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Parenting Tips/Research and Discoveries

Breakfast Solutions: Sheet Pan Pancakes

May-13, 2020

pancake fruits Serving tray

Photo created by KamranAydinov

Whether you call them flapjacks, griddle cakes, or pancakes, everyone gets excited for this breakfast staple. Pancakes turn breakfast into a special occasion, but they can also be a lot of work. Between making the batter, adding special ingredients, and usually cooking one at a time, pancakes can be a time-consuming meal that’s hard for the whole family to enjoy at once. But no fear, there is a solution: sheet pan pancakes!

Unlike pancakes cooked on the stovetop, a sheet pan pancake is cooked in the oven, much like a very thin cake. Not only do these cook quickly as compared to a normal cake, they are also very easy to customize. Similar to a build-your-own pizza, all members of the family can add special flavors to their section of the pancake. And since the pancake finished cooking all at once, the whole family can sit down together and enjoy their special breakfast without any hassle.

What do you put on a sheet pan pancake?

Any topping you enjoy on a regular pancake can go on a sheet pan pancake. Fruits like blueberries, sliced strawberries, and sliced bananas are all great choices. You can also add crushed nuts like pecan, walnut, or macadamia. Morsels and swirls are also a sweet addition to the sheet pan pancake. Try peanut butter (chips or spread), cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips, or fruit jelly. Since sheet pan pancakes aren’t cooked by direct heat, you can even try ingredients that might burn in a pan like mini marshmallows. And if you’re craving the distinct flavor you get from fried bananas or nuts, you can always give those a quick toss in the pan before adding on top of your batter.

How to make sheet pan pancakes:

Preheat oven to 425° F. Line your sheet pan with parchment paper and coat with melted butter. Mix up your favorite pancake batter and spread evenly in the pan. We recommend adding an oven liner or tray to catch potential spills the first time you try this recipe. Add your toppings to the batter and bake for 5-7 minutes, and then broil the top for 1-2 minutes.

Practice makes perfect with this recipe, but the whole family will love joining in for that practice. Be sure to show us your pancake creations on the Best Brains Facebook page!

Tags Food

Five Facts About the Moon

May-07, 2020

Night sky Fully moon

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amoré!” While there is a lot to love about our beautiful moon, there is still so much to learn about our celestial companion. Let’s learn more about the Moon together!

  • While there are several theories as to where the Moon came from, the most popular theory is quite volatile. Scientists hypothesize that a Mars-sized mass collided with the newly formed Earth, hurtling debris which, over time, formed what we call the Moon. This would explain what the Moon is made out of as well as where it sits in its orbital path. However, there is no consensus on this hypothesis yet.
  • While many people today equate the moon with more feminine qualities, that wasn’t always the case throughout the world. Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Babylonian, and Nordic traditions all characterize the god of the moon as male.
  • There have been 24 astronauts who made it to the moon, and of those 24, 12 of them have actually walked on its surface. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first to ever walk on the moon, while Eugene Cernan and Harrison H Schmitt were the last. No woman or person of color has ever orbited or walked on the Moon. Yet.
  • Our expeditions to the Moon have left behind several items. The Soviet Union actually did land an unmanned probe called Luna 2 back in 1959. Since then, other probes and spacecraft vehicles sit on the Moon’s surface. Some things were brought specifically to leave on the Moon, most notably two medals commemorating Soviet cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, who perished in an accident furthering the study of space travel. Additionally, the NASA Apollo missions used their different moon landings as a way to get rid of their trash so that they could lighten their ships and make the trip home easier. Interplanetary littering!
  • While our moon is the largest moon in the solar system relative to its planet, it’s only the fifth largest over all. (Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon, is big enough to be considered a planet if it orbited the Sun!) The Moon’s size means that its gravity is only a sixth of Earth’s. So, if something weighted 6 lbs. on Earth, it would weigh only 1 lb. on the Moon. The effect of the Moon’s gravity on astronauts has inspired both moon bounces and moon boots, both designed to make you jump with serious airtime!

We’re still learning things about our beautiful Moon. Selenography, or the study of the Moon, still occurs to this day. Will you be the next person to find some new lunar secrets? If so, you know where to start looking!

Parenting Tips for Nightly Reading

Feb-22, 2019

Nightly Book Reading

Photo Credit: Widad Sirkhotte from Flickr

If you have a child in grades Kindergarten through fourth, you most likely are very familiar with the 20 minutes of nightly reading she is assigned. The teacher probably sends home a sheet of some sort each week, or daily, to report on this reading. For some students, this assignment is a breeze. Yet, for others, and their parents, it is a dreaded requirement. So, what can you do as a parent to help your child through this assignment and even more so to improve their reading skills? Here are a few basic tips we have found success with.

Sit Next to Your Child

It's always a good idea to sit side by side with your child and silently read as they read. This gives them some accountability and discourages distractions. Teachers find that when children are left alone to read while parents catch up on laundry or dishes, they are more likely to not pay attention to the book. some students will even start to make up their own story as they read if they feel they can get away with it.

Choose the Right Time

The time of night you decide to complete this assignment is completely up to you and your child. You want to find a time that makes it easy for your child to cooperate and when you are not pushing them to simply finish. This suggests that right after they return from school nor right before bed is typically opportune as your child may be in need of either play time or sleep, and neither is conducive for reading.

Do not Skip Reading Time

While 10-20 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, research shows that this time is crucial to your child’s reading development. Clumping all the required time together during one or two days doesn’t achieve the same results. This makes it necessary to find the time for your child to complete this assignment every night.

Keep Reading Aloud to Your Child

Mother reading her children

Photo Credit: Neeta Lind from Flickr

It is common for parents to think that once a child can read on their own, the adult is no longer needed. However, children in grades four and higher can still greatly benefit from being read to aloud. As an adult, you can read texts and stories of a much wider variety than your child. You reading these to them exposes them to a larger vocabulary and helps them to learn that reading can be interesting and fun.

Do not “Tell” Words as the Child Reads

As a teacher, it is easy to tell if a child is often told what words are during reading. These students, when they come across an unfamiliar word, will simply stop during class reading, expecting the teacher or someone to help them out instead of trying to figure it out on their own. Instead of telling them the word, try to show them simple word solving strategies to teach themselves.

Try out these tips in your home to not only improve your child’s reading abilities but to also make the process for enjoyable for you and them.

Making Recycling Fun

Feb-12, 2019


One of the most fun and productive activities you can do with your children at home is to start an at-home recycling program. Chances are, even if you have never talked about it at home, your children have already encountered the idea of recycling at school or at day care. By bringing this practice into the home, you give your children an important and fun practice that they can use to be responsible citizens for the rest of their lives.

The first step in starting an at-home recycling program is to find out if there are recycling facilities in your area. Maybe your neighborhood has a recycling program and provides bins and materials for free. If not, there are private recycling companies that will collect and process your recyclables for a fee. Whichever option you choose, you want to ensure that the arrangement is convenient and realistic for your family.

And think broadly. Even if there is not a facility to process everything you want to recycle, you can find easy opportunities to recycle some of the products your family uses every day. For instance, TerraCycle provides cardboard boxes so that you can pack up and ship your plastic snack wrappers. For a fee, they recycle these small pieces of plastic that we all use every day, and can’t recycle through our normal neighborhood recycling programs. Companies like this make it possible to be creative about how you will structure your family recycling program. Perhaps you will only recycle glass. Or maybe your children can learn to recycle their cereal boxes when they are empty. Start small, teaching your children the importance of doing one good thing for the environment. As time goes on, you’ll find that most children are excited about participating and finding new things to recycle.

Another way to make recycling fun is to allow young children to sort recyclable goods themselves. If your town only recycles type 1 and type 2 plastics, you can allow your 4 year-old to check the plastic bottles in the recycle bin to sort them accordingly. By making this her job, you assign her an important task that tells her that you trust her to be responsible. You also allow her some freedom to use her growing number skills and to be responsible for something that feels like a “grown-up job.” Children love this.

However you decide to do it, starting and maintaining an at-home recycling program is an easy way to help raise engaged, aware children who make a positive contribution to the world.

Dealing with Health Issues at School

Jan-31, 2019

Girl Sleeping

We all love to see healthy and active children enjoying their time in school. But sometimes, a health challenge arises that makes it difficult for a student to fully participate in day-to-day school activities. By working together, parents and teachers can make sure that children get the help they need while making the most of their time in and out of the classroom.

One of the most difficult parts of dealing with a child’s illness is that it can sometimes be a challenge to accurately diagnose a problem. Whether a child is suffering physical or mental discomfort, being observant and forthcoming is an important step in making a diagnosis. For teachers, this means noticing when a normally energetic child is less engaged for some period time. A simple solution is to ask the student if they are feeling well or if anything is wrong. Perhaps they’ll tell you what’s going on. But even if they don’t, it’s important when you notice a change in a student’s behavior to communicate with parents about the student’s well-being. Teachers and parents are important partners in a child’s education.

Once an illness is diagnosed, it’s essential to be realistic about what a child will need in terms of treatment and time away from school. This is where parents have to take the lead. By talking honestly to doctors and specialists, parents can get a sense of what is best for their child’s health, and how much time it may take for them to recover or receive adequate treatment. In some cases, this will mean time away from school. In other cases, students can remain in school while they undergo treatment. In either case, this should be a decision that parents make with their child’s health care professionals, rather than their teachers.

Finally, when the family has an understanding of the kind of time and accommodations a student might need, they can have a conversation with the schools’ administrators to come up with a plan for completing schoolwork. In some cases, it may be necessary to homeschool an ill child so that they don’t fall too far behind their classmates. In other cases, parents can make plans for a child to miss a certain amount of school and make up that time in summer school, so that they’re able to progress in their education as expected. Still in other cases a child may not have to miss significant amounts of school. It may be enough to inform a teacher that a young student will be out for a week and will make up the work when she returns. The important thing is that parents and teachers communicate clearly with one another about what is needed, both for the well-being of the child and for the educational mission.

None of us wants to think about a child getting sick. But by having a plan and being open with teachers, it is possible to keep a child’s education on track while making sure that they get the help that they need. This creates a clear and welcoming school environment for the student to return to when they are feeling better.

When Home is a Distraction

Jan-14, 2019

Distracted Child

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlic

We all want to create healthy and supportive home environments for our children. However, sometimes circumstances beyond our control can impact children’s learning and make it difficult for them to focus on school. When a family member gets sick, or financial trouble disrupts home life, it can be a challenge for young people to stay focused on their studies. Here are some ways you can help promote your children’s health and focus when they’re dealing with distractions.

The first thing to do is identify the disruption. What is it that’s causing the difficulty? Has there been a death in the family? Did you recently move and your child switched schools? Before we can address the effects of a disruption, we have to know what it is. Sometimes it will be obvious. Other times you will have to ask questions to find out what your son or daughter is thinking. Maybe they’re worried about a friend of theirs. Or maybe they’re having issues with someone else in the family. Accurately identifying the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Once you know what the issue is, have an honest conversation with your child about how it’s affecting them. Are they having a hard time paying attention in class? Do they not remember the material as well? Maybe they’re no longer enjoying hanging out with friends or participating in activities. Whatever the problems, you want to reassure them that it’s normal to become distracted when we’re dealing with difficult things in life. By giving your child permission to feel upset, you can help them relax and eventually work through whatever they’re dealing with.

Once you and your child understand what’s happening and how it’s affecting them, you can begin to look for routines, resources, and support to help them. For children who are having a hard time focusing at home, this could mean letting them go to the local library for a few hours after school. If your child’s school has a good counseling program, you can set up sessions with the school counselor so that your child has an ally at school they can talk to. It’s also a good idea to be in touch with your child’s teachers. You can share as much or as little as you’d like about what your child and your family are dealing with. The key is simply to communicate to the teacher that you’re aware of your child’s trouble focusing and that you intend to address it actively and in a way that’s healthy and productive for their education.

We never want to imagine our children in difficult situations. However, circumstances sometimes arise that challenge the normal, healthy routines we’ve established. At these times, it’s important to be proactive. By actively sympathizing with your children and communicating with their teachers, you can create a collaborative environment where your child feels supported and is able to overcome whatever is hampering their success.