Do Flash Cards Help Babies Learn?

Do flash cards help babies learn?When I think baby flash cards, I think of Baby Boom with Diana Keaton. Now that most of you are thinking, “who?” and the other three of you now know that I am one million years old, in this movie Keaton is a single career woman in New York City who, after inheriting a baby (Right?!?), ends up giving up city craziness for a quieter life in the country with her new daughter. Before she left the city, she was taking her new baby to baby gym and music classes and endlessly drilling her with flashcards (alongside her new parental peers).

I don’t know why, but my opinion of baby flash cards was forever jaded after seeing this movie. It’s unfair probably as there are a ton of really interesting-looking products out there now, including tactile cards with fur or scales on the animals.

My opinion, however, is just that. My opinion. So, despite being sour on the topic, I looked into them a bit deeper once I had kids. I wanted to know: do they work? Will looking at flashcards with my toddler, whether on my smartphone or with a pack from the bookstore, help my kid learn more, earlier.

The short answer is no. Babies and toddlers learn at an incredible rate, but they don’t learn via iPad or drill cards. Instead, researchers have found that a positive social environment with strong parental attachment and free play are where very young children are developing both their brains and bodies.

As children grow and reach preschool age and beyond, researchers think that games continue to play an integral part in the development of executive function in children (not flash cards).

Do flash cards hurt? Probably not. But with the limited hours in each day, they’re probably a waste of your time together with your child. Consider snuggling in with a good picture book or getting down on the floor to play instead.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two rowdy boys. She currently lives with her family in Japan. 

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My Pregnancy: Week 25

My Pregnancy: Week 25It’s time to get practical. I’ve been feeling my way through all these weeks up until now. The most practical thing I’ve accomplished is sifting through old bins of baby clothes. Let’s get real, though. This pregnancy ain’t getting any longer and things need to get done. Month 8 will likely involve getting the house ready for baby, but there are things I can tackle now. If you’re preggo too, let’s see what we can check off our lists together!

Update or make a will. If you’re like me, with not much to your name, a simple online search for a template and your state’s requirements might suffice. If you have more to your name or just feel more confident with outside help, seeking out legal assistance is useful. Ask friends and family for resources, check with your or hubby’s work to see if benefits include access to a lawyer, or just pull out the old phone book. We have a template that we will complete, notarize, and file with our county clerk. We will then supply copies to our executor and the people we have chosen to take guardianship of our children in the case that anything should happen to us.

Pick out baby’s pediatrician. This time around is quite simple for us. We already have a doctor for our two children, and he will welcome this baby into his care as soon as we do. For those who don’t have kiddos yet, choosing your pediatrician now will save you stress in those first couple of days in the hospital. It’s helpful to nail this down as both the hospital and your insurance may need this information before baby can be discharged. Again, ask friends and family for resources. Check your local hospital to see if they hold an open house at any point in the year. You may be able to meet your doctor before baby’s birth. You can look online at reviews, though I usually take them with a grain of salt. Impassioned people leave reviews far more often than happy, busy people. I also suggest calling an office to see how long in advance you have to book an appointment. We finally changed pediatricians after repeatedly needing to book 1-2 months in advance due to the doctor’s full schedule.

Think about packing that hospital bag. If you’re having a no-complications pregnancy, you may not need to actually pack this bag yet. I haven’t. I do have an idea of what I will put in the bag though. With our first two pregnancies I overpacked. This time around I know a few changes of soft, stretchy clothes, a deck of cards, a light book, nursing pillow, comfy nursing bra, and two outfits for baby are all I really need. Hubby can grab anything else I need as he makes trips home each day. Things outside the bag include toiletries, camera, USB cord for my computer, my computer, and wallet. Ask your friends and what they found helpful to have in their bag and begin your list for when you eventually pack that bag.

Complete necessary testing. This may include a gestational diabetes screening, blood work to see if you’ll need a Rhogam shot, or further diabetes testing. Know these things will happen in the next few weeks and your appointments may take more time than usual or you may have to schedule an additional appointment.

Consider your birth plan and prep. Delivery is not moving further away. If you have interest in taking birthing classes, ask what your hospital or doctor or midwife’s office offers. If you have a particular birthing method you have researched and want to follow, like The Bradley Method, set up those classes now if you have not done so already. Also consider breastfeeding classes. I suggest reading about alternative experiences of birth. I planned on a natural birth. I am now planning on my third c-section. I think knowing the good and the bad about various types of birth can increase anxiety now, but may help you feel more at ease now and if you find yourself in labor needing to deviate from your plan. I recognize the difficult experiences many people have with epidurals, Pitocin, c-sections, and other hot-button issues. I encourage you to also seek out people who have had success with those interventions. I appreciate my first c-section as it likely saved my life and baby’s after 19 hours of labor when complications emerged. I will write about my birth plan with c-section in the coming weeks.

Take a deep breath. Really. Do it right now. You got this, mama. Repeat as needed.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and three. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.

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Is My Baby Talking Enough?

is my baby talking enough?After my first son was born, I voraciously followed his milestones and progress with several books, including What to Expect: The First Year, Dr. Sears’ book, and the AAP book. (Full disclosure: with my second child … I maybe didn’t pay quite so much attention to these things). I also compared notes with the other moms in my online due date club.

As a first-time parent, I had tons of anxiety about milestones: Was my baby progressing adequately, was I doing enough as his parent to ensure he did? Guess what…these thoughts are totally normal. For me (and the parents of many toddlers, particularly boys), his speech development was my largest concern. My baby was shy, yes, but he also didn’t seem to have nearly the language development going on as his peers. The pediatrician that saw him at his first birthday well baby checkup commented that, “If he were a girl, she would be concerned.”

So when is it time to take action with a possible speech delay? Honestly, if you think there may be a delay, I would consult your pediatrician. Babies often make language gains rather sporadically, and chances are your child is developing normally. If she is not, however, early intervention is really important.

If you think your child may have a delay, or perhaps a family member or childcare provider has suggested something similar, the first step is talking to your pediatrician. Your provider will have you fill out a developmental questionnaire (you probably have done several of these already). If she feels it’s necessary, she will refer your child to a specialist. In the state I lived in, there was an early intervention office run by the state for children under three years old, and after the third birthday, the school district was responsible for screening. It’s important to trust your gut on this one—if your doctor thinks your child is developing normally and you really feel otherwise, speak up.

The testing is pretty fun for many kids (my son thought it was fantastic); it’s geared to be mostly playing with a speech and occupational therapist, and you stay in the room the whole time. If they find delays to a significant enough degree, they will refer you to ST or OT (in the state I lived in, the wait list to get into speech therapy was very long). Preschoolers may be able to do therapy sessions through a local elementary school or even qualify for a special education preschool, depending on where you live.

Just remember though, the milestones are just averages. Try not to get overly concerned about any one part, but if you feel your child may be falling behind, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two young boys and a foster mom to a variety of rescue dogs and cats.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
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Why All the Candy?

why all the candyOh, Valentine’s day. What are we really celebrating? It’s supposed to be all about love and friendship right? Nurturing our love for each other, celebrating our friends who feel like family, being thankful for the love that we have in our lives. We want the best for the ones we love the most right? So what exactly does candy have to do with any of that? Why do we want to give the people we love so much little boxes of candy hearts filled with food dye, sugar and who knows what else?

I’m a mom who tries really hard to keep junk food out of the house. I want food dye, corn syrup, sugar and whatever else is in candy far away from my daughter which makes valentines day a day that I don’t even want to send her to preschool. Surely she’ll come home with lots of little bags of candy that I’m not going to let her eat and that will end up in the trash. I feel bad throwing it away- after all someone paid for it- but to be honest I’d much rather put it in the trash than put it in our bodies.

So then the bartering with a 4 year old begins. You give me that candy and we’ll buy you some other candy that doesn’t have the ingredients that I don’t want you to have. You really want the candy you got? Ok, choose one piece that you really, really want and you can have that and then we’ll change the rest for something else.

But then I become the monster mom that won’t even let her kids have a piece of candy on valentines day. Lucky for me I don’t really care what other parents think of what I feed my kid. No, I’m not depriving her of a life without candy- I just make sure the candy she does eat is the highest quality I can find. There are plenty of organic varieties out there and just because something is organic does not make it healthy – candy is candy.

I want her to learn at a very young age that there is a huge difference when it comes to the quality of ingredients. Plain and simple. I tell her all about the junk that’s in food and then sometimes we decide we still decide to have some junk but I know that even at the age of 4 she knows there’s a difference.

My hope is that one day she’ll come home from school with cute valentines day cards from her friends instead of little bags of candy.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor and online fitness coach. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception to those trying to get their grove back after pregnancy to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mom and baby.


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My Pregnancy: Week 24

week 24I have a bent toward minimalism. I previously shared my inclination toward being low-key and keeping minimalism or just plain practicality in mind when it comes to babies. I, of course, must admit my deep love of Target with its perky red walls, coupon apps, and tidy surroundings. My preschooler knows when we pull into the “bullseye store” an icee may soon arrive in his hands, a special treat. Walking its aisles on Saturday morning while hubby is hanging out with the kids at home brings deep, indescribable satisfaction to my soul.

Let’s get back to minimalism though. With the first pregnancy the excitement of it all is quite overwhelming. I am, to clear the air, very excited about this third pregnancy. It’s different though. The newness of everything isn’t dampened but rather more relaxed. Like my doctor said about this pregnancy so many weeks ago, it’s not my first rodeo. When asked what we “need,” I can say essentially nothing. Maybe some patience if you have some to spare. In general people are looking for more tangible things. At family’s request I put together a registry at the bullseye store for treats.

While my heart beats strongest for simplicity, I also like giving others the opportunity to celebrate in this pregnancy. I think celebrating in pregnancy does not require gifts, and many of them agree. But gifts are fun, and I don’t want to take away from their chance to give in the way they enjoy. Plus we don’t have many pink or purple things that the boys wore. Adding a few of those to our collection is useful to replace the “little buck” and other gender-specific clothing we paid forward to another family.

This minimalist bent also comes out in my excitement of it all. I don’t do big sex or gender reveals, intricate pregnancy announcements, or overly creative portraiture to capture my growing belly bump. Again, I’ve nothing against people who invest their time in these endeavors if they bring satisfaction and enjoyment to their hearts. All those things make me feel very tired. Hubby and I announced our first pregnancy to Facebook friends by changing our profile pictures to a snapshot of a bottle of Preggo brand spaghetti sauce. Most of them knew anyway. Done.

This also speaks on the subject of milestones. Maybe I’m now speaking not so much of minimalism as familiarity. As we’ve been pregnant before we already know most of the ins and outs of it. My pregnancies have all been typical or “normal,” so I refresh my mind each week by scanning an article on baby’s development this week. Otherwise though, I find my thoughts pretty chill. I remember staying up late with the previous pregnancies research single strollers, then double strollers, car seats, cloth diapers, carriers, and more. In part, I don’t have to do that now as I’ve already done that legwork in previous pregnancies. Now the word that comes to mind is abide. I am soaking in the presence of this baby in all the most wonderful ways I can, biding my time until this last little one arrives.

Annie is a mom of two toddlers finding joy in the simple kick in her belly, the tightening of her waistband. 

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