All posts by Maria

Brain-building through responsive interactions with your child

Babies arrive to the world in a state of complete dependency on their loving caregivers. During their first years of life, their brain is just as dependent as the rest of their body on the surrounding adult’s responsiveness. Harvard expert Jack Shonkoff PhD calls these critical moments where a child does something and the adult responds back (and vice versa) “serve and return interactions”. According to him, serve and return means you and your child are attuned to each other, engaging together in exploring the outside or the inside world.

As Dr. Shonkoff assesses, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. The interaction of your baby’s genes, your caring and the attentive interaction with him or her will build your child’s brain architecture, one interaction at a time.

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Building my toddler’s social skills when going to the movies or to a show

Your toddler has been insisting on seeing the latest movie that just came out, and even though you know how much your kid loves those characters, you wonder if he or she is old enough to sit through an entire movie at the cinema. Maybe you’re wondering if attending a theatrical play or a live show will be simply too much and too soon. Our in-house experts share some insight about this decision.

Most child psychologists and parents agree that somewhere between 2 and 4 years old is a good time to introduce your little one to the cinema or the theater, accorded that the film or show in question is age-appropriate for your child. Nonetheless, how cinema-ready a kid might be will ultimately depend on his or her individual characteristics at the time. So as always, it’s important to neither rush, nor pressure your kid into it just because you’ve heard of other 2-years old that actually look forward to staying put in a seat for 120 minutes. It might hold true for some kids, and not so much for others.

To help you weight discern, here are some aspects to take into consideration:

  • Your son or daughter’s capacity to sit still for longer than 30 min at a time and be happy about it.
  • Your kid’s usual attention span.
  • Your kid’s tolerance for noise, dark places or loud sounds- it can be an overwhelming experience for some kids that aren’t used to or aren’t interested in such activities.
  • According to Brenda Nixon in The Birth to Five Book: “Any noise that registers 90 decibels or higher can hurt a child’s hearing”, and some movies can measure up to 130 decibels.

How to make it a good experience for everyone (not only for you and your kid, but for other kids and adults sharing the space):

  • Always choose child-friendly shows. There’s a better chance a matinee or kid’s show will be a positive experience than a weekend-night opera or ballet-presentation. Your child and the rest of the audience will be far happier if you arrange for a sitter while you go ahead and watch that drama movie with your partner.
  • Knowledge is power. Even if the movie or show’s intended audience is children, make sure to know the content of it beforehand, so you can have an idea of what to expect (flashy lights, action scenes, loud music, etc.) and compare those features with what you know your kid can tolerate and enjoy.
  • Communicate that cinemas and theaters are quiet places. This might be a tricky concept for some toddlers, but the key here is being both understanding and disciplined about it with your kid. It’s important to help him or her understand that there are places where you can have lots of fun if you listen and watch, and that they can of course laugh and ask you things but using a quiet voice so that other people can still hear the show.
  • Try to find a sitting place near the exit, and not too close to the screen. This way, it will be less complicated to exit suddenly or to make an unexpected restroom break with your kid.

Every child is inevitably going to go through a learning curve regarding sharing social spaces with other people. Activities like going out for a movie or play are good and fun opportunities to help your kid work at being increasingly more masterful of his or her impulses, delaying gratification, and thinking about what other others might be feeling. Although it might appear like a small feat, conquering small outings like this can help your little one develop his or her socio-affective abilities!

Communicating with your preschooler in a nurturing way

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children go through many important communication milestones between their 36 and 48 months of age. This means that what your child can understand and the complexity with which she can express and communicate with you increases greatly around this age. Communication is very important not only for language development, but for your kid’s social and emotional skills. Positive and effective communication sets the base with which to build and mend relationships.

According to the recommendations of the Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, parents need to practice positive communication with their young children. They emphasize that developing children benefit greatly from a communication that is open, respectful, honest, straight-forward and kind, no matter the topic at hand.

Here are a couple of practical tips from The Big Book of Parenting, by Doctor in Education Michele Borba:
• Understand the “no” as a way of asserting newly discovered independence. Toddlers live in a world full of big people, feel things they don’t know how to manage, and want to express feelings and ideas without having the language skills to do so, so it’s natural that they crave for some control at times and act defiantly. Try not to take it personally and model the appropriate way of interacting. Explain that it’s not nice to speak rudely and try integrating some choices into their daily routines.
• Don’t expect your daughter to internalize social graces just yet, model behavior instead. Three and four-year-olds are still very young to master their impulses. So, if you find yourself mortified because your little girl is talking very loudly at the movies, know that this is completely normal and take advantage of your child’s inner copycat by whispering “use your quiet voice, like this”. You can even practice this and other alternative behaviors at home, which will make it easier to do so in the library the next time you go there.
• Make talking fun instead of overwhelming. Some kids can get frustrated or inhibited when they’re given many instructions or corrections. So, try not to draw attention to the mistakes she might be making, and simply repeat the words in a clear way when you next have the chance.

If you are interested on more tips about communicating with your young children, you can check out this one-pager by the University of Nebraska:
https://child.unl.edu/4d325c2c-1457-4220-a7d2-ec1a709edc16.pdf

It’s all connected: The link between social interactions and walking skills

When we talk about any aspect of the human experience, we tend to organize it into areas and specific parts according to its features. This is especially true in developmental psychology, but dividing early childhood development into different areas and skills doesn’t mean that they aren’t intertwined, connected or even dependent on one another.

Some of the connections between developmental skills are fairly intuitive, like the link between children’s ability to speak and communicate needs and desires, and their emotional intelligence. Life becomes considerably easier when we have the capacity to express ourselves and connect with others. However, other associations are frankly surprising, like those linking physical skills with the cognitive or social aspects of development.

For example, researchers from Whitman College Department of Psychology have found that independent walking is an important milestone for the social behavior of children. In fact, the effect of a child’s first independent steps is just as important as the onset of crawling a few months before. In 2010, they published their findings in an article titled “Learning to walk changes infant’s social interactions” in the journal Infant Behavior and Development. They directed an experiment where the social behaviors of 2 to 3-year-olds where age-matched and compared. They contrasted the interaction’s frequency and complexity between kids that were walking independently and those that mastered crawling but where walking only with the help of a baby walker. They found that the children that walked independently not only spent more time interacting with their caregivers and the available toys, but also vocalized and gestured more compared to kids in baby walkers. In another experiment, the researchers tracked the kid’s social behavior through time, starting when they learned to crawl and up until they learned to walk without support. The results showed that, regardless of age, independent walking marked both an increase in frequency and sophistication in the interactions with the mothers, like directing their attention towards a particular object in the room.

You might be surprised by the direct link between your kid’s social skills and his motor development, but is any young child anything but a magical box of never-ending surprises?

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