Baby Blogs

Read to Your Baby

Posted onJanuary 12, 2012

It’s never too early to start reading to your child. Even babies benefit from being read to, and the benefits are deep and long-lasting.

Language- Through books babies learn vocabulary and when you talk to them about the pictures you see, they learn communication skills

Social/Emotional- taking the time to sit together, with baby in your lap, making eye contact and conversation (even if it is 0ne-sided) all work together to deepen bonds and social skills

Body/Sensory Awareness- touch and feel books and books with squeakers, flaps or other interactive elements help baby gain sensory awareness and practice body movements

Ideas for More Fun with Baby- books can be the inspiration for all kinds of other fun activities with baby including new ideas for outings, songs to sing or things to explore.

If you’re feeling a little silly at the idea of reading to a baby, need some ideas on how to get started, or are looking for easy-to-read information to pass along to other parents, check out these online tips by the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center.

Liven Up Story Time: Read with Rhythm

December 4, 2009

Some kids love story time, others have a hard time staying focused. Not only is this distracting, but it can make story time a negative experience for everyone involved.

To get and hold the attention of a variety of different learners, try adding rhythm to your story time. I don’t mean sing story-songs (though if you’re comfortable doing that, go for it!) Rhythm exists in the words we speak. Just make a special effort to bring out the rhythm that is already in the text of a lot of great read-aloud books. There are so many benefits, including:

  • It emphasizes syllables in words to improve language acquisition

  • It encourages controlled movement and coordination for kinesthetic learners

  • It brings a musical element to reading for those with a strong musical intelligence

  • I promotes the sense of being part of a larger group as children clap or move together to a rhythm

  • It enhances children’s understanding story sequencing

Some simple steps you can take to bring rhythm to story time include:

  • Choose stories with strong rhythm or repetition in the text such as Dr. Seuss books, I Went Walking, by Sue Williams or Brown Bear, by Bill Martin Jr.

  • Encourage children to clap out the syllables of repetitive text or common phrases

  • Incorporate simple rhythm instruments (rhythm sticks, maracas, tone blocks) to emphasize parts of the story such as the “clip clop” of the hoofs of the Three Billy Goats Gruff

Do Babies Really Understand Words?

Posted on January 11, 2010

We’ve all been told to speak to our babies to encourage their language development, but how much does an infant really understand? New evidence shows that they understand quite a bit!

A recent study out of the University of California, San Diego shows that baby brains process words just as adult brains do. This flies in the face of the idea that baby learning is more primitive and with time the brain processes information in a more sophisticated way. You can learn more about this study in this article in PsychCentral.

So, talk to your baby. Use real words. Read with your infant. Create an environment full of wonderful language and know that every word is soaking in.

As for future implications of a study like this, I worry it may be used to support the idea that even infants should be placed in a “school setting” similar to that of older children. I hope it will help people to see that even older children would benefit from the more holistic, integrated natural learning environments that help babies to thrive.

Using Pictures to Encourage Speech

Posted on November 18 2008

If you stop and think about it, your typical toddler has to rely on a lot of auditory cues to get through the day. Sure, they often have a visual context to help them figure out what is going on (Mom is opening the refrigerator door and talking, maybe she’s getting me food!), but we communicate with our toddlers using mostly words and some body language. If your child is a visual learner or has some auditory processing issues, it may not be so easy for him to figure out what is going on much of the time.

To help those kids who need a little more visual stimulation, consider using picture cards to encourage communication. You don’t need a fancy computer program to make them. Just cut out pictures from magazines or if you’ve got an artistic streak, draw them yourself! They can be useful for all sorts of activities and daily routines. Use them to:

  • show snack or activity choices

  • guide children through a song (point out the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm)

  • outline the day’s schedule or routine (play outside, snack, play inside, lunch, nap, etc.)

  • guide children through a task (rinse hands, get soap, rub, rinse, dry)

Point to the cards as you talk about a task or choice. Name the card as children point to it. Soon your toddlers will begin pointing to the cards to try to communicate with you. As they point, they will begin trying to say the word, and before you know it, the word itself will completely replace the card.

The process of learning language is complicated! Some children come in to it easily, but many will benefit from a little help along the way. Picture cards can help ease frustration and make communication easier for everyone.

Filed under: Activities for KidsInfant/Toddler | Tagged: Child Developmentlanguagelearning stylestoddlers


Slow Down Parents! Be Present for Your Children

October 9, 2010

One thing I see that really upsets me every time I visit an early childhood center is parents on cell phones when they pick up their children. This happens at every center I’ve ever been to. It doesn’t matter how old a child is, or how communicative. Every child deserves to have the full attention of their parent or other primary caregiver, especially after spending a long day apart.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a resource series called “Message in a Backpack”. These are great little fliers that help early childhood educators communicate important issues to families. Here is a link to a Message in a Backpack titled, “Listen, Talk, Answer- Support Your Child’s Learning”. This one page handout encourages parents to slow down and really talk with their children, and while it doesn’t specifically address my pet-peeve of cell phones at pick up (and drop off), it does give families some concrete strategies to begin a conversation.

  • Filed under: Parent/Teacher Communication | Tagged: Child Care, Early Childhood, Family, family child care, Preschool 

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Rhythms of Our Day

Parenting/Rhythms of Our Day


There are certain habits that make home care easier, and one of those things is using daily rhythms to structure our day for success.

Different than a schedule, a daily rhythm flows and is easily adjustable based on that day’s interests, unexpected events, and everyone in the home’s temperaments. While I share our daily rhythm here, this post explains why you should implement a daily rhythm.

Rhythms are a concept taken from the Waldorf philosophy; the day is structured into periods of “breathing in” and “breathing out,” meaning that there are times that the child is encouraged to participate in a structured activity or routine, such as preparing lunch or listening to a story, before being encouraged to then have unstructured playtime (or independent work time) in his or her prepared environment.

Focusing on rhythm, and not a strict, scheduled structure, can allow for days to be creative and distinct, without creating upset or unpredictability. Rhythm can be integrated into travel and special events to ensure a more positive experience for parent and child.

The transitions between breaths are gentle and should follow the child’s cues whenever appropriate – watching for non-verbal communications from the child to either prolong, change up, or end an activity can help ensure that rhythm guides the day. For example, if your child is wriggling and not engaged in story time, we should reflect on what is missing for the child: is the tale of interest to the child? Are you simply reading or actively creating the story? Is there something in the environment that is distracting the child? Is there an activity the child would rather be doing, that would allow them to later focus on the story?

Rather than using a clock or timers (which, though they may have their place, many educators believe create tension in the room as both parties wait for the abrasive intrusion to jostle them to attention), instead we can use a subtle indicator such as a transitioning song, lighting a candle, or, using a gentle instrument such as wind-chimes to help change the mood and ease the transition.

Breaths out are equally as important as the breaths in, as it is during “rest” that we can really absorb and reflect on the information that we received during the activity, and because play in a prepared environment allows for sensory exploration, creativity, and engagement, amongst other benefits. If self-correcting learning materials (such as Montessori materials) are provided in the prepared environment, the child can freely explore those items as well.

Also, focusing on rhythm allows for parents to build homeschooling into the day, as a natural occurrence. Learning is spread throughout the day, allowing the child to recover and engage as desired, while still ensuring that learning objectives are achieved within a realistic timeframe. This wonderfully allows parents to not feel that they must transition between “roles” during “homeschooling hours,” and instead just allows parents to facilitate learning activities just as they would facilitate bath time.

What do you think? Do you use rhythms or schedules in your home?

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Dreaded Day CareDrop-Offs


August 11, 2008

Preschool aaycare drop-offs can be rough! As a teacher I watched all kinds of difficult drop-offs brew. Some parents lingered too long, said too many good-byes and then, just as the child began to get teary-eyed, they’d walk out the door, leaving me to mop up the tears. Other parents would ask their child to do something like put away their backpack, or distract their child with a toy and then slip away without a good-bye. Once the child noticed the abandonment, the water works would start. Later these children are the ones that have to be pried of their parent’s leg with a crow bar…

As a parent, I’ve been on the other end of the dreaded routine. One child loves to be out and about with people. She walks through the door, and barely gives me a second glance. I’ve been very tempted to prolong the goodbye. It’s not easy to accept that she can be without me so comfortably. The other child wails when he leaves my arms. I’ve learned to just walk away, and without fail, the cries end before I even open the door. I knew that would happen from day one, but of course, I went through weeks of lingering in hopes of soothing him, until I finally got past the emotional reaction and learned to soldier through.

Drop-offs are rough for everyone, but I think it would be helpful for all of those involved if teachers and caregivers could take a moment to let parents know about typical drop-off behaviors and best practices. Many parents arrive the first day with no idea what to expect, or the feeling that theirs is the only child having a hard time.

This winter my daughters school started a routine where a teacher would meet the child at the car. Parents loved it! I think it was so successful because it created a situation where the parent wasn’t leaving the child. Instead the child was leaving the parent. What have your drop-off experiences been like? What has worked well? What hasn’t?

Filed under: Family, School | Tagged: infants, parenting, Preschool, Teaching toddlers | Leave a comment »

Viewing Babies as Little Beings

Posted on July 13, 2009

In a recent article in YC Magazine, Dr. Mary McMullen of Indiana University discovers that 21st century babies are much more social than child development researchers had previously thought possible.

According to the article, half of all babies in the US under 9 months spend a portion of their day in a group care setting. Such abundant social interaction, when supported by caring and attentive adults, has a positive impact on an infant’s over all social development.

A baby becomes confident through close, supportive relationships and having plenty of opportunities to explore and try new things. Babies need opportunities to make things move and spin and rattle and make noise, and they are so pleased when they can do things by themselves or with minimal support or intervention. Most of all, however, they want the people they care about to notice what they do and to respond.

The types of social behaviors the author describes seeing in infants is impressive including:

  • self-confidence

  • helpfulness

  • empathy

  • caring for others

  • friendliness

  • respect (towards self, others and objects)

It is the tone and emotional environment of a group care setting that makes all the difference. Teachers that show respect for their colleagues, the infants in their care and their families are most likely to bring out more positive social behaviors in children.

The article also states:

Research connects strong, secure, relationship-based early practices with young children to positive long-term cognitive, social, and mental health outcomes in older children and adults.

If half of the country’s infants are in group care settings, and a large percentage of these facilities strive to offer the kind of care climate described in this article, then I have great hope for the future of this country!

Filed under: Infant/Toddler | Tagged: Child CareChild DevelopmentEarly ChildhoodinfantsResearch | Leave a comment »

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Discover Your Infant’s Temperament

May 26, 2009

An infant’s temperament is the way she expresses her experiences with the world around her. One baby may love to see and interact with new people and faces while another may find the experience to be stressful. Babies don’t screen or filter their emotions. What they experience is what they express.

Take a moment to watch your infant’s reactions to different situations and see if you notice any patterns that might give you some insight into your child’s temperament. Pay special attention to these characteristics in your infant:

  • Emotional intensity

  • Activity level

  • Frustration tolerance

  • Reaction to new people

  • Reaction to change

In infants these characteristics generally come together to form three general temperaments.

Cautious Babies– are generally not very active and quite serious. They prefer to be very close to their primary caregiver and pull back or seem scared if they are pushed too hard to try a new experience.

Fussy Babies– become irritable easily. These babies are often very sensitive to touch or other sensory experiences. It is likely that their body rhythms are irregular and they adjust slowly to change, often responding with intense crying to even regular, daily changes that occur in a routine.

Easygoing Babies– are generally in a good mood. These babies often have very regular body rhythms, adapt easily to change and welcome new people and new experiences.

Each infant temperament comes with it challenges and rewards. Alice Sterling Honig has a great article in Early Childhood Today Magazine that is full of tips for caregivers on how to handle infants with these different temperaments.

Once you understand your infant’s temperament, you are better prepared to help them through (and prepare yourself for) challenging situations.

For even more detailed information about infant and toddler temperaments, take a look at this Zero to Three article on the topic.

Filed under: Infant/Toddler | Tagged: Child Careinfantsparenting 

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Coping with a Challenging Baby

February 10, 2009

Whether a baby is collicky, hard to settle, generally fussy, or especially needy, dealing with an infant that cries a lot is challenging. For parents it is a very difficult phase, but eventually the phase does come to an end. For infant teachers each new year brings the potential for another challenging situation.

Child Care Information Exchange recently featured an article by Cindy Jurie and Marsha Bake titled “Supporting Infant Teachers in their Care of Fussy Babies“. The article does a wonderful job of describing the situation that many infant teachers find themselves in and it is full of great information, tips and suggestions for teachers, parents and other center staff. If you work with infants it is definitely worth a read.

Basically it boils down to communication and emotional support. Parents and teachers should be communicating about:

  • General child history/medical issues

  • Family culture

  • Daily routines

  • Recent events/issues (how did the child sleep? eat?, etc.)

Program practices, such as parent questionnaires, drop off routines and daily journals can make a big difference in helping this communication.

Listening is also very important. An experienced infant teacher can be a great resource for parents, but sometimes it’s important to just listen. Parents often need the opportunity to talk about their frustrations in dealing with a fussy baby without feeling judged or having to hear advice. Infant teachers need the same kind of support from their colleagues.

Parents, teachers and other center staff need to work as a team and support one another. As one teacher in the article stated:

One day, I said (to the mother), ‘Lately I’m having problems with him, what do you do at home?’ so I can help him better. And she said, ‘Oh, how funny! I was thinking to ask you the same thing.’
Okay, so we have, I always say, the same problems. We have the same baby, so we need to talk. And my relationship with families is better, I think.

If you have had experiences with a fussy baby, how did you deal with it? What do you think might have helped the situation?

Filed under: Infant/ToddlerParent/Teacher CommunicationSpecial Needs | Tagged: Child Carefamily child careinfantsSpecial Needs | 

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Beyond the baby Book

If you don’t keep portfolios, consider starting with these simple baby steps:

  • Chose a visible area of the classroom (entrance wall, shelf or cabinet) to devote to displaying things for parents.

  • Take pictures of your children in action and write up a little caption for each picture that you decide to display.

  • Encourage children to leave special artwork or projects on display. Have children dictate something about why they like this particular piece of work.

Once you become comfortable with the process of collecting portfolio pieces it is easier to take the next step of really documenting what children are doing and finally using this documentation to show and assess a child’s progress throughout the year.

I believe portfolios are a great tool for showing a child’s progress no matter what their age. If you want to learn more about using portfolios check out this article, referenced above: Reflective Portfolios.

Filed under: Infant/ToddlerParent/Teacher CommunicationPreschoolSchool | Tagged: Child CareinfantsPreschoolTeachingtoddler

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Food as a Sensory Experience

December 9, 2008

Over the weekend I attended a conference on infants and toddlers. Understanding the importance of sensory stimulation in these young children was a big topic. Current research tells us again and again that all children learn through their senses, but for infants and toddlers, absolutely everything they learn (and they are learning a lot every minute of every day!) is coming directly through their senses. Before they can understand all of the information that their senses are feeding them, they must first learn how to use and process sensory information.

Given the importance of giving infants and toddlers a variety of sensory experiences, I was shocked by a conversation I had with an infant teacher. She was asking for ideas of things to put in the sensory table at her program, and she was desperate because her program’s administrators have banned the use of:

  • food (they want to be sensitive about being wasteful when so many don’t have enough)

  • leaves and other natural items (fear of pesticides)

  • anything that an infant may ingest including shaving cream, tissue paper, etc. (fear of a health hazard)

This left her with nothing but water and fabric scraps at the sensory table. I had heard of a trend discouraging the use of food for play purposes in child care settings, and I can appreciate concerns about safety, but I had never heard of so many absolute restrictions!

This got me thinking about the reasoning behind the “no food” policy. If the concern is wastefulness, why is it OK to waste water? It is a scarce and vital resource in much of the world. What about home-made play dough? It contains fewer chemicals, and so is better for kids, but it is made from flour and salt, both food items. Where does a program banning food as a play item draw the line?

I did a little online research to find more about this “no food” trend, but I came up empty. As far as I know, NAEYC has no position statement on the topic, nor have any of the major early childhood publications written on the subject. If anyone knows anything about where this idea came from or details on the reasoning behind it, I’d love to hear from you.

The population of infants and toddlers who spend their days in early care environments is huge. If these children were home, chances are they would have rich sensory experiences every time they got into the pantry and dumped a box of pasta on the floor, or played with their food in the high chair while mom finished making her own lunch. These every day home experiences that have been engaging infants and toddlers for generations are what children in these food-banning programs are missing out on. Why?

As far as I can tell it is little more than a misguided effort to be “politically correct” that is depriving children of opportunities to have the sorts of meaningful sensory experiences that they would be having if they were spending their days at home. And if these children’s homes can’t provide these experiences because of a lack of resources, aren’t we even more obligated to offer them while they are in our care?

The sensory experiences that food offers are also valuable for older children too. Older children can participate in growing, composting, and learning about foods eaten at home and around the world. For great information on how cooking can build skills and enhance learning across the curriculum check out this Parent and Child Magazine article.

Filed under: Education IndustryFamilyImportance of PlayInfant/ToddlerSchool | Tagged: Early ChildhoodEducation IndustryFamilyinfantssensory experiencestoddlers | Leave a comment »

 The Baby Stage

Exploring their world and mastering their bodies

Between all those diaper changes, feedings, and naps there will be times when your newborn is awake and alert, ready to take in his surroundings and engage with you.

Every experience is fresh for your newborn, and this makes each little activity or interaction with you a chance to learn and bond. You may be wondering what activities you can do with your newborn when she is just days or weeks old, so read on for some great infant activities.

Sensory Activities for Infants

Stimulate your newborn’s senses with these sensory activities for infants:

  • Talk to your baby. You may be wondering why you would talk to your newborn when she can’t yet understand you, much less talk back, but babies pay special attention to the sound of human voices during the first month, especially high-pitched ones — like when you do “baby talk.” When you talk to her, she may turn her head toward you and may pay close attention. Look at how she reacts to your different tones — she may even make subtle movements of her arms and legs that are in time with your speech.

  • Read to your baby. Did you know that, even at this young age, your baby remembers some of the sounds he hears? Try it out: Read a simple story to your little one for several days in a row, and then wait a couple of days and read it again, observing your baby’s body language. Does he seem to recognize certain sounds? You might already have some story books at home, but if not, check out the best baby books according to Pampers Parents.

  • Listen to music together. Music is not just fun for you, but it can also be fun or soothing for your baby. Listening to music together can be a bonding experience as well, so put on some soft music, hold your baby, and gently sway to the tune.

  • Introduce different textures and surfaces. Let your baby experience different tactile sensations by placing her on various surfaces such as a smooth or a textured blanket, a towel, or a straw mat. Let her safely touch different surfaces when she's able: from sticky to smooth, bumpy to flat, cool to warm. You'll have as much fun as she does as you watch her explore.

  • Play tracking games together. Your baby’s vision will develop slowly over the first months and years, but you can start encouraging tracking by moving something eye-catching slowly in front of him. For example, move your head slowly from side to side or use a colorful or patterned toy, like a rattle, to try to catch his eye. Your little one might not be able to follow the movement to begin with, but he will learn soon enough. Read more about how your baby’s eyesight develops here.

  • Play with expressions. Smile at your baby, stick your tongue out, and make different expressions — the sillier and more exaggerated, the better! Get nice and close to your baby so she can study your face and its features. Before long your little one might start imitating your expressions, and you’ll love it when she smiles in response to your broad grins.

  • Sing to your baby. Sing your favorite lullaby or song to your baby. Even if you don’t think you have the best singing voice, you’ll find singing can have a soothing effect on your newborn when he’s feeling fussy.

  • Enjoy skin-to-skin contact. Hold your naked newborn (save for a diaper) against your bare chest and enjoy patting your baby and stroking her face and hair. Skin-to-skin contact offers many benefits for you and your baby, and it’s a great bonding activity you can do together.

Indoor Activities to Do with Newborns

You and your little one will spend most of the first weeks together indoors, but luckily there are plenty of fun infant activities you can do together inside:

  • Tummy time. Lay your baby on his stomach for a short time — just a few minutes at a time, two or three times a day — while he’s awake. Tummy time helps him strengthen his neck and shoulder muscles over time. Stay with him and watch him closely when he’s on his tummy. If your newborn doesn’t seem to enjoy tummy time on a play mat on the floor, try placing your baby tummy-down on your chest. Your newborn may enjoy it more if he is close to you and can see your face and feel your warmth.

  • Baby mirror games. Even when your little one is a baby, she’ll love looking at faces — even her own. A baby-safe mirror can help your baby explore the world. Try holding your baby in front of the mirror and let her look and maybe even reach out. You can even get baby toys with unbreakable mirrors built into them.

  • Baby massage. Touch can be a great way to bond with your baby, and giving your baby a gentle massage can be soothing for both of you. Of course, babies are more delicate than adults, so you’ll want to educate yourself and learn how to massage your baby. Maybe there is even an infant massage class in the area to teach you some safe techniques.

  • Puppet play. Although you can buy finger puppets online, you can also get creative and make your own hand puppet from an odd sock and some stick-on eyes. Play peek-a-boo, do silly songs and dances, move the puppet back and forth, and give your little one kisses with it. A puppet can be entertaining for both of you, especially if you make lots of funny sounds for the puppet as well.

  • Clap your baby’s hands together. Sing your favorite children’s song to your baby and gently clap her hands together in time with the tune.

  • Dance with your baby. Hold your baby, taking care to support his head at all times. Put some upbeat music on and gently dance together. Your little one will enjoy the movement with you.

  • Smiling games. Encourage your little one to smile by sticking your tongue out at her, or by pulling silly faces. Keep in mind, you may have to wait until your baby’s second month before seeing your baby’s true smiles. The smiles you see during those very first few weeks are more likely one of your newborn’s reflexes.

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Outdoor Activities to Do with Newborns

When it’s a beautiful warm day, why not spend some quality time with your baby during a walk or at the local park or playground. Remember that your newborn should not be exposed to direct sunlight, so you'll need to find a shady spot to enjoy the outdoors. There’s plenty you can do together outside — here are just a few ideas:

  • Go for a walk. Put your little one in a stroller or a baby carrier, making sure she is dressed appropriately for the temperature, and has the shade of the canopy and a wide brimmed hat if it’s sunny out. Getting outdoors can be stimulating for your baby, and also gets you moving. As your little one grows you can start pointing out all the things you see to your baby.

  • Tummy time in the backyard or park. Lay a comfortable blanket down on a safe area — grass in your yard or in an area of the park free from anything like sharp stones — and give your baby a little tummy time outdoors.

  • Read to your little one in the fresh air. Reading with your baby is a good activity no matter where you are, but when the weather is nice, grab a book and a picnic blanket and find a good place to settle down together for some story time.

  • Play with bubbles. Blow some bubbles into the air and let your baby watch them. Babies love to watch bubbles, and it’s fun to do this outside on a nice day! Just remember to blow the bubbles away from your baby so the soapy water doesn’t get in your newborn’s eyes or on her sensitive skin.


How can you help your newborn learn?

Your baby learns about the world around him through interacting with you, playing with you, and going about his daily routine.

Talk and read to your baby, and get close to him so he can look at your smiling face.

Sing to your little one or play soft music. Hug and caress your baby, perhaps even giving him an infant massage.

How can you entertain your baby at home?

What can you do with a newborn at home?

The Bottom Line

When it comes to finding activities to do with your newborn baby, there are lots of things that help develop the bond between you. Talking and reading to your baby, enjoying tummy time and skin-to-skin contact together, and going for stroller walks in the neighborhood are all things you and your newborn might enjoy. Your baby is like a sponge, so all the things you do together help your baby develop and learn about the world. Enjoy this special time together and take lots of photos. Later on, you’ll love being reminded of the newborn phase and seeing how far your baby has come. As your child gets bigger, there are many more activities you can do at home with your older baby or toddler.

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Music: A Bonding 

November 30, 2010

Routines and rituals are important. They help to guide children through transitions (cleaning up, starting the day at school, getting ready for bath or bed, etc.). They connect us to our past, our cultures, our communities. Songs can be an important element of any routine or ritual, and by singing with our children, not only are our voices connecting, but our hearts are as well.

At a recent event for Gryphon House authors I had the opportunity to meet Jackie Silberg, a very kind person, wonderful musician and prolific author. She is a wealth of information about music and young children. In her blog she promotes music as a family experience and provides several example of how music can bring families closer together. She begins with infants, and goes on to give family music tips for all ages.

When you hold a baby and sing to him, all of his senses are stimulated. He hears your voice, he sees your face, he smells your  body and  feels your vibrations as you sing.

Through song we can be present with children, even if we are not right next to them. We can guide their actions through gentle words and music. Songs can teach children about seasonal changes or prepare them for big events. Traditional songs also help children connect to the past and to their greater community.

Teachers and families can learn from one another when it comes to music. Parents who struggle with transition time issues can use music to prepare children for a change of activity or place. Learn or make up clean up songs, bath or bedtime songs, travel songs, etc.

Teachers can move beyond typical transition or large group songs and explore sharing a song with an individual child or small group. Get silly with a child or two and make up songs together.

The holiday season is an especially wonderful time to make the effort to bring positive musical experiences into your home or classroom. With all that is going on families and teachers are stressed. Kids feel this and it effects them. Music is a great stress reliever. Just by sharing a song we can build and reinforce positive relationships with our children.

For ideas on how to share music with your infants and toddlers, check out the WoW Kits Making Music with Little Ones Bag or Binder.

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                              ╰☆☆ I͓̽n͓̽c͓̽r͓̽e͓̽d͓̽i͓̽b͓̽l͓̽e͓̽ H͓̽o͓̽r͓̽i͓̽z͓̽o͓̽n͓̽s͓̽ ☆☆╮

Baby Brain Map

November 18, 2010

Zero to Three, an organization promoting the healthy development of infants and toddlers, has a wonderful section of its website called the “Baby Brain Map.” Here parents and caregivers can learn about the specific areas of the brain that are especially active or developing during different age spans.

To use this tool, chose an age-range to focus on from a drop-down menu. You’ll see an image of the brain and depending on the age you have chosen, different developmental areas (language, gross motor, etc.) will be marked on the brain image. Then, you can click on an area you are especially interested in, say, “Language”, and all kinds of tips and information about promoting language development in a child of this age will appear. Pretty cool!

Filed under: Infant/Toddler | Tagged: Child DevelopmentEarly ChildhoodInfant/Toddlerinfantsparentingtoddlers | Leave a comment »

Also be sure to check out the Family Literacy Bags and Infant and Toddler curriculum at WoWKits. They are full of great reading ideas for infants and toddlers.

Filed under: FamilyInfant/ToddlerLiteracyMultiple Intelligences | Tagged: Child Developmentearly literacyFamilyinfantslanguageMultiple Intelligencesparentingtoddlers | Leave a comment »

╰☆☆ I͓̽n͓̽c͓̽r͓̽e͓̽d͓̽i͓̽b͓̽l͓̽e͓̽ H͓̽o͓̽r͓̽i͓̽z͓̽o͓̽n͓̽s͓̽ ☆☆╮

Communication: A Skill Best Taught By Example

September 29, 2009

It’s easy to underestimate the language abilities of young children. Because infants and many young toddlers can’t communicate with words, we often assume that they can’t understand and don’t need to understand what is going on around them. The reality is that children understand language well before they can speak it. Communication begins at birth.

Infants express their needs by crying. Over time, a parent who is really listening to their baby often begins to distinguish the sleepy cry from the hungry cry, the bored cry from the uncomfortable cry. Likewise, our infants learn by listening to us. When we look at our babies and talk to them they learn to read our facial expression and tone of voice. They are learning the basics of communication.

As children grow and begin to develop language skills, they are able to understand words long before they can speak them. The more you talk with your child, the more words they learn. Their vocabulary is growing, even before they can talk. When you take the time to really involve your child in conversation (even if it is a little one-sided) their ability to read body language grows and their motivation to speak increases. Your relationship grows too.

A recent article in the New York Times talks about the threat that modern technology poses to children’s early language development. When you combine the fact that young children aren’t the best conversationalists with the reality that most adults have a cell phone or blackberry at hand at all times, it’s easy to see that parents or other caregivers of young children might spend a lot of time talking on the phone or texting and not so much time talking with their child. The result is that many of today’s young children are missing out on the opportunity to learn communication skills by example.

Here are some tips to encourage communication with infants and toddlers:

  • Talk during daily care routines– tell your child what you are going to do before you do it, “Let’s go change your diaper.” Look into your child’s eyes and really talk to him during the experience. Talk about the food you are giving at meal time, what you are doing as you change a diaper, what you will do today as you dress the child, etc.

  • Talk to your child while you are out for a walk. Point out buildings, birds or objects as you walk. Talk about where you are going and what you will do when you get there.

  • Look at books with your child. Talk about the pictures or textures on the pages. Point to, name and describe the objects you see.

  • Make eye contact as often as possible.

  • Encourage your child’s attempts at communication. Give your child the word for an object she points to. Reward your child’s attempts at speech with your attention and enthusiasm.

  • Be aware of when and how often you are using your phone or blackberry.

FamilyInfant/Toddler Child Developmentinfants

Playful Learning

Embrace Repetition

“Again!” It’s the one-year-old mantra. They never seem to tire of watching the spoon fall from the high chair or pushing the button to hear the sound. Babe loves to pull himself up to standing and then fall to the floor. He does it over and over again with a great big smile on his face, followed by an eruption of giggles as his bum hits the floor. But it’s not just one-year-olds who love repetition. It’s all children. It’s how they learn.

A one-year-old may be mastering a new skill, like pulling himself up, or discovering a new concept, like cause and effect. The first few times they try it, it’s experimentation. Then it’s testing and gaining confidence. Once they’ve done it enough to feel confident, they continue to experience the joy of being able to do it. But that’s not enough…they’ll do it some more, changing things slightly to see what happens. Finally, they’ve had enough and move on.

The same is true for preschoolers. Sure, you may feel like you’re going to loose your mind if you watch that DVD or listen to that song again, but your preschooler thrives on that repetition! First, she’s becoming familiar with the song, getting a feel for it’s rhythm and tempo, where it changes and when it will end. Then she’s figuring out the words and how she can participate. Once she’s got that down, she just wants to hear it for the sheer joy of being able to sing along and know what to expect. Then, she’ll start to notice some of the details she hadn’t paid attention to before, like sound of a flute in the background, or an extra holler or chirp from the singer.

So, when you come across an activity that you and your child enjoy. Don’t just do it once. Embrace repetition! Do it again and again. Here are some tips for making the most of repetition:

  • Make materials easily accessible so that children can re-create the activity on their own.

  • Take pictures or video tape the activity. These are fun to look at later on and can help you all to see the progress made.

  • After a bit of independent repetition invite children to talk about or draw the experience.

  • Once children truly seem done with an activity, put it away for awhile, then bring it out again. With a little time and distance from an activity, your child will probably approach it again in a whole new way, learning something completely different and new.

Children are eager learners, we just need to be patient, try to see an activity through their eyes and let them do their thing!

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Supporting the Learning Process for Babies

Babies are natural learners. They are curious and eager to explore and experiment. As care providers, the best thing we can do is sit back and support the explorations that drive them.

This video was taken by Janet Lansbury, a trained parent educator, and highlights the innate curiosity of infants. In her blog, Lansbury reminds us:

All babies need is a safe, peaceful environment, some basic objects to examine (unnecessary until they are 3 or 4 months old) and many opportunities throughout the day to move freely and make their own choices without our interruption.

As you watch this video clip, notice:

  • the child is free to move about and develop his motor skills

  • the simplicity of the materials that the child chooses to explore

  • the opportunities the child has to problem-solve as he explores these simple materials

  • many of the child’s senses are supported and engaged (visual, tactile, auditory)

  • adults respond to baby when he initiates interaction (getting adult attention through eye contact or sounds), and don’t intrude upon his exploration

As caregivers we want to make sure we are doing all that we can to help our babies learn and grow. What we need to remember is that there really is very little that we need to do! Our babies are experts at doing. All we need to do is have confidence in their abilities as self-directed learners and be there to support them when they need us.


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Even Toddlers Love Science

Toddlers love exploring cause and effect. It’s amazing how a toddler (who’s short attention span is legendary) can spend what seems like hours “washing their hands”. They are fascinated by turning the water on and off, exploring what happens when they plug the drain, and watching the water pour off their finger tips. This is a toddler’s science mind at work, and it’s a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, the mere mention of the word “science” can make many early childhood educators tremble. Science is not scary. It is all about figuring out how the world works. No wonder it is such a great fit for toddlers! Here are some simple ideas for bringing more science into your toddler program:

  • Give toddlers plenty of opportunities to pour, fill, spill and transfer materials. You can use anything- sand, water, rice, seeds, gravel. It gives toddlers the opportunity to explore weight and volume, encourages fine motor skills and is a great sensory experience.

  • Explore nature. Invite children to use all of their senses as they dig in the dirt, crawl around bushes, lift up rocks, pick flowers or gather sticks. This helps them to understand the systems and cycles in the natural world, promotes gross motor skills and is great for the senses.

  • Cook with toddlers. This might sound daunting, but simple recipes, like mashed potatoes, biscuits or pretzels, are great fun to do with toddlers, encourage fine motor development and teach the basics of matter (solid, liquid, gas) as well as nutrition.

  • Explore light. Play with a Plexiglas mirror in the sunshine and watch the reflection dance around, Play with making shadows. Look through colored lenses. This is a great way to explore some early earth science concepts.

  • Talk about everything. You don’t need explain things to toddlers, just ask them questions to get them thinking. What did you find under that rock? What is the ant doing? What do you see when you look through the red lens? How does it feel to stir the mix now that we’ve added the flour?

  • Take their lead and set up opportunities based on their interests.

Over the years the national emphasis on helping children as young as toddlers develop language and early literacy skills has proven effective in improving reading skills as children enter elementary school. It’s time we take the same approach with science.

For great ideas to help you explore science with toddlers, check out our downloadable toddler themes.

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Do “Smart Toys” Make Smart Kids?

 October 23, 2008

Watch just a few moments of TV during a “family friendly” show, or take a stroll down any aisle in a toy store and you are sure to encounter a “smart toy”. They run on batteries or plug in. They beep, speak, light up, play music, wiggle around or react in some way to your child as he plays, and the manufacturers can’t talk enough about how their toy will make your child smarter.

Babe has one of these toys. It’s a battery operated ball that wiggles and rolls by itself, singing a tune with lights flashing as it goes. It was given to him with the best of intentions- he was a very late crawler, and this toy was designed to inspire babies to crawl. Great! He pushed a few buttons, watched it wiggle around with an amused look on his face and then turned his attention to other things. It never inspired him to crawl. He never really played with it much, and never for very long. With this “smart toy” He learned to:

  • push buttons

  • watch something go

In contrast, he’s got a set of stacking cups that he is constantly pulling out of the toy box. He stacks them, nests them and tries to fit different objects into them. He pours small things from them, pretends to drink from them and hides things under them. His 4 year-old sister also loves to play with them and the two of them will even use them together. With these simple cups he’s learned to:

  • develop motor skills- grasp, stack, pour

  • develop spatial sense and explore size

  • engage in pretend play

  • engage in social play

These cups are a great example of “loose parts”, a term coined by architect Simon Nicholson that is being used more and more in early childhood circles. “Loose parts” are simple objects that have no specific purpose. They are open-ended, so children can use their own imaginations and creativity, impose their own experiences and play in a way that is meaningful to them.

An article in Penn State’s e-newsletter for people caring for children describes this kind of play:

It is in this free exploration and creation from the child that we can see their concrete ways of thinking and doing, or as the famous psychologist Eric Erickson put it, we can see their “natural genius of childhood and their spirit of place.” The cleverness and connections to formal learning that unfold from loose parts is amazing and is a motivation to make sure we include loose parts in our early childhood environments, whether they are a home care, center care, or group home care.

Imagine a preschool child out in the yard with a stick, some rocks and a bucket. She pretends a stick is a fairy wand (she’s been reading fairy books with Mom lately), and she wanders the yard collecting “magical rocks” in her bucket. She discovers the sound the rocks make as they fall into the bucket and she begins counting each “thump”. She thumps the bucket with her wand and begins singing to the beat. They options for play go on and on and she could be busy for hours, learning about the objects in her environment, integrating different experiences and exploring new skills in a way that is meaningful to her.

Now picture the same child inside with a “smart toy”. She presses a button and hears a letter sound, song, or story. She may learn the sound that a letter makes, but how meaningful is the experience? How engaged is the child? Is she learning anything about herself or her world?

To really create meaningful (and educational) experiences for young children, pass over those “smart toys” and encourage your children to explore the all the wonderful “loose parts” they can find around the house and outdoors.

Filed under: FamilyImportance of PlayInfant/ToddlerPreschool | Tagged: Early ChildhoodImportance of PlayinfantsparentingPreschoolTeachingtoddler

5 Ways to Help Children Love Learning

Posted on March 1, 2011

With so much focus on accountability and test scores, much of a child’s time at school is spent focusing on his or her weaknesses. If a kindergartner is having trouble learning letter sounds, teachers make sure extra time is spent practicing letter sounds. Makes sense, right? The trouble is that even very young children begin to see school and learning as an experience that makes them feel frustrated and bad about themselves. So what can teachers and parents do to help build important skills without turning children off to learning? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Make sure your expectations are developmentally appropriate– Remember, all children develop at their own rate. Some preschoolers may be ready to sound out simple words, while others are still working on matching the correct sound to a letter. These developmental differences exist into early elementary school. Know the child you are working with and don’t push a skill that the child isn’t ready for!

  2. Build a positive relationship with each child– children are more willing to take risks and persist with challenging tasks if they feel safe and comfortable with you. Get to know children as individuals and let them know as often as you can that you appreciate them for who they are.

  3. Teach a weakness through a strength– If a child is having a hard time learning letters, but loves to move about, create a hide-and-seek letter game or scavenger hunt. Look for letters already out there in signs when you walk around the neighborhood, school or classroom, or hide letter cards around the room or playground.

  4. Create opportunities for positive experiences– Pair a struggling first grade reader with a preschool or kindergarten child who is learning letters and sounds. Give them a chance to be an expert in an area where they struggle. Encourage a child struggling with number identification help you with counting jobs around the room (Can you help me make sure I have 10 pencils in my pencil box?)

  5. Let children take the lead– if you notice that a child is really interested in dinosaurs (or any other topic), let the child lead the learning. Find out what he might want to learn about these creatures and help him to explore. As you do, encourage him to count the teeth in the T-Rex skeleton or identify the first letter sound in that big dinosaur word. The child can take the lead with the topic and you can insert skill development.

Play Matters

Take a Peek into Your Child’s Mind

June 8, 2009

 Children learn by doing, but watching is what gives parents and caregivers amazing insights into our children’s minds. Take an afternoon in the sandbox for example. Watch your child when he or she is lost in play. What do you see?

  • A constant conversation– a child who talks continually to himself (or anyone else who may or may not be listening) during play is likely to have a strong  linguistic intelligence. This child enjoys language (speaking and listening) and will probably be successful learning through listening to others, conversations, reading and writing.

  • Creating lines and rows– a child who lines up pebbles, trucks, etc. in or along the sandbox, counts them, or who creates a path or “procedure” for the dump truck to follow as it moves sand from place to place is likely to have a strong logical/mathematical intelligence. This child responds well to step by step guidance, a consistent schedule and a clear understanding of expectations.

  • Building things– children who enjoy creating sand molds and structures, winding roadways, digging holes and setting things in them or those who simply like drawing in the sand with a stick probably have a strong spatial intelligence. These children enjoy seeing how things fit together and are likely to be artistic and/or have a good sense of direction. They are probably good at visualizing things, creating pictures in their minds, but learn best by touching and doing.

  • Making sounds with sand– those who pour sand into a bucket or through a sand wheel to hear the sound it makes, or who sing frequently during play are likely to have a strong musical intelligence. They learn best through songs and may find it easier to concentrate with music or other sounds as background noise.

  • Digging, piling, pushing and hopping– a child who is continually moving through the sandbox without a strong sense of getting a particular job done probably has a strong kinesthetic intelligence. This child enjoys feeling her body move and seeing the effects of her movements on the sand. Building a sand pile is just as enjoyable as pushing it down. It’s the movement that matters. This child will likely learn best by moving and doing.

  • Making friends– a child who uses time in the sandbox as an opportunity to make new friends or play with others is likely to have a strong interpersonal intelligence. This child is good in social situations and will probably learn well doing group projects or working with a partner.

  • In “the zone”– children who prefer to stay on the sidelines watching, or who sit in the sandbox and absent-mindedly let the sand run through their fingers, may be very focused on what is going on in their own minds. Whether they are focusing on their own feelings, such as insecurity or nervousness, or concentrating on the feeling of the sand in their hands or the sun on their skin, these children probably have a strong intrapersonal intelligence. They are very aware of what is going on with their own bodies and minds. Most likely they will learn well working independently and will benefit from thinking back on what happened during a learning activity.

  • Bug collector– the child who is captivated by the ants in the sandbox, or who loves to see what happens when water is poured onto a sand castle, probably has a strong natural intelligence. This child enjoys discovering the rhythms of life (life cycles, food chains, etc.) and learns by watching others in action or through independent exploration.

Chances are that you see your child described in several of these categories. That’s because we all have different strengths in all of these areas of intelligence. A good builder has to be able to think logically, have good control of body movements and have a good understanding of how things fit together.

Once you have a good understanding of how your child’s mind works, you can try out different ways to help your child learn. Use songs to jog the memory of a child with some musical intelligence. Talk out problems with a linguistic child. Make up learning games that give your kinesthetic child a chance to move. Seek out play/study groups for your interpersonal child. You get the idea.

So give your child a chance to play independently. Give them time to get lost in play. Then sit back and watch. It’s the key to unlocking the mysteries of your child’s mind.

Filed under: Importance of PlayMultiple Intelligences | Tagged: Importance of Playlearning stylesMultiple IntelligencesparentingTeaching |

Using Play to Boost Academic Skills

The case for play in early childhood gets stronger and stronger every day. The more we learn about how children grow and develop, the more we see that children need to play to flourish- socially, emotionally AND academically.

A recent article in Newsweek’s The Daily Beast, Let Preschoolers Play! says:

a growing body of research supports the very real benefits of exploratory and playful learning experiences. A 2007 study published in Science evaluated a play-based program, Tools of the Mind, against a non-play-based one. After two years in the play-oriented classrooms, children scored better on self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. The self-control kids learn through interacting and playing with others has an academic payoff, too; it’s more strongly correlated with future academic success than either IQ or early reading and math skills.

The article goes on to explain that one of the problems with teaching preschoolers in the way elementary school students are traditionally taught is that learning through trial and error is eliminated. Instead children are “fast tracked” by adults to learn basic skills. The result is limited problem solving skills and diminished creativity. The fact that these are essential skills for our children to be competitive in the business world of the 21st century should have parents and the larger community very worried!

It’s an easy fix. Let young children learn through play and hands-on experimenting!

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