All posts by Ana Sofia

Five simple ways of fostering STEM thinking skills

Babies are born scientists. They develop theories about how the world works and constantly learn through observation, exploration and their own experiments with their environment. According to a new report by The Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, babies younger than one year old have the capacity of developing complex thinking skills related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts. The trick to develop these skills is to become more intentional in the way we interact with our children.

These are some of the ways you can foster STEM thinking skills with your little one:

  • Have “manipulative toys” around. These allow children to transform them into something else, depending on how they play with them. For example, a rattle can be loud or soft, depending on how hard they shake it.
  • Engage in “repetitive play”. Repeating actions over and over, like dropping a toy and picking it up time after time, helps children learn about complex concepts like gravity and cause and effect.
  • Practice the “four kinds of play”. Pretend play fosters creativity and imagination; exploratory play allows children to conduct experiments about their surroundings; guided play includes interactions and learning with adults, and free play lets them take the reins.
  • Ask “how”, “why” and “what” questions constantly to get your little one thinking and questioning his or her experiences.
  • Introduce new words to your child’s vocabulary. Use advanced and accurate words to describe what you’re doing, even from a very young age.

Elizabeth Rood, director of the Center for Childhood Creativity, advices parents to not get so hung up on teaching their children. Instead, focus on having and experience with them to tap into the wonder of math, science and engineering that is all around us.

J. M. (2018, March 05). Eight ways to introduce kids to STEM at an early age. Retrieved May 1, 2018, from http://hechingerreport.org/eight-ways-introduce-young-kids-stem-early-age/

How to incorporate reading into your toddler’s daily routine

The first years of life of a kid are a time of growth and exponential learning. This is especially true for a preschooler’s language development. Taking a couple of minutes a day to read with your child will be a great way to boost her linguistic development. Plus, it’s a great bonding activity!

Looking to incorporate reading time to your daughter’s daily routine? Consider the following:

Find a time that works best for both of you: Whether it’s when waking up or going to bed, choose a time in which you can both cuddle together and enjoy a good book. Bedtime is often a great idea because it’ll unwind your toddler from a busy day of activities and relax her, prepping her for bed. This can also be useful for naptime. You can even select special books for nap or bedtime; that’ll help cue your little one that it’s time to go to sleep. Continue reading

How music helps boost language development

We tend to emphasize the importance of reading to children to develop their language skills, but sometimes we forget to consider the incredible benefits that music and singing also provide. Studies have shown that the brain areas responsible for understanding music and language are closely connected.

According to Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, singing lullabies and nursery rhymes to infants before they learn to speak can lead to future educational success and emotional well-being. She identifies singing as speech all on its own; a special kind of speech that carries the inflections of children’s primary language and therefore prepares a child for its acquisition. Continue reading

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

Creating a positive learning environment at home

 

Babies’ brains are like sponges – they are constantly absorbing, forming new ideas from stimuli in their environment. That’s how they learn. According to a recent study from NYU, there are a few things you can do to create a strong learning environment at home.

The study followed a group of children from birth through 5th grade, tracking the influence of early home learning environments on later cognitive skills. Researchers found that the learning environment at home plays a powerful role in shaping kids’ cognitive and linguistic abilities. They found that a strong learning environment has three main features: quality parent-child interactions, the availability of learning materials, and children’s participation in learning activities. Let’s break them down.

Quality interactions: Spend quality time with your little one every day. Sit and play on the floor, talk to him or her – engage! When you’re playing together, let him or her lead and then join in on whatever catches his or her attention. Point to objects he or she is watching and name them. Respond to your little one’s cues promptly – like identifying if he or she is hungry or in need of a diaper change. It’s important that your baby feels secure so that he or she is willing to explore his or her environment. Continue reading

The first years: fine motor skills

Your baby will reach countless milestones during his first year. The most noticeable and exciting will be gross motor skills like turning, sitting, crawling, standing and maybe even those first steps! But don’t look past your little one’s fine motor skill development, or his hand and finger skills – they’re quite significant as well.

Fine motor skills require the use of small muscles in the fingers and hands. They refer to the ability to make precise movements with the hands like buttoning up a shirt, picking up a cereal flake off the floor, or writing. The development of these might be harder to notice if you’re not focused on them – but they are just as exciting as gross motor skills because they lead to exploration, independence and learning.

When your baby was born, you probably noticed his hands were clenched tight most of the time. If you placed something like your finger in one of them, he held on tight because of the grasping reflex. After a few weeks, and getting used to being outside the womb, you’ll see your baby open and close his hands. Try placing a small object in one of them and he’ll probably hold on to it, maybe even give it a shake by three months. Continue reading

Developing a Sense of Self

How do babies develop a sense of self? When does this realization occur? Does your little one recognize him or herself in the mirror? That’s only one part of a much more complex process.

Research has found that from the moment they are born, babies are well aware of their own bodies. Body awareness is a key skill that helps distinguish oneself from others. Since birth, they are exposed to information related to who they are – they can touch their faces and body and exert their influence on the world that surrounds them.

“Selfhood starts at birth, but children don’t start expressing an “idea of me” until toddlerhood.” – (Ross, Martin, & Cunningham, 2016).

At around the second half of your baby’s first year, he or she will begin to respond to his or her name. At first, he or she might simply stop to listen and focus his or her eyes in your direction when you call for him or her. Later on, closer to his or her first birthday, your little one will respond by turning, crawling or even taking a few steps towards you! Continue reading

Teaching our children to cope with challenges

Children who develop helpful coping strategies are more likely to become resilient by working through their worries and reducing stress. Coping strategies are what we do and think to get through difficult situations. For children, those stressful situations can present themselves as having to say goodbye to a parent, or through interactions with their peers.

Helping children cope with these kind of worries will give them the tools to later deal with the stresses they face during their adult life. Likewise, it helps reduce the risk of mental health problems.

 

How can parents help?

Psychologist Erica Frydenberg from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education says parents can help children learn to cope by discouraging unhelpful strategies and encouraging helpful ones instead. For example, parents can discourage blaming oneself, but encourage and model asking for help and staying calm when faced with a problem.

Encouraging children to talk to an adult about their troubles is particularly effective, especially when it leads to dialogs about coping strategies. Continue reading

The value of FaceTime: Do toddlers learn and bond with people over video chat?

Across the globe, people use tools like FaceTime and Skype to connect with family and friends. What about our children? Do they understand and grow from these on-screen interactions with loved ones?

A team of researchers from Lafayette College, led by Professor Lauren J. Myers, Ph.D., studied 1- to 2- year olds to find out what they got out of these FaceTime interactions, looking to discover if they form relationships and learn from people via video chat. In the study, 60 children under 2 years old were divided into two groups. Each group experienced one week of either real-time video chat interactions or pre-recorded videos of novel words, actions and patterns.

Researchers found that children paid attention and responded to both people in the video, but only responded in sync with the partner in the interactive video chat (such as imitating a clap after the person in the video did).  Likewise – after one week of video chatting, children in the live condition learned social and cognitive information. For example, they preferred and recognized someone they had talked with through video-chat and they learned new words and patterns. Continue reading

Independent play: Encouraging exploration and creativity

Teaching toddlers to play independently helps them build creativity and critical-thinking skills, and helps parents catch a break too! Independent play is important because it teaches children how to entertain themselves and helps them become more self-sufficient. This type of play usually occurs during the toddler stage.

It’s not always easy getting kids to play alone, they do love our company! But give it a try, one step at a time. At first, try to just sit beside your little one silently, while he or she plays. Let him or her explore the play materials freely. Once he or she is absorbed in the activity, try moving to another part of the room. Your toddler will still feel comfortable with you nearby. When your little one is happily playing on his or her own, try not to hover, but make sure his or her play area is safe and comfortable. Continue reading