2024 Thrive Educational Series – Session II

We are pleased to announce the presenters for Session II of the 2024 Thrive Initiative’s Educational Series for Professionals. Join us in May and July for presentations on the topics of Working with Stepfamilies and the Hybrid Implementation of Thrive Parent-Education Programming. You can earn one hour of continuing education credit from the American Psychological Association for participating in each virtual event. The presentation dates and details are below.

Register today! https://bit.ly/ThriveEduSessionII

Working with Stepfamilies: Understanding the Challenges

Date: May 21, 2024

Time: 12-1 pm EDT

Presenter: Dr. Douglas Teti

Stepfamilies are complicated. When one family form ends and another one begins, family members need to adapt to and coordinate with each other. Grouping individuals together, who have potentially become accustomed to a different way of life or even a different family system or structure, can create unique challenges. This presentation discusses the unique challenges that exist in stepfamilies from multiple perspectives—the stepparent, the biological parent(s), and the children—and will examine some best practices for resolving issues and promoting family health and well-being.

Hybrid Implementation of Thrive Parent-Education Programming

Date: July 31, 2024

Time: 12-1 pm EDT

Presenter: Terri L. Rudy, M.P.A.

Parent-education programs have historically been offered in person, which created several barriers. Due to recent technological advances, a shift to offering parent programming in an online format has occurred to address these barriers. While this web-based delivery method eliminates many barriers, it also removes the interpersonal connection that participants might establish with a supportive professional or another parent. Thus, hybrid programming has been suggested as a way to deliver programming to parents that incorporates the best features of in-person and online delivery. This presentation will explore how the Thrive portfolio of programs can be delivered in a hybrid format for group face-to-face or virtual synchronous interaction while parents complete the online asynchronous program.

Choosing the Best Sports For Your Child

Children of all ages can benefit from participating in sports and engaging in physical activity. As a parent, you may want to consider your child’s age, personality, interests, and abilities when signing them up to participate in sports and activities. It may be useful to implement a phased approach with your child for sports participation—start with non-competitive, free-play activities and gradually move to more competitive, organized sports. For example, for toddlers and preschoolers (ages 2 to 5 years), sports should be less structured and competitive and focused on having fun and helping your child develop their social skills while being active. As your child grows and advances in their skill level, they may develop the physical, mental, and social skills required for organized sports, and they may gravitate towards a specific team (e.g., basketball) and/or individual sports activities (e.g., swimming). Consider the information below as you evaluate your child’s readiness for a sports program and choose a suitable sport activity.

Benefits of Sports

  • Promotes healthy behaviors.
  • Teaches new skills that contribute to your child’s overall development.
  • Encourages social play, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
  • Expands the family’s circle of support.
  • Improves physical and mental health.
  • Develops relationships with parents and other authority figures.
  • Helps children maintain focus.
  • Offers opportunities for fun and exploration.
  • Encourages children to build friendships.
  • Develops leadership skills.
  • Boosts your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Helps teach the value of balancing successes and failures.

“First” Sports

Instead of choosing sports that emphasize competition, choose sports geared toward having fun and being active. Some good sport activities for children to learn first are activities such as running, tumbling, and swimming because the focus is basic skill development through active play, and these activities do not require organized rules (Healthychildren.org, 2019). These activities can improve your child’s coordination, help your child develop body awareness, increase social skills if your child plays and interacts with others, and teach your child skills that can prepare them for more organized activities. First sports also offer your child an opportunity to have fun with the entire family.

Physical Activity Based on Your Child’s Age and Development

Age Child’s Behaviors Activity Characteristics Example Sports and Activities
Birth to 1 year
  • Developing motor skills
  • Awareness of sights and sounds
  • Requires hands-on support
  • Stranger and separation anxiety
  • Practice basic skill development
  • Requires hands-on parental guidance
  • Child-led
  • Unstructured
  • Developed during daily routines
  • Pretend play
  • Tummy time
  • Roll over
  • Sit up
  • Kick
  • Bounce
  • Crawl
  • Pull up
  • Walk
  • Jump
2 to 5 years
  • Basic motor skills
  • Developing balance
  • Short attention span
  • Sharp vision
  • Follow a show-and-tell format
  • Noncompetitive
  • Limited instruction
  • Feels like playtime
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Tumbling
  • Throwing
  • Playing catch
  • T-ball
6 to 9 years
  • Mature motor skills
  • Developing hand-eye coordination
  • Developing understanding of teamwork and rules of the game
  • Simple and organized
  • Flexible rules
  • Teaching new skills
  • Less focus on winning
  • Modified game times and equipment
  • Soccer
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Skiing
  • Surfing
  • Rock climbing
10 to 12 years
  • Advanced motor skills
  • High visual and mental sharpness
  • Understanding of strategy and teamwork
  • Starting puberty
  • Complex sports
  • Focus on skill development
  • Promotes teamwork
  • Comparable to your child’s physical size and ability
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Skateboarding
  • Wrestling
  • Track & Field
  • Cheerleading
  • Rowing

How to Choose the “Right” Sport for Your Child

  • Understand your child’s age, interests, and abilities, and seek compatible activities.
  • Pay attention to skills your child has mastered and those they continue to develop.
  • Consider enrolling your child in a variety of team sports (e.g., field hockey, lacrosse, softball) and individual sports (e.g., karate, fencing, dancing).
  • Discuss your child’s interests with them and plan together for their participation in the sports of their choice.
  • Monitor your child’s sports participation and take action if it becomes a negative experience.
  • Ensure your child is enjoying the game and not developing a “win at all costs” mentality.
  • Avoid coaches and sports environments that are hostile and/or abusive toward your child.

Is Your Child Not Interested in Organized Sports?

Your child may not be interested in organized sports; this is fine, and there are many ways they can become and stay physically fit and active. You may want to encourage your child to explore activities such as bicycling, jogging, hiking, riding bikes, yoga, exercising at the gym, or playing tag with family and friends. Many of these activities (e.g., jogging, hiking) can involve your child and one parent, a friend, or multiple family members.

Additional Resources

The United States Department of Health and Human Services developed the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition to provide information that helps families make healthy choices. The guidelines can be found here: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf

Nemours KidsHealth offers practical tips for families with children who are not interested in traditional sports at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/hate-sports.html

Find physical activity recommendations and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm

Care.com offers sports and activity ideas for children of all ages. Find a list of activities in the following resources:

Related Blog Posts:


Anzilotti, A.W. (2019, February). Signing kids up for sports. Nemours KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/signing-sports.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, September 26). Developmental milestones matter.https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/features/developmental-milestones-matter.html

Healthychildren.org. (2019, October 8). Is your child ready for sports?https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/Pages/Is-Your-Child-Ready-for-Sports.

James, W.S. (2023, June 22). What is the best first sport for kids? Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/what-is-the-best-first-sport-for-kids.aspx

Stricker, P. R. (2019, October 7). Sports physiology. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/Pages/Sports-Physiology.aspx

Rise and Dine

March is National Nutrition Month! This may be a good time for you to remind your family that starting their day with a nutritious breakfast can be important. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, adults often skip breakfast to gain extra time, use the time differently, or even consume fewer calories. Similarly, children may rush out the door with empty stomachs or may have only consumed empty-calorie snacks. In addition, neglecting a balanced breakfast can potentially lead to a myriad of negative consequences. So, you may want to ask yourself, “Is the extra time and calories I save in the morning worth the sacrifice of this important meal?” Let’s review how eating breakfast can help support your family members in their daily activities.

For adults

Metabolism: Eating a nutritious breakfast can help jumpstart your metabolism and enable your body to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. This can contribute to weight management and better overall energy levels (Heo et al., 2021).

Cognitive function: A healthy breakfast provides your brain with essential nutrients, such as glucose, which can help your brain function at an optimal level. Studies have shown that breakfast consumption is linked to improved concentration, focus, and memory (Barr et al., 2013).

Blood sugar levels: Starting your day with a balanced breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes and mood swings later in the day. This stability can be key for your productivity and emotional well-being throughout the day (Young et al., 2014).
Healthy eating habits: Eating a nutritious breakfast can set a positive tone for the rest of the day and help establish a foundation for nutritious dietary patterns (Uzhova et al., 2018).

For children

Growth and development: Children’s bodies are constantly growing and developing and require a steady supply of nutrients. A nourishing breakfast provides essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins necessary for healthy growth, strong bones, and cognitive development (Gibney et al., 2018).

Academic performance: Research indicates that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better academically and experience improved concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills (Wesnes et al., 2003). Starting the day with a nutritious meal can help facilitate effective learning and engagement in the classroom.

Energy levels: Breakfast can replenish energy levels that have been depleted overnight and can provide children with the fuel they need to stay active and focused throughout the school day. Skipping breakfast can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can hinder academic and social interactions (Adolphus et al., 2013).

Healthy habits: Teaching children the importance of eating breakfast can support lifelong healthy habits. When a family prioritizes breakfast, children can learn the value of nutrition and understand the role it plays in their overall health and well-being (Silvia et al., 2023).

Breakfast can benefit adults and children. When you make time for a balanced breakfast each morning, you can help set your family up for success and vitality throughout the day. For more information on how to incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine, please look at the Additional Resources box below.

Additional Resources

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutritional needs, promote health, and prevent disease.

MyPlate.gov offers tips and resources that support healthy dietary patterns.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares some breakfast advice paired with nutritious recipes.

Better Health Channel outlines the benefits of breakfast and offers suggestions for people who are short on time and/or struggle to eat early in the morning.


Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., & Dye, L. (2013, August 8). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience7, 425. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425

Barr, S., DiFrancesco, L., & Victor, F. L. (2013, January). Consumption of breakfast and the type of breakfast consumed are positively associated with nutrient intakes and adequacy of Canadian adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(1), 86-92. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.167098

Gibney, M. J., Barr, S. I., Bellisle, F., Drewnowski, A., Fagt, S., Livingstone, B., Masset, G., Varela Moreiras, G., Moreno, L. A., Smith, J., Vieux, F., Thielecke, F., & Hopkins, S. (2018, May 1). Breakfast in human nutrition: The international breakfast research initiative. Nutrients10(5), 559. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050559

Heo, J., Choi, W. J., Ham, S., Kang, S. K., & Lee, W. (2021, January 7). Association between breakfast skipping and metabolic outcomes by sex, age, and work status stratification. Nutrition & Metabolism 18, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00526-z

Silva, P., Araújo, R., Lopes, F., & Ray, S. (2023, November 7). Nutrition and food literacy: Framing the challenges to health communication. Nutrients, 15(22), 4708. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15224708

Uzhova, I., Mullally, D., Peñalvo, J. L., & Gibney, E. R. (2018, October 26). Regularity of breakfast consumption and diet: Insights from national adult nutrition survey. Nutrients10(11), 1578. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111578

Wesnes, K., Pincock, C., Richardson, D., Helm, G., & Hails, S. (2003, December). Breakfast reduces declines in attention and memory over the morning in schoolchildren. Appetite, 41(3), 329-331. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2003.08.009

Young, H., & Benton, D. (2014, August). The glycemic load of meals, cognition, and mood in middle and older aged adults with differences in glucose tolerance: A randomized trial. e-SPEN Journal, 9(4), e147-e154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2014.04.003

Effective Discipline

As a child grows, they will increasingly encounter rules and expectations in multiple settings, such as their home and school. In order to assist their child in meeting these expectations, parents can use methods, like effective discipline, to help their child learn how to self-regulate and manage their behaviors. Your child can discover what behaviors are accepted and desired while they learn to understand the purpose and benefits of the rules they are expected to follow. When your child understands what actions are permissible, they are better able to choose behaviors that are accepted and rewarded!

To learn more, watch the Effective Discipline mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents for free at https://thrive.psu.edu.

Tips for Teaching Children to Brush Their Teeth on Their Own

As children reach toddlerhood (i.e., age 1 to 3 years), they begin to increasingly show signs of independence. Their strong desire to complete tasks independently is often displayed in activities of daily living like getting dressed and brushing their teeth. Because young children do not always have the concentration or control to brush their teeth by themselves, parents need to find ways to encourage their child’s self-help skills while supervising their efforts. Consider the following tips to help teach your child about the toothbrushing process and to build their confidence as they learn to brush their teeth on their own.

Brushing Basics


Ensure your child has a soft-bristled toothbrush with a thick handle and a small brushing head. Your child may be able to choose from a variety of kid-friendly toothbrushes that are available in vibrant colors and have fun characters on the handle.


Select a toothpaste that contains fluoride and has a taste and texture that your child likes. If your child does not respond well to one toothpaste, try another with a different flavor.

Brushing Angle

For the outer surfaces and most inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush horizontally at a 45-degree angle. For the front, inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush vertically across their teeth. For the chewing surfaces, your child may lay the toothbrush flat across those teeth to brush.

Brushing Motion

Show your child how to brush along the line where their teeth and gums meet in short, circular strokes or long, up-and-down strokes. Both the circular and up-and-down techniques are acceptable, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Brushing Time

Watch the clock, set the timer, play a song, or use a mobile app to help keep your child engaged for at least 2 minutes while they brush their teeth.

Toothbrush Replacement

Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or replace your child’s toothbrush sooner if the bristles appear to be visibly frayed.

Brushing Expectations by Age

From birth to first tooth (around 6 months old), use a clean, damp washcloth or gauze to wipe your child’s gums clean after each feeding.

Upon the arrival of your child’s first tooth (around 6 months) to 3 years old, apply a smear of toothpaste (approximately the size of a grain of rice) to your child’s toothbrush and begin to brush your child’s teeth twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. Begin to gently floss between your child’s teeth when they have two teeth that touch.

When your child is between the ages of 3 years to 6 years old, apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush, and brush 2 times a day for at least 2 minutes. Assist your child with their teeth brushing (and flossing) until they can rinse and spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.

How to Teach Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

If your child has learned to rinse and spit out their toothpaste instead of swallowing the toothpaste (usually around 5 to 6 years old), it may be time for you to encourage them to brush their teeth on their own. Here are some techniques you can use to help your child learn to independently brush their teeth.

Break the process into small steps. Teach your child to brush their teeth in sections. Focus on the outer surface, the inner surface, and chewing surface of one quadrant (i.e., upper left, lower left, upper right, and lower right) for 30 seconds before moving on to the next quadrant.

Show and tell. Prepare your toothbrush with toothpaste and stand or kneel next to your child. You can face your child or both of you can face the mirror. Direct your child to copy your movements and the sections you are focusing on as you both brush your teeth together. You may use analogies like the train wheels moving across the train tracks.

Hold their hand. Wrap your hand around your child’s hand to help guide the way your child holds their toothbrush and the way they move the toothbrush across their gums and teeth.

Take turns. Encourage your child to brush their teeth first while you supervise them. Use your words to help guide them on where to brush. Let them know that you plan to “check their work” when they finish. Use the “checking” stage to brush the areas they may have missed.

Sing a song. Sing a song or create your own song to a familiar melody (e.g., Row, Row, Row Your Boat) to help explain to your child the steps for brushing their teeth.

Consider your child’s temperament and learning style when determining which teaching technique to use. Feel free to try different techniques or combine techniques until you find the model that works for you and your child. With your continued guidance, your child will establish a consistent oral health routine, maintain good toothbrushing practices, and prepare to brush their teeth by themself. When you teach your child how to properly care for their primary teeth, it can set the stage for the health of their adult teeth and their oral hygiene practices for years to come.

Additional Resources

The Give a Kids A Smile® Program in association with the ADA (American Dental Association, 2020) provides resource sheets for parents and caregivers. Here are additional healthy habits that they offer parents and caregivers to consider as they help their child maintain a healthy smile and oral health.

  • Begin taking your child to dental visits when their first tooth appears or by the time they turn 1 year old, whichever comes first.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, lean meats) to protect their teeth’s health. Limit cavity-causing treats like candy, sugary beverages, sodas, snacks, and sticky sweets.
  • Encourage your child, who is at least 1 year old, to drink water between meals. The ADA suggests that water with the fluoride is the best drink for your child’s teeth.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Oral Health offers activities and resources for infants and children who are up to 4 years old. Find the resource here: https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/Library/ML-025192.pdf

The ADA provides several resources to help you take care of your child’s teeth through their Mouth Healthy™ campaign. A few of these resources can be found at the following:


American Dental Association. (2020). Tiny smiles. https://www.ada.org/-/media/project/ada-organization/ada/ada-org/files/resources/public-programs/give-kids-a-smile/ada-gkasts-eng_dental_professionals.pdf

American Dental Association. (2022, October 7). Toothbrushes.https://www.ada.org/en/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes

Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. (2023, April 26). Brushing your child’s teeth. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/publication/brushing-your-childs-teeth

Harrisburg Smiles. (2020, October 22). How to teach your child to brush their teeth—Your guide to the process. https://harrisburgsmilesdental.com/how-to-teach-your-child-to-brush-their-teeth-your-guide-to-the-process/

Jana, L. A., & Shu, J. (2021, May 25). Let the brushing games begin. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/Let-the-Brushing-Games-Begin.aspx

Oraljel Kids. (n.d.). Six creative ways to get your kids to brush their teeth. https://www.orajelkids.com/en/resources/six-creative-ways-to-get-your-kids-to-brush-their-teeth

Shahangian, J. (2017, January 13). How do I get my preschooler to let me brush her teeth? Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/How-do-I-get-my-preschooler-to-let-me-brush-her-teeth.aspx

Exercising Intelligence: How Physical Activity Nurtures Brain Development in Children

While many parents and caregivers acknowledge that being physically active can produce significant health advantages for children, the full impact of engaging in physical activity on learning and one’s overall well-being might not be entirely evident. Motor-skill development can have a profound effect on children’s social, cognitive, and psychological domains. Below are some examples of how motor-skill development can intertwine with cognitive growth.

Neurological Connection: Neural pathways in the brain connect motor and cognitive functions. When children participate in activities that challenge their motor skills, such as balancing or coordination exercises, they activate brain regions that are responsible for cognitive processes like planning, decision-making, and problem-solving (Best, 2010; Shi et al., 2022; Veldman et al., 2019).

  • What we see: Dale is learning to rollerblade. He moves his arms and legs to maintain balance, move forward, and make adaptations, so he can stay upright as the contours of the sidewalk change.
  • What we don’t see: Dale’s brain is forming connections between the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex—key regions for motor and cognitive functions (Shi et al., 2022). As he encounters environmental cues like bumps and obstacles, his brain swiftly adjusts to maintain balance. This activity improves Dale’s agility, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness and strengthens his cognitive processes, such as attentiveness and perception.

Cognitive Engagement: Cognition is the mental process of acquiring, processing, and storing information, which includes perception, memory, thinking, and imagination (Shi et al., 2022). Acquiring and developing cognitive abilities are essential for survival and development. When children participate in motor activities that require coordination, precision, and goal-directed action, they refine their cognitive skills as they plan, strategize, and adjust their movements to achieve desired outcomes (Gibb et al., 2021; Pesce et al., 2016).

  • What we see: Ella and Nellie are playing a game of “Red Light, Green Light.” Ella moves forward when Nellie says, “green light,” and she stops when Nellie says “red light.” Occasionally, Nellie tries to deceive Ella by saying similar-sounding words.
  • What we don’t see: Ella’s brain is actively involved in various cognitive
    processes, such as comprehending instructions, responding to verbal cues, and suppressing impulsive reactions. Beyond refining her physical coordination, Ella’s brain is exercising her working memory, inhibitory control, and flexibility as she strategically plans and executes actions in pursuit of specific objectives.

Whole-Body Integration: Motor activities often involve the integration of various sensory inputs and whole-body movements. When children engage in activities that require coordination of multiple sensory systems, such as balancing or spatial-awareness tasks, they can refine their attention and concentration skills (Beck, 2022; Bergland, 2015; Cook et al., 2019).

  • What we see: A group of children are playing a game of Hide and Seek. They run, sneak, crawl, hide, and navigate through various hiding spots. Simultaneously, they monitor their surroundings and the movements of other players.
  • What we don’t see: As the children maneuver, they integrate their sensory inputs—vision, hearing, and proprioception (awareness of body position)—to coordinate their movements effectively. Their heightened awareness of the environment and anticipation of others’ actions helps them to adjust and refine their physical coordination, agility, attention, and spatial awareness. In addition, they develop multitasking skills as they simultaneously keep track of various elements.

Skill Transfer: Skills acquired through motor activities can benefit an individual’s cognitive abilities. When children engage in activities like balancing or climbing, they use spatial awareness and planning skills, and these skills can transfer to cognitive tasks such as problem-solving (Bergland, 2015; Shi et al., 2022).

  • What we see: Rajan and Ian are exploring a playground climber. They are pretending the ground is covered with lava and must navigate the climber without touching the ground. They climb up the slide tunnel, grab and travel along the monkey bars, run across a swinging bridge, and slide down a curvy pole.
  • What we don’t see: As Rajan and Ian encounter various obstacles, they challenge their brains to problem-solve in real time. As they balance and coordinate their movements, they utilize spatial reasoning, which enables them to overcome challenges and reach their goal. This process enhances their physical abilities, sharpens their cognitive skills, and fosters adaptability and decision-making. Further, their imaginative play adds an element of creativity and exploration to their experience.

Social Interaction: Participating in physical activities can create opportunities for children to interact with peers and practice social skills, like cooperation. These experiences may promote teamwork and communication skills and can help strengthen bonds and friendships among children (Khan et al., 2023; Shi et al., 2022).

  • What we see: LaShante is playing a game of basketball. As she runs up and down the court, she communicates with her teammates about offense strategies and defense tactics.
  • What we don’t see: LaShante’s involvement in physical activity facilitates her connection with peers. She is developing teamwork skills and learning to coordinate and collaborate within a group. When the team faces challenges, they do so together, which instills respect for each other’s contributions and creates a network of support. Even in defeat, the team’s unity can strengthen, which nurtures a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Psychological Benefits: Motor development can impact a child’s sense of self-esteem and self-confidence as they master new skills and overcome challenges (Fong Yan et al., 2024). Physical activities trigger the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that are associated with positive emotions. Positivity can contribute to stress reduction and improved mental health (Li et al., 2022; Martín-Rodríguez et al., 2024).

  • What we see: Feliks is participating in gymnastics after school. He somersaults and cartwheels on the mat, pulls himself up on the rings, swings on the bars, and performs choreographed routines on a padded floor.
  • What we don’t see: Feliks has found an avenue for self-expression and is able to channel his energy and enthusiasm into dynamic movement. As he immerses himself in different activities, he encounters a shift in neural activity, which leads to a surge of positivity that permeates his psyche. Furthermore, each new skill he learns becomes a source of pride and accomplishment. When he shares his triumphs with his family and friends, he builds confidence and nurtures a strong belief in his capabilities.

Encouraging physical activity and motor-skill development through purposeful play can support children’s physical and cognitive growth. When children engage in activities that challenge their motor skills, these activities can promote growth across a variety of learning domains. For further information and suggestions on integrating physical activity into your child’s daily schedule, please refer to the additional resources below.


Beck, C. (2022, June 11). Tag games to develop motor skills. The OT Toolbox. https://www.theottoolbox.com/tag-games/#:~:text=When%20kids%20are%20running%20around,Proprioception

Bergland, C. (2015, July). Want to improve your cognitive abilities? Go climb a tree! Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201507/want-improve-your-cognitive-abilities-go-climb-tree

Best, J. (2010, December). Effects of physical activity on children’s executive function: Contributions of experimental research on aerobic exercise. Developmental Review, 30(4), 331-351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2010.08.001

Cook, C. J., Howard, S. J., Scerif, G., Twine, R., Kahn, K., Norris, S. A., & Draper, C. E. (2019, September). Associations of physical activity and gross motor skills with executive function in preschool children from low-income South African settings. Developmental Science, 22, e12820. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12820

Fong Yan, A., Nicholson, L. L., Ward, R. E., Hiller, C. E., Dovey, K., Parker, H. M., Low, L., Moyle, G., & Chan, C. (2024, January). The effectiveness of dance interventions on psychological and cognitive health outcomes compared with other forms of physical activity: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Sports Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-023-01990-2

Gibb, R., Coelho, L., Van Rootselaar, N. A., Halliwell, C., MacKinnon, M., Plomp, I., & Gonzalez, C. L. R. (2021, December). Promoting executive function skills in preschoolers using a play-based program. Frontiers in Psychology12, 720225. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.720225

Khan, A., Werner-Seidler, A., Hidajat, T., Feng, J., Huang, W., & Rosenbaum, S. (2023, December). Association between sports participation and psychosocial wellbeing of Australian children: An 8-year longitudinal study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 73(6)1117-1124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.07.011

Li, J., Huang, Z., Si, W., & Shao, T. (2022, November). The effects of physical activity on positive emotions in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(21). https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192114185

Martín-Rodríguez, A., Gostian-Ropotin, L. A., Beltrán-Velasco, A. I., Belando-Pedreño, N., Simón, J. A., López-Mora, C., Navarro-Jiménez, E., Tornero-Aguilera, J. F., & Clemente-Suárez, V. J. (2024, January). Sporting mind: The interplay of physical activity and psychological health. Sports (Basel)12(1), 37. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports12010037

Pesce, C., Masci, I., Marchetti, R., Vazou, S., Sääkslahti, A., & Tomporowski, P. D. (2016, March 10). Deliberate play and preparation jointly benefit motor and cognitive development: Mediated and moderated effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 349. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00349

Shi, P., & Feng, X. (2022, November 20). Motor skills and cognitive benefits in children and adolescents: Relationship, mechanism and perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology13, 1017825. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1017825

Veldman, S., Santos, R., Jones, R., Sousa-Sa, E., & Okely, A. (2019, May). Associations between gross motor skills and cognitive development in toddlers. Early Human Development, 132, 39-44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2019.04.005

Setting Boundaries and Expectations

As your child becomes an adolescent and then a teenager, your relationship with them will likely fluctuate. To help maintain consistency in your connections with your child, you can create age-appropriate boundaries and expectations for them by engaging in conversations. Having open conversations with your child in which they can share their opinions and viewpoints regarding rules and limits can create a welcoming atmosphere. By ensuring these rules are obtainable and realistic, you can help your child be successful, build self-esteem, and prepare for the transition to adulthood!

To learn more, watch the Setting Boundaries and Expectations mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents for free at https://thrive.psu.edu.

Celebrating Heritage and Diverse Cultures

Your family’s cultural background can shape your and your child’s (and your extended family member’s) behaviors, lifestyle, and perspectives regarding your community and the world. When children feel a sense of pride and self-esteem with and for their cultural background, their well-being can be positively affected, their perspectives can be diversified, and their contributions to society can be worthwhile and productive. While it is important for children to learn to embrace their roots, it is also important for your child to recognize and accept the diverse cultures and traditions of others. You are your child’s first teacher and their best role model. Show them how to celebrate their heritage and honor the differences in others. Here are some strategies you can use to help your child value the diversity that they and their peers can offer to make the world a beautiful and rich place.

Five Ways to Instill Cultural and Ethnic Pride in Your Children

Exhibit pride in your traditions. Be a role model for your child. Uphold your traditions like cooking cultural foods, wearing traditional garments, and speaking your native language at home. Teach your child love for their roots while maintaining respect for the traditions of others.

Teach your child to feel proud of their heritage. Talk about your cultural background in a positive light. Honestly teach your children about your family’s history, and indicate how your family, including your child, comes from strong and resilient people. Discuss, in an age-appropriate way, the obstacles that you’ve overcome personally and as a member of an ethnic or racial group and the challenges some ethnic and racial groups have confronted and surmounted. Highlight the strengths and positive outcomes that arose from your and others’ persistence and efforts, and remind your child that they, too, possess that same strength and persistence.

Teach your child love for themself. Remind your child that the features that make them unique also make them special. Provide them with affirmations to appreciate their skin, hair, voice, abilities, experiences, and other characteristics that can promote their self-love and self-worth. Praise the actions and behaviors that they do well, and help your child become confident in who they are and in what they believe.

Find books, apps, games, and digital media programming with diverse characters in varied roles. Help your child see themself reflected in media (e.g., books, images, movies, games, social media) and in the activities they love. Recognizing these representations can boost your child’s imagination, expedite their budding aspirations, and help them see themself as the star of their own story.

Get involved in your child’s school. Ensure your ethnicity, traditions, and customs are respected and not ignored. Advocate for observance of your cultural traditions. Encourage visibility of your culture through images, stories, and activities, and be willing to respond appropriately to misrepresentations of your roots.

Five Ways to Honor Differences in Others’ Heritage

Ask questions and acknowledge how our differences make us special. Ensure your child understands that it is okay to ask (and answer) questions related to different cultural backgrounds; however, remind them, that personal heritages and experiences are unique to individuals and families, and one person does not qualify as the spokesperson for their specific cultural group(s). Be prepared to promote understanding and respect, listen openly to other perspectives, and practice cultural competency and humility.

Learn more about other cultures. Consider participating in cultural events and festivals. Read books, visit restaurants, and watch documentaries that represent experiences that are different from your own. However, be mindful not to perpetuate common stereotypes regarding other groups.

Create a welcoming and inclusive environment. Treat others with respect and dignity, and demonstrate tolerance. Recognize the shared humanity among all people. Understand that everyone shares basic needs and desires (e.g., food, safety, love, happiness, peace). Develop sincere relationships with people from different backgrounds who have different abilities and experiences.

Acknowledge and discuss current events related to different racial/ethnic groups with your child. Identify news and events that celebrate diversity, and learn and respect customs associated with various traditional events or holidays. Conversely, create a safe space to discuss your and your child’s feelings regarding racial inequalities and injustices. Listen to your child’s concerns and engage in age-appropriate conversations with them.

Speak up in the face of bias. Embrace differences. Remain calm and self-assured during challenging and even negative times. Encourage your child to stand up for their beliefs. Demonstrate productive ways to challenge negative stereotypes or bring attention to signs that others are being mistreated—whether the representations are in person, in books, on television, or in social media.

Heritage and History Months that Celebrate Diversity

February – Black History Month

March – Women’s History Month, Irish American Heritage Month

April – National Deaf History Month (March 15 – April 15), Arab American Heritage Month

May – Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Heritage; Older Americans Month; Jewish American Heritage Month; Military Appreciation Month

June – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month; Caribbean American Heritage Month; National Immigrant Heritage Month; World Refugee Day

July – Disability Pride Month

September – National Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month (September15-October 15)

October – National Disability Employment Awareness Month, National Italian American Heritage Month, LBGTQ+ History Month

November – National American Indian Heritage Month; National Veterans and Military Families Month

Additional Resources


Common Sense Media provides a list of books that promote diversity and inclusion at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/books-that-promote-diversity-and-inclusion.

Healthychildren.org recommends a range of diverse and inclusive reading materials for children at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Diverse-and-Inclusive-Books-for-Children.aspx.

Healthychildren.org also offers suggestions on how books can help families discuss topics related to race and racism at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/using-books-to-talk-with-kids-about-race-and-racism.aspx.

Apps and Games:

Common Sense Media provides a list of apps and games that have diverse characters who represent multicultural experiences and perspectives and that can support families in diversifying their media selections. Find the list at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/apps-and-games-with-diverse-characters

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Blinken, A. J. (n.d.). State Department celebrates heritage and history months. United States Department of State. https://www.state.gov/state-department-celebrates-heritage-and-history-months/#immigrant-heritage-month-and-world-refugee-day

Du Plessis, M. (2023, April 3). Celebrating diversity: Embracing our differences.  LinkedIn.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/celebrating-diversity-embracing-our-differences-minette-du-plessis/

Healthychildren.org. (2022, September 26). Celebrating heritage: Tips for parents.https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/celebrating-heritage-tips-for-parents.aspx

Iurato, A. (2022, March 30). How to honor heritage and identity (Without ruining it). LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-honor-heritage-identity-without-ruining-allison-iurato/

Kaiser, B., & Rasminsky, J. S. (2020, January). Valuing diversity: Developing a deeper understanding of all young children’s behavior. National Association for the Education of Young Children. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/dec2019/valuing-diversity-developing-understanding-behavior

Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging. (n.d.). Heritage months and identity recognitions. Harvard University. https://edib.harvard.edu/heritage-months

Sanchez, B. (2021, September 13). Teaching children cultural and racial pride. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Teaching-Children-Cultural-and-Racial-Pride.aspx