One of the many benefits of early childhood education: Being fair as an adult

Researchers have found that, more than 40 years later, the children from low-income families that participated in the Abecedarian Project study grew up to become adults that treat others with high levels of fairness. This is true even when being fair comes at a high personal cost.

The 78 children, now adults, that participated in the 1970s study have been followed as part of one of the longest running randomized-controlled studies of the effects that early education has in low-income families. The Abecedarian Project was a randomized control study of the potential benefits of early-childhood education in children from low-income families. Four groups of children, born between 1972 and 1977 were randomly assigned as infants to either an intervention group or a control group. The intervention group received full-time, high-quality education in a childcare setting from infancy through age five. The educational activities were designed in the form of games that they incorporated into the child’s day, and worked on the social, emotional and cognitive areas of development –with a particular emphasis on language. Follow-up studies were conducted when the subjects reached 12, 15, 21, 30, and now 40 years after the study, showing long-lasting benefits associated with the early childhood program.  Continue reading

Tips for a stress-free holiday season

The winter festivities with a baby or toddler are like no other. And yet, while for many the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, it goes without saying that this magical season also comes with an important amount of overload for many moms and dads. Some of us can even end up taking on too many tasks and then end up feeling depleted. Here we have some tips and hacks for making this winter holidays magical and stress-free.

  • Don’t over-schedule. When it comes to tasks, set reasonable expectations for yourself and have fun doing lees, rather than stressing about doing everything. Think about what you want for your little one and make it into an archivable target. You don’t need to overstretch; the festivities will be magical just by having people you love together.
  • Work together. For example, if you have a mountain of gifts to wrap, or heaps of cupcakes and goodies to bake, why don’t you invite a good friend or family member over to your place, so you can wrap and bake while an older cousin helps babysit in the other room?
  • Try to keep a routine. During the winter holidays, it is easy to let our routines relax too much, but babies need the stability and security of their daily routines signaling when it’s time for bed, for example. Remember that the activities, parties and schedules of the season can leave even the most social baby or active toddler feeling a bit tired or grumpy.
  • Prioritize connecting with your loved ones! If your children are too young to help around, you may need to limit the tasks you undertake. Your little ones value the time with you far more than having perfect decorations. The memories you will cherish forever are the ones that create tradition and bring a sense of belonging and wonder into everyday life.
  • Try to let go of perfection and find ways to nurture yourself.

Wintry Activities For Your Little One

1-2 Year Old Tasks:

  • Read in Theme: One of the easiest ways to expose your little one to the winter theme is to read together about it. It’s best to start with touch & feel books so that it is more interactive for your tiny friend. You can teach your child all about winter weather, winter clothes, winter animals, and winter activities by simply cuddling up with a great book! My favorites are Winter by Bright Baby Touch & Feel and Baby Loves Winter.
  • Have a Wintry Bath: Bath time is a wonderful time to incorporate the winter theme. You can build an igloo with bubbles, color the water blue with bath drops, bring winter animals into the tub, or even place an ice cube or two inside to chat about cold vs. warm. Kids learn best from multisensory experiences so take advantage!
  • Color Color Color: Coloring pages are often overlooked in this digital age—but they shouldn’t be! Most kids who are exposed to coloring from a young age find it to be a calming and enriching activity. There are a million winter themed coloring pages that you can print out and work on with your little one. It is a perfect indoor activity for those chilly days when it’s best to just stay inside.

2-3 Year Old Tasks:

  • Bake: Baking is an awesome winter activity that is sure to boost language! Baking involves following directions, learning new vocabulary, working together, patience, and of course an edible reward. Baking is a great indoor activity for those too-cold days, but you can also bake in theme. You can make winter themed cookies, snowy cupcakes, or hot chocolate brownies.
  • Bring The Snow Inside: Who says snow has to stay outside? Kids love sensory bins and snow is the perfect medium! You can pack up some snow in a clear container and bring it inside to continue the fun. You can add some color to your snow, make snow cones, bring winter animals into the bin, or grab trucks that can dig in the snow. Your little one will love this task and clean-up will be a breeze for you!
  • Get Crafty: You can make wintry crafts with your little one using as few as two materials. Luckily the winter aesthetic is as easy as cotton balls and glue! Whether you make snowballs, a snowman, an igloo or a polar bear, your craft will be equal parts adorable and simple.

3-4 Year Old Tasks:

  • Talk About Your Snowman: Every winter you make a snowman—but do you ever talk about him? Try expanding this activity by asking your little one why he needs eyes or a nose? What does his scarf do? Are all three snowballs the same size? Building a snowman can be an incredibly speechy activity if you take a few more minutes to chat.
  • Make Your Own Snow: There are a few different home recipes for faux snow, but my favorite is baking soda and shaving cream. You can play with your fake snow on a tray or in a sensory bin (i.e. clear container) for easy clean up. I like to bring the little ones into the bin and have them ice skate, build snowmen, make snowballs or igloos. Use what is motivating for your little one and follow their lead. Build upon their pretend play and narration of the activity.
  • Animal Sort: Animal sorting is a fun game for any season! You can use figurines, stickers or coloring pages depending on what you have on hand. Depending on your child’s level you can sort 2-4 types of animals. You could do winter animals vs. summer animals or ocean vs. snow vs. grass vs. home animals. Animal activities are great for boosting language because there is so much to talk about (i.e. Where do they live? What do they sound like? What do they feel like? What do they eat? etc.)

 

Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist based in New York City.

She recently authored The Speech Teacher’s Handbook, an engaging parent guide that includes practical and easy-to-follow tips and activities to help you help your little one!

You can find her on Instagram @thespeechteacher where she posts daily pops of knowledge and connect with her on her site as well as Facebook.

Emotional development – The basics

When we think about child development we tend to imagine babies learning to walk, talk and count. We do our best to make sure that our child is on track on all these abilities and that he or she doesn’t have difficulties in the future. But what about learning to identify and express emotions? Aren’t these skills important for the future of our kids too? They sure are! Actually, the social skills that children learn during the first five years are related to their emotional well-being and their ability to adapt in school. Plus, they are critical to form successful and lasting relationships all throughout life. Thus, as important as physical, linguistic and cognitive development are, emotional and social development is just as relevant.

But what does emotional development involve? Learning the skills to…

  • Identify our own feelings
  • Identify other people’s emotions
  • Understand our own and other people’s feelings
  • Handle strong emotions
  • Express strong emotions with a constructive approach
  • Regulate our own behavior
  • Have empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain relationships

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Express yourself

Whether your baby is one month old, one year or 3 years you’ve probably noticed how he or she takes any chance to communicate with you and have a say on what’s going on around him or her. Recent studies have been placing more and more weight on children’s right to be heard about matters that affect them. It is through their participation on daily matters that their self-esteem is enhanced, overall capacities are promoted, their sense of autonomy and independence is heightened, and they work on their social competence and resilience.

These studies suggest that sometimes we underestimate children’s capacity for participation; kids aren’t passive recipients for care and protection. Every day there is more and more evidence suggesting that from a very early age they are (1) experts in their own lives and are capable of communicating their unique point of view on any given experience, (2) they’re skillful communicators with a wide range of “languages” to articulate their views, (3) they’re active agents with the power to influence and manipulate the world around them, and (4) they’re meaning makers capable of constructing/interpreting meaning in their lives.

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Developing thinking skills through play

Some of our key thinking skills are developed since we are curious little babies, wanting to explore our world. Learn a bit more about some of them, and how they are fostered through play.

Cause and effect: The appearance of this skill is an early sign of intelligence. Babies experience the effect they have on objects by chance –like accidentally making a ball roll and light up. At first, they don’t make the connection between their action and the result it brings, but then, at around 7 months, babies begin to learn that they can affect their surroundings, and make things happen. They then begin to act with purpose to produce a desired outcome, like pushing a button to make a sound play.

Spatial relationships: We use this skill to solve everyday problems; it helps us understand how things fit together. Children experiment with it through play by placing objects in different containers or, for example, turning an object around until it fits and is inserted in a shape sorting box. Toddlers then learn that objects are made up of parts, and that these parts can be put together to make something new. This can be observed when playing with building blocks.

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The ABC’s for helping your child develop self-esteem

Children build their self-esteem through experiences. When you play with your little one and allow her the space to be herself, you are nurturing her confidence. Keep reading to find a step-by-step guide to helping your bundle of joy develop her self-worth.

A is for Appreciation

When your baby is born you are the most fascinating thing in the world for her! That’s why she looks at you in such a miraculous and admiring way. Since she is born, your baby starts appreciating what you give her. She appreciates the warmth of your touch, the light in the hallway because she knows mommy is on her way, etc. Your baby is born into the world feeling appreciative.

So, to make her feel appreciated, you must first pay close attention to her. Turn your expectations into appreciations and acknowledge the reality of who she is. What does she enjoy? How is she like? Allowing your little one to find what truly interests her, rather than what everyone else likes, is part of building her own identity. If your child is playing in the sandbox alone it doesn’t mean she is lonely or has low self-esteem; find out what she is doing that intrigues her so much.

Pay attention to her feelings and try to understand what your little one means —positioning yourself in her little shoes. Observe and ask yourself what she might be feeling when you say or do something. Appreciate her feelings, recognize the legitimacy of what she wants and let her know you know that. When your little one feels understood she feels accepted and loved.

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Get Speechy This Fall with These Activities!

  1. Nature Walk

Nature walks are the perfect fall activity! Every tiny friend needs to get those wiggles out from time to time and it is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. As you wander around your neighborhood, a park or a trail, chat about all of the things that you may see (leaves, a deer, sticks, rocks, a creek, a squirrel, etc.). If you have time to plan ahead of it, you can even make a list of potential things you might encounter and make a scavenger hunt out of the walk. If you don’t have time to prep, ‘I spy’ is just as speechy (“I spy something falling”, “I spy something green”, “I spy an animal with wings”, etc.)

  1. Have an Apple Day

Apples and fall just seem to go together! I love having apple days with little ones once fall rolls around. Whether you go apple picking or to the market, you can talk about all of the different types of apples you find (red, green, yellow, hard, bruised, small, stem less, etc.) Once you get back home you will have the perfect bounty to bake with! Baking is a go-to speechy activity because there are directions to follow and a rich plethora of vocabulary words (pour, mix, scoop, stir, bake, blend, etc.). Go big with an apple pie or start small with applesauce – either way you will boost a ton of language, have fun and enjoy a yummy treat with your kid!

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What science says about child development

Throughout time, there has been an incredible amount of research done about early childhood and brain development. The behavioral and social sciences have created a remarkable amount of new knowledge and there have been recent discoveries in neuroscience. But, what do we actually know about child development? The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University summarizes decades of research and discoveries in these next concepts. The next list gives us an insight into what a healthy development looks like, what can cause it to go off track and what can we do to prevent it.

  1. Significant stresses in the family or environment doesn’t only affect adults, but infants and young children too. Adversity can disturb the bases of learning, behavior and health. In fact, experiencing adverse early childhood experiences can have physical and chemical implications in the brain, damaging the child’s future learning capacity and behavior, and putting him or her at greater risk for poor physical and mental health. This is why learning to cope with stress is essential for healthy child development. We have to keep in mind that short periods of stress can help build adaptive responses while having supportive relationships. However, toxic effects on the developing brain might take place if there is no caring adult available to offer safeguarding and the stress is extreme and prolonged.

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Are you talking to me?

New research from MIT supports the idea that to foster your child’s development, specifically his or her language development, parents don’t just need to talk to their kids, they should talk with them (meaning back-and-forth exchanges).

“What we found is, the more often parents engaged in back-and-forth conversation with their child, the stronger was the brain response in the front of the brain to language” (Gabrieli, 2018).

In this case, a stronger brain response is a reflection of a more profound understanding and engagement with language. So, it’s not just the number of words your baby hears, it’s the interactions and twists and turns in the conversation that matter. A rich verbal environment is made up of exactly that, resulting in greater language and cognitive outcomes later on.

In this MIT study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they discovered that children who experienced more conversations had more brain activity while they listened to stories. Their Broca’s area, which is a region in the frontal lobe of the brain that is involved in language processing, was more engaged. In this study, what was highlighted was the importance of the language base in the relationship between parents and kids. The streaming of a tape or an endless cartoon show will not have the same benefits that the day to day interactions between a loved one and their baby.

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