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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
Summer is here! And it comes with warm, sunny days that are ideally spent splashing around in a pool. Thinking about going for a swim with your little one? Here are some safety guidelines you can follow to make sure that it’s smooth sailing for everyone.
The best way to keep children safe around swimming pools is having an adult who knows how to swim actively supervising them at all times. For infants and toddlers, an adult should be within arm’s reach, in the water with them. There should be a fence or barrier that completely covers the pool area, preventing children from entering the area on their own. If you have a pool at home, it’s a good idea to establish some ground rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following: Continue reading →
Much to parents’ delight, babies’ first words are normally “mama” and “dada”. Actually “dada” is typically said first, but only because it’s easier for babies to pronounce! Other than the fact that mom and dad are around a lot – studies have shown that those are the first words babies utter because of the repeating sounds in them. In fact, most countries have very simple words with repeating sounds for naming mom and dad, and sometimes even grandpa and grandma.
Newborns’ brain scans show increased activity when babies listened to made-up words with repeating sounds like “mubaba”. When they listened to words with non-adjacent repetition, like “bamuba”, they showed no distinctive responses. This suggests that babies recognize repetitive sounds more easily, and that’s why words like “mama” or “dada” are easy to learn and vocalize. Continue reading →
Crying is the way babies communicate their discomfort, hunger, or need for attention. It’s quite normal for babies to be fussy on average about 2 – 4 hours per day, usually at the same time every day. After a few weeks, the crying diminishes, and by around three months, most babies only cry for approximately an hour a day.
All babies cry, but some do it significantly more than others. This is known as colic, and it is crying that begins and ends for no clear reason, lasts at least three hours a day and happens at least three times a week for a period of 1 – 3 months.
It’s important to keep in mind that excessive crying may have a medical or physical cause, so first you must try to identify if there’s a reason behind the crying by looking for patterns. Does it happen at certain times of the day or in specific situations like a crowded place or right after feeding? Can you tell if there are differences in his or her cries for food, fatigue, etc? Keep a record of this so that you can compare with previous weeks.
Kids develop in different stages, so it’s good to have toys that will enhance their experiences, depending on what stages they are on. So in addition to finding safe toys for your child, it’s recommended to find toys that match their level of development and budding skills.
Young babies like to look at faces and bright colors, and follow them with their eyes. They can reach for objects and explore them with their hands, feet, and mouth. When they hear a peculiar sound, babies will turn and look towards it. Good toys for this age include: