Category Archives: Scientific Edge

Laugh out loud: Encouraging your little one’s sense of humor

Laughter is the best medicine. – proverb

Laughter and smiles are one of the most basic human behaviors. Babies smile within hours of being born in response to a warm sensation or a sweet smell, but laughter takes a bit more time to develop as it’s mechanisms are more complex.

As you probably already discovered, babies and toddlers learn a lot through imitation, and the development of a sense of humor is no different. Research has shown that a sense of humor is nurtured at home and each silly event helps foster this wonderful trait.

The benefits of having a sense of humor include the development of a healthy self-esteem, empathy, and friendships; and it helps people laugh at themselves and become accepting of imperfections. Not only that, but research has shown that people with a sense of humor are happier and more optimistic, can handle differences and adversities well, experience less stress, and are at a lower risk for depression. What’s more, experts have identified that a robust sense of humor is a natural immune system booster.

So what can you do to develop your little one’s sense of humor? Continue reading

10 secrets to raising happier children!

What do you want in life for your children? Success? Intelligence, achievements, and prestige? What about internal values? We can’t build a life based on external achievements without giving ourselves a chance to explore our deepest parts. Happiness is not mentioned as often as it should. So, what about it? How do we define happiness and how can we instill happiness in our children? It turns out happiness is not a thing to be found, nor something that can be created, but it can be synthesized instead. We have the capacity to create the very commodity we are constantly seeking.  The latest research on happiness tells us that happiness turns out to be less a result of luck and external circumstance, than a product of our mental, emotional, and physical habits. So, how can we radiate our children’s inner light?

Here are 10 scientifically proven secrets to having happier kids!

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The power singing has over your baby’s behavior

Remember the last time you heard your baby cry? What did you do to comfort him? If you are like most parents, you probably tried feeding, rocking, burping, distracting, and “shushing” him, right? How long did it take for any of them to work?

Although these techniques might have worked, you have yet to try another very powerful and quite simple tool to calm your baby: singing!

A new study from the University of Montreal found that singing rhythmic children’s songs might be as effective to keep babies from crying as rocking or carrying them! In fact, babies remained calm twice as long when listening to a song (even if they didn’t previously know it), than when listening to speech (regardless if it was baby-talk or not). The findings are important because a lot of mothers speak much more often than they sing to their children, missing out on the emotional and regulatory properties of singing!

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The magnificent benefits of music!

“Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” – Plato

Recent research using fMRI and PET scan technology have found that listening to music lights up multiple areas of the brain as sound was processed, and all this happens in a matter of seconds. Further research has revealed that playing music takes the brain a step further, stimulating a full body workout for the brain. Now, teaching babies or toddlers to formally play instruments is not developmentally appropriate, but that doesn’t mean that they can not engage or benefit from music. On the contrary, listening to people sing, play with everyday objects or toys to create sounds, and sing and dance with caregivers are wonderful for your little one’s brain development.

During the first three years of your child’s life, neural connections form at their fastest rates. Exposure to music in early childhood fosters and helps develop many skills including speech development, audition, coordination, emotional development, and even social skills. Below are some of the ways of how music benefits this rapid development and growth, and a few activities to try at home. Continue reading

What we inherit before we are born

Gene expression makes us who we are and it varies depending on how we live. We interact and are in a constant conversation with our environment. Our feelings, how lonely or happy we feel: these feelings go deeper than our skin, they control our cells. So when do these cells start learning? When does learning begin? The nine months we spend in the womb are crucial. We learn about the world around us without being in it yet. These heritable changes in gene expression, that do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence, are otherwise known as Epigenetics.

What does a baby learn in the womb?

A baby can start hearing his mother’s voice at four months of gestation. The sounds of the outside world travel through the mother’s abdominal tissues and through the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. The fetus is constantly hearing his mother’s voice and once he is born, he quickly recognizes it. The baby prefers this voice over anyone else’s. Babies become so used to hearing their mother’s voice that it can even be said they are born crying in their mother’s native language. A study was conducted where they found that French babies were born crying on a rising note, while German babies ended on a falling note, much like the patterns of those languages. Babies are born imitating the melodic contours of their future language. This learning has a purpose: babies prefer their mother’s voice because that person will protect them and they cry like their mother to create a stronger bond with her. Not to mention, gaining a head start on language development. Continue reading

Your brain on motherhood

Sarah Walker once said that becoming a mother is like discovering the existence of a new room in the house you have always lived in. This description seems precise; after all, motherhood unveils neural pathways in your brain that you haven’t yet discovered.

So, what are these brain changes and why haven’t you discovered them?

These changes mold a mom’s brain in unexpected ways, and shift the ways she thinks and her outlook on the world around her. Scientists are now pointing to changes occurring in the brain, especially in areas involved in emotional regulation, empathy, and social interaction. These are largely neurological changes that mothers experience during pregnancy and postpartum, accompanied by a flood of hormones that help strengthen the bond between a new mother and her baby, creating a powerful attraction. Overwhelming love, strong protectiveness, and constant concern all begin with biochemical reactions in the brain. Continue reading

6 ways to boost your baby’s memory and attention

Can you think back to your earliest memory? Chances are it may date back to when you were 3 or even 8 years old. Understanding your baby’s memory, however, is a different story. It develops in stages and, even though it began to develop the moment your little one was born, it works more for recognition and familiarity, giving him a sense of comfort when he experiences something he recognizes.
More specifically, during your baby’s first 2 months, he will be able to recognize familiar faces and voices, especially those he sees every day. In fact, newborns can recognize their mothers’ voice at birth and will also recognize her smell after one week! This kind of recognition is the first indication of memory.There are lots of things you can do to help your baby strengthen his memory and attention skills. Here are some tips and suggestions you can try at home:

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Conscious parenting: Connecting with your child’s abundance!

Let’s turn the mirror inward and ask ourselves, why are these reactions being triggered? Children will wake up an emotional baggage that is buried deep in our unconscious. However, we need to set them free from the burden of fixing our unresolved issues.
How do we normally define ourselves? Is it our experiences that shape who we are today and, if so, what kind of experiences? Who gives the meaning to the way we perceive love and affection? What emotions are the ones that paralyze us and how can we recover from these associations we have mentally constructed? These stories tend to go back to our childhood and our experiences. We hold on to our childhood long into adulthood and we carry this blueprint with us every day. This first blueprint runs wild inside us and becomes the way we define ourselves and, in turn, how we perceive life and others.

What if we, as parents, could transform this role into a new one, with curiosity, awareness, and a renewed commitment? Nothing can potentially transmit global consciousness as much as parenthood can. Everything we teach our children —like how to take care of themselves and others, and how they handle their emotions and think, create, innovate— all comes down to parenting. We cannot expect our children to embody this consciousness without having modeled it ourselves. Of course, parenting is not the only variable. There are many cofounding variables involved in this early influence. There is neurobiology, temperament, social pressures, poverty, education, and even culture. However, we build a nurturing relationship with them every single day. When do we hold this influencing power? Every day our kids seek comfort, every morning they wake up and come rushing looking for us —these are the moments that we have actual power over. These moments and how we react towards them end up impacting their neurobiology and psychology, transforming their emotional brain.

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Bilingualism and the brain

Many parents know the benefits that learning more than one language can have for a child’s future. However, many parents are not aware of the additional benefits that learning a second language can have! The language-learning experience changes the brain, and with it, alters the course of development. There have been multiple studies that attempt to understand the effects of bilingualism, and the surprising conclusion is that learning a second language (or even third or fourth) has an effect on development beyond the linguistic realm.

The social brain

The idea of theory of mind is central to getting a glimpse into what we know about how bilingualism can affect social processes. Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as one’s assumptions or ideas of how others think of something. ToM requires the mental representations of both your own self and others’, and realizing that your mind and knowledge is separate from others’.

In an important study on the effects of bilingualism on social cognition, researchers Nguyen and Astington compared groups of children of 3 to 5 years of age on a series of measures, including a false-belief task to test theory of mind. In this task, also known as the Sally-Anne test, a child is shown a story in which Anne moves Sally’s toys when Sally is not looking. The child is then asked to point to where Sally will think the toys are. A child that demonstrates theory of mind will recognize that Sally will still think the toys are where she left them originally, because she doesn’t have all of the information that Anne, and the child, have. In the study, one group of children had been exposed to both English and French from birth or before the age of 8 months, while others had mostly been exposed to either French or English. The study found that bilinguals significantly outperformed monolinguals on the false-belief tasks after controlling age and language proficiency. Working memory was also significantly increased in bilinguals.

Surprise! Awaken your child’s innate curiosity

“Don’t require them to do something, just set up experiments they can observe and switch their mindsets. Motivate them to doubt their own logic, this will impulse new and stronger connections that will eventually make them exploring geniuses!”

Babies naturally slow us down -in a good way. They look at us in awe and instantly half a million neurons fire and absorb everything we do and say. Every time we connect with them, their eyes and brains light up simultaneously. Once we take the time to live and enjoy these moments, we allow ourselves to slow down. After all, that’s what babies do -they lose track of time and expand their awareness.

When does learning actually begin? Most people would probably guess it begins in the early years, however, learning begins in the womb. Babies develop a fine ear for certain sounds; they have their first lessons in their native language while they are still in the womb. Babies are then born ready, designed to learn. They are overstimulated with everything. Their brains are incapable of using this mechanism that we as adults have developed: a logic of priorities. With it, we can tune in what we should focus on and eliminate the rest. This happens in a relatively new brain area called the prefrontal cortex; new in evolutionary terms. It is not as evident in older mammalian species, but it is responsible for our judgment and flexible thinking, also known as “wisdom”. It is efficient at shutting down activity in our brains and focusing our attention. However, babies lack this mechanism and therefore they need to calculate and evolve conditional probabilities, in order to figure out how this world works.

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