The power singing has over your baby’s behavior

Remember the last time you heard your baby cry? What did you do to comfort him? If you are like most parents, you probably tried feeding, rocking, burping, distracting, and “sh”-ing him, right? How long did it take for any of them to work?

 

Although these techniques might have worked, you have yet to try another very powerful and quite simple tool to calm your baby — singing.

 

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New Mom: What I’d like my legacy to be

I recently found out that I’m going to be a mom this fall. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s the big life changes headed my way, but I’ve definitely been more reflective lately. One of the bigger concerns that I’ve been going over – and one I’m sure I share with many moms-to-be and new moms – is what I want to teach my children. More than just academics, I really want to pin down a set of tenets for living our lives that I can pass on to them. Hopefully I’ve gathered some good tools from my psychology background and working in early childhood. The list is not definitive by any means, but I’ll try to keep honing down to what I really value that my kids live and learn. Here is my current set of ‘rules’ – with many changes, additions, and improvements to be made in the coming months (and after that, I’m sure).

  • Intelligence and talent is not fixed, but malleable. Carol Dweck (Stanford professor well-known for creating and championing the importance of a growth versus fixed mindset) emphasizes that both kids and adults who believe intelligence or any talent is like a muscle – if you work at it, it becomes stronger – are more likely to try harder, and therefore, to succeed. I can’t do this theory justice – and I highly recommend watching Carol Dweck’s TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve
  • Intelligence is not the most important thing in order to be successful. I’ve become intrigued by all of the research pointing at the importance of non-cognitive factors for success. Math and reading are important. The so-called “soft-skills” are more important. Being able to work with others, to create lasting friendships, and form strong relationships does more for a person than academic skills. While kindergartens have become more and more academic, we’ve been reducing the opportunities for kids to learn the lessons that really matter. Turns out all you need to know you really do learn in kindergarten. To really get inspired, I recommend reading Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed.
  • What is success anyway? Our generation grew up hearing that being happy is what is most important. But according to a 2012 study by the American College Counseling Association, rates of depression in college-aged students is soaring. Millenials might believe that pursuing happiness is the answer, but it seems it’s not giving positive results. I’m sure how I end up educating my children will be in direct response to finding that the pursuit of happiness is not all there is. However, this is where I’m still trying to formulate the best way of ensuring my kids are prepared for future obstacles while also finding the time to enjoy the many positive things in life. For more thinking on this topic, I recommend reading The Moral Bucket List article by David Brooks here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html.

These are the first three items on my list, and the ones I’ve given the most thought to. As fall approaches, I’ll be doing more reading and reflecting to come up with a more complete list. Please comment below if you have any ‘life rules’ or tips for new (or not so new!) parents! We might be able to come up with a more definitive list together.

Thank you!
-E

The first few years: touch and smell

This article discusses tactile and olfactory development – both sub-domains of the Physical developmental area!

While your baby seems to not be doing much, other than sleeping, eating, and let’s face it – pooping – her brain is incredibly active, taking the world in through her senses, and learning at a rate that will be unmatched the rest of her life.

Your baby’s senses are her main way of learning about the world around her. Of these, smell is the most advanced at birth – a baby actually begins to smell before being born! This allows her to detect mom’s scent, which will quickly become her favorite. Even six days after being born, a baby will choose her mother’s breast pad over someone else’s. Also, babies will also prefer sweet to bitter smells right away – but they might also show a penchant for certain smells depending what her mom ate during pregnancy. So don’t be surprised if your baby shares your love for strawberries, bananas, and later, chocolate! What this means is that you can use your baby’s sense of smell to soothe her when nothing else seems to work: the smell of lavender or vanilla can calm her down – or your own scent for its familiarity.

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The magnificent benefits of music!

“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato

Recent research using fMRI and PET scan technology have found that listening to music lights up multiple areas of the brain as sound was processed and all this happens in a matter of seconds. Further research has revealed that playing music takes the brain a step further, stimulating a full body workout for the brain. Now, teaching babies or toddlers to formally play instruments is not developmentally appropriate, but that doesn’t mean that an infant and toddler can not engage or benefit from music. On the contrary, listening to people sing, playing with everyday objects or toys to create sounds, and singing and dancing with caregivers are wonderful for your little one’s brain development.

During the first three years of your child’s life, neural connections form at their fastest rates. Exposure to music in early childhood fosters and helps develop many skills including speech development, audition, coordination, emotional development, and even social skills. Below are some of the ways music benefits this rapid development and growth, and a few activities to try at home. Continue reading

What we inherit before we are born

When do our cells start learning? When does learning begin? The nine months we spend in the womb are crucial. We learn about the world around us without being in it yet.

 

Gene expression makes us who we are, and gene expression varies depending on how we live. We interact and are in a constant conversation with our environment. Our feelings, how lonely or happy we feel- these feelings go deeper than our skin- these feelings control our cells. So when do these cells start learning? When does learning begin? The nine months we spend in the womb are crucial. We learn about the world around us without being in it yet. These heritable changes in gene expression that do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence are otherwise known as Epigenetics.

What does a baby learn in the womb?

A baby can start hearing its mother’s voice at four months of gestation. The sounds of the outside world travel through the mother’s abdominal tissues and through the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. The fetus is constantly hearing its mother’s voice and once this fetus is born, it quickly recognizes it. The baby prefers this voice over anyone else’s. Babies become so used to hearing their mother’s voice that it can even be said they are born crying in their mother’s native language. A study was conducted where they found that French babies were born crying on a rising note while German babies ended on a falling note, much like the patterns the languages follow. Babies are born imitating the melodic contours of their future language. This learning has a purpose – babies prefer their mother’s voice because that person will protect them and they cry like their mother to create a stronger bond with them. Not to mention, gaining a head start on language development. Continue reading