All posts by Isabel

Is your child overactive? You might want to read this!

Children are often told to sit still. This happens everywhere and sometimes it’s necessary, like at school, during mealtime, and at home; and when they don’t, we often believe that they are misbehaving or that we, as parents, may be doing something wrong. When children become overstimulated, their high energy levels can often go through the roof. What can you do to help your little one calm down and focus?

  1. Let your child fidget
    • Your child can simply be bored and may feel the need to stand up and move around. A small amount of physical movement can help a child focus more. Loren Shlaes, a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City, suggests allowing a child to hold a fidget toy such as a stress ball.
  2. Go outside
    • Moving around is a good way of helping your child pay attention; so the more activity, the better. Playing outside stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin -both neurotransmitters that are critical for attention, focus, impulse control, and learning. Some children focus and listen so much better after taking a walk or just being around nature. Dr Swanson suggests children spend at least an hour a day outdoors. A recent study at Auburn University found a single 30-minute stint of exercise helped preschooler’s ability to pay attention in class, compared with being sedentary. Continue reading

How to ignite bilingual learning!

Researchers have now discovered a play-based educational program that is capable of helping babies learn a second language in just one hour per day!

Scientists and parents have always been interested in knowing the advantages of learning a second language. What are these advantages and how do they aid in cognitive development? Bilingualism has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving skills.

One question that parents and teachers always ask is how can they ignite second language learning? Can babies from monolingual families start to develop bilingual skills if they are given the right kind of opportunities and experiences? Continue reading

The benefits of baby massages

Give your baby some peace, here are 7 benefits of massaging your baby!

  1. Relieves pain caused by cramps, gas, constipation, and teething.
  2. Lets your baby relax and reduces stress.
  3. Interaction boosts verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  4. Stimulates and develops your baby’s nervous and immune system.
  5. Increases your baby’s self-esteem and helps him feel safe and loved.
  6. Your baby will fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
  7. Through touch, smiles, and hugs, your bond will strengthen.

Massages will help strengthen his bones, muscles, and immune system, will get him more active, get better sleep, relief colic pain, improve motor skills, and enhance intellectual development! Continue reading

Babies learn language in the womb!

Research has discovered even more evidence on the process of language learning in babies. There is more going on during the prenatal stage than previously suggested. A study looked at babies who were adopted right after birth and who grew up hearing a different language than the one they heard their moms speak in the womb. Researchers saw that what babies hear before and after birth affects the way they perceive sounds. So what is the birth of a language?

“Researchers have known, for some time now, that newborns prefer listening to voices speaking the same language they heard in the womb”, says Anne Cutler, a psychologist and professor at the Marcs Institute. Newborns can actually recognize the same voice they heard during the last trimester in the womb, especially their mother’s sounds, and prefer listening to similar voices than hearing the voice of a stranger. They also have a preference for languages with similar rhythms, than languages with different ones. Newborns indicated this preference by sucking longer on rigged pacifiers that enabled them to hear one familiar speaker’s voice in their language versus another unknown voice or another language.

Dr. Cutler states that researches used to think that babies didn’t actually learn any language units -the smallest units of sounds that make up words and languages- until the six months of life. However, new research includes recent studies that challenge this notion. Continue reading

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 so 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

How to better predict a baby’s first word

A new study suggests that a toddler’s visual experience may play a key role in learning their first word.

After their first year of staring and babbling, babies eventually begin to say their first words. Although millions of parents are aware of this, researchers at Indiana University and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently cracked the code, discovering a major aspect in a baby’s first words: a baby’s first words are strongly tied to their visual experience.

Drawing on theories of statistical learning, researchers discovered that the number of times an object enters a baby’s visual field increases the probability of a baby’s ability to associate that specific word with the object. Visual memory is key into getting words stuck on objects. All those familiar visual objects such as fork or bottle work as an aggregated experience, first words are slowly learned for few visually pervasive objects.

Linda Smith, professor of psychological and brain sciences, and her colleagues went inside a baby’s brain to figure this out. People assume babies see the same things their parents see. After all, they live in the same house and ride the same cars. However, it turns out babies are not good at controlling their bodies and they are not interested in looking at the same things adults look at. As babies gradually develop, their visual world shifts. A 3-months-old baby and a 1-year-old baby have totally different visual experiences. Researchers were interested in getting a sense of the visual world of babies who are close to saying their first words, so they placed head video cameras in 8- to 10-months-old infants and captured 247 at-home mealtime events and analyzed the objects in view. Why meal events? These are activities are performed continually on a daily basis and make up a big percentage of a baby’s daily visual experience. Results showed that there was a strong correlation between the most frequently appearing objects with the top words appearing in the images collected by the study. This study’s conclusion suggests that a visual experience is a key factor in early world learning. Continue reading

A new approach to childhood discipline

Many educational practices are based on incentives and consequences that are all tied to a desired behavior. Why is my child misbehaving? She is not sufficiently motivated to follow the rules. Strategies such as timeouts, counting to three, sticker charts, privilege gain and loss emphasize obedience with adult commands and rely on power to achieve one’s goals.

But, is there a better option to remedy misbehavior? How about shifting away from power and move towards collaboration as the primary means by which a parent can ultimately better influence kids? Giving kids a voice on their own affairs and the necessary tools to solve problems that affects their life is a much better way to prepare a child for the real world.

Parents worry about losing a sense of control and authority if they shift from power to collaboration, however parents fail to recognize that control is simply an illusion. No parent has any total control over their child’s outcome. The best you can aim for is influence. Parents have a lot of influence and their voices have a greater likelihood of being heard when they learn to listen to their kids and involve them in finding solutions to problems that affect their lives. What about expectations? Yes, it’s impossible to parent without expectations. The issue lies when your child is having difficulty meeting a specific expectation. How can a parent or caregiver solve a problem in a cooperative manner? Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of Raising Human Beings outlines his environmentally focused method to remedy misbehavior: Continue reading

Why barefoot is best for babies!

There is nothing more striking in life than watching babies in awe while they explore the world around them for the first time. Joy and excitement fill their senses as they experience the newness and develop a profound connection with their surroundings and within themselves.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there are a great number of benefits that can come from letting your child go barefoot outside.

What are some of the most common reasons why parents don’t allow their children to go barefoot outside?

Things like injuries, illnesses or diseases. However, unless it’s in a space that has broken glass, chances are your little one’s feet won’t be injured (especially in soft surface spaces where objects are easy to see and easy to avoid stepping on). Kids who are barefoot gain a heightened sense of their surroundings, their feet tough up, and this leads to a more natural protection.

Continue reading

Sparking learning beyond school grounds!

Summer vacations are over, and children who did not receive access to enriching learning opportunities are falling behind those children who did. These skills can’t be regained once they begin the school year and this effect is only repeated year after year -adding to the already existing educational disparities among individuals of different socioeconomic groups, which can be observed as early as 18 months of age.

There are evident efforts to fix this and most of them focus on improving K-12 educational systems. However, kids only spend around 20% of their time inside their classrooms, so a broader range of solutions is required.

A study was published last year regarding an intervention designed to support kid’s language skills. This intervention aimed at sparking parent-child interactions in places that families are naturally likely to visit, like the supermarket. They posted signs with a “question for your child” in grocery stores serving low and middle socioeconomic neighborhoods. This signs aimed to encourage dialogues between children and their caregivers, and they prompted more and higher quality talk between adults and children under the age of 8 years old. In front of the milk section for example, you might see, “I come from a cow. Can you find something else that comes from a cow?”. Researchers tested how these signs affected the interactions. The results? Both the amount and the quality of the conversations between adults and children increased significantly –by three times more! Continue reading

In defense of play

What characterizes play and makes it so special?

Play is fun: babies giggle contagiously over Peek-a-boo or they enjoy playing hide and seek. Play is voluntary: it is something that we naturally enjoy doing and is not instructed to us. Play has a special structure: it has a pattern of repetition and variation. Family therapist Lawrence J. Cohen uses Peek-a-boo as an example of this in his book Playful Parenting; during Peek-a-boo, the baby can lose the connection and regain it. You can actually experiment with the time it takes to say Peek-a-boo, from half a second to two or three. You can find exactly the length of time that brings the most giggles. Too short and there is no mystery, too long and it gets scary –there is the essence of human connection, disconnection and reconnection. The gift of play is the way it teaches us to deal with the unexpected.

What are the various benefits of play? Continue reading