Volume 1, Issue 3 - June 2022
In reviewing the extensive body of research on children’s language development, you might find yourself looking around for some fathers. In study after study of infant directed speech (IDS), “parents” are assumed to be mothers, and fathers are rarely included. In fact, a widely cited meta-analysis found that only seven out of 114 IDS studies included fathers’ speech. Yet, parents—in all their variations—shape the linguistic and cognitive development of every child in their household.
This dearth of dads in language learning needs to change, says Dr. Naja Ferjan Ramírez, director of the University of Washington’s Language Development and Processing Laboratory. But just knowing that things need to change doesn’t mean it will be easy.
The early years of a child’s life are very important for his or her health and development. Healthy development means that children of all abilities, including those with special health care needs, are able to grow up where their social, emotional and educational needs are met. Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference.
Effective Parenting Practices
Parenting takes many different forms. However, some positive parenting practices work well across diverse families and in diverse settings when providing the care that children need to be happy and healthy, and to grow and develop well. A recent report looked at the evidence in scientific publications for what works, and found these key ways that parents can support their child’s healthy development:
Responding to children in a predictable way
Showing warmth and sensitivity
Having routines and household rules
Sharing books and talking with children
Supporting health and safety
Using appropriate discipline without harshness
Parents who use these practices can help their child stay healthy, be safe, and be successful in many areas—emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social. Read more about the report here.
Positive Parenting Tips
Get parenting, health, and safety tips for children from birth through 17 years of age
Stop blaming yourself for your response to trauma.
Over the past 15 months, every single human has experienced a prolonged trauma. This has been a collective trauma in the truest sense of the phrase. No one has escaped the anxiety: Is my family safe? Will I get to keep my job? Will I be safe at my job? How do I adjust my business to survive? Can I see my extended family? Are my children safe at daycare? The constant risk calculation has been excruciating.
Not one of us has escaped the experience of loss. We are all grieving. We are grieving the lost jobs and houses, the months spent in isolation, the loss of connection from the communities that sustain us socially, the vacations delayed and then eventually canceled.
Everyday spaces can be reimagined to create enrichment for children and families
STEM learning is most effective when it is fun, hands-on, and involves cooperation in a team.
It is beneficial to create playful STEM learning opportunities in everyday spaces.
Researchers are finding ways to design STEM learning experiences to be reflective of local culture and community values.
Whether it’s in schools, at home, or in the community, learning should be fun! Children love to explore and discover. And learning through play does not mean a sacrifice of rigor or loss of instructional quality. In fact, play and high-quality STEM learning go hand-in-hand.
Learning is maximized when experiences are social so children can communicate and work together, iterative so that each time a child returns to the experience, they can ask a new question or explore in a new way, engaged for active, hands-on, minds-on learning, and meaningful in that experiences are relevant to their interests, culture, and community. At the UC Irvine STEM Learning Lab, we design and implement playful STEM learning activities in the places that children and families spend time. We also design these activities with the people who will be using them (e.g., teachers, parents, children), so they are reflective of the local culture, history, and community experiences.
IN THIS ARTICLE
When the nurse brings your baby to you, you are filled with emotions. Your hands may shake, and tears of joy start streaming down your face. But like any other new parent, you may wonder how to hold a baby correctly.
Parenthood is filled with joy and wonder as your little one learns to uncover new skills and ways to interact with their environment at every turn. Watching your baby reach every milestone can be exciting and fascinating, but did you know that learning to point was one of them? Pointing is an important fine motor skill that your baby will develop at an early stage in order to share sightings and interact with you. They may point at something in order to draw your attention to it and then clap when you notice the object and talk to them about it. They want to introduce you to the things they are actively exploring and discovering. Pointing may seem like a simple action to you but your baby has put in some complex thought behind this quick gesture as it means that your baby is aware of future and past events and that objects can be moved. When you do the pointing, your baby knows that you want them to pay attention to something.
Having a newborn at home may be the most exciting and fascinating time of your life. You are engrossed by them. Their tiny feet, the way they fall asleep, and their cute button nose. Everything is a wonder to you and to them. Your newborn baby may take a lot of naps, but for the tiny gaps that they are awake, they are taking in a lot of information, and sometimes this sensory overload can be overwhelming. All babies are naturally inquisitive and make certain gestures that indicate how they want to react to their surroundings. They boast some unique behaviors and mannerisms that you may find hard to decipher or detect because of their subtlety. But there’s no need to worry. Even the most attentive parents can’t catch every gesture if they don’t know what they’re looking for. Although all babies are different, they all make certain movements and sounds to communicate with their surroundings.
Here are 5 newborn behavior facts along with their meaning to help you cater to your baby’s needs:
1. Maintaining Eye Contact And Cooing When They Want To Play
Your baby is as playful as ever, and one way they convey that is by keeping eye contact and repeating cooing sounds like “ooh” and” aah” sounds. They only do this to indicate that they are interested in playing with you. This behavior takes on different forms over time. Once your baby is a few months old and hits some developmental milestones, they may start to reach out to you or be more verbal by babbling or making new noises. Remember to give your little ones lots of attention when they try to interact with you. This will help them communicate more confidently in the future.
2. Turning Away From You When They Need Their Space
That’s right, babies need their space too. Your newborn may not have any trouble being attached to you like a little koala bear most of the time, but there are exceptions. For example, if you are in an unfamiliar environment or with lots of stimulation, like a noisy room with bright lights and too many people trying to touch and hold your baby, your baby won’t want to face anyone. Your baby turns away because they want to get away. Overstimulation makes them clingy, fussy, and irritated. This is their way of expressing that they have had enough excitement for the day. Most babies are overwhelmed easily, and this is the way of telling you and the world that they need some downtime. Finding a quiet space where they can relax should be your top priority if your baby exhibits this behavior.
3. Being Calm And Quiet Upon Waking Up
Have you ever woken up in the night and seen your baby lie awake just staring at the ceiling? No, your baby isn’t just weird. There’s a genuine reason for this behavior. You may be surprised to see how calm your baby is at the end of their sleep cycle, but this is because of the “quiet alert phase.” This is when your baby is taking the time to simply adjust to and observe their environment. They may spend minutes staring at different objects and responding with the occasional movement or sound if the object is in motion or piques their interest. This is a precursor to the “active alert phase,” enabling them to respond actively to sounds and sights and make them more restless.
4. Squeezing Your Fingers In Their Hands
Upon reaching 6 months of age, your baby will develop a reflex called the “palmar grasp,” where they reach out and squeeze your fingers in their hand(1). This little action indicates that your baby’s muscles are growing and their nervous system is well developed. They also do this to test their coordination skills on you. This skill has been passed down from our ancestors, who tightly gripped their mother since birth as they were constantly on the move.
5. Their Obsession With Peek-A-Boo
Their obsession with the game Peek-A-Boo is not unfounded. They are starting to understand object permanence. Objects continue to exist even when you don’t see them. This marks great cognitive improvement. As your baby reaches the 6-month mark, they will start looking for semi-visible objects, which later gives rise to them looking for hidden objects after reaching 9 months old. This implies that your baby is beginning to understand the world around them and is growing more aware of their surroundings.
Peaceful. Participatory. Predictable. These three P’s characterize an infant environment that builds self-confidence and a sense of security. Bedtime is one of the most obvious and important times in an infant’s day to employ these three P’s.
Settling a child down for an afternoon nap or a good night’s sleep can be one of the most difficult and elusive processes in parenting. Establishing consistency is key, of course. Parent and child are on the same page, and a baby will always feel more secure. Elements may involve bathing, feeding, singing, snuggling and, of course, the age-old ritual of storytelling or reading a favorite book. But whatever the routine, the three P’s are the essential underpinnings:
A peaceful sleep environment with minimal stimulation from toys, screens, light, and exterior noise, all of which distract from the matter at hand, and a relaxed, unrushed parent who is available to provide intimate, undivided attention.
Gentle, participatory activities like dressing, pulling down a shade, choosing a book.
All under the umbrella of predictability, so that our children can anticipate the ritual and even lead when we invite them to make choices. Predictability breeds security, which leads to calm, which is the gateway to relaxation and sleep.
Essential to these P’s is respectful, two-way parent-child communication, which we ideally begin at birth. Authentic person-to-person conversations with our babies make their involvement possible. We can invite them to participate in bathing, diapering and dressing and empower them to predict each step. At the same time, we teach language in the most profound, meaningful manner and promote bonding and trust. In a strictly practical sense, there is nothing that unwinds and calms babies more effectively than simply knowing what comes next in their personal bedtime story.
These simple ideas will keep your toddler exploring and help their brains develop, too.
Toddlers are the chubby-fingered champions of curiosity and discovery. Which is why you’re always looking for ways to harness that enthusiasm for exploration. Sensory play can offer toddlers just what they crave: hands-on fun that stimulates a multitude of senses.
It’s not just about keeping them entertained. Sensory play for kids 12 months and even younger boosts fine motor skills and aids cognitive development. And many sensory activities, like sensory bottles, can have a calming effect on kids. One of the best things about sensory play is that it is largely DIY in a way that doesn’t require fancy skills or expensive ingredients. So if throwing a bunch of ingredients together is your style, you’re already at expert level.
Related: The best STEM toys for toddlers and kids that encourage curiosity & exploration
If allowed to help, toddlers become great work partners later in childhood.
We, in the United States and many other Western nations, more often think of children as sources of extra work than as sources of help. We often think that trying to get our children to help us at home or elsewhere would be more effort than it would be worth. We also tend to think that the only way to get children to help is to pressure them, through punishment or bribery, which, for good reasons, we may be loath to do. We ourselves generally think of work as something that people naturally don’t want to do, and we pass that view on to our children, who then pass it on to their children.
But researchers have found strong evidence that very young children innately want to help, and if allowed to do so will continue helping, voluntarily, through the rest of childhood and into adulthood. Here is some of that evidence.
Parent smarter, not harder.
Time-out has been researched for decades and there is overwhelming support for its positive impact on behaviors when implemented properly.
Time-out means time away from positive reinforcement. Once it occurs, the child cannot have access to a reward for a specific period of time.
Several steps are necessary for an effective time-out, including defining the behavior that leads to a time-out and being consistent.
Susie, age 4, is playing with her Magna-Tiles when her younger brother, 18 months, grabs one out of the bin. Susie proceeds to yell at her brother and smacks him with her hand. You get angry and shout at Susie and tell her to go to her room all while she cries and begs for you not to send her to her room.
Most parents with young children have been there. And for most parents, this is how they know to implement time-out. In this post, I share the definition of time out and all of the considerations you need to consider before you implement a time out procedure. It doesn’t need to involve sending your child to their room in tears.
The pandemic’s effect on us.
The rituals we use to mark life milestones are often said to be secondary to the substance of what we are marking: The marriage itself is more important than the wedding; the life that was lived more significant than the funeral itself, for example.
While there is great truth to that, one of the important lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is that rituals matter quite a lot, and they can have a significant material effect on the way we process major life events, emotionally and psychologically.
Almost every ritual we celebrate has been seriously impacted by the social restrictions necessitated by COVID-19: births, deaths, weddings, parties, the Superbowl get-together, the Fourth of July, or the Kentucky Derby, even the first day of school or summer vacation.
Every milestone celebrated (or not celebrated) has been altered over the past year. As humans are social creatures, this has prevented us from fully engaging in the very moments that make up our most potent memories and help shape our relationships with the people in our lives.
The new father may be prevented from physically witnessing the birth of his child, or even being at the hospital in the days afterward, to the disappointment of his wife, who must be content with seeing him on Zoom or not at all.
The child’s grandparents may not meet their own grandchild in person for a year or more, the time they cannot get back, and a crucial bonding period. There may be no photos of the grandparents actually holding their grandchild until the grandchild is almost two years of age.
Other important life milestones may go by undocumented by photos or video because they didn’t happen in the traditional way. Such artifacts help shape how we feel about the important events in our lives and help connect us to our loved ones for years afterward.
Zoom photos of the grandparents in one box, and the parents holding their child in another box, is not the same. In fact, this tends to emphasize isolation, rather than togetherness, and could negatively affect the memories that are formed.
During the pandemic, we no longer have the experience of selecting the wedding venue, choosing the flowers, taking part in the guests’ conversations, the family reunion weekend that takes place at the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony and reception, the thrill and warmth of seeing those who traveled from afar.
Children between the ages of 3 and 5 need a lot of loving guidance and positive discipline. Positive Parenting keeps the focus on connection, cooperation, learning and growing together in these early years. Why follow positive parenting principles with your preschooler? Striving to have a caring, loving and respectful relationship with your preschool child now can have a big impact on your relationship for years to come.
So much is happening between the third and fifth year of your child’s life. Preschoolers benefit from a lot of play, discovery, and kind, respectful guidance. Discipline for three to five year olds can be positive and effective!
For the most part children lead lives where most decisions are made for them. And often when they do get to make decisions they are the false decisions of parenting, such as which color pajamas they are going to put on. They are still going to end up in pajamas.
Often children are told when to wake up, when to go to bed, what to eat, where they can and can’t play, how long play will last, and for the most part – the rules of rolling through their day. Psychologists and doctors tell us that people experiencing life with an external locus of control – the world always coming at you with the rules of engagement – leads to health problems and stress. Children are people so that rule applies to them. Perhaps especially to them.
Free play, where the child decides the what, where, when and how of play, has the potential to bring a level of balance back into their lives. It provides them with a sense of agency over their life when they can effectively advocate for themselves.
Even playgrounds can signal to a child what they can and can’t do. The fixed equipment of playgrounds such as swings, slides, monkey bars and balance beams signal exactly what you are to do upon them. That’s why many children play on those things for a short period of time before settling down into mulch to play. They have agency over the mulch in a different way than they have agency over a balance beam. Playgrounds that provide loose parts provide more opportunities for children to make decisions, create things, puzzle out solutions to challenges and create their own rules of engagement.
If you ever get the chance to step away from children playing and watch from a distance you will see them gradually take control over their world. They will make up rules for games that never existed before, they will creatively explore the materials available to them, and they will begin to change the way they see themselves and the world around them. You can actually see their movements and attitudes begin to shift. You can start to see them as whole and capable people that don’t really need the direction we may think they do. For many of us, that takes practice. Stepping back is harder than it looks. Especially in a culture that keeps telling us that we are responsible for how our children learn about the world. Children come into the world prepared to discover things for themselves and when we step back just enough for that to happen – you get to see the magic that capable children bring to the world.
When we do too much for them, we teach our kids to be helpless.
For decades, parents have been implored, by various “experts” to do more for their kids. Parents are urged to speak regularly to their children (at least 21,000 words per day to preschoolers, even apparently if there is nothing useful to say), play regularly with them, drive them to places they need or want to go, serve as their alarm clock and calendar, choose extracurricular activities for them, watch them essentially all the time to be sure they aren’t harmed physically or psychologically, make sure they do their schoolwork, and on and on. No wonder so many think of parenting as a chore.
It wasn’t always this way.
Advantages of doing less for your children
In the not-too-distant past, parents expected children to do a lot of taking care of themselves (see here). They played independently of adults, traveled by themselves or with friends (usually by biking or walking), did their homework or not and learned to deal with the consequences, learned to look out for their own safety, and developed strategies to rebound from psychological hurts. The result was they generally grew up more self-reliant, resilient, and emotionally healthy than young people do today (see here and here).
Contrary to all the messages urging parents to do more for their kids, a growing number of research studies point to the advantages of doing less. Much of that research comes under the rubric of autonomy-supportive parenting, which essentially means allowing and encouraging kids to take greater charge of their own lives and do more for themselves. Such research, including longitudinal studies as well as cross-sectional ones, indicates that autonomy support results in children and teens becoming happier, more self-reliant, more self-directed, and better adjusted socially and emotionally (e.g. Duineveld et al, 2017; Joussemet et al., 2005; Obradovic et al., 2021). Doing too much for children results in learned helplessness.
So, doing less for your child is, paradoxically, doing more for your child. It is also doing more for yourself. For example, one research study in Germany, conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown, revealed that when parents encouraged their children to manage themselves during large portions of the day the children were more content and so were the parents (Neubauer et al, 2021). This was true not only across families but also from day to day within families.
New Season of the Pinkalicious Podcast!
The Pinkalicious & Peterrific Podcast is back for season two! Listen as Pinkalicious and Peter celebrate the first day of spring at the park with their fairy friends. Available on pbskids.org or wherever your family likes to listen to podcasts!
Teach kids to clean their room in five minutes.
Cluttered spaces increase stress and make it harder for kids to focus and to sleep.
Daily tidying is an easy entry point for kids that can build lifelong habits.
Help them focus on quick tasks that make a big impact: beds, floors, laundry, and dishes.
Some people are naturally neat. Their bed is always made. They finish dinner and have the kitchen spotless within minutes. When they get a phone call saying someone will be dropping in unexpectedly in five minutes, they smile, put on some tea, and open the door without panicking.
If that sounds like you, stop reading, this post is not for you. This post is for people like me who like things neat but, but for whatever reason, don’t always manage it.
Higher expectations leads to stronger confidence.
Having self-confidence is key to taking on new challenges.
When high expectations are set for young people in their lives, those expectations can become self-fulfilling.
A parent or teacher can encourage a child by matching the child's positive self-talk of "I think I can!" with their own words and actions.
My childhood edition was so well-loved that the paper was soft as cloth. There were bright watercolor pictures of a world where trains talked and had feelings and self-doubt—all things that make us human.
The story opens with a very long train making its way up a steep incline, its many cars filled with toys and dolls and fruit and lollipops and all sorts of delightful things for the girls and boys “on the other side of the mountain.”
When the locomotive breaks down, all the toys and dolls jump out to look for an engine that can help them reach their destination.
One after the other, all the big and shiny engines refuse. They are too busy. Too self-important.
Finally, a little blue locomotive stops to ask what she can do. She has never been to the other side of the mountain, having been designed for the much more modest task of towing only a few cars at a time around the train yard. She wonders aloud if she is up for the task.
But if not her, then who?
So she hooks herself to the cars and begins the trek, saying to herself again and again, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….”
And she does.
Our study identifies early risk factors for frequent use of online technologies.
Children’s use of online technologies is rapidly increasing. This is making some parents, educators, and health providers worried. Children's frequent use of online technologies may be displacing developmental beneficial activities. Examples include regular physical activity and sleep, parent-child interactions, and independent book reading.
Frequent (e.g., many times a day) users of online technologies are more likely to be sedentary, sleep-deprived, overweight, to struggle academically or behaviorally in school, and to have poorer quality of life and mental health. Children's use of online technologies has only further increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. These online technologies include social networking apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, online gaming using Xbox, PlayStation, or smartphones, and messaging apps like WhatsApp or Snapchat or using texts.
Yet which of the country’s young children are growing up to be frequent users of online technologies has been unknown. Available studies mostly use cross-sectional designs, analyze older samples, and do not adjust for other explanatory factors. Understanding which U.S. children are likely to later be frequent users of online technologies should guide efforts to assist families in adopting screen time routines. These routines can then support optimal levels of online technology use, physical activity, sleep, book reading, and other activities.
5 questions to determine if you should buy the season's most popular gift.
A survey conducted by SellCell last holiday season revealed that 4 in 10 U.S. parents with children between the ages of 13 and 18 (40.7 percent) planned to give their child a smartphone. It was the most popular gift choice, followed closely by gaming consoles (30 percent), cash (22 percent... probably so kids could buy their own cellphones and gaming consoles), and computers, laptops, and tablets (17 percent).
This year, due to coronavirus, kids are online more than ever. They need screens for schoolwork and to maintain social connections with peers and family. So it stands to reason that the smartphone and other types of screens will be even more popular to give.
This, of course, begs the question: Is your child ready for a connected device that could potentially give access to anyone, everyone, and everything… at any and all times? That’s an awful lot of responsibility, especially for a child who may still need to be reminded to wear a jacket during a snowstorm or to start their homework before bedtime.
Parents often want to be told the “perfect” age to bestow this gift upon their child. But, frankly, there is no such age. It’s better to carefully assess your own child to determine readiness. This can be done by asking yourself these five questions.
1. Does your child know how to manage his digital reputation?
Everything we post online stays online forever. It can be seen by anyone and everyone, and even if you decide to delete whatever it is you posted, it can be still saved and shared by others. Today, our digital reputation is often the first impression we give the world, and the Internet is flooded with examples of kids whose posting mishaps have cost them dearly. Lost opportunities to attend that dream college or to get the perfect job are not uncommon. This may be too much for a new smartphone owner to wrap his young head around.
2. Does your child know how to make and maintain safe online relationships?
Many kids are unemotionally prepared to deal with cyberbullying or being approached by a predator or know what to do if they are asked to send or receive a sexually explicit photo or message. Your child may not be equipped to deal with revenge porn or sextortion (or even know what those words mean). Even though positive online experiences are far more common than negative ones, kids still need to know what to do when they encounter something scary or harmful. If they don’t, they are just too young to be connected.
3. Does your child know how to protect her privacy and personal information?
In the excitement to sign up for new apps and services that let them share, well, everything with friends, many kids unwittingly give away too much personal information, especially when those too young to know better use social media. (Three-quarters of children between ages 10 and 12 have social media accounts, despite being below the minimum age requirement.) Does your child know that all those fun free apps and services aren’t really free at all? The cost is their personal information, a valuable commodity. And does your child know what those who harvest her information do with it, or how her online experiences are customized based upon the personal information they collect?
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4. Does your child know how to unplug?
By their own accounts, half of teens say they feel “addicted” to their devices. Have you equipped your child with strategies (and reasons) to unplug from his virtual worlds and plug into “real” life now and then? Will your child even recognize when he has spent too much time online. Does he know about the “addictive” features that the tech industry employs to capture and hold on to his attention?
5. Does your child know how to think critically about the information she finds online?
Online misinformation is at an all-time high. Does your child understand that anyone can post anything online? That means she should stop to evaluate online information for its accuracy, authority, currency, and bias.
Does she understand how to report “fake” news, recognize clickbait, and know never to share something she has not first verified as true? Not knowing how to do all of this leaves kids vulnerable to media manipulation and continues to wreak havoc upon our civil discourse.
We're Just Getting Started!
Although these five questions just begin to scratch the surface of all the things kids should know before they use a connected device of any kind, they're a good place to start. If you detect your child isn’t fully educated about the topics above, consider putting on the brakes. Better yet, ask your child’s school if they are teaching digital citizenship or literacy to prepare students for a digital world full of promise and pitfalls. Because whether that smartphone, tablet, computer, or laptop arrives during these holidays or next, sooner or later, your child is going to have to use these devices. Hopefully, that means he will be using them safely and wisely.
Parents can help kids feel safe in scary times.
Kids constantly monitor their environment for danger. Monitor the media they are exposed to.
Watch for signs that they're upset, and listen to what they say. Putting things in context can allay their fears.
Reassure them that you will always be there for them—and so will other people who care.
Teach them to look for the helpers.
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