The benefits of fantasy fiction and imaginative play

Fantasy young girl feeding a gigantic lizard-like dragon. Credit: Max Pixel

© 2019 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Fantasy has ancient roots, but it gets a bad rap. Some worry that fantasy fiction may confuse young children. Others dismiss fantasy as silly or frivolous. Should children steer clear of fantasy play and fantasy entertainment? Is reading fantasy fiction a waste of time? Studies suggest the Read More »

How green spaces benefit mental health

three young children roaming together on a grassy hill - image by ajari / flickr / community commons license ccby2

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Studies show that green spaces can have a protective effect on our mental well-being. We’re quicker to recover from stress, and less likely to experience depression. Kids grow up with fewer psychiatric problems. Adults are less likely to commit suicide. But not all green spaces are equal, Read More »

Secure attachment relationships protect kids from toxic stress

Secure attachment relationship - mother kissing infant by DieselDemon

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Parents can help children recover from stress by offering physical affection and words of support. But is there more? Maybe secure attachment relationships also help kids develop the ability to self-soothe. What happens when you soothe your baby’s tears? When you make eye contact, engage your baby Read More »

Why kids need daylight to thrive and learn: The benefits of bright light

Boy smiling in the sunlight by his grandfather's fire, image by Graham Crumb ccbysa2

© 2018-2019 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Do kids need daylight? Studies confirm that kids benefit when they are exposed to outoor levels of illumination —  levels that far exceed the lighting of a typical classroom. Bright light boosts mood and concentration. It may help prevent disease, circadian rhythm disorders, and near-sightedness. And new Read More »

Vitamin A supplements: Is your kid getting too much vitamin A?

Children's vitamin supplements against white background - by Marco Vertch

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Vitamin A supplements are helpful for children who have a vitamin A deficiency. But most healthy, well-nourished kids don’t need supplements. And some kids may be getting too much vitamin A — consuming excessive levels of preformed vitamin A in liver, dairy products, fish oil, multivitamins, and Read More »

12 benefits of outdoor play (and tips for helping kids reap these benefits)

Two happy young children, a girl and boy, running and playing outside by Lars Plougmann

© 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What are the benefits of outdoor play for a child’s development? Research tells us there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on what kids actually do when they’re outside. It also depends on where kids play. But overall, children can reap many benefits when they play outdoors, Read More »

Postpartum depression symptoms: When is it more than the “baby blues?”

black and white mother lying in bed with newborn

© 2018 – 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Postpartum depression symptoms overlap with symptoms of the “baby blues,” the mood swings that mothers experience in the first few days after childbirth.  But when symptoms persist beyond two weeks — or take a more severe turn — it’s time to get screened for depression. Read More »

Postpartum stress: A guide for the science-minded parent

© 2007 – 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What causes postpartum stress? Giving birth is stressful. During labor, the hormones associated with psychological stress–epinephrine and cortisol–rise by a whopping 500% (Alehagen et al 2001). After childbirth, women may experience a number of physical stressors, like perineal pain, torn tissues, backaches, and urinary tract Read More »

Outdoor learning and green time: How kids benefit from learning and playing in nature


© 2018 – 2019 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Studies show that outdoor learning delivers many benefits — reducing stress, improving moods, boosting concentration, and increasing a child’s engagement at school. What happens to children when they encounter trees and greenery? When they go for a brief nature walk, learn lessons outdoors, observe wildlife, Read More »

Sensitive, responsive parenting: How does it benefit your child’s health?

© 2011-2016 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What is sensitive, responsive parenting? It’s really pretty simple. First, you tune into your child’s emotions, concerns, and needs. That’s the sensitive part.  Then you provide your child with the appropriate level of support and reassurance. That’s the responsive part. Simple, and very powerful. For years, researchers Read More »

Obesity in children and AD-36: Is obesity caused by a virus?

© 2010-2015 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved Obesity rates among children are skyrocketing, and it’s clear that many factors are involved. Kids are eating more and exercising less. They might also be gaining weight because they don’t sleep enough at night. But what about contagion? Is it possible that some kids are getting fatter because Read More »