The week's best parenting advice: September 22, 2020

Jessica Hullinger
A child wearing a facemask.
Illustrated | iStock
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1.

A call for diligence

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sheds new light on how often kids contract COVID-19 at childcare facilities, and pass it on to family members. Looking at three facilities — two toddler daycares and one camp for teens — the researchers found 12 kids were infected, most likely by an adult worker. Three of the infected children showed no symptoms. Of the 46 family members the infected kids came into contact with, at least 12 were infected. One parent had to be hospitalized as a result. The results indicate that a low-ball estimate for rate of spread from child to family could be about 25 percent. Researchers stress this doesn't mean schools or childcare facilities should close, but that diligence about masking, sanitizing, and social distancing is needed. "This should be another wake up call to all of us that we need to be diligent and all do our part," says Dr. David Kimberlin, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. [The Associated Press]

2.

Is red light a sleep savior?

Sleep deprivation is one of the most challenging parts of having a newborn. In her new book, How Babies Sleep: The Gentle, Science-Based Method to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, neuroscientist and mother of two Sofia Axelrod suggests new parents invest in a red light bulb or flashlight to help train their babies to sleep better. The insight came from her lab research with fruit flies. "When we want to test their sleep without waking them up, we use a red flashlight. Every other type of light wakes them up," she explains to CNN. She started using a red light bulb during nighttime nursing sessions with her baby, and "it worked," she says. "The baby wouldn't get the signal from the red light that it's time to wake up." But her larger message is about the importance of limiting light exposure before bedtime and during sleep hours. "We need to work with our inner clock," she adds. [CNN]

3.

Rethinking science projects

How can teachers instill a love of science in their pupils? Award-winning high-school teacher Deborah Cornelison, now a member of the Oklahoma Department of Education, thinks project-based learning could be key. She tells The Atlantic that her students thrived when learning went beyond just lectures, labs, and following a set of written directions, and instead focused on "identifying real problems in the community, gathering meaningful data, setting up experiments, and then finding solutions." For example, one group of students surveyed their peers, experts, and cafeteria workers about healthy eating habits, and managed to bring back the cafeteria salad bar as a result. Getting hands-on like this, Cornelison says, teaches kids meaningful life skills, and gives them ownership over the scientific process. "The beauty of these projects, I believe, is that at the end — after all the struggles — they truly felt like they owned it. It was their data. It was their work." [The Atlantic]

4.

Mask muffle

"Mask muffle" is real, says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. The term, while entirely of her own invention, refers to the very frustrating phenomenon of face masks stifling one's speech and making it more difficult to be understood. "It doesn't help that we've also lost the benefit of seeing a person's mouth forming the words to fill in the blanks," she says. For teachers and childcare providers, this can be particularly challenging. Moravcik Walbert has some tips: Be open and explicit about your feelings rather than expecting kids to interpret them through your facial expressions. Incorporate new physical cues like pointing or clapping. And talk slowly. "Talk like a kindergarten teacher talks, with their signature big, bright, enunciating voices that get through to even the most rambunctious of 5 year olds," she says. [Lifehacker]

5.

Giving thanks

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center examined how U.S. teens' religious affiliations and rituals are influenced by their parents. Many of the findings were relatively unsurprising. For example, the survey found most teenagers share their parents' religion, and attend church only as often as their families do. But one interesting data point stands out: Half of American teenagers — regardless of religious affiliation — say they feel a "deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being" at least once a month; 40 percent say they feel a "deep sense of wonder" about the universe. "The most common experience is a strong feeling of gratitude or thankfulness, reported by 77 percent of teens in the survey," Pew reports. [Pew]