Whether your baby is one month old, one year old, or 3 years old you’ve probably noticed how he takes any chance to communicate with you and have a say on what’s going on around him. Recent studies have been placing more and more weight on children’s right to be heard about matters that affect them. It is through their participation on daily matters that their self-esteem is enhanced, overall capacities are promoted, their sense of autonomy and independence is heightened, and they work on their social competence and resilience.
These studies suggest that, sometimes, we underestimate children’s capacity for participation; kids aren’t passive recipients for care and protection. Every day there is more and more evidence suggesting that from a very early age they are (1) experts in their own lives and are capable of communicating their unique point of view on any given experience, (2) they’re skillful communicators with a wide range of “languages” to articulate their views, (3) they’re active agents with the power to influence and manipulate the world around them, and (4) they’re meaning-makers capable of constructing/interpreting meanings in their lives.
Some of our key thinking skills are developed since we are curious little babies, wanting to explore our world. Learn a bit more about some of them, and how they are fostered through play.
Cause and effect: The appearance of this skill is an early sign of intelligence. Babies experience the effect they have on objects by chance –like accidentally making a ball roll and light up. At first, they don’t make the connection between their action and the result it brings, but then, at around 7 months, babies begin to learn that they can affect their surroundings, and make things happen. They then begin to act with purpose to produce a desired outcome, like pushing a button to make a sound play.
Spatial relationships: We use this skill to solve everyday problems; it helps us understand how things fit together. Children experiment with it through play by placing objects in different containers or, for example, turning an object around until it fits and is inserted in a shape sorting box. Toddlers then learn that objects are made up of parts, and that these parts can be put together to make something new. This can be observed when playing with building blocks.
Children build their self-esteem through experiences. When you play with your little one and allow her to be herself, you are nurturing her confidence. Keep reading to find a step-by-step guide for helping your bundle of joy develop her self-worth.
A is for Appreciation
When your baby is born you are the most fascinating thing in the world for her! That’s why she looks at you in such a miraculous and admiring way. Since she is born, your baby starts appreciating what you give her. She appreciates the warmth of your touch, the light in the hallway because she knows mommy is on her way, etc. Your baby is born into the world feeling appreciative.
So, to make her feel appreciated, you must first pay close attention to her. Turn your expectations into appreciations and acknowledge the reality of who she is. What does she enjoy? How is she like? Allowing your little one to find what truly interests her, rather than what everyone else likes, is part of building her own identity. If your child is playing in the sandbox alone it doesn’t mean she is lonely or has low self-esteem; find out what she is doing that intrigues her so much.
Pay attention to her feelings and try to understand what your little one means —positioning yourself in her little shoes. Observe and ask yourself what she might be feeling when you say or do something. Appreciate her feelings, recognize the legitimacy of what she wants, and let her know you know that. When your little one feels understood she feels accepted and loved.
Nature walks are the perfect fall activity! Every tiny friend needs to get those wiggles out from time to time and it is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. As you wander around your neighborhood, a park, or a trail, chat about all of the things that you may see (leaves, a deer, sticks, rocks, a creek, a squirrel, etc.). If you have time to plan ahead of it, you can even make a list of potential things you might encounter and make a scavenger hunt out of the walk. If you don’t have time to prep, ‘I spy’ is just as speechy (“I spy something falling”, “I spy something green”, “I spy an animal with wings”, etc.)
Have an Apple Day
Apples and fall just seem to go together! I love having apple days with little ones once fall rolls around. Whether you go apple picking or to the market, you can talk about all of the different types of apples you find (red, green, yellow, hard, bruised, small, stem less, etc.) Once you get back home you will have the perfect bounty to bake with! Baking is a go-to speechy activity because there are directions to follow and a rich plethora of vocabulary words (pour, mix, scoop, stir, bake, blend, etc.). Go big with an apple pie or start small with applesauce –either way you will boost a ton of language, have fun, and enjoy a yummy treat with your kid!
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.
New research from MIT supports the idea that to foster children’s development, specifically their language development, parents don’t just need to talk to their kids, they should talk with them (meaning back-and-forth exchanges).
“What we found is, the more often parents engaged in back-and-forth conversation with their child, the stronger was the brain response in the front of the brain to language.” (Gabrieli, 2018)
In this case, a stronger brain response is a reflection of a more profound understanding and engagement with language. So, it’s not just the number of words your baby hears, it’s the interactions and twists and turns in the conversation that matter. A rich verbal environment is made up of exactly that, resulting in greater language and cognitive outcomes later on.
In this MIT study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they discovered that children who experienced more conversations had more brain activity while they listened to stories. Their Broca’s area, which is a region in the frontal lobe of the brain that is involved in language processing, was more engaged. In this study, what was highlighted was the importance of the language base in the relationship between parents and kids. The streaming of a tape or an endless cartoon show will not have the same benefits than the day to day interactions between a baby and a loved one.
When caring for your newborn, one of the first new parent skills you’ll learn is burping your little one. Every burp your baby makes, serves a purpose. Why do babies burp? Is burping my baby after meals important? Getting your degree on this new skill will take you on a journey filled with joys, dribble, and, of course, extra loads of laundry.
The art of burping
Burping is caused by air swallowing; a burp is the release of the gas up the esophagus and out of the mouth. Burping your baby is a way you can help him get rid of gas and settle his stomach.
Fussiness and gas often go hand-in-hand in babies. When your baby is born, his tummy is the size of a marble. It will grow to be the size of an egg around day 10, and eventually will grow to be the size of a softball. Since your little one’s digestive system is developing, he might experience some discomfort associated with gas and might need your help with that.
Burping your baby
When bottle feeding, give your baby a chance to burp midway through and at the end of the feeding. Keep the nipple full of formula throughout the feeding, this will reduce the air ingestion. When breastfeeding, give him a chance to burp when you switch breasts, and after the feeding. Continue reading →
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.
Drooling is one of those wonderful stages that all children trek through. However, sometimes our tiny friends drool too much or for too long. If your child is drooling excessively, it’s time to check in on this behavior. It is best to visit your ENT doctor first so that they examine closely all of the physical structures. In the meantime, here are my favorite tips & tricks for our drooly loves!
Close It Up
If our mouth is closed, we are less likely to drool! I call this a “closed mouth posture”. This means that your child has closed lips and is breathing through his nose. Our noses are wonderfully designed for filtering (thank you, nose hairs), warming, moisturizing, and smelling the air we breathe. The nose is also equipped with mucus that captures and kills germs. Nose breathing ensures proper balance of oxygen and CO2 levels in our bodies (mouth breathing usually leads to hyperventilation). The little ones that breathe through their mouth often snore at night, get more colds, feel fatigued, and are at risk for crooked teeth. Research has also linked mouth breathing with behavioral difficulties, learning deficits, and speech errors. Once you consult with the ENT and ensure that there are no physical factors interfering with your child’s ability to use a closed mouth posture, it is simply a matter of building a better habit!