As parents, we are constantly being put in the position to say “no” to our children –and for good reason! “Can I have cake for dinner?”, “can I paint on the wall?”, “can I have (another) toy car?”. Those requests call for an automatic and definitive “No!”. Or do they? There can be more options than simply saying no to your child, options that are just as clear, but also show that you hear what she’s saying, and understand why she wants what she wants.
In Part 1 of this article we said that exposing your child to music from an early age has a positive effect on his social and emotional abilities in the future.
Findings of a study point out how children respond to music with joy and how this facilitates their expression and learning. Listening and singing about feelings also help toddlers identify the words that correspond to certain emotions. Clapping and singing to the song “If you’re happy and you know it” evokes feelings, even when there are no lyrics to the music. Studies examining 3-9 months babies show that, even at that age, babies can discriminate between happy and sad music and how this fosters social and communicative development. As music enables different emotions, it also provides the opportunity for children to be in touch with their feelings and, later, with the feelings of others.
During their first years of life, babies develop an attachment to their parents. Building this bond depends on the quality of the interactions you have with your little one. This includes all non-verbal communication and responding to your baby’s movements, gestures, and sounds. How you enable your child to feel secure will impact on how he interacts, communicates, and builds relationships throughout his life.
During his early years, the kind of emotional and physical care that you provide to your baby will lay a foundation for his future cognitive and socioemotional development. A positive, caring, and stimulating environment promotes a secure attachment between you and your little one. That means that the emotional bond between you two makes him feel safe and promotes an optimal development of his nervous system. It provides him with a healthy self-awareness and foundation to trust others. An insecure attachment fails to provide safety for the child and can result in confusion of their own identity and difficulty building relationships with others.
Did you know that 1 of every 10 babies around the world is born preterm?
Researchers around the world dedicate their lives to find non-pharmacological early intervention methods, such as kangaroo care and music therapy, with the single goal of helping early development and minimize the adverse short- and long-term consequences of prematurity.
Music has long been recognized as an effective form of therapy that provides positive health benefits. Several studies have shown the effects music has on mental health. It reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, it’s even been found more effective than prescription drugs in reducing the anxiety of patients before surgery. Furthermore, researchers found that listening to or playing music increases the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells. This type of cells attacks invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness.
Is listening to music going to make your child smarter? Not exactly, but researchers suggest it will create new pathways and connections inside her brain. Every day, with the help of new technology, researchers are gaining more insight into what promotes early development. During the first years, your baby’s brain rapidly builds complex networks of structure and function that are necessary for mature thought processes to take place. These connections multiply through the stimulating experiences your little one has. Whether they’re good or bad, these experiences will have a decisive impact on the architecture of her brain and extent of future skills. In a process called neural pruning your daughter’s brain begins an adjustment and will eliminate all the unnecessary associations to concentrate on maintaining the strong ones. This is why your little one’s environment and experiences are crucial for her future learning development.
As your little one develops her sense of confidence and independence, she’ll need you to make her feel capable. Scaffolding is a learning process in which an adult supports a child’s development by providing a little help when necessary. Scaffolding allows the person to connect existing knowledge to new knowledge, skills, and further understanding. Successful scaffolding happens in what the pioneer psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1931) introduced as “zone of proximal development” (ZPD). The ZPD is the difference between what the child can do and learn on his own, and what he can do and learn with the help of someone more experienced.
Play is an essential part of your child’s development. Here’s where he learns how the world works, develops relationships, and builds the skills he’ll need for everyday activities. An important part of this stage involves your little one learning how to explore and play by himself. Learning this provides him with opportunities to understand how objects work, be creative, foster his self-esteem, and get motivated to take on future challenges. As little as 9-10 months you can encourage your child to play alone while you remain nearby. How?
At around 18 months your child will be able to use utensils and drinking cups during meal times. However, before he reaches this stage, at 7-8 months he’ll start using his fingers to grab his food; this is where the fun begins. Let’s take a look at how these next months will look like!
Your little one will be excited to eat just about anything you put in front of him. Get ready, because these months will be as messy and smelly as they can get. Don’t worry if, at the beginning, he starts “playing with the food”; this is him experimenting his independence and control. Remember that during this time he’s all about imitating your expressions and simple actions, so, instead of getting alarmed, teach him with your example how to do it. It might be inconvenient to let him explore his food every time he eats but try to reserve some time for doing just that every chance you have. This way he’ll start learning to eat by himself.
Around this time, you might notice that your little one gets a bit frustrated or fussy when he tries to express himself and fails. Your baby will enter a range of months in which what he understands and wants to say has not caught up yet to what he’s capable of saying; particularly between 8-24 months of age. That’s why, at the beginning, gestures and imitating will become vital. He’ll watch closely for your cues and try to imitate the words you say, as well as learning how to seek your attention or help. Crying might be the first option, and it’s totally understandable since he can’t put into words what he wants and that is frustrating.
We’ve previously discussed how your little one starts communicating through gestures since he’s around 5 months and how different types of gestures impact his learning process. We’ve also mentioned the discovery of how preschoolers use gestures to better understand a situation and how this correlates to their efficacy when doing a task. Here we’ll briefly talk about gestures and how they impact children’s problem-solving skills.
Around this time, you’ll notice that your child is starting to understand simple concepts like the difference between big and small. As you continue to foster his cognitive development, you’ll see how he starts understanding numbers, spatial prepositions, and makes mental representations of an object. You might notice that he even understands a lot more words than he can say. It’s been demonstrated that adults and children express their cognitive understanding through gestures before they are able to put it into words, especially when learning something new.