Category Archives: Social & Emotional

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

Our wonderful bodies: Fostering a positive body image in children

As a parent, you are your child’s first role model and the biggest influence in their lives. So what you do and say matters.

Kids are like sponges, they absorb everything provided to them by the environment and that includes our actions. Our attitudes towards ourselves and others imprint on them and can provoke the occurrence of certain beliefs as early as toddlerhood. We as parents play a very important role in helping build a healthy body image in our children that will make them appreciate and love their bodies. It’s never too early to start! In fact, if we start early we can help build a healthy self-esteem and in turn favor our children’s emotional and social well-being. Continue reading

Laugh out loud: Encouraging your little one’s sense of humor

Laughter is the best medicine. – proverb

Laughter and smiles are one of the most basic human behaviors. Babies smile within hours of being born in response to a warm sensation or a sweet smell, but laughter takes a bit more time to develop as it’s mechanisms are more complex.

As you probably already discovered, babies and toddlers learn a lot through imitation, and the development of a sense of humor is no different. Research has shown that a sense of humor is nurtured at home and each silly event helps foster this wonderful trait.

The benefits of having a sense of humor include the development of a healthy self-esteem, empathy, and friendships; and it helps one laugh at themselves and become accepting of imperfections. Not only that, but research has shown that people with a sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, can handle differences and adversities well, experience less stress, and are at a lower risk for depression. What’s more, experts have identified that a robust sense of humor is a natural immune system booster.

So what can you do to develop your little one’s sense of humor? Continue reading

10 Secrets to raising happier children!

What do you want in life for your children?  Success? Intelligence, achievements, and prestige? What about internal values? We can’t build a life based on external achievements without giving ourselves a chance to explore our deepest parts. Happiness is not mentioned as often as it should. So, what about it? How do we define happiness and how can we instill happiness in our children? It turns out happiness is not a thing to be found, not something that can be created, but it can be synthesized instead. We have the capacity to create the very commodity we are constantly seeking.  The latest research on happiness tells us that happiness turns out to be less a result of luck and external circumstance than a product of our mental, emotional, and physical habits. So, how can we radiate our children’s inner light?

Here are 10 scientifically proven secrets to having happier kids!

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Separation Anxiety – How can I help my baby?

At some point during your baby’s development he or she will experience separation anxiety. This is completely normal, and the good news is that for the vast majority of babies, separation anxiety happens in phases and doesn’t last that long. Here are some tips that may help you and your baby!

Why does my baby have separation anxiety?

It all starts when your baby realizes that objects and people still exist even if he or she can’t see them – the concept that we call object permanence. Your baby realizes that the person that protects and cares for him or her has gone away and is currently existing somewhere else. Since he or she doesn’t know when, or if, you will return, anxiety kicks in!

Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development, however we know it can be difficult for parents to cope with a baby who gets panicky and upset when they’re not around. So here are some ideas and tips you can try at home. Continue reading

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:
  • 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:

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!

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

Tablets and Smartphones, should my baby use them?

Tablets and smartphones are great! They allow us to communicate with distant friends and relatives; they organize our day; have GPS that gets us to new places; help us make reservations, shop, read, and much more. They contain an infinite number of applications that even include an extensive catalog for children. Allowing or banning smartphone and tablet use for babies poses an ongoing debate that is very present in the area of early education. Should babies be exposed to screens? If so, for how long? The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) first stance regarding technology and babies recommends no screen time the first two years of life. However, this position was first introduced 15 years ago, and today it has come to be questioned by specialists in the area of pediatrics. The AAP media committee has re-evaluated its screen time position taking into account the recent technological boom. They now agree that a total screen ban seems to be no longer viable. Therefore, a change in the AAP’s digital exposure guidelines is predicted in the coming years.

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Your brain on motherhood

Sarah Walker once said that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a new room in the house you have always lived in. This description seems precise; after all, motherhood unveils neural pathways in your brain that you haven’t yet discovered.

So, what are these brain changes and why haven’t you discovered them?

These changes mold a mom’s brain in unexpected ways and shift the ways she thinks and her outlook on the world around her. Scientists are now pointing to changes occurring in the brain, especially in areas involved in emotional regulation, empathy, and social interaction. These are largely neurological changes that mothers experience during pregnancy and postpartum, accompanied by a flood of hormones that help strengthen the bond between a new mother and her baby, creating a powerful attraction. Overwhelming love, strong protectiveness, and constant concern all begin with biochemical reactions in the brain. Continue reading

How to: Teach good manners at home

Who doesn’t want well-mannered kids? After all, your child’s behavior reflects on you, right? As much we would like our child to say “please” and “thank you” as soon as he or she starts talking, that’s probably not going to happen… but we can certainty start teaching toddlers how to be polite at a young age.


Teach your child how to be sensitive

At the root of good manners is respect for one another and before it comes sensitivity. So teaching your child how to be sensitive will be the beginning. A sensitive kid will naturally care for others, which will lead him to become a well-mannered person. Essentially a sensitive kid will be more prone to be more polite in a creative way and more heartfelt than anything he could have learned from a book of etiquette.

Be a good role model

Modeling behaviors is the best way to teach your child good manners. Essentiality, if you want a polite child you need to show him or her how to be polite through your own actions. Remember that your child learns through observation and imitation! So you need to be careful with your actions and words.

Here are some things you can try:

  • Modulate your tone when you speak to your baby and try using words like “please” and “thank you”. Even though your baby doesn’t (yet) understand the social graciousness of these words, he will understand that “please” is how you get what you want and “thank you” is how you end this collaboration. Remember that children will first understand the use of the word long before they understand its meaning.
  • Show your baby how to treat people, things, and pets. For example, if your baby tends to grab someone’s face or hair, try moving his hand and demonstrating a soft stroke. With time “gentleness” will translate into politeness, as he or she gets older.
  • Encourage your toddler to say “hello” and “goodbye”. At around two years old your baby will certainly will be able to say “hello” when arriving and “goodbye” when leaving. In fact, sometimes your little one might be eager to say “hello” and “goodbye”, but occasionally he or she will be too shy to speak. Don’t worry! You can try preparing him for the occasion, for example if you are going to visit grandma tell him “When we get to grandma’s, we are going to say “Hello, Grandma!”.

Remember that good manners are taught, so it will take time for your child to learn them and incorporate them in his day-to-day life, so be patient.

What to learn more about how to teach your little one good manners? Check out these links: