Encouraging your baby to be a social baby is important - even after just 4 weeks of life babies are learning their first skills in communication. They are hearing conversations, watching people move about, listening to noises and music, feeling vibrations as you talk.
Babies watch adults eyes and faces for cues and can hear different tones of voice when they speak. If you babble with a baby, they will often pause for a reply even though they are not speaking actual words or having a conversation, they have picked up the idea of pauses in conversation and that we take turns to speak.
Smiling is a vital form of communication. If you smile at a baby more often than not they will smile back. If you frown at a baby they are likely to frown back or cry. So, before they even utter their first word they are learning the vital skills of communication through observing and listening to the parents or siblings behaviour.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
As babies get older, tactile and textured toys are a great form of entertainment. Once they can hold and touch things they can learn cause and effect. If they shake a rattle it makes a noise etc. They also get to learn about textures of things and beginning to understand that items feel different. Similarly we can feel different: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened etc.
When they get older and can use words, they can then begin to notice and describe how items feel. A wooden spoon is hard, a cotton wool ball is soft etc. Once they have mastered this, they are more able to explain how they feel inside. They might feel scared or joyful etc and with this confidence they can go on to share that information and communicate how they feel.
It is very important to try and give children the chance to develop their emotional well-being and to have the confidence to share their feelings with others. So, get all sorts of toys and items that feel and look different. Talk about the texture: are they rough, smooth, fluffy, shiny. Then talk about how we all look different and can feel different when we are afraid, excited, happy, sad, worried etc.
A few kind words can mean everything to a child; a few misplaced criticisms can wound them - so, how do we nurture happy children? Here are a few tips.
Assure: at every opportunity tell your child about what they do well. If they sing nicely or walk well to nursery or show kindness to another, make a point of telling them.
Give them the stage: let them show you things whether it be a new song sung at school or a dance they learned at ballet. Allow them to have a little attention now and then.
Encourage: if they are struggling with something, be kind and calm and encourage them to keep trying and to achieve. Don't pester or push too hard, but give them confidence enough in themselves to try hard and achieve whether it be riding a scooter or throwing a ball.
Give them independence: if they want to help sweep the floor or get dress on their own, don't pester them, let them try it out for themselves, even if you know you are going to have to go round behind them and sort it out afterwards. Having a belief that you can do something yourself is very important.
Mistakes: are not always intentional so try not to get angry if they do something wrong. Give them the confidence to try again!
Praise them!: make them feel good about themselves by telling them how much you enjoy their singing, or love their scribbles. Display work even though you might think it a little less than perfect. Make sure you display it low down so they can see too!
Think back to your childhood and remember how life was when you were growing up at home with your parents - whether your childhood was a happy one or not, casting your mind back will bring a floods of memories. Remember that every day you spend with your children, every outing you go on, every incident that takes place, all helps to shape the memories that they will reflect on in the future! Think about this for a moment and try to keep this thought in mind.
You are in an amazing position to shape the lives of your children; you should aim to be a positive role model and always strive to ensure their experiences and therefore memories are happy ones. There's no accounting for what incidents your children will remember in the years to come.
Think back to your earliest childhood memories and no doubt you can remember some very unremarkable incidents that bore little importance at the time. Your children, similarly, will be affected by some of the more mundane incidents in their lives that turn them into events that just recur in their minds, on occasions, throughout their lives. Each day, reflect on the fact that whatever happens today, your children might harbour the memory forever, so try to make each day exciting - do fun things, make things, go places. You needn't lavish money on your children, just a walk in a new park or making some craft might give your children a thought that they can hang on to!
It's not always easy to make friends, especially if you are a toddler! Some children find it very easy to make attachments and their affections seem to be reciprocated. However, for many who are ready to make friends, it seems that it's not as easy.
It could be because they are just not mentally ready to develop friendships. Toddlers are concerned primarily with themselves, and so the idea of a friend that you share with and be nice to is a bit difficult for some to understand. Even if your child is ready, the other child may not be!
Here are some tips on how you can help:
- Give them plenty of opportunity to make friends: see lots of people and do lots of different activities
- Give them lots of praise when they do something kind to another person
- Don't force them or try to make them form friendships with people they don't like!
- Try not to interfere when they are interacting or playing!
- Be bold, approach people at play group and get to know them yourself
- Lead by example, chat to people and make friends yourself
- Talk about being kind, sharing and being a good friend while you are at home
- Support any efforts to make friends even if they fail
A happy child plays, exhibits curiosity, shows an interest in things and other children; an unhappy child tends to need constant attention, they are withdrawn, quiet, and don't eat much. They tend not to get involved with other children and don't ask questions or speak very much. However, if you have a shy child who doesn't interact a great deal, that does not mean they are unhappy. Being shy is not being sad.
P. Hollinger notes there are nine inborn signals that babies use to communicate feelings. The following signals can also be spotted in toddlers and are good pointers to how happy the toddler is.
- Interest - a positive feeling
- Enjoyment - a positive feeling
- Distress - a negative feeling
- Anger - a negative feeling
- Fear - a negative feeling
Dealing with Children and making them happy
Play - Toys, expensive clothes, lashings of ice cream: do these make children happy? Perhaps in the short term, for an hour or two, but what really makes them happy is having fun with parents, grandparents or their childminders. When they have fun and play games and laugh with you, that play creates joy. It also helps with their imagination, creativity and relaxation.
Talents - Help children develop their own talents. If they are good at something, they will feel happy about that. If they like modeling, keep some cartons and lids and let them create a robot out of boxes. If they like drawing, then let them make a picture and hang it on the wall. Help them master a skill and see how happy they will be.
Let them do what they want - Within reason, this is an important lesson for parents to understand. No matter how much you want them to learn piano, if they don't want to then they won't enjoy it. Try not to push them to do things they aren't interested in. Listen to their own ideas. If they are talking about going to football, rather than ballet, then give it a try. And, try not to stick to gender prejudices. Girls can play football, boys can do ballet!
Healthy bodies - To enable the children to play and run and enjoy life to the full, give them a healthy diet. With good food, and lots of sleep they will have the ability to really tackle tasks and situations with energy. Give them lots of time to run around.
Sad time - Being a bit sad is okay so don't try and shake them out of a mood if they are feeling a bit down. They need to be independent people and able to gauge their own moods. You can encourage them to explain how they feel and try and explain or get out of the mood together.
Be a Good Role Model - Children pick up on moods and are sensitive to other's feelings so try to be positive in your own mood and outlook. They will pick up on this and it will influence their own behaviour.
Children can use drawing as a way of expressing feelings or emotions that they don't understand - drawing can reflect how they are feeling, or fears they might have However, don't worry that your child only draws in black or never puts hands on the people she draws because it doesn't necessarily mean they are unbalanced or unhappy. However, it is interesting to see how different children interpret things in different ways: both the instructions and the application of drawing can be very different between children of the same age who have been given the same instructions.
Here are a few pointers which may, or may not, reflect different traits in our children.
- If a picture is in the middle of the page, the child is happy, content or it could mean they are egotistical.
- If the picture is in the top half, they are ambitious.
- If the picture is in the bottom half, they child may be insecure.
- If the picture is towards the top left, they are musical or artistic.
- If its in the top right, they are eager.
- If features are missed out in a person, this may indicate mistrust.
- Children tend to draw what they love most: sibling, toys, fantasy world ie. fairies etc.
- Using a ruler frequently in a picture could mean anxiety.
- Lots of dark colours or black could mean sadness, anger or anxiety.
- If they coulour in with bright colours, they are warm and happy children.
- Pictures drawn very small could mean they are shy.
- If the hands are too big, this could indicate aggression.
- If there are no hands or small hands, this could mean they have an inferiority feeling.
However, don't worry too much and get too stuck on interpretation! If your child draws lots of circles it could be that's what they like to draw. If they draw people with their hands up that's not helplessness, it could be a cheer. If they keep drawing bees, it's not a hidden anxiety about insects, it could be just that they are fun, nice things to draw. If they draw lots of flowers, it doesn't mean they are optimistic, it could just be something their Mummy has shown them!
So, looking at and trying to interpret children's drawings is just an interesting exercise to see how your child draws differently to others... so don't read too much into it. And, after all, incoherent pictures don't mean confused or bewildered children, it could be that your child is just not good or practiced at drawing!
Could it be that some children born happy while others not? Some children certainly seem happier than others even if they come from the same family, so can it be that some children are going to be happy from day one and others will always be moodier or more inclined to be unhappy?
If they fall over, some children laugh and others burst into floods of tears. When they wake up, some laugh at the sunny morning and jump out of bed. Others turn over in a moody shrug. If they don't get their own way some get stroppy and remain miserable for hours. Others just move on to the next activity and forget about it. Why is this?
Some scientists would say that yes, some children do have a tendency to be happier than other children. However, it cannot be proved beyond doubt. Wherever your child is on the happy/sad spectrum, the important thing is to be aware of how they might respond in certain situations and react accordingly.
Child psychologist Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, maintains that happiness is a state of mind, a mood, rather than an inborn trait. However, certain aspects of a baby's temperament (shy or bold for example) will play a role in determining how happy they are. And, it is this emotional information that is embedded in the brain.
This doesn't mean to say that if your little one is scared of going to pre-school, or nervous of new people that they will be unhappy later in life. Not at all. In fact nature and nurture play an equally important role in the first years of a child's life. Just because a baby's temperament (confident or reserved) may be determined by nature, it doesn't mean it's permanent. Nurture plays a very important role too and those early traits can be modified and honed down with careful parenting. The end result is personality... a blend of the two.
Personality is controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain. We feel good things in the left frontal cortex and bad things in the right, according to scientists. It is said that people with happier dispositions have more activity in their left frontal lobe.
So, spot any signs of unhappy tendencies and deal with them. Support a nervous child; try to tame a bold child; nurture a nervous child and try to guide them to be rounded, happy and creative individuals.
Dealing with a 'moody' child can be very exhausting, especially if you are sensitive to the psychological repercussions that might develop and you are worried about where the moodiness will lead. Be assured that it's very rare to have clinically depressed children under preschool age, unless there is a serious issue. What you are probably dealing with is a child who slips into a bad mood and has trouble getting out of it. It's perfectly normal. How you deal with the mood, however, is important.
Here are a few pointers.
- Time: Take some time out to spend with your child. Children who are a bit bit moody, are easily labeled as moody and left to fend for themselves, when in fact a bit of attention (one to one attentio)- would do them them a great amount of good. Ideally, spend half an hour of 100% quality time together alone with no interruptions from other people.
- Happy thoughts: Focus on the happy experiences during the day and the fun things you've done. Build positive memories which will help them to soothe themselves if anxious. Have a chat before bed and go over all the good things that happened: nice food, play in the park, happy visit to a friend's house etc.
- Childcare: Avoid lots of childcare if you can, or leaving your children with lots of different carers. Try to look after the child yourself if you can.
- Clubs and activities: Keep out of school activities to a sensible level so as to avoid tiredness and over stimulation. Yes, subscribe to some fun activities, but keep it to an acceptable level.
- Angry: Keep your own temper, no matter how annoying a situation might be. Stressed parents can effect and upset children. This includes fighting between parents but also getting angry in other situations (while driving for example).
- Food: Try and keep sweet cereals and lots of sugary spreads and jams to a minimum at breakfast and throughout the day. Opt for protein rich foods and eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
So, keep it in perspective, keep your cool and keep positive. Good luck!
It's so easy to say "I'm fine" when someone asks how you are and the same applies to children, but such a response often masks true feelings. Are young children really fine or are they actually a bit under the weather or even unhappy? What are their likes and dislikes? For little children it's hard to know if they are really happy or not - they may not know how to express themselves even if you ask them. However there are ways of exposing whether children are happy and one very good way is through drawing.
Children find drawing a good way of expressing themselves and for many children it's an easier way of communicating especially if they don't have the words to tell you exactly how they feel. You can also use a child's drawing as a way to start a conversation about feelings and whether they are happy or not. Here is a simple way to investigate how a little one may be feeling.
- Clear a table and give your child some paper, a pencil and some crayons
- Ask them to draw a picture about how they feel today; give them some pointers if they need, but try not to tell them what to draw
- Chat about the drawing and ask questions about it
- If they are still in the mood for doing a bit more, ask them to draw their happiest day ever; again, try to get them to use their own ideas
Compare the two drawings and look especially at:
- The size of the people and their expressions
- The size of the things they have drawn ie tiny house or large bold house?
- What colours have they used?
- What are the people doing?
- What's the weather?
There is no hard and fast explanation, but research tends to suggest that the figures will be boldly drawn and have happy faces if the child is feeling happy. Things or people that the child likes will be larger than those things they do not like. Activities the child likes will be larger and more detailed than those they don't like. They may choose their favourite colour for things and people they like and a less favourite colour for things or people they don't like. People drawn closely together tend to be the child's favourite people and less favoured people will be drawn further away.
Compare the pictures on different days and see if there are any dramatic differences. Keep the pictures and over time build up a real picture of your child's thoughts...
Making a child feel comfortable and 'at home' when they are actually away from home at a childminder's or nursery can be hard because every child is different and has different associations and needs. Some children settle very quickly in a new environment. Others take a long time to get comfortable and need a little more easing into a new place
What can do to settle children and make them feel at home at a nursery or childminder's?
- Label their belongings with their name and even a picture. Label their coat peg, their drawers for art and craft, and even their chair if there is one. Give them a sense that they belong in their new setting.
- Have photographic displays: pictures of them with their family and friends, or photos of days out and about.
- Have a special beaker or plate which is only theirs.
- Give them special jobs: cups are cleared away after each meal by one child, and the table is wiped by another child.
- Homecorners are an important part of making a child feel they belong. There are lots of things there that they can associate with home(play kitchen, play sofa or bed etc) and they can do lots of home role play.
- Routine can help settle a child too: if they know that certain things happen at certain times, they can take comfort from that. They can predict that a play outside comes after a snack or a story comes before a nap and can feel happy about that familiarity.
- Special friends: bringing in a special teddy or doll is a great way to comfort those who are a little nervous.
Children become attached to all sorts of things: blankets, muslin squares, cushions, dolls or bears etc. Years ago children were not encouraged to have a 'comforter' but today its considered acceptable.
Should children have a 'comforter'?
- Comforters offer a link with home.
- Children associate them with happy times and feeling relaxed and secure so can make them feel better if they are nervous.
- They can help with getting children off to sleep as they associate the comforter with being happy, and sleepy at home.
- They can be a 'constant' if children are being moved around settings or if their routine is changing.
- They learn to self sooth and often sleep better because of this.