Emily Hembacher, Veronica Cristiano, and Michael C. Frank Stanford University
Parenting advice is increasingly delivered through apps and video sites, and often takes the form of digitally-scaffolded parent-child interactions. Although these activities are designed to promote learning and cognitive development, it is unclear how they might affect the overall quality of parent-child interactions. Quality of interactions can be measured by both the social engagement of parents (joint attention; JA) and the quality of language (e.g., vocabulary diversity). How do digitally-scaffolded interactions affect the social and linguistic characteristics of parents’ speech to their children?
Parents of 6- to 24-month-olds ( n = 60) interacted with their infants by playing with a set of toys for 3 minutes. Half first watched one of six possible age-matched videos from a parenting app (Kinedu, Inc) describing activities meant to promote cognitive development, for example, sorting toys according to size. The remaining parents were simply told to play with the toys with their infants as they would at home.
The sessions were recorded, transcribed, and coded for JA. We examined number of words spoken (tokens) and lexical diversity (ratio of word types to tokens). Intriguingly, video condition parents produced more tokens ( β = 55.58, p = .03), but had lower lexical diversity ( β = -.12, p < .001). In contrast, video condition parents made more bids for JA ( β = 3.51, p < .01), although the number and duration of JA episodes did not differ between groups (p s = .62-.97). Following digitally-scaffolded activities may cause parents to engage with and speak more to children overall, but speak more repetitively.
Kinedu was recently named one of the Early Childhood Innovation Prize’s “Promising Ideas” because of its potential to create a breakthrough impact for young children. As one of seven Promising Ideas selected from a pull of over a 570 ideas submitted from innovators in 100 countries through OpenIDEO’s prize platform, Kinedu has received special recognition from Gary Community Investments (GCI) and will have access to supports to help accelerate their impact on children across the world.
Gary Community Investments (GCI) partnered with OpenIDEO on the Early Childhood Innovation Prize to build a pipeline of potentially transformative early childhood investment opportunities. The prize was launched in fall 2017 and brought together hundreds of innovators and experts to collaboratively solve one urgent question: “How might we maximize every child’s potential during their first three years of life?”. At the close of the EC Prize’s submission phase on February 15, innovators from more than 100 countries submitted nearly 570 ideas, and more than 260 innovators received mentorship, support and feedback from 135 experts in early childhood and other fields. Kinedu was recognized as one of the promising ideas to look out for, and will receive mentorship, help and access to a network of experts, investors and mentors. Continue reading →
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 (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!
Sometimes we forget to talk about a major component to language: pragmatics or the rules for using language in different situations and with different people. Also known as social communication, pragmatics cover facial expressions, gestures, what to say, and when to say it. Knowing and following these rules makes it easier for everyone to communicate.
There are three major social communication skills you can teach your little one:
Using language for different reasons: whether you’re informing, requesting, or demanding, it implies a different way of communicating.
Changing language for the listener or because of the situation: talking differently to a child than to an adult, skipping details when someone already knows what you’re talking about, talking differently depending on the place you’re at.
Following rules for conversations: these include taking turns to speak, staying on topic, knowing how close to stand to someone while talking, etc.
You might be wondering when will your little one begin to verbally answer to your questions. It’s not an easy task! It requires your son to understand what you’re asking, process the question, formulate an answer, and then verbally communicate it. It all depends on what questions you’re asking, so, depending on your child’s age, it’s a good idea to know what kind of questions you should ask and expect an answer to.
At one or two years of age, children use a lot of gestures to communicate. For example, a child might answer a simple “where” question like “where’s the cat?” by pointing in its direction. He might also answer yes/no questions with a head nod or shake. As for asking questions themselves, one or two-year-olds begin to use pitch to communicate that they’re asking something (the pitch goes up at the end). Two and three-year-olds verbally answer and understand simple “where”, “what”, and “who” questions and begin to ask questions related to their wants and needs. For example, your little one might ask “Where mommy?”. By three or four, children may begin to answer more complex questions like “when”, “why”, and “how”, and in turn, your little one might use them to formulate questions himself. Continue reading →
When we use the plural form of a noun, we indicate that we’re talking about more than one person or object. Most of the time, the plural form of a noun is produced by simply adding an “s” at the end of the word. This is referred to as the “regular plural”. Most children master the use of the regular plural between 27 and 36 months of age. When first beginning to use plurals, most toddlers use it on select, frequently used words. With time, they extend that rule to other nouns. This may lead to incorrect use of the regular plural, like saying “foots” instead of “feet”.
For a long time, researchers have been interested in how children extend the rules of grammar to new words. In 1958, psychologist Jean Berko Gleason developed the now famous Wug Test. In it, children were shown a sketch of a flame-shaped bird and were told that it was a “wug”. Then, they were shown another “wug” and told “Now there is another one. There are two of them. There are two ___”. The children responded, like you and I would, “wugs”. This study clearly showed that children don’t memorize the plural form of certain words, instead they learn and apply grammatical rules. They couldn’t have memorized the word “wugs” because they had never heard it before!
Help your daughter learn to use the plural form of nouns by practicing at home! Begin with simple two-word phrases. You can show her one thing, like an apple and say “one apple.” Then show her another apple and say “two apples”. Repeat this a couple of times and let her give it a try. Do the same with other objects, emphasizing the “s” at the end of the word so she can hear it. You can also point out the plurals that appear in a story during reading time. Ask your little one “What are those?” and see if she answers using the plural form of the word. If she doesn’t, simply say it yourself and explain why we use the plural form of the word.
Pronouns are words used instead of specific nouns. They give us information about the gender or number of people or objects being referred to. There are different types of pronouns. Subjective pronouns like I, you, he, she, it, we and they, are used as the subject of a sentence. For example, “We went to the park”. On the other hand, objective pronouns like me, you, him, her, us and them, are used as objects in sentences. For example, “The baby liked him”. Normally, kids learn to use subjective pronouns before objective ones and by the time they turn three, they’re using them in sentences.
Pronouns may seem like simple words, but actually they are pretty complex concepts to grasp because they mark a difference between the speaker and the others. Also, the terms change depending on who is using them! With time your son will practice and learn every rule, until it comes naturally to him. For now, keep in mind that it is totally normal for him to use pronouns incorrectly sometimes, especially if he is using them with verbs and other nouns or referring to himself.
You talk to your daughter every day; some would say all day! But how much of that talk makes up meaningful conversations? A conversation is a back and forth exchange between two or more people. Your little one says something and first you listen. Then, you respond while she listens. You give her time to respond and so on and so forth in a serve and return pattern. Conversations can be about anything at all –from her favorite character to your plans for the weekend. The important thing is to talk with your daughter, and not just at her.
Having meaningful conversations with your child will build her confidence and self-esteem, because she’ll learn that you care about her and are interested in her thoughts and feelings. She’ll also learn to become an effective communicator while building her vocabulary and language skills. Here are a few tips to get those conversations going:
Find time to talk to your daughter without any distractions around (cellphone included!). Give her your undivided attention.
If you are in the middle of something and your little one wants your attention, try and stop what you’re doing to listen. A few minutes of your full attention will go a long way.
Be patient. Give her time to respond. A quiet pause will give her time to organize her thoughts and get back to you.
Have a special time during the day when you talk in a meaningful way and are conscious about it. Talking about your day can become a part of your bedtime routine, for example.
Keep an eye on your child’s body language and facial expressions to really comprehend what she’s trying to say.
Respect her thoughts and feelings. Regardless if you think she is right or wrong, listen and respond letting her know you hear her.
Ask open-ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer, and do the same with your responses, practice saying more than that yourself!
It’s not uncommon to hear that, usually, girls have superior linguistic skills than boys, and for some time it wasn’t clear why or how their brains differed. In 2008, researchers were able to study brain activity in girls and boys and the results showed that the brain areas associated with language work harder in girls during language tasks because, in fact, they rely on different parts of the brain to complete these tasks.
This study, conducted by researchers from Northwestern University, provided clear biological evidence of the differences in language processing between girls and boys. Researchers measured brain activity in 31 boys and 31 girls between the ages of 9 to 15, while they performed language tasks like spelling and writing. Sometimes, the tasks were visually presented and the children had to read the words, and sometimes the cues were auditory. The found that girls’ language areas of the brain were significantly more active than boys’. Meanwhile, in the boys’ brains they found that their visual and auditory cortex were doing most of the work. Their findings suggest that language processing is more sensory based for boys, and more abstract for girls.
There was probably a point in which you were the only one that could decipher what your little one was trying to say –it might even have been not so long ago! With time and practice, your daughter’s pronunciation is getting better and better, making it easier for other people to understand her!
This milestone, like many others, is reached gradually –people won’t be able to understand what your little one is trying to say overnight. For most children, this happens around their third birthday, but there is a lot of variation when it comes to language development at this age, so you may notice it evolving before or after that. This milestone is not only exciting for you and the people who can now understand your kid, it’s important because it plays a key role on a social and emotional level as well. Being able to communicate with the rest of the world will open doors for your daughter and a lot of learning will come with that!