Posts Tagged ‘child development’

Do Flash Cards Help Babies Learn?

Friday, February 5th, 2016

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. 

Toys for All Five Senses

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Toys for All Five SensesBaby showers and birthday parties often include a variety of toys to entertain your kiddo for hours, weeks, and even years.

Some of the most timeless toys—rattles, play mats, mirrors, balls, key rings, and hanging toys—are enduring because they thrive on the action and reaction of your babe and the toy; they are dynamic. Many of them engage most of the five senses. Sophia and Fanfan rank among the popular shower gifts these days, and Dandelion makes just about the sweetest gifts I ever want to share with new mamas; HABA creates some of the cutest and most-loved toys in our home. As our sons grow, we’re also investing more and more in Eco-Kids crafty basics.

Toys that encompass the senses, as well as those that invest time and energy in the making, are pivotal to engage your child’s whole experience. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch are all senses that help absorb your growing baby in the surrounding world. Every experience for a baby can be eye-opening, finger-feeling fun!

DIY toys can take moments or hours to put together but also offer unique sensory experiences. A bowl of toys or random (child-safe) kitchen items can offer the doldrums of afternoon new delights. Creating (or buying) books with ribbons, feathers, rough spots, and crackling sounds engage a baby at all levels. Include photos of family pets, family members, or common places you visit to engage a child’s memory and sight-recognition as well.

A walk down the aisles of your local home improvement store offers a variety of sensory experiences. Grab (child-safe) light switches, rope, chains, locks, and other items and thoroughly attach them to a sanded piece of plywood for a sensory board that will delight your child for months to come. Use a cardboard box to create a car with a steering wheel, switches inside, a soft cloth for the seat, and then decorate together for an afternoon that encourages multi-sensory imaginative play. As with all of these ideas, be sure what you provide your babe is lead and toxic free! Also consider what is age-appropriate for your kiddo. Consider potential dangers we often forget about, like ingesting magnets, if you DIY.

And don’t forget, food is food but it can, from time to time, be a toy! Whipped cream, smooshing peas, and berries as paint are just a few ideas. Make edible play dough in the kitchen together and allow your child to experience the feel of each ingredient (e.g., flour vs. salt), warm dough, and the excitement of watching a few drops of natural dye change the dough in mere moments.

As your kiddo ages and the imagination takes hold, developmentally appropriate toys are the stepping stones for a child’s understanding of the world, creativity, and even some skills that can translate into deeper, fuller success in those grade-school years.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Is Crawling Important?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Is Crawling Important?We all want our babies to reach milestones “on time” and can sometimes forget that babies move at their own pace. Crawling is one of the major milestones that we can easily compare with other babies the same age and having a late crawler can be a little disheartening or worrisome. It’s important to remember that babies have their own time line and we can encourage them but they won’t hit milestones until they’re ready.  Is crawling really important or is going straight to walking perfectly fine?

Crawling is a lot more than just getting from point A to point B. The actual mechanics of it stimulates different areas of the brain, organizing neurons, creating important pathways and increasing communication between the left and right side of the brain.  It also happens to be their first attempt at hand eye coordination, which is especially important, as they get older for reading, writing and sports.

According to an article by Ohio Health many children are meeting their motor milestones later because of the push by the American Academy of Pediatrics to discourage letting babies sleep on their tummies. Since babies spend less time on their bellies their upper bodies aren’t developing enough strength for traditional hand and knee crawling.  The only way to strengthen those muscles are to spend more time doing tummy time and trying to make it as enjoyable as possible for them to be on their belly.

If your baby is a late crawler, don’t fret, there are lots of things you can do to encourage them to crawl. Babies love going through things, so those fun tunnels you’ve seen around serve a great purpose, or you can make your own tunnel obstacle course out of cardboard boxes. Playing hide and seek and chase are also fun games that encourage crawling. Keep on trying and making it fun for both of you!

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby.



Why I TEACH My Sons to Share…

Friday, March 29th, 2013

You may have seen the blog post floating around recently entitled “Why I Don’t Make My Son Share“. While we all know many bloggers intentionally write highly polarizing blog posts with attention-grabbing titles hoping that it will go viral, this particular one surfaced my newsfeed enough that I eventually read it. Then I even thought about it some as I saw various discussions/debates happening about sharing. I will admit it did get a rise out of me. I thought about my own children; my interactions with them, their interactions with each other, and their interactions with peers. In doing so I identified what part of the article I was reacting to…the word “make”. No, I don’t necessarily “make” my children share, but I sure do “teach” them how to share. For example:

Making a child share looks like:

Child A is playing with a toy Child B wants. Child A is told to “Be nice! Share!”. Child A ignores the statement and continues playing with toy. Child A is told “If you don’t share _______ will happen”. Fill in the blank with some sort of consequence. Sometimes this is a social one “you won’t have any friends”. Sometimes it is an action “then we are leaving”. Sometimes it is a punishment “then you will have a time-out”. Last resort the adult yanks the toy out of Child A’s hand and gives it to Child B, “I told you to SHARE!”.  Child A is (rightfuly so) upset. Crying. Angry. And certainly does not like the concept of sharing. Not one single bit!

Teaching a child to share looks like:

Child A is playing with a toy Child B wants. Adult first observes to see if children can work it out themselves; do not automatically assume any and all sharing attempts result in conflict. Even for very young children. In the instance children do work it out themselves there is a tendency for the adult to swoop in with a celebratory “good job sharing!”. However this can disrupt the organic flow of interactions, so perhaps reserve it for a later time? Or maybe don’t make mention of it at all? In the instance Child A and Child B are not able to work it out, adult offers support and guidance in problem-solving a solution. The solution will vary based on the situation. Maybe Child A decides he needs 8 more minutes and Child B is asked to wait. Maybe Child A and Child B trade a toy. Maybe adult offers to play with Child B. Maybe Child A and Child B can play with toy together. The goal is RESOLUTION that results in both children feeling socially competent and satisfied.

While sharing is often deemed a social-emotional skill, research shows us the ability to share is actually embedded in cognitive development. Sharing and turn-taking involves development of “Theory of Mind” (TOM). Theory of Mind is defined as “the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own” (Wikipedia, 2013). Much like any other developmental task, Theory of Mind develops over time thus sharing and turn-taking are EMERGING skills in young children. We cannot expect a two year old to have mastery in sharing anymore than we can expect them to masterfully engage in other complex cognitive task. “Theory of mind develops gradually, with intuitive social skills appearing in infancy and then reflective social cognition developing during the toddler and preschool years”. (The Development of Theory of Mind in Childhood, 2010.).

We can be respectful of this natural learning curve when it comes to sharing (which I think is the heart of the original article that provoked this blog post) while ALSO optimizing development by providing guidance along the way. The author states “I can understand the desire to give your children everything they want, we all have it. But it’s a good lesson for you both to learn that this isn’t always possible, and you shouldn’t step all over other people to get these things.”. Mmmm, but IF we are not placing a value on being mindful of others, then are we inadvertently teaching them just that. That they CAN have everything they want to the exclusion of others? The article concludes with “Let’s teach them how they can get things they want through diligence, patience and hard work.”. Yes, I agree! Wholeheartedly! This is a valuable lesson for children on BOTH ends of the equation.

For example in the scenario with Child A and Child B both wanting the same toy, if we recognize (and believe) that the desires of BOTH children are of equal importance, then can BOTH Child A and Child B learn the lesson they can get things they want through diligence, patience and hard work? This may or may not involve sharing and turn-taking? It also may or may not involve adult guidance to develop solutions that honor BOTH individual’s desires. Otherwise it seems the lesson conveyed is “you better make sure you have something first so you can claim dibs on it for all eternity”.

Honoring and recognizing children’s desires includes awareness of ALL children…not just our own. Not just the child who had something first. Sitting aloofly on the sideline, completely ignoring a child expressing they want something your child has, essentially models a complete lack of empathy and caring for others.

Furthermore when we treat children as capable and competent, they become capable and competent. When we treat children with respect, they become respectful. Personally, I believe my children are capable of sharing and aim to respectfully guide them in learning not just “how” to share, but what sharing truly is…the belief that others matter. 🙂

What are your thoughts on sharing? Do you have a sharing policy in your family? How is it implemented?