My toddler was born a scientist! Ideas for fostering discovery at home

If you’ve ever watched a young girl engaging with her surroundings spontaneously, you’ve noticed that young children approach daily life activities and objects with the curiosity of a postdoctoral scientist.

Be it in the kitchen or in the playground, they are intuitively observing avidly, testing ideas, asking creative questions and inventing. This is how children boost their cognitive development moving from infancy and into toddlerhood.

What can you do to foster your toddler’s natural inclination towards discovery? Here we propose some easy and fun activities that you can do to encourage her in the quest of exploring the world she is growing in:

• Classify. Sort out day-to-day objects around the house in categories. For example, fruits with edible skins vs those that have to be peeled.
• Explore magnetic forces with a fridge magnet. What is attracted by a magnet and what isn’t?
• Encountering her shadow. You can interact with a shadow in many ways to see what happens, like trying to step on it, noticing its size and shape, and its relationship to the sun or to light.
• Do a night-time puppet-show using your hands to cast shadows.
• Explore motion and gravity. What rolls like a wheel? You can use soda bottles, rocks, apples, books, leaves, etc. Continue reading

Introducing Kinedu Skills® – and how it benefits you!

 

We’ve been working on something big… huge, actually! A complete redesign of our milestones and the way we present them. We are thrilled to present Kinedu Skills®: a more intuitive way of understanding your child’s development and interacting with Kinedu.

Over the course of the last 18 months, we’ve worked to restructure our milestones. We’ve eliminated redundant items, non-observable ones, and also consolidated items that measured two skills in one. Having clearer milestones makes it more probable we’ll get precise information from our users about their child’s development, and therefore will be able to provide a more personalized experience.

We also analyzed our database of over 500,000 families and with the help of Stanford University Psychology Professor Michael Frank, and we identified 26 core skills present in early childhood development. Every skill groups together the milestones a child is acquiring from 0-24 months, and serve as major developmental goals to work towards. For example, milestones related to walking will now be asked together, and parents will get a progress report on that particular skill with percentile data. It’s easier to identify how your child is doing on one particular skill, rather than a more general developmental area and our percentiles can help you gain a better understanding of how your child is doing compared to other children his or her age. You’ll get to answer the milestones in every skill that is developmentally appropriate for your child, depending on his or her age.

At Kinedu, we recognize that every child develops at his or her own pace. This is our effort to produce more personalized activity plans, tailored to every child’s particular needs, and offer our users a deeper understanding of their baby’s development.

Introducing Kinedu Skills®

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working on a complete redesign of our milestone and evaluation structure. We are proud to present our new project: Skills®. We’d like to share with you how we came up with a new way to assess early childhood development and give you a better way to understand your baby’s development.

We dug deep into our milestones – over fifty million individual data points, and we came to learn that our milestone structure needed an upgrade – a better way to present milestones to families, to get accurate data and to provide more personalized activity plans.

First, came a full revision of every last one of our 550+ milestones. We collaborated with Professor Michael Frank from Stanford University to produce a final list. Based on his suggestions, we reviewed them to eliminate redundant items, non-observable ones, and also consolidated the ones that measured two skills in one. With this revision, also came a full revision of each milestone’s attributed month according to CDC and AAP standards, along with other evidence-based studies, and the data from over half a million families.

From this analysis, we realized that milestones could be grouped into “families” of milestones that described the development of specific skills in a child. This provided an opportunity to improve how we cluster our data, and this in turn came with a complete redesign of our assessments as well. Instead of following age ranges and developmental areas, our milestones now follow skills – regardless of age (although age is important to understand developmental variability!).

For example, milestones that led to being able to crawl, such as posture on all fours, sliding on the floor, and crawling, have all been categorized into a separate skill: Crawling. Users will now be able to see at a glance how their baby is doing in developmentally appropriate skills, like walking, babbling or imitating. This will allow us to display milestones to our users without limiting which ones we show based on their baby’s age. Since every baby develops at his or her own pace, this is something imperative. More importantly, grouping milestones in such a way allows us to measure variability in development – recognizing and pointing out (with data!) that it is perfectly OK for babies to say their first words before walking or walk before talking. In the end, our data uncovered 26 major groups of milestones, which we believe are the core developmental skills for every child.

Finally, we conducted a survey to validate our research-based assessment and the way we clustered them into skills. We gathered over 2,000 responses and were able to measure each skill and milestone individually, obtaining an age of acquisition for each one. We understand the role variability plays in early child development, which is why we’ll now present progress resulpfts with percentiles for every skill. Percentiles can help our users gain a better understanding of how their child is doing compared to other children his or her age. With this new data, we can now present our users with more exact and detailed information on their baby’s progress.

This comprehensive revision of our milestones will lead to a better user experience, provide more accurate data for analysis, and therefore give us the tools we need to be able to offer a more detailed, evidence-based report on each baby’s progress. This has been something we’ve been planning and working on for some time now – so we’re extremely excited to be able to release it soon. We hope you enjoy our product re-design: it’s been two years in the making, and we hope it drives our collective understanding of early childhood further.

The science behind deferred imitation.

Deferred imitation is typically defined as a modelled action or series of actions that are reproduced after a certain delay.

The beauty behind deferred imitation, is that it can give us a tremendous amount of insight into our little one’s development. It symbolizes an underlying complex cognitive process. It has been theorized, that imitation may also be an important channel for early social learning. It seems that observation has a great effect on skill acquisition and in some cases even more so than conditioning or trial and error.

For your baby to be able to imitate a day or a week after he sees you do something, your baby has acquired the ability to retain the information, recall it and reproduce it without a guide later on. Simple acts such as closing a flap, pushing a button or shaking an object after seeing an adult doing it a while ago are already a sign of a cognitive task as well as physical. Deferred imitation taps more into “recalling” abilities than recognition per se. Your baby must do something more than simply discriminate between a familiar and an unknown object, he must use his motor skills to reproduce the act he saw earlier.

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Finger dexterity: developing the pincer grasp

Since birth, your baby began developing and fulfilling an incredible amount of skills that allow him to interact with his surroundings. As a parent, it is amazing to see how our babies meet these challenges with eagerness and joy!

One of the great milestones that your baby will fulfill during his first year of age is the pincer grasp. This milestone is fundamental for his development and involves grabbing small objects with the index finger and thumb. Achieving this skill is not easy, it requires a lot of practice. This finger dexterity milestone will begin to develop around the eighth or ninth month of your baby’s life. At first, you’ll see him begin to use this type of grasp clumsily but little by little the movement will become more precise.

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The best way to read with your 2-year-old

Including reading time in your daily routine not only boosts language development, but it provides special one-on-one quality time that strengthens the bond between you and your little one.

Depending on your child’s age, you can focus on different aspects of the reading experience to get the most out of it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has created a literacy toolkit that includes great tips for parents and caregivers who wish to make the most out of reading time! This article will summarize a few key points about reading with a 2-year-old throughout two stages: 24-29 months and 30-35 months. Within each age range, you’ll find examples of what your child can do and what you can do to maximize the reading experience!

24 to 29 months old

Your child can: At this age, your little one can choose a book to read together – it might be the same one over and over again! He’ll probably be able to repeat a few words and phrases you say while reading, and love to laugh at silly stories and pictures. Your child might be curious and ask simple questions about the book, like “What’s that?”

You can: Find a quiet, cozy place where you and your child can cuddle up and read together. This is a great way to calm and comfort your little one. While reading, pay attention to your child’s cues and respond with excitement. If he says an important word like “dog” you can say “Yes, that’s a dog! The dog is playing outside.” Read joyfully, using different tones of voice for each character. You can even count the objects in the pictures, and wait for your little one to repeat after you. Continue reading

The science behind baby-talk: more than a guilty pleasure!

Why is it that adults become all of a sudden fluent in “motherese” when there’s a baby in the proximity?

When you find yourself in the company of young children, be it your kids, a friend’s, or just the cute baby in her mother’s arms that you crossed at the coffee shop, chances are you have experienced for yourself that automatic and hard to ignore temptation to engage in the caricaturized “baby-talk” with them. What has science got to say about this phenomenon? And beyond its cuteness, is it actually beneficial for your baby’s linguistic and socio-emotional development?

When adults talk to babies and pre-linguistic infants, no matter what part of the world they are in or what language they use (anthropologists have found it native communities from Sri Lanka to Siberia), their speech gravitates towards using some particular features of what is formally known as “infant-directed speech”. This form of addressing infants is characterized by being an emotionally-charged and melodic tone with a higher pitch than usual. Vowels are stretched out, sentences are simplified, and facial gestures and emotional intonation is stressed. These characteristics of baby-talk are particularly emphasized by adults when they are addressing very young babies, and then naturally decrease as the child grows and his or her language skills develop. Continue reading

Making the switch

Why is it a big deal to let go of the bottle and finally welcome the sippy cup? Just like with any other toy or object, it’s likely your little one has gotten used to and attached to the bottle. Although a seemingly simple transition at plain sight, it can represent a huge deal for your baby. Staying on the bottle for a long time has detrimental effects on your baby’s teeth and cavities so plan ahead and begin gradually introducing the switch.

Studies suggest that you’ll have an easier time in this change if you start before your little one has reached the age of 1. As a parent, you’re your child’s best judge of character and as such you’ll know when the time is right. Plan accordingly so that no mayor stressful events pile up with this, such as a sibling coming soon or a big move. Continue reading

Learning to communicate: non-verbal cues

It is hard to think of living a life without language as this is the main mean to communicate thoughts, desires and needs to others. Babies find themselves in this position every day before they learn to talk. Therefore they need to use other forms of non-verbal communication to make themselves understood.

Babies have a strong desire to connect with others. For this reason, even before they can talk they use non-verbal sounds and body language to achieve this goal. Babies are active communicators but they don’t have the language to speak just yet. If you observe closely you’ll see how they communicate without words. By doing this they seek to obtain a response from their caregivers and when they do, they learn to repeat these actions to get their needs met.

The moment babies take their first breath outside of the womb they begin to communicate. Crying, cooing and squealing are all non-verbal cues that they use to get a response from a loving parent. As they get a bit older, they learn to communicate via facial expressions such as smiling and eye contact. Babies also move their bodies to get a message across, for example moving their legs or arms when excited or in distress. As they reach the age of 8-12 months they further develop this skill by learning to wave, clap and point.

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Close to your heart: Babywearing 101

Chances are you’ve come across the terms babywearing, baby carrier, or baby wrap, as these seem to have taken over social-media feeds, parenting blogs, and even newborn’s fashion.

Along with this surge in its popularity, important questions can arise around babywearing, such as “what does babywearing refer to?”, “how do I use a baby carrier?”, “are baby wraps safe?”, among others. Don’t worry, in today’s blog entry we’re going to guide you through some of the “whys” and the “hows” of babywearing so that you can better decide whether or not it’s something you want to try.

According to the NGO Babywear International, baby wearing refers to the practice of using a baby carrier to keep your baby close to your body while you engage in your everyday activities. This method of transporting your baby as you go about the day has been the norm for many native cultures of Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, etc., and has proven to be a safe and effective tool for many caregivers throughout the centuries. Today there is a wide array of baby carriers available, so you can find one to cater to every budget and taste.

Let’s have a look at why babywearing may be so appealing nowadays, and note some important considerations about its implementation.

Benefits

  • Conveys a sense of bonding similar to that of cradling your baby in your arms, but without compromising your mobility (ex. it allows for a stroller-free and hands-free walk in the park) Continue reading