During the first six months of a baby's life there are lots of games and activities you can do to help them make sense of their new world. Even when they are just born their senses are working and developing.
Here are some ideas for encouraging babies to use their senses.
- Sight - to begin with a baby's vision is very limited. Bright or contrasting objects and faces will be of most interest so rattles, plastic mirrors and coloured items will be of most benefit. They will begin to learn where they end and the rest of the world begins. They will start to track objects as they move in front of them and will begin to focus on more and more.
- Touch - For babies, being held and touched is vital and wonderful. They love the comfort of being held and the sense of touch can have a wonderful calming effect. Also, their own sense of touch, they they too can reach out and touch things is a key skill learned in their first six month of life. This learning happens through trial and error (and accidentally!) and can be encouraged by showing them how things rattle or move if they hold our a hand or shake a shaker etc.
- Taste and smell - Little babies have a great sense of smell. They can recognise the taste of their mother's breast milk and her unique smell before they can properly focus on her face.
- Sound - the sound of a mother's voice is the best thing in the world for a baby. It reassures the baby that the mother is near, it can sooth them and settle them. By four months some sounds the baby makes will be already based on the mother's own speaking voice and the rhythm of the language. So chatting to your baby, singing rhymes, reading books and talking in baby's presence is important.
So many mum's to be subscribe to the idea of "eating for two" - 'Yes, another slice of cake is okay and make it a hot chocolate with cream and chocolate sprinkles, if you please!' However, research has shown that mums who eat too much during pregnancy can increase the risk of their babies being born with low IQ, eating disorders and psychosis. Sounds dreadful!
The researchers state that the average IQ of children of obese mothers was five points lower than the babies who had mothers of a healthy weight. The research (carried out at McMaster University, in Ontario Canada) was published in the international journal entitled Obesity Reviews and it looked at the impact of weight gain during pregnancy on child development.
The findings suggested there were country differentials:
Sweden - The children born of overweight mothers in Sweden were more likely to suffer from attention deficit problems
Japan - Japanese children born to overweight mothers increased the baby's chance of developing schizophrenia in adulthood by 24 per cent.
Australia - The chances of teenagers have an eating disorder increased by 11 per cent for those who has overweight mothers during pregnancy.
It might be linked to changes in the hormonal, cardiovascular and immune systems during pregnancy as a result of excess weight.
Obesity in pregnancy can impact on the mother's health too.
It can increase the risk of:-
- high blood pressure
- blood clots
- still-births and foetal death
So, dispense with the old wives tales of eating for two, shape up before planning a family and eat sensibly!
A great way to get children to care for and understand each other is to introduce younger children to the setting. Whether it be siblings or family or friends, seeing how a baby is cared for a loved by his or her mother can be very encouraging to children who don't have the experience of siblings and is a great way to teach love and respect by example.
See if you have a parent willing to visit with a new baby to show the children what they look like, what they do, and discuss the needs the baby has and how much love and care he or she needs.
Allow them to stroke the baby's hand or foot, taking care not to allow them too much access... and encourage them to be kind to the baby. If the baby cries, chat about what could be wrong and how we can stop the crying.
This teaches children to empathise with others and gives those without this experience of babies, a little more confidence around new babies. This kind of empathy at a young age may deter those who are inclined to bully others, because often the bully has no empathy with the child they tease or taunt. This begins to sow the seeds of thinking about others.
Looking at and watching a mother with her child, is also a very calming thing for the children to witness. They have someone to look up to who is not part of their normal surroundings and sees how adults act with children.
If possible, see if the parent and child will come in to visit on a regular basis to see the child's developments and how they grow over a year. Get the children drawing pictures of the baby or making the baby a picture or a rattle to hold when they get to that stage in their development. Handing over a home made gift is a great way to make the children feel very happy about their new little friend.
Recent research has stated that over 60% of parents find it hard to play with their children and struggle to play with them in new and exciting ways. In today's busy life, with work, commitments, dates, appointments, some parents even forgo playing with their children at all in order to do other things!
The research was carried out by Pampers, and it found that over half of the population would like to spend more time playing with their children but that other commitments get in the way.
Play doesn't have to be clever, or expensive or use special equipment or take hours to prepare. It is simple, it is easy and it can be the best thing in the world for both baby and parent.
ToucanLearn is full of ideas and inspiration for play for babies, toddlers and pre-school children up to age five. It is so easy to use, and has some great ways to entertain you and your baby. Take a closer look at ToucanLearn and join for free at www.ToucanLearn.com. Don't be one of those parents who don't know how to play with your baby, seek inspiration from ToucanLearn.
Suffering from morning sickness could indicate that your baby is going to have a high IQ, so research in Canada has discovered. Scientists looked at a sample of 120 mothers who had phoned a special helpline for women who felt particularly ill or nauseous during pregnancy. It was entitled the NVP (Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy) helpline.
Specialists in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto concluded that babies born to women with symptoms of nausea tended to have babies with a higher IQ than those who did not experience nausea.
Tests were carried out on children aged between 3 and 7 that included numeracy and verbal fluency. The findings suggest that those whose mothers had experienced morning sickness during pregnancy did better in the tests!
The achievements of those babies whose mothers had not had nausea were found to achieve lower results.
The research leader, Dr Gideon Koen reiterated it did not suggest mental retardation by any means, it just suggested a slightly higher IQ.
For many women, morning sickness can be dreadfully debilitating and indeed embarrassing. It is supposed to be only a symptom during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy - this is often not the case and it continues throughout the pregnancy. And, it is known as morning sickness, but for so many it is not confined to the mornings at all!
So, for all those women who endure the horrors of morning (or evening or daytime) sickness, these findings are a small consolation!
Swaddling a baby is a good way to help them sleep and you can even get some pre-wrapped swaddling blankets that are easy to fit and remain in place.
- It's a good way to calm an unsettled baby.
- New babies are used to the closeness of being in the womb or being in their mother's arms. They are often unprepared for total freedom and it unnerves them. By swaddling, you recreate this closeness which makes them feel calm and secure.
- For many, swaddling is vital as its stops their limbs from flaying while they are trying to sleep.
- It's a way to calm the Moro Reflex, that startle reflex that all babies are born with. They have an innate fear of falling and so throw their arms out if they are startled. This reflex can be triggered even when parents place babies in their cot for sleeping. Swaddling helps prevent this from happening.
- Studies have shown that swaddling can enhance the development of low weight babies.
- It may reduce the risk of cot death.
- It soothes overstimulated babies.
- It can help with colic.
Do you need any more excuses to give your baby a special cuddle?!
Parenting expert, Peneolope Leach, has said that leaving a baby to cry is potentially damaging - if a baby is left to cry on a regular basis it could be damaging to the developing baby. These claims are made in her book, The Essential First Year, published earlier this year. This is, of course, in total contrast to the work of Gina Ford, who claims that parents should leave a baby crying, so to teach them to settle themselves.
Leach has used saliva swabs to measure the level of the stress hormone cortisol in crying babies who get no comfort from their parents. Leach claims that neurobiologists say these hormones are toxic to the developing brain and therefore maintains that it is fact, and not opinion, that it is damaging.
She admits that all babies cry, and agrees that some cry more than others. However she maintains that in the first year, babies cry to get a response and by parents ignoring this effort to communicate, and elicit a response, they are risking long term consequences. She says babies cry for a reason, their lungs are not just needing exercise! She also states that babies are not capable of fooling their parents or "blackmail" in the first 18 months so a cry is there for a reason.
Leach is an honorary senior researcher fellow at the Tavistock Clinic and the Institute for the Study of Children, Family and Social Issues.
Every baby seem to go through that stage, where they pick up objects, off the floor, and put them straight toward their mouth; why on earth do they do this?! The answer is simple - it's all about exploring objects and textures! There are more nerve endings in a baby's mouth per square millimetre than any other part of their body. If they want to learn about or explore a new object, putting it into their mouth is an effective way to learn about it.
Whether they want to taste it, feel it or smell it, without much exception the item will end up in their mouth. This is perfectly natural and there it no real need to worry if you are sure that you home is relatively clean and that your baby has access only to things that are age appropriate.
How do I stop a baby putting things in their mouth?
The simple answer is keep things out of reach! A baby should only be able to get at things that are designed for an appropriately aged baby and nothing more! If you don't want dribbly keys, don't give the baby your car keys. If you don't want your mobile phone to be sucked, then don't give it to a baby! Certainly don't let them have access to anything small enough to be swallowed.
When will they stop putting things in their mouth? Babies up to the age of two may still put things in their mouth. This is because they want to learn about the world around them. By two they can use their hands much better to for exploring and experimenting, so putting things in their mouth should become less frequent. By the age of 3 it shouldn't be an issue any longer.
Why does it happen?
- Teething - As well as a means to explore, babies also will put things in their mouth when they are teething. When a tooth is about to break through chewing or sucking on something can be helpful.
- Evolution - Putting things in the mouth and gnawing also has an evolutionary explanation. By practicing chewing, babies are using and strengthening their jaws ready for when they can eat. They are building up muscles and practicing the eating motion.
- Speaking - Chewing on things is also a way for babies to prepare for speaking. The chewing manipulates their tongues and gets their mouths and jaws into practice for when they start using their mouths and tongues for making noises and eventually talking.
- Sensory organ - The mouth is a sensory organ so it's the most effective place for babies to put something new that needs exploring. Until 8 months, it's the primary sensory organ for babies.
Just don't worry too much about it. It's something all babies do in varying quantities.
Surely, once children begin to read or learn their numbers they should be doing that in their spare time, rather than playing? This couldn't be further from the truth! In fact, children that play tend to become better and more attentive learners on average, and what you must remember is that when chidren are playing, the are learning the whole time too! This is what ToucanLearn is all about... sharing ideas of games, activities and crafts that are GREAT FUN, but we show you the learning elements too so you can see exactly what your little ones are actually learning about. As they are doing the activities with you, they are learning even more (Two CAN Learn much better than one)!
Do you need special equipment at each age stage in order to encourage your child to play?
NO! Play can involve anything (more or less!). From wooden spoons and saucepans, to folded socks and a washing basket! It can mean jumping in puddles to learn counting or throwing gloves to see how far you can get them or posting junk mail into a shoe box made into a letter box. All sorts of things can be used as long as you are there to help the game along!
What do children learn through play?
They learn about the properties of objects and how they work. That if you throw something hard, it will go far. They learn about their own limitations: they may be great on the scooter but not so confident on a bike. They learn about their environment (stairs and steps) and other places (on a walk to the park). They learn how to play with other children and how to interact with adults.
Will playing make them better at school?
Many studies have concluded that children that play with their parents are more curious and interested in learning. Playing is a great way to get them active and interested. It may also help their social skills and helps develop healthy relationships with other children.
Plus, possibly most importantly, by playing with your children, you are developing and securing your won relationship with them - which is absolutley vital.
So, just get out there and do some ToucanLearn activities, fool around, have a laugh and enjoy these special years when playing can be so much fun for your both!
Babies should never be given a pillow before 12 months, and best advice is to wait until 2 years - even after that, if they sleep happily without one, then there's no reason why they shouldn't continue without one for longer. You might want to place a pillow case under their head if they are prone to dribbling so that you can keep the top of their sheet clean. Pillows present a danger to babies under 12 months with risk of suffocation.
If you do want to introduce a pillow for your toddler then there are a few considerations. Although you don't have to buy a pillow sold specifically for toddlers, you should ensure that any pillow they use is firm but not thick because deep pillows can lead to bad posture. If your baby suffers allergies, then an artificial fibre presents the safest option. You may also want to check that the whole pillow is washable so that you can clean it should the need arise.
Expectant mothers in the late stages of pregnancy may want to pamper themselves with a pregnancy pillow. These come in various shapes (sausages, crescents and other patented shapes) and are designed to provide support for your back. One of the more popular brands of nursing pillow is the Widgey! Most pregnancy pillows double up as nursing pillows, helping you to cradle your newborn baby whilst breastfeeding, or helping Dad to support the baby while bottle feeding too.
It stands to reason that art and craft assists to develop fine muscle control in your babies, and that kicking, running and chasing games improve their physical strength and control, but how do you kick start your baby's ability to think and solve problems? Funnily enough, abstract thinking and analytical skills are the focus of many Fisher Price toys created for babies and toddlers. You may not have thought about it, but toys such as shape sorters, simple jigsaws starting with just two pieces per puzzle, old fashioned building blocks and musical instruments all help to develop analytical and thinking skills in babies and toddlers.
Walk into a toyshop and so many of the toys available today were available in a similar form in our own childhood - many were available in similar form during our parents and grandparents childhoods too! Science has long told us that interacting with such toys helps us explore the world and develop our thinking, perhaps what is more surprising is that there are so few innovations in childrens toys over the last two generations. That comes down to the fact that human development hasn't evolved in that time, and for a long time we have had a pretty good understanding of it.
When nurturing your children, or children that you work with, introduce a good balance of 'thinking' games and activities. This is only one area of child development, but it can be easy to overlook the importance of this area if you particularly enjoy more physical activities. That is one reason that the Early Years Foundation Stage is so important - by following the guidelines and ticking off boxes for areas that you have pursued, you will automatically be delivering a well balanced development plan to your little ones. If you aren't the most creative person and struggle for ideas in areas of EYFS, or you simply want ideas that you can adopt and develop, then sign up to ToucanLearn now! We offer hundreds of activities concentrating on key development skills, and for premium members we link them all to EYFS too so that you can track progress with your little ones. If you are toying with the idea of subscribing to ToucanLearn, then there are several hundred good reasons for doing so!
A baby's cry can go on and on - it can be loud and so relentless and sometimes no matter what you do it seems it will never stop. However, we must remember that a baby's cry is a useful tool as a means to communicate. During the first few weeks a baby is completely helpless and has only one way to let you know he or she is not happy... and that is to cry!
Babies cry on average about 1 - 2 hours a day and we must realise that it is completely normal! If your baby is crying much more than this then perhaps you should seek expert advice, but for the most part it is okay! What makes it hard is when a crying baby cannot be comforted. No amount of cuddles, food, songs, rocking or pushing round in a buggy will make the crying stop. This is when it get stressful and difficult to cope with.
In order to stop the crying, we need to ascertain why it started int he first place... so here are a few reasons why babies cry.
Baby is hungry. Yesterday they were happy with small feeds, today they want more! So, in the first instance offer more milk. Their feeding needs fluctuate and growth spurts can catch you off guard. During a sudden growth spurt, feeding will often be more frequent.
Baby needs a cuddle. Perhaps baby is unsettled and hasn't had a cuddle for a while. Give a lovely warm cuddle and hold him for a while.
Wind. Perhaps he has some trapped wind which is making him uncomfortable. Try and burp him.
Dirty nappy. Perhaps she needs a change. Some babies don't even notice a dirty nappy. Others do. Sometimes just the activity of changing a nappy can distract a baby and stop the crying.
Temperature. He may be too hot or too cold. If he is warm and rosy, he may be overheating, so remove a layer. If he is pale and has cold feet, then put another layer on and make his warmer. The ideal temperature for a baby is around 20 degrees Centigrade.
Too much going on. A loud noise, a bright light, a police car siren, these unusual disturbances can unsettle a baby.
Bored. Even babies need a bit of stimulation. A teddy, a mobile, a ball in the cot or some nice music may soothe and entertain a new baby.
Unsettled. Perhaps your baby is facing a new situation that they are not used to? The first sessions with a new childminder and away from Mummy, or any other environment that is new could cause uncertainty and distress. Ease your baby gently into new situations.
If the crying seems unusually pitched or doesn't stop, then do seek medical advice - you recognise your own baby's cry better than anyone else and are best positioned to notice any abnormality.
When a new baby arrives so much of the focus is on Mum, but what about things Dad can do with baby! The relationship with Daddy is very important too! Here are a few ideas to get Dad involved and feel an important part of the family.
- Monkeying around - play peek-a-boo, blow raspberries, pull funny faces, make a teddy talk. Remember all your boy-ish larking around but this time take baby with you!
- Get informed - do a bit of research into babies, and have a good idea of what is required and what is going on. It will be a great help to Mum and will make you feel an important part of those early days.
- Hunt for your favourite book - try to recall what you liked as a child. If you still have any old books in the attic then pull them out, dust them down and start reading them to your little one. If you can't find a particular title, pop to the library and see if it's there. Or, choose a new book you like the look of and make it a special book you read to your child together.
- Go for a walk - grab a sling and go for a walk together on your own. Mum will be happy for a bit of rest. Touch leaves, rest on a sunny park bench, sit on the grass and spend easy time together.
- Stand Up for Yourself! - don't let a mother or mother-in-law undermine you or your role as a Dad. Stand up for yourself!
- Feeding friend - if mummy is breast feeding you can't really help to feed baby, but how about bringing a nice glass of juice or a snack to keep her going. It will be appreciated!
- Snap! - take lots of photos. Time goes so quickly, snap whenever you can of everything to do with your baby - even feeding, or sleeping! You'll love seeing them again in years to come when bottles and cots have gone!
- Go shopping - buy a toy from you and give it to your baby as a gift. Let no one influence you - just choose your own toy and present it to your baby! Buy a new set of clothes too - why not!? Again,choose what you would like and not what you think might be right or acceptable!
- Don't Give Up - if you are not too good at nappies and baby seems to cry every time you hold her, don't give up! Keep at it and you'll get to know each other better and you will get to know what baby likes!
Enjoy your new baby!
Research has found that babies put into incubators when first born are less likely to develop depression as adults - something known as the incubator effect!
The findings suggest that babies put into an incubator when they are born are three times less likely to develop anxiety or depression in later life. The results surprised the researchers, who expected to find that infants taken away from their mother so early, and placed in the incubator for long periods of time, would be more inclined to feel anxious and experience mental health problems when adults. Separation at birth has always been considered a major contributing factor to behavioural problems in adolescence and adulthood.
The long term study took a sample of 1,200 children, in Quebec, from 1986 through to 2006. Full results were published in the medical journal, Psychiatric Research. It may be due to the incubator having an impact on brain cell development or perhaps that poorly babies were given more close attention and care.
We are all so conscious of dangers when we take children out: cars on the road, tripping on pavements, falling from a swing. However there are 400 children admitted to hospital every WEEK with injuries following accidents in the home. This is a staggering number - especially when this is just those under the age of five!
What we have to remember is that children and toddlers and babies are constantly growing and experimenting and exploring. The way they learn is to watch and copy us. So, we need only take a look through their eyes to see what they might see and then we'll realise how accidents - that are totally avoidable - can happen. And, we'll see how easy it is to prevent those accidents taking place.
Tablets and pills - many toddlers can take off the child-resistant caps on bottles of pills. The child-resistant caps make it more difficult to open, but are not impenetrable for a child. A simple adult painkiller could poison a child. They see you take a few, and it helps your headache. If they get hold of them, they take a few and it could be disastrous. Toddlers may think they are sweets, that they taste nice, that Daddy has them so why shouldn't I, that they make them grow strong. So, keep bottles of pills well out of reach.
Lighters and matches - children can ignite lighters by accident and can cause a match to inflame by just playing with them They don't realise the danger they could cause. There are 6,000 house fires every year caused by children under ten! When they look at a match or lighter, children see the flash of light, the spark, it's like magic. Keep the matches and lighters out of reach.
Stairs - About 800 under fives are taken to hospital each WEEK having fallen down stairs. They develop the climbing skills need to get up stairs very quickly... almost without you noticing they could suddenly be able to get up a few steps. It can be dreadfully dangerous if they fall down. Kids think its fun to go up, it's a challenge and everyone else does it so why shouldn't I? Well, if they do they might fall and hurt themselves, get a stair gate and remember to use it!
Knives and utensils in the kitchen - It's so easy to forget that little ones can one day reach kitchen surfaces. Make sure all knives, and heavy utensils are well back just in case they reach up and something comes crashing down.
Hot Drinks - tea and coffee can scald and burn a baby's skin. Don't put hot drinks on low tables or on unstable surfaces. Tea and coffee is made with boiling water and stays hot for a long time. If they they go to try your tea without you seeing, and pour it over themselves by accident - it could scar your child for life!
It's not all gloom and doom! But being very aware of potential dangers is vital in order for you and your child to have a relaxed home! If you make just a few changes to the way you do things and if you just keep one step ahead if you can... you'll be okay!
A few final tips:
- Fit a smoke alarm and TEST it frequently.
- Keep all medicines, cleaning fluids in a locked cupboard out of a child's reach.
- Fit stair gates and safety guards round fires.
- Keep hot drinks on tables that are out of reach. Don't drink hot tea with your baby in your arms.
- Keep saucepan handles, electric flexes etc well out of reach.
:: Next >>