Category Archives: Scientific Edge

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

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

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

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

Can music benefit your toddler more than reading?

Music has become a natural part of a toddler’s development and growth, it can kickstart learning and has proven to offer lifelong benefits. Music boosts all areas of a child’s development and skills, such as cognitive, social and emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. Exposing your little one to music early on helps him learn the sounds and meaning of words. In summary, music helps the mind and body work together as a team.

Learning that music is important for your baby’s development does not mean you should go and spend all your money on a Baby Einstein or Baby-Genius music collection. It does not mean either that you should enroll your 3-year-old in violin lessons. Unlocking a child’s intelligence and happiness may indeed lie partly in music – but it is as easy as making up songs with your toddler!

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Owning a pet can protect your baby from obesity and allergies

Whether it’s play or companionship, pets bring their owners’ plenty of joy. But did you know that the benefits go beyond cuddling and fun? A new study showed that having pets in the household can protect babies from allergies and obesity!

At first, it may seem counteractive as most parents want to keep their children away from furry pets such as dogs and cats due to allergies and sneezing. However, a research conducted by the University of Washington Department of Pediatrics found the opposite to be true.

Contact with dogs early on, especially around the time of birth, can help the child’s immune development and reduce the likelihood of certain allergic diseases. In addition, a recent study by the University of Alberta showed that babies from families with pets – 70% of which were dogs — showed higher levels of two types of microbes (Ruminococcus and Oscillospira) associated with lower risks of allergic disease and obesity.

As a matter of fact, the beneficial exposure can even be transferred to babies who are still in the womb. Yes, you read correctly – moms can reap the benefits while being pregnant! The presence of a pet in the household during the mom’s pregnancy can grant microbial advantages to the unborn baby’s gut microbiome.

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Why are baby boys more vulnerable when facing stress?

As we now know, babies’ brains are highly vulnerable especially during the first months of life.

Opposite as we once thought, every move we make as parents has an impact either positive or negative on our children. For so long we have misunderstood how babies develop, and that explains why we have treated baby boys differently. Cultures and religions have influenced too on how we educate our children. We have developed ideas on how tough we should be with our children and we have been tougher with baby boys, since we believe that if we are too caring or responsive we may spoil our boys. However, the truth is that all babies need responsive care and affection to grow physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.

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To raise a creative child, let them be!

It’s every parent’s dream. Their child learns to read at age 2, play Beethoven at age 4, learn calculus by age 6 and speaks two languages fluently by age 8. Every parent and classmate envies this “gifted” child.

However, child prodigies rarely become geniuses who revolutionize the world. We assume it’s because they lack competent social or emotional skills to excel, however, the evidence suggests otherwise. In fact, less than a quarter of these so “gifted” children suffer from any of this. The vast majority of them have perfectly normal social and emotional skills.

So, what is holding them back? They don’t learn to be original.

Many of these kids are constantly seeking their parent’s approval or their teacher’s admiration. They grow and perform their music in the most prestigious concerts but then something unexpected happens. Practice makes perfect but it doesn’t make new.

The gifted learn to play Mozart and Bach melodies but they rarely compose their own music. Their energy is solely focused on consuming existing knowledge that they forget about producing new insights. Research suggests that the most creative children are the least likely to become the star student at school and thus they tend to keep original ideas to themselves. Continue reading

Early Loving Touch Has Long-Term Benefits

Have you ever wondered why picking your baby up feels like the most instinctive thing in the world? Turns out we are hard-wired to do so, it’s our maternal instinct to carry a baby.  When a baby is born, he or she is very vulnerable, with highly limited vision and underdeveloped hearing. This means that touch is the way your little one is going to explore the world for the first couple of months while other senses are starting to develop.

Touch is an important part of a baby’s development, but just how significant is it?

In a recent study carried out by Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center and her colleagues measured the brain responses of 125 infants (including premature and full-term babies) and showed that a baby’s earliest experiences of touch have lasting effects on the way their young brains respond to gentle touch.

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Are babies who reach milestones early academically gifted later?

It’s an exciting time for parents to witness their little one reaching a milestone, whether it is the first time he smiles, rolls over, says his first babble or crawls. They will also, quite often, compare the milestones reached to the progress of a cousin, sibling or friend’s baby. Sometimes doing this will provide the parents with comfort about their baby’s development, while for others, it will be a source of concern. But do milestone timing say anything about a child’s potential for the future? For example: is a baby who talks early more likely to be academically gifted than the others?

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