And if you don't have access to outdoor space, don't fret: An indoor fort made of chairs, blankets, and cushions "offers similar opportunities for creativity and problem-solving while giving them a private nook where they can play or snuggle up and feel safe."


You guys got this

Speaking of space, lots of parents are scrambling to transform some part of their home into a school zone for kids who are distance learning during the pandemic. "Some sort of dedicated space within parental view helps foster the routine a real classroom provides," writes Sal Vaglica at The Wall Street Journal. If, by chance, you don't have an entire room to spare, try "nontraditional living spaces," suggests interior designer Shalena Smith. "Walk-in closets, garages, patios, and yards are all fair game for kids right now," she told Wirecutter. Or, you could just use good, old-fashioned poster board, as demonstrated by teacher and mom Angelina Harper. Armed with a glue gun, some hooks, clips, stickers, and organizing folders, she created customized workspaces for all three of her kids for less than $15. "Happy distance learning," she says. "You guys got this."


The benefits of urban green space

When scouting for new homes, recent research suggests city-dwelling families may do well to consider an area's surrounding green space. A study of 600 children, published in the journal Plos Medicine, finds that kids who grow up in urban areas with access to green space have higher IQ compared with urban kids who lack access to parks, gardens, and trees. The IQ bump was especially pronounced for kids "at the lower end of the spectrum, where small increases could make a big difference," The Guardian reports. The green space also seemed to reduce behavioral problems and aggressiveness in kids. The researchers think a few factors are at play, including lower noise levels, reduced stress due to exposure to nature, and more physical activity. "I think city builders or urban planners should prioritize investment in green spaces because it is really of value to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential,"said Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium.


Why you should mask up at home

While the science world figures out just how susceptible kids are to COVID-19, and whether or not they spread it as effectively as adults do, it might be a good idea to encourage your own children to wear masks in public. But this won't always be easy, especially for toddlers. Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker has a suggestion for getting them used to the idea: Have kids wear masks at home. "Nobody wants to be masked for the majority of a 6- or 7-hour school day, but it'll be a little easier to pull off if they've got at least some experience with sustained wear." You could start by asking them to mask up while they engage in screen time: "Kids likely want screen time more than they don't want to wear a mask," she says. From there, incorporate other mask-wearing times throughout the day.


But grandma said I could!

A recent national poll finds that nearly half of parents report clashing with their own parents — their child's grandparents — over parenting styles. The data, from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at Michigan Medicine, found that some rifts are so severe they result in parents limiting the time their kids spend with grandma or grandpa. The most common conflicts? Discipline, meals, and — you guessed it — screen time. And according to the responses from 2,016 parents, gentle nudges don't always work: Half of grandparents changed their behavior when requested, but nearly 20 percent refused. "The bigger the conflict, the less likely grandparents were to budge," says Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. The researchers say the findings indicate that the onus is on grandparents to try to understand parents' requests, "not only to support parents in the difficult job of raising children, but to avoid escalating the conflict to the point that they risk losing special time with grandchildren."


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