The brains of children ages 6 to 9 have a significantly harder time than adult brains tracking and distinguishing voices amid background noise, such as other voices or sounds, according to Education Week’s coverage of a new study conducted by Belgian researchers and published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

There’s more in the article, but this is no surprise. Eliminate distractions and children can excel. The most innocuous things to an adult can be an insurmountable distraction to a child, and the children probably won’t tell you, because usually they can’t. It’s our job to maintain a quiet environment.

Born To Run

As a long-distance runner, I’ve always wondered why about one-third of runners require corrective shoes for overpronation. I had a hunch that it’s probably related to the fact that in the west we wear shoes basically from birth, whereas the world’s best runners practice barefoot.

At least this one study makes it looks like yup.

Researchers show that children and adolescents who spend most of their time barefoot develop motor skills differently from those who habitually wear shoes. Published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, this is the first study to assess the relevance of growing up shod vs. barefoot on jumping, balancing and sprinting motor performance during different stages of childhood and adolescence. Results suggest that regular physical activity without shoes may improve children’s and adolescents’ balancing and jumping skills.

The Opposite Of The Intended Effect

Why is it that giving children praise for being smart promotes dishonesty?

…Noting previous research which shows ability praise can undermine a child’s motivation to learn when they encounter difficulties, University of California San Diego Professor Gail Heyman, co-author of the studies, said, “Our findings show that the negative effects of ability praise extend beyond this to promoting dishonesty, and that this occurs in children as young as three years of age.”

Montessori discovered that besides having unpredictable effects, praise is an unnecessary distraction. The child is motivated from within.

I Can Tell You A True Story

They tested the idea that children learn from stories about anthropomorphic animals.

Forget the morals that millennia of children have learned from the Hare and the Tortoise and the Fox and the Crow: Aesop would have had a greater effect with his fables if he’d put the stories into the mouths of human characters, at least according to new research from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

In the Canadian study, researchers read one of three stories to almost 100 children between four and six years old: Mary Packard’s Little Raccoon Learns to Share, in which anthropomorphic animals learn that sharing makes you feel good; a version of the story in which the animal illustrations were replaced with human characters; or a control book about seeds.

Guess what happened.

Ganea said that while “a growing body of research has shown that young children more readily apply what they’ve learned from stories that are realistic … this is the first time we found something similar for social behaviours”.


Changing The Environment Changes The Children

The mental health of children suffering post-earthquake stress dramatically improves with small changes to their school environment, a pilot study shows.

The University of Canterbury study, which began in 2015, involved five Christchurch primary schools making changes aimed at reducing children’s stress.

Shifting break times or removing items hanging from ceilings reduced the number of children displaying quake-related behavioural stress by almost one third.

My AMI trainers said a hundred times, “Hang all art at the child’s eye level.”

Football Is Dangerous

Dr Bennet Omalu warned parents against allowing their children under the age of 18, to play the sport, claiming that there was no way to make it safe against brain trauma.

The noted neuropathologist, portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion, found staggering evidence that NFL players sustained long-term head trauma with declining mental capabilities, due to the sport.

Mike Ditka agrees. Football is too dangerous for children and adults.

Notably, Ditka has joined the growing number of parents who wouldn’t let their children play football. “That’s sad. I wouldn’t. And my whole life was football,” he told Gumbel. “I think the risk is worse than the reward.”

Experts Remain Puzzled

Doing philosophy makes kids better at math and reading.

Philosophical discussions about truth, fairness or kindness appear to give a small but significant boost to the maths and literacy progress of primary school pupils, although experts remain puzzled as to why.

Children in Montessori elementary schools are constantly talking about fairness and respectfulness simultaneously as they work on math and reading together.