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.
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.
You may occasionally find yourself wondering why your toddler repeats a certain unwanted behavior. Why does he always bite his sister? Why does she throw her food on the floor during mealtime? Why does she push other kids on the playground?
The key is to understand what your child is trying to communicate through those behaviors. To do that, you need to learn to observe and analyze her behavior regularly. What is your little one trying to tell you?
Patterns in behavior
Behaviors that occur repeatedly are happening for a reason. If you take note of the behavior and what was going on before, during, and after it, you might find the pattern and realize why it’s happening and how to stop it. It’s a good idea to write down those notes, so that you can go back to them when the behavior happens again.
Although there are at least 4 identified and deeply studied parenting styles (according to Dr. Diana Baumrind they are the authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative, about which you can read on other articles of this blog), your personal style of adapting to parenting is as unique as any child-parent relationship can be. You may hold some values as more important than others, or you might implement them in different ways. For example, while most parents will agree that cleanliness is important, one might focus on leaving dirty shoes at the door, other might emphasize table manners, while another one might focus on first exploring and then following a bath routine.
Furthermore, most of early childhood researchers and psychologists agree that successful parenting doesn’t look like the success we experience in other areas of life, like work, where you might measure your self-efficacy and accomplishment by considering speed and goal-checking. Parenting is a complex relational process that often involves quite the opposite: slowing down and taking time. According to experts, how confident you are of your guidance, learning, and decisions as a parent can be a good gauge of how you are doing. Developmental science has shown that parents who are more confident and perceive themselves as having good self-efficacy, even when they might struggle, usually have higher ratings of wellness, better communication, and are more efficient when teaching limits and positively reinforcing good behavior with their children.
The environment your little one is immersed in is not only crucial in terms of memories and learning, it also modifies your baby’s genes even before he is born!
Chances are you’ve heard of the debate of nature vs nurture, or the one about the determinant power of our genetic blueprint versus that of environmental factors. This topic is particularly relevant to our generation since, just a decade ago, it was common knowledge that we were bound to particular predispositions determined by our individual genetic profile. Under this conception, things like temperament or resilience of cognition were as set in stone as our eye-color. In reality, the issue is far more complex, as it is shown by research about how environment shapes development.
Studies show that people who regularly express gratitude toward others are more likely to be a helpful, compassionate, generous, happy, and healthy person. Although children can’t yet identify and express complex feelings, it’s important to begin to build a sense of gratitude from the early years.
There are many ways to nurture gratitude at home. Start by modeling it yourself and create family traditions that center around it. Here are some ideas:
Let your children know what you appreciate about them. Notice all the things you are grateful for and appreciate about your children. Then simply tell them so! You’ll notice that appreciation is a great motivator, even stronger than praise.
Model appreciation and gratitude towards others. Children learn through observation. They’re like sponges, absorbing information and then imitating and doing it themselves. Kids pay attention to the way we treat others; set a good example. Be caring and thankful in your everyday interactions with other people.
Use the words “grateful” and “thankful” in your everyday vocabulary. By hearing it often, children will learn what these words mean. Tell them that being grateful means noticing something in your life that makes you happy. For example, you can say “I’m grateful for this beautiful day!”. Encourage the expression of their appreciation for the people who surround them and contribute to their lives.
Choose a “gratitude” activity to incorporate into your routine. Whether it’s listing the things you are grateful for every day before you go to bed, sharing stories about thankfulness, gratitude and generosity; or keeping a gratitude journal together, incorporating an activity related to gratitude will help you practice it every day. Then, it’ll become part of who you and your kids are.
By practicing gratitude, we focus on the good instead of the negative things in our lives, helping us have a positive outlook. It’s one of the secrets for a happy life. Why not start today?
Heading back to school can be an exciting, yet an anxious time for parents and little ones alike. Books are the best way to get us prepared! They teach beautiful lessons and open the communication gates, so that your tiny friend has a chance to ask questions and share feelings. Here are my top 5 favorites for this school year.
The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
This book truly gives me all the feels! Our little pout-pout fish is feeling nervous about his first day of school and is sure that he doesn’t have the know-how to get through the day. After heading into a few wrong classrooms, our brave pout-pout fish finally ends up with the “brand new fish” and learns some brilliant facts! His new teacher tells the class: “Fact 1: You are smart, Fact 2: You can get it, Fact 3: You belong, so 4: Don’t forget it!”. I just love this mantra so very much! And just like the other pout-pout series books, the singsong pattern will have your child immediately enthralled.
Babies arrive to the world in a state of complete dependency on their loving caregivers. During their first years of life, their brain is just as dependent as the rest of their body on the surrounding adult’s responsiveness. Harvard expert Jack Shonkoff PhD calls the critical moments where a child does something and the adult responds back (and vice versa) “serve and return interactions”. According to him, serve and return means you and your child are attuned to each other, engaging together in exploring the outside or the inside world.
As Dr. Shonkoff assesses, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. The interaction of your baby’s genes, your caring, and the attentive interaction with him will build your child’s brain architecture, one interaction at a time.
Traveling with our tiny friends can seem daunting, but proper preparation will make for a smooth ride! Whether it’s a long road trip, a train ride, or even a flight, these tricks and tips have you covered!
I know it is so much easier to keep your little one occupied with a tablet or device. However, screens really do promote self-direction and hyper-focused attention. That is, your child may direct all of his attention onto the tablet and forget that the rest of the world exists. We often also see a change in behavior following a significant amount of screen time. For children 2-5 years of age screen time should be limited to a maximum of 1 hour per day. (Okay, PSA on screen time complete!)
Pack The Right Entertainment
I am all about packing smart, speechy activities to keep your tiny friend endlessly entertained! First, the Melissa and Doug Memory Travel Game comes with an easy to hold flip board and 7 game cards to switch out –it is also interactive if you are traveling with 2 or more friends. Next, I love the Crayola Travel Kit –coloring is a calming and grounding experience. You can make it interactive and play Pictionary or send letters back and forth to each other. Lastly, there are tons of Reusable Sticker Books that are great for travel since you can’t ruin the stickers and you can play over and over again. You’ll want to pack games without pieces that may get lost, quiet options since repetitive noises are the pits, and most importantly activities that motivate your little one. Continue reading →
Amidst all the chaos and our frantic day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important things in early childhood development: being there. From numerous studies, we understand that in order to have a healthy brain development in babies and toddlers, they need a stable, responsive, and supportive relationship with a parent or caregiver.
As a parent who’s fully devoted to their child’s well-being and development, you’re acting as a buffer for any potential stressful situation at all times. If a child is subjected to massive amounts of stress or unreliable, absent adult relationships, his or her developing brain architecture may be disrupted, and, with it, the subsequent physical, mental, and emotional health may also be affected. We’ve put together a few of the most important aspects and questions out there about the concept of “being there”.
As parents, we are always looking for the best for our children; we want them to be happy and develop their full potential. But what happens when we do not live in the best way possible? By being stressed, worried, hurried in our daily life, we set this example to our children. Kids are like sponges, and they can perceive emotions even from within the mother’s womb. This means they’re much more capable of absorbing and perceiving things after they are born. So, how can we be better with ourselves and transmit the best to them? Continue reading to learn more…
Have you ever gotten home and don’t remember what you saw on the road? Left home for work and don’t remember if you locked the door on your way out?
We live with routines both at home and at work where we do things on autopilot without really paying attention to what we are doing. We call it “lunchtime”, but is it if we are thinking about the pending errands we have to run or we are answering mails or texts on the phone?
As human beings we have the ability to think about the past, present, and future. Which is a true blessing, but we often let our minds wander to the meeting board of last week, we think about what we’ll do over the holidays, or what you have to get from the store. Usually the most recurrent thoughts in our minds come from obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. So, what happens to the present? Continue reading →