A baby’s first 1,000 days of life are crucial for his or her proper development. These are the best years to make sure your baby builds optimum foundations to ensure a healthy brain development, growth, and a strong immune system. Unfortunately, 50% of babies in America are malnourished and the top vegetable eaten by U.S. toddlers is the french fry.
“Understanding the complex interplay of micro- and macronutrients and neurodevelopment is key to moving beyond simply recommending a good diet to optimizing nutrient delivery for the developing child.” – AAP Committee on Nutrition.
The science is clear about what a young baby’s brain needs to make healthy neural connections. Two of the most important factors are:
Early stimulation: A child who is read to, talked to, sung to, played with, is not only happier today, but will have a better developmental capacity throughout his or her life.
Proper nutrition: In the first years of life, a child’s brain consumes between 50-75% of all energy absorbed from food and good nutrition. A child who does not receive the proper nutrition tailored to his or her needs at every stage could be at risk of hindering their brain development and physical growth. It can even put them at increased risk of developing illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
The first 2 years of your baby’s life are the most critical time to ensure they are getting the right nutrition to support their rapid growth and development.
However, the current baby food options are falling short. The baby food industry is falling so far behind in innovation and quality of ingredients that we as parents are forced to choose between dedicating hours to prepare the meals or feed your baby food that is older than they are, and may contain GMOs and harmful chemicals.
Okay, so we’ve been through this topic before and we all know how important it is for our little ones to strengthen their neck muscles and achieve total head control. By now, you’ve probably heard that, as your baby girl develops and grows stronger, she will eventually master this skill, yay! But as a parent with tons of resources at your disposal (such as, Kinedu), you’re probably wondering what YOU can do at home to help your daughter reach this milestone and gain yet another skill in the ever-growing repertoire.
First off, a recap. The acquisition of this skill (head control, that is) is crucial since it will lay the foundation for many more physical skills such as rolling-over, sitting, crawling and walking. If you want to read more about what can be expected for this skill at each stage in your baby’s development you can do so in this article (http://blog.kinedu.com/motor-milestones-head-control/).
Now, unto the fun part. Tummy time is actually a secret tool you can use to help your daughter make tremendous leaps in head control. So, what exactly is tummy time? It’s all that time she spends on her stomach awake and most importantly: under your supervision. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if a baby lays on her back for prolonged periods of time her head can flatten and, even though there’s no developmental problems related to this, if there’s anything you can do to prevent it, go for it!
Every minute your baby is face-down encourages her to lift the head and boost her motor skills! It’s completely normal if your little one is no fan of tummy time at first, hardly any baby is! Which is why it’s important to introduce it gradually and increase tummy time little by little. Continue reading →
When babies are born, they are not capable of associating what they see with what they touch. You’ll notice that your baby seems to be looking in one direction, but moves his hands towards another. This is because babies younger than two months old don’t understand that their hands are a part of them. But don’t worry, there are many ways to stimulate your baby’s hand coordination. Keep reading to learn more!
How do babies discover their hands?
Hand coordination in infants is vital for the development of physical and cognitive skills. Since birth, babies start to learn about their bodies through sucking and grasping.
In babies, the discovery of one’s hands is something that can be stimulated through the senses and it works like a domino effect. Practice this with your baby by showing him and making noise with a rattle. First, its sound will get his attention and then he will focus on the object. As he sees the rattle, he will follow its movement and try to reach it with his hands. Once your baby gets the toy, he will begin to notice his own hands. Continue reading →
We all do it on a daily basis –we accidentally reinforce behaviors that we don’t like. The good news is that it is not too late to do something about it! With our little ones, especially those under 5 years of age, actions really do speak louder than words. Your child will respond to what you do 1000 times more than what you say (*see graphic above). So yes, you may say “we don’t throw”, but those words mean nothing if your actions don’t correspond. If your child’s unwanted behavior was effective in getting his or her needs met, then it will continue. So, in the example above, instead of throwing the bowl to get more food, he or she should pass you the bowl, say “more” or point to the wanted food, for example. We should not refill the bowl, until the child imitates the new, positive behavior that we model.
If you’ve ever sang a nursery rhyme to your son like Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, then you’ve unconsciously been preparing your little one for learning to read.
Words that share a common sound, or rhyme, can be used to teach children about phonemes (the individual sound units in words) and spelling. Take for example, the “-at” family: mat,cat and hat. Your little one can learn to identify that they all end with the same sound. Phonological awareness is considered the first step towards learning to read and write because with it a child can discern the differences between individual sounds. The great thing is that rhymes are not only fun, but they train children’s ears to hear the differences and similarities between word’s sound. By identifying different phonemes, they learn how sounds combine and blend together to form a word.
Research has found that children who have been sung nursery rhymes and are familiar with them by the time they enter kindergarten often have an easier time learning to read. This may be because rhyming helps children discover the common patterns that exist within words, making it easier for them to recognize them when they see them in print.
The great thing is that rhymes are actually fun to teach! Consider trying some of these activities with your little one:
• Sing all the time! You can come up with songs for different moments of your day – like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. If they rhyme –even better!
• Get into the rhythm of it. Add rhythmic clapping or specific movements to your songs. This will help your little one remember the words of the song because he will be able to connect the movement with the words.
• Get in the habit of coming up with rhyming words when you’re passing the time. Try it during a car ride or when waiting in line at the supermarket. For example, try the “-og” family: dog, log, and what can come next? Get your child to help you out!
• Finally, don’t forget to add rhyming books to your son’s library. Look for books that are fun to read out loud and are easy to memorize. After you’ve read it a couple of times, your little one will be able to join in on the fun and help you finish sentences from the story.
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 →
For preschoolers, learning to share is challenging and marks an important developmental moment in their social and emotional growth. During childhood, sharing is a capacity that kids need to have in order to play and learn, but they need your help in building the relationship and emotional intelligence skills required to do so.
Because sharing can be hard for children around 3 or 4 years old, it’s a skill that’s usually developed until a child starts going to childcare, kindergarten or until they start having playmates. According to the Raising Children Network, kids need to learn to share in order to make and keep friendships, because sharing helps them understand fairness and compromise, as well as learning about tolerating frustration, being patient and trusting others.
Here are some ideas on how you can encourage your preschooler to build his relationship skills by learning to share:
• Provide plenty of opportunities to practice sharing. Remember that kids learn by doing things in a manner of trial and error.
• Model sharing and taking turns.
• Help your child notice when someone is sharing.
• Give lots of praise for progress.
• Play games that involve turn-taking.
• Explain sharing and talk about empathy and about how nice it is when someone shares with him, and how other kids like that as well.
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:
Here are Molly – The speech teacher’s- top tips for helping your little one improve his or her speech and language skills. You can find these suggestions and much more in her new parent guide: The Speech Teacher’s Handbook. It was created in order to provide you with fun and practical ideas that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Get it here.
I Spy, You Spy
Always start by checking in on your child’s environment. If he can easily access his favorite toys and everyday items without your help, then he won’t feel the need to interact with you. Start slow and place one or two items on a higher shelf or in a clear container that your little one will need help opening. The idea is that your child can see the wanted item, but will need your help in order to get it. That way you are providing more opportunities for interaction. You also want to know whether or not your son is able to identify everyday items. We often focus on our kids’ ability to label items and forget that the identification part comes first. These skills are needed when you ask your child to find a certain object in the room, touch a specific picture on the page, or point to a particular body part.
Play Like You Mean It
Children are highly motivated and attentive during play, making it the perfect time to build language. Get down on the floor so that you are on your child’s level and talk through the pretend world that she created. You can narrate the scenes with simple phrases, add dialogue or corresponding sound effects, and expand on her expressions. Play is also a great time to practice following directions. I love songs with built-in directions, such as We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. You can also engage in simple games such as Simon Says or create mini obstacle courses with furniture pieces. The more motivated your daughter is, the more likely she will be to listen and follow directions.
The Hierarchy of Imitation
Imitation is a powerful skill! Teaching imitation is easiest when we go through the hierarchy of skills. Actions come first (arms up, touch nose, shake hands, etc.) Once your son is consistently able to imitate simple actions, move to sounds. Silly, nonsensical sounds are usually imitated quickly because they are the most fun! Then, you can move to animal sounds (meow, woof), environmental sounds (beep beep, choo choo) and exclamations (uh oh, wow). After sounds, you can move to words. It’s best to start with simple one-word models and build up from there. It’s important to go slow and make sure that your little one is consistent before you move to the next step. I always say: the slower we go, the faster we will see progress!
Up The Ante
Little ones are very good at pointing at wanted items in order to request them. We often give in to these requests. However, by doing so, we reinforce that pointing is a sufficient way to get something. If you want your daughter to start using words or sounds, then you’ll want to model this behavior and encourage her to imitate. When your little one tries to imitate you –even if it doesn’t sound exactly correct–, give in. The more praise you provide for her efforts, the more likely she will be to continue. Gentle withholding is a great way to practice! Simply hold onto an item that your child wants until she does something new in order to get it. This technique works best with special treats or during play. That is, don’t push the toy car until your daughter completes the phrase ‘ready, set…’ with a big “GO!”.
Slow & Steady
As much as we wish it were true, children do not learn language overnight. Baby steps are key to language acquisition. You know your son best, so trust your instincts in order to know when to take the next step. It’s important to note that there will be times in your child’s development when language might lag. That’s because your little one learns to move and to talk at the same time, and that creates a seesaw effect. While he is focusing on one developmental area, the other is sure to take a backseat. Your son may babble less when he is learning to crawl, or jabber the day away while sitting on his bottom. First words and first steps follow the same pattern.
Learn more about our Guest Writer
Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist based in New York City. She is ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) Certified and trained in the SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) Approach to Feeding. She received her Masters in Speech Language Pathology from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and her Bachelors in Speech and Hearing Science from George Washington University. She currently works with the birth-5 population conducting evaluations & providing speech and feeding therapy in NYC. To read more about Molly and check out her blog click here.