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About GreatDad Writers

Here are my most recent posts

Is telling your kid to ‘man up’ a cop​-out?

If you grew up with a father who wasn’t very emotional, odds are you try to raise your sons the same way. After all, there’s a strong cultural push for boys to be the strong, silent types. However, you might want to consider who your son is before raising him in some predetermined way.

Even if you were raised to be tough, you shouldn’t tell your kid to “man up” when they’re upset or in pain. Raising a sensitive boy means questioning things you thought you knew about yourself for the benefit of your kids.

  • Don’t take things personally: Your kid’s just trying to be who he is, not who you want him to be. Take a step back and ask yourself if you can put your prejudices aside.
  • Teach self-care: Many boys can get right back up after falling off a bike or scraping their knees, but more sensitive boys need to know when they’ve had enough. Teach your kid about walking away from situations he thinks are too dangerous.
  • Different is good: Believing in this yourself is key to getting along with your kid as he ages. You never have to understand everything about the choices your son makes, but teaching him that he doesn’t have to be like everybody else will make it easier for both of you to get along.

Think Vegas is Just for Adults? Think again

When you're thinking about family-friendly vacation destinations, Las Vegas probably isn't the first (or second, third or 15th) location on your list.

Rather than inspiring touching memories of fatherhood, Las Vegas likely calls to mind gambling, showgirls, alcohol and Mike Tyson with a tiger. While, yes, most of those things can definitely be found in Sin City, there's actually a number of things in Las Vegas that are appropriate for kids. Here's a short list.

Live shows – One of the things Vegas does have in abundance is shows – and a well-done show can blow kids' minds and get them thinking.

You will need to do your research on the specific show, since many will have more adult-focused content than you would want your kids seeing . For example, shows like the Blue Man Group at the Monte Carlo might be right up kids' alley, while other ones may be a bit too racy.

The city also has an abundance of magic shows, so see if any of them seem a good fit for your family. If your kids are a bit more grown-up, you may be able to bring the kids to one of the edgier shows. Once you've chosen the show that's right for you, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch your children's boredom disappear.

Bellagio attractions – Need something simple (and cheap) to do when you're in Las Vegas? Step outside of the casino, and head for the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio fountains. They're programmed to go off in an exciting pattern – complete with lights in the evening – every 15 to 30 minutes, and regularly draw a crowd.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, then watch any movie set in Las Vegas from the past 15 years. It's in there.

When you want to go back inside, the Bellagio has a number of family-friendly attractions you can visit, including a botanical garden and an art museum. The garden even has live music twice each evening, and – because it's Vegas – is open 24/7.

Pinball Hall of Fame – There's a museum for everything, and Las Vegas is home to the Pinball Hall of Fame. It's actually located right near the strip, and offers 10,000 square feet of games dating from the 1950s all the way up to the 1990s.

Most of the machines are 25 or 50 cents per play, so you really get your money's worth compared to the craps and blackjack tables. Plus, playing games with your kids is a fun Dad activity, and will keep your more entertained than other activities that can sometimes feel like babysitting.

The museum also operates as a nonprofit organization – standing in stark contrast to everything else in Las Vegas. Literally any excess revenues collected through the machines, machine repair work and DVD sales (Yes, they made a DVD) are donated to local charities, such as the Las Vegas Salvation Army branch.

Grand Canyon – Yes, I know this one is kind of cheating, but when you are in Las Vegas, visiting the Grand Canyon is a great idea for a lot of ways. There are a number of companies, such as Adventure Photo Tours, that can pick you up right from your Vegas hotel and take you out to the canyon.

It's one of those U.S. landmarks that pretty much everyone wants to see at some point in their lives. However, many people never actually go because it's literally in the middle of nowhere in northern Arizona.

If you do decide to make the trip, keep a few key things in mind. Las Vegas is a four-hour drive from the Grand Canyon, so plan to keep your kids occupied somehow. Because of the travel time, the tours that leave from the strip tend to depart early in the morning – sometimes by 8 a.m. So you need to plan your activities for the night before with a little bit of caution.

These are just a few activities in Las Vegas that break away from the "traditional" activities Las Vegas has become famous for, and there are many others on and off the strip. So stop thinking that Sin City is just a never-ending hangover and create some family-friendly memories too.

Top 4 Things Near Orlando That Aren’t Theme Parks

If your kids are old enough, the mere mention of Orlando inspires a wave of pleading and "I want to go to Disney World" discussions. So know now that you're probably going to end up spending time with Mickey. You'll survive.

There are several other theme parks in Orlando too, and they all have their perks – but between the parking, the overpriced food, and admission costs you feel like you need a home equity loan to afford, you may need to find other, more wallet-friendly things to do . So here's four places in the Orlando/Daytona area you can check out without needing to drop a couple of bucks on souvenir mouse ears.

Farris & Foster's Chocolate Workshops

If you want to do something a little bit decadent, try making your own chocolate at Farris & Foster's Chocolate Workshops. It's located right near Baldwin Park in downtown Orlando, and can take reservations for groups as small as three people all the way up to a group of 36. At the end of the session, you have homemade chocolate to eat later on.

The facility even runs a Family Night every Monday night, and Date Night events on Friday nights. Yes,kids hopped up on sugar can be a handful, but fully satisfying your wife's chocolate fix is definitely worth it (at least to me). Farris and Foster's has even won an award from Orlando Date Night Guide as a top food-focused activity.

Jungle Adventures

Looking for some animal fun that doesn't involve cartoons? Jungle Adventures is the place to go.

Located just down the road in Christmas, Florida, this attraction puts you up close and personal with the Floridian ecosystem. Admission to the park includes hands-on wildlife shows featuring more than a dozen different species, a tour of an authentic Native American village, and – of course – an alligator feeding. You also have the chance to take a Jungle Swamp Cruise, where you join a group boat ride through a swamp.

Just a note – the park only has small snacks, so you'll need to take a break and hit up a local restaurant if you want a full meal. You can always use your wristband to re-enter the park later that same day.

Kennedy Space Center

Got a budding astronaut in your family? Show them the real thing with a tour of the Kennedy Space Center. You can do a basic tour, or get one with all sorts of upgrades, such as Lunch with an Astronaut, a play dome for younger explorers, and various IMAX films.

The space center also has a list of upcoming launches, so be sure to check out the schedule if you know when you're going to be in the area. Come on, what's cooler than watching a rocket get launched into space? It blows any museum out of the water.

Daytona International Speedway

If you're a racing fan, you know that the Daytona International Speedway is one of the most renowned courses on the NASCAR circuit. While the big race kicks off on the final Sunday of each February, the track is open throughout the year so you can still get up close and personal with the venue.

You can start with a basic tour that includes a ride through the infield and walk through the garages and pit row, or opt for a VIP tour, which lets you see the drivers' meeting room, victory lane, and grants you access to the Velocitorium -where Sir Malcolm Campbell's record-setting Bluebird V auto (which set a land speed record of more than 276 miles per hour in 1935), is kept.

So take some time and enjoy the sights in Orlando without getting "It's a Small World After All" stuck in your head for days. You'll thank yourself later.

Shittake Mushrooms! How to handle when children swear

No matter how much you try to shelter your child, they'll probably have the vocabulary to curse like a proverbial sailor sooner than you might have thought. Between television, music, and just being in public, "bad language" is everywhere.

This isn't a fatherhood lecture, so whether or not you think cursing is acceptable is your choice. Still, there are probably times when you'd prefer your five-year-old child didn't end a conversation with "F*** you"  – like when they meet your boss for the first time.

So how do you deal with it?

Avoid overreacting

When you hear that first four-letter work come out, your first fatherly reaction is probably to lay the hammer down, but that might actually have a negative effect. If your child realizes that they can use that word to get you upset, odds are they'll do it whenever they want to get into an argument.

If you don't let the words have that kind of power, then they probably won't be used against you.

Identify the source

Once the initial situation has passed, have a discussion about where your child heard the word in the first place. Odds are – even if you were trying to watch your language – they probably heard it from Mom or Dad. So if that's the case, learn to self-monitor what you say a little bit better.

If they heard it from somewhere else, address that however you feel comfortable. Whether that's adjusting some parental controls on the television, or having a conversation with some other parents, you need to address it at the source.

Define the boundaries

Once you understand the situation, it's important to have a conversation with your child about swearing. Talk to them about where and when people use those words, and why they aren't good to say all the time.

Give them alternative words to use instead of the "naughty ones", and encourage them to use their new expressions instead.

Create appropriate consequences

While you don't want to overreact to cursing, you also don't want to just encourage it. So set up defined consequences for when your child breaks the rules. You can give them extra chores, or set up a swear jar that they need to contribute to (25 or 50 cents per word is probably enough). Expect your child to call you out if they catch you swearing, however, and pay the penalty to avoid sending mixed signals.

If you're assigning chores, choose ones that aren't normally a part of your child's normal to-do list. If just doing their normal chores is a punishment, then you're sure to hear a "But I didn't do anything wrong" response the next time you ask them to do them.

How do you feel about swearing? Do you try to insulate your kids from it, or redirect them?

Your baby is listening and learning from the womb!

Samar - DavinAll parents want to help children develop to the best of their abilities, and it is no wonder that most parents are perplexed and confused when they think about their roles in children’s lives. Rearing a child from birth onward is complicated enough’ why add another layer of complexity? Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), new scientific data suggests parents start child-rearing in the womb.

The amount of advice for nourishing your child’s intellectual and creative capabilities can pummel new parents. Very little parental advice, however, talks about the critical importance of babies’ pre-birth brain development.

As a new dad who is professionally immersed in neuroscience, I feel obliged to perplex parents even more – I would be doing you a disservice if I said this stuff was easy. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not getting any easier. Throughout this article, there are three central points you should keep in mind:

  • Readiness to learn starts in the womb.
  • Parents need to start a baby’s learning process prior to birth or slightly after birth at the very latest.
  • The first 3 years of life are the most important for brain development


Start Early – Start Smart

Typically, timetables for child development start too late. Science provides loads of evidence that the first three years of life are crucial to brain development. During these early years, about 85% of a child’s brain gets wired. Still, decades of scientific research also tell us that the wiring of a child’s brain starts much earlier – in the womb.

Most parenting advice today stresses the benefits of parents talking to their child.  What this good advice omits, however, is that the parent-child dialogue needs to start when a child is in the womb – and then it needs to continue into the first years of life. How exactly do children benefit from this parent-child dialogue in the womb? The parent-child dialogue determines a child’s future capacities for learning and development, forming the building blocks of language acquisition for children.


“Sound Advice” for Parents

Cultivation of language and communication skills starts before children emerge from the womb. That scientific fact makes child-rearing even more involved and challenging than most parents imagine. In other words, the “quality time” parents should be spending with children starts before the children are even born.

My wife and I recently saw those two long-awaited lines on a pregnancy test. Like every other expecting parent, we hope and pray that our precious baby will develop normally. But as we wait patiently, we also know that our job as parents is already about to begin, months before we ever cradle our precious baby in our arms. Thanks to some “sound advice” from science, we have the advantage of knowing that nothing is better for the maturing hearing system of a fetus than talking and singing.

As my wife and I talk and sing to our unborn daughter, we know that the frequencies of these sounds are being registered in her neuro-pathways, laying the foundation for future language acquisition. We know this to be true for one simple physiological reason: the auditory system is already matured in the last trimester.

This important fact motivates all we do at my company, Kadho, Inc where we create science-based games that help develop the language learning capabilities of babies, toddlers, and unborn children. These products provide parents with the equivalent of several nannies from a variety of countries. Our mission is to plant the seed for language learning during the time that it matters the most. These seeds will enable children to think more creatively, even in more than one language, and help them to contribute to personal fulfillment, social success, academic achievement, and professional excellence.


Communication Starts with Hearing!

Perhaps you have heard from your physician, family, or friends that it’s important to talk to your baby in the womb, especially during the last few months of pregnancy. That’s not only good advice: it is backed by a great deal of science pertaining to infants’ auditory development, which begins during the first 20 weeks of gestation and becomes more or less functional within the five weeks following that.

Here’s some basic scientific information about what can and should happen to your baby’s hearing system in the critical period between 25 weeks of gestation and 12 months of age:

  • While the fetus is developing, all of the most important parts of your baby’s hearing system are properly developed and tuned to receive and distinguish speech, music, and other sounds.
  • During pregnancy, even the rhythms of language can influence the development of the fetus.
  • Newborns can discriminate their mother’s voice from other female voices and even differentiate between their native language and other rhythmically distinct languages.

Babies that have been nurtured by their mother’s voice, other voices, or other “proper sounds” while in the womb will be born with the advantages of “properly developed” auditory systems. With a “properly developed” hearing system, a child will have the optimal ability to learn language and music during early childhood. By maintaining a solid language learning ability, children can learn foreign languages later on in life better and more quickly.


The Awesome “Window of Opportunity”

Scientific research over the last 50 years tells us that the first few years of a child’s life are the most important for brain development. During this period, a child’s brain generates a mind-boggling number (think trillions) of synaptic connections.

This remarkably rapid brain development process begins during the first few post-natal months and reaches its peak starting at about 6 months of age. It continues until about 3–4 years of age. During this period, language/communication and cognitive skills develop along with a child’s hearing system.

This period is the awesome “window of opportunity” for a child’s brain circuitry to develop. That’s good news for parents. But the good news from neurological science doesn’t end there: even though this “window of opportunity” closes later on, the early childhood closing process can be reversed, enabling children to grow their abilities to learn and acquire languages. In the simplest of terms, research strives to keep that marvelous “window of opportunity” open by introducing the right kinds of sensory stimulation.


Language Learning “Seed” Must be Planted Early!

Children are born with remarkable abilities to learn and acquire languages, and from birth, infants prefer to listen to speech sounds over non-speech sounds. However, a child’s most remarkable gift at birth is the ability to hear and distinguish between the world’s languages.

What does this mean?

  1. Parents can create happier, more productive children simply through the everyday use of language sounds. (That’s why my colleagues and I focus our research and gaming product development on the most basic elements of language learning.)
  2. We seek to help parents expose their children not only to the sounds in their own native language but also to the fundamental words, sounds, and phonemes of the 12 most commonly spoken languages in the world.

I feel confident that my unborn baby is already benefiting from the things I have learned about how the brain grows and works. I want to share what I’ve learned with other parents. We all know that caring parents matter, but they matter even more than we previously realized.

By taking into consideration what we have learned from neuroscience, moms and dads can capitalize on that precious window of opportunity to build their child’s emotional, social, and mental health and competencies.

By exposing your baby to different languages, music, and other sounds, you are encouraging him or her to learn to acquire new knowledge through discovery, reasoning, and problem-solving. This encouragement will lead to experiences in later years when thinking more creatively (even in more than one language) becomes increasingly important for success, fulfillment, and achievement in every area of life.

Early Exposure Matters. Make It Count!

The toy industry is diligent at creating products for educating and entertaining children both at home and at school,. Where they fail however, is in creating new products that improve children’s optimal capacities for learning. No wonder parents increasingly feel anxious and uncertain about about the value of the educational games they purchase.

At Kadho we have asked parents many questions about their children’s development and learning. Many answers  reflect this parental worry. The products we develop,  grounded in neuroscience and cognitive research are addressing this need for a better connection between developing the potential for learning and the actual education itself.

Dads also know that in addition to solid scientific evidence, parents need more intuitive reassurances that they can help their children to develop – from the earliest age, even prior to birth –  all of the tools essential for building successful lives in a turbulent world. These tools include:

  • Resilience
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-respect
  • Self-esteem

All of these tools start with the acquisition of fundamental language abilities.

I personally remain committed to bringing together decades of neuroscience and cognitive science in learning games for children of the youngest ages. These games are intended to nourish and to shape children’s mastery of meaningful skills, to foster cognitive and social development, and to strength the parent-child bond. While it is true that my efforts may not help me get rid of my own accent or learn to speak Mandarin with fluency, I hope to keep my daughter’s possibilities wide open.


— Kaveh Azartash, PhD,

Melissa Dannt-2Dr. Kaveh Azartash is a vision scientist by training and works to enhance early childhood education by using the principles of vision and neuroscience. Azartash is a public speaker, engineer, author, scientist and serial entrepreneur. He received his PhD from the University of California, Irvine, and for the last decade, has researched developmental vision science and specializes on how the brain processes visual input. He is currently CEO of Kadho which develops educational software.