Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman has caused controversy by saying that under-three's should have almost no exposure to television. While it would be difficult to argue the opposite, many may be surprised that Dr. Sigman recommends virtual banishment for the very young. Furthermore, he recommends limiting up-to-seven year olds to a maximum of an hour and a half of TV or computer exposure per day, and a maximum of two hours up to the age of 18.
Dr. Sigman's recommendations are based on a number of research observations. One concern is that sitting in front of screens leads to a sedentary lifestyle and is largely responsible for the explosion in diabetes and heart disease in the population. Another concern is that the acts of watching television and playing computer games have an affect on brain development. While brain scans of computer gamers showed different brain patterns, his research does not conclusively prove that gaming alters the brain, or whether people with gaming patterns are predisposed to playing games. His research does suggest that gamers are more prone to addiction and develop a dependency on screen technology.
We probably aren't that surprised to hear all of this; we all remember our own grandparents talking about the perils of television and the harm it would do in modern society, but back then it was pure conjecture and fear of the unknown. That their fears are being realised at a time when screens are appearing in every room of the house and even in our pockets gives us more to think about. We really have entered the information age, and we don't know where this is going!
Picking a name for your new baby is not easy; do you canvass grandparents and friends with your ideas? Do you keep it simple, short and easy for the baby to say when they are older or do you go for something elaborate? Do you go for conventional or really way-out names? It seems that a surprisingly large number of parents - over half! - actually regret the name they originally giver their baby.
Some say it doesn’t reflect the baby’s true personality or that they felt pressured to give a name so didn’t take enough time. Some say that they didn’t like the name in the first place and just over 25% say the name became too popular so went off it when they heard lots of other babies being called the same thing.
Research has been done by Northwestern University in Illinois to look into the impact that names have on babies and children. That there is an impact, he says, is testament to the number of baby name books that are on the market... parents clearly feel its a big and serious job. to name their child appropriately.
In 2011 approximately 58,000 people changed their own name according to the UK Deed Poll Service. This is some 4,000 more than the previous year. However, ten years ago this number was nearer 5,000 people changing their name each year!
Shape sorters feature in every nursery and offer a great way for babies to begin to understand the world around them and how they interact with it. Research over the last few years, however, suggests that babies learn shapes regardless of whether they have access to these sorts of manufactured toys. Studies of babies born in developing countries, without access to the toys we enjoy in the Western world, confirm that they are just as able to differentiate between different shapes regardless.
This prompts thinking that babies have a disposition to recognise lines that don't change as an object or shape moves in space before they recognise more complex shapes that do. For example, they can see that straight lines remain straight while an object moves, even though the angles between lines change, making them harder to recognise.
This research helps us begin to form an understanding of how babies really begin to understand the world around them which in turn will allow us to develop aids that may help and accelerate children in their learning.
Of course, shape sorters aren't just about learning particular shapes - they also help develop fine motor skills as babies practice picking up objects, rotating them in their hands and guiding them through holes on another object. The ability to post objects through holes offers the first steps towards being able to pick up and control objects in the wider world.
Early skills form an essential part of the Early Years Foundation Stage - make sure that your babies are interacting with objects in a nursery setting and you are already following several Areas of Learning!
As grown-ups, it's easy to take for granted how easy counting is, but for a young toddler, learning to count is more than just learning a sequence of words as they might a nursery rhyme. Counting involves being able to make a connection between numbers as words and a quantity of items.
This is called 'Cardinal Principle' and an elementary rule states that when you count a number of objects, the number of items in total is the last word spoken as you count them. For example, if there are five apples on a table: 'One' - 'Two' - 'Three' - 'Four' - 'Five'. 'Five' was the last number encountered, therefore there are five apples. This principle seems perfectly obvious to the developed mind, but this is one of the fundamental connections to make when learning to count for the first time.
Toddlers don't need to count items if there are three or fewer - they can look at them and establish how many there are. No counting is required.
New research undertaken at the University of Chicago has discovered that children who are exposed more to the numbers between 3 and 10 as words make the connection between numbers and counting, and understand quantities sooner than children who hear those numbers less in everyday language.
Whilst this might seem an obvious conclusion, it reiterates the importance simply of counting objects over and over with children from an early age, and also of talking about quantities in everyday language.
Exposure to numerical language also helps improve mathematical capabilities later on in life which is much less obvious. So by undertaking counting exercises regularly, not only are you teaching your children to count, but you are also improving their chances of doing well at maths later, which in turn might have a direct influence on their career path way ahead in the future!
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have discovered that drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth by three times. There have always been conflicting messages about how much or even whether women should or should not drink when they are expecting a baby, and this new research attempted to clarify the conflicting messages.
A staggering 60,000 women were questioned, all of which who were between 10 and 12 weeks pregnant. The results they gave were then tallied up and studied once they had had their babies. Those who drank more than 20 units a week were considered to be heavy drink drinkers, and it seems, they were more likely to have premature babies.
A fifth of the women said that they never drank and 71% claimed to be occasional drinkers (that's 0-5 units a week). However, some women could have been misreported or under-estimating their drinking habits. >10% of the pregnant women drank a moderate amount of alcohol (which is 6-20 units a week). These women were more likely to smoke, be in work and to have private health care compared to those who never drank.
Approximately 2 in 1000 admitted to being heavy drinkers (which means they drank more than 20 units per week). The babies born to these women we more prone to very premature birth and all the problems premature babies have.
The best advice is to avoid alcohol all together just to be sure!
What were the games you liked best at school: skipping, Cat's Cradle, British Bulldog, hand-clapping rhymes, marbles? People would have us believe that all these games have completely been wiped out by the advent of the DS, television, DVDs etc. However recent research has found, not surprisingly, that playground games are as popular and as fun as ever they were!
The Universities of London, Sheffield and East London carried out research on traditional games children play and it found that many of the traditional games we enjoyed are still played today, with some modern references thrown in.
Two years was spent studying the children at play in schools. There were lots of imitation games such as their own version of Britian's Got Talent and chat shows, and lots of mimicking their childhood heroes such as Simon Cowell and pop stars.
The finding suggest that children are in fact better informed by their access to the digital media of today. They are not, as many would have us believe, walking around zombiefied once starved of their Wii or DS. Instead, they use the information they have and build ideas and develop themes in an accomplished way.
The results of the study entitled 'Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age' will be presented at the British Library next week by former children's laureate Michael Rosen.
There is always so much research and comment on the benefits of breast feeding: should it be one month, should it be a year, should it be more or less? The latest research published this week suggests that those babies who are fed exclusively on breast milk for the first six months of their life are less likely to have infections. It has been said that the number of infections the baby suffers and indeed the severity of those infections will be less.
How did researchers come to this conclusion?
1,000 babies were tested. Of those babies, those fed on breast milk only for the first six months had significantly less common infections than the other babies. The other babies were either fed only on formula or were fed on a mix of both formula and breast milk.
The breast fed babies had fewer instances of respiratory infection, ear infections and thrush. Other factors which could influence the infection rates were taken into account. However, there are a few flaws in the findings.
- Mothers had to recall illnesses rather than consult actual medical records so they may have made errors.
- Less than 100 of the babies were exclusively breast fed which is a small sample.
- Different mothers may consider the severity of any illness differently which may distort findings. What one mother said is severe, another may consider is only slight.
The research was carried out by the University of Crete and published in the Archives of Deseases in Childhood. The Government recommends new babies are breastfed for the first six months.
Sending your child to a childminder or nursery may actually help them in later life, according to a recent study. Many working parents hesitate before sending their children to a carer, wondering how the separation will effect the child in later life. However, according to one academic it does them good to be away from home for a few hours! So, parents working long hours need not worry. Mothers returning to work, need not feel guilty!
The Professor in charge of the study claims that those children who were in a cared for environment aged 2 and under, do actually go on to form better relationships later on when at school. She said that nursery does the vast majority no harm at all. Previous studies had concluded that children who were not at home most of the time when under 2 turned out to be more agressive when attending school, were more difficult to disipline and more inclined to be naughty and lead others astray. But this new research disputes that, stating that this doesn't appear be the case.
The study followed 3,000 children over a 14 year period from 1996. Parents have welcomed the findings, many of whom had believed earlier studies which suggested that there was a link between attendance at a nursery and aggression in later life, plus impaired social skills.
Of course, there are various ways of ensuring your child is in the best possible setting. Speak to other parents - get their opinion and recommendations. Check thoroughly the standards of care whether it be a nursery or childminder. Drop in, unannounced, and see what is going on!
According to The Lancet, more than half of the babies born in the UK and other wealthy nations will live until they are over 100 years old, so researchers have claimed. They also state that as adults, their lives will not be riddled with serious diseases and ailments, but that their lives will be of a good quality. The data has been gathered from over 30 different countries and has shown that since 1950 the chance of living past 80 years old has increased for both sexes. We are twice as likely to survive beyond 80 than people in the 1950s.
The key to this dramatic increase in life expectancy is due to our lifestyle and our healthy way of living, helped by medical advances and better nutrition. Improved living conditions are also a contributing factor.
Child mortality figures also contribute to the trend of longevity. In the early part of the 20th century child mortality rates were worryingly high and this is only a few decades ago. Couple this with old people living longer and you can see why the average person's life span will tend to be longer!
The researchers based in Denmark at the Danish Aging Research Centre studied life expectancy throughout the high-income world. They see no reason why life expectancy won't just keep improving as the years go by!
It does, however, pose problems in that with aging population (however active and seemingly fit) will put extra strain on social and medical services.
Some doctors are sceptical, because if you look at the top ten causes of death, obesity is 2nd or 3rd on the list. This is a self-induced form of early death and something that allegedly between half and one third of us suffer from... so things could get much worse. So, we may end up going backwards with life expectancy rather than forwards once obesity factors are accounted for.
That we are living longer is a nice idea, but we shouldn't take it for granted - we need to take responsibility and make sure we don't end up sliding backwards! Introduce your babies to a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle, and there's a good chance that they will live to celebrate their 100th birthday!
'You are what you eat', and so too are your children, and their children - new research shows that consumption of junk food during pregnancy leads to higher risk of breast cancer in offspring. Whilst many causal links have been established between diet and cancer, more disturbing facts are emerging from the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Research led by Dr. Sonia de Assis has shown that increased intake of fatty foods during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of breast cancer in daughters, but even more worryingly, in granddaughters too. In a nutshell, if women eat high levels of junk food whilst pregnant, their daughters and granddaughters are much more likely to contract breast cancer during their lives than for the rest of the population. Women delivering boys rather than girls are not immune - girls born to their sons also carry this higher risk of cancer. It appears that consumption of fatty foods during pregnancy passes genetic changes to offspring that can pass down generations leading to higher disposition to breast cancer.
Cancer seems to be the scourge of modern day health. According to Cancer Research UK, between 1977 and 2006, cancer rates in men increased 25% and in women, 32%. These vast rises are almost certainly related to our lifestyle and changes to the wider environment in which we live. Thankfully, death rates from cancer have decreased in recent times which shows our ability to better treat cancer - two thirds of women suffering breast cancer now outlive the cancer by 20 years.
We must do all we can to combat the rising incidence of cancers and must adapt our lifestyles as our understanding of the causes of cancers improves. Eating sensibly during pregnancy makes sense, and is little to ask for - you could directly be improving the health of generations to come!
There is so much TV aimed at children that it's easy to think its okay for little babies and toddlers to watch it all the time. Much of it is billed as 'educational' so why shouldn't they tune in and watch it as much as they like.
A lot of research has been done on this topic. It shows that for babies under two, what they see when they watch television is a mass of colours moving about the place. They do not understand what's actually going on.
Research also shows that cartoons are often full of realistic violence and aggression even when they are animated and that this can make a child more aggressive themselves, making them familiar and unaffected by the idea of violence.
Watching TV can be addictive, the more they watch the more they want to see. It becomes the easy option to pull up a chair rather than do something more creative or interesting.
Time spent watching TV is not spent being active and doing healthy activities so it's not good for mental or physical well being.
Children that watch lots of TV may become antisocial, may have trouble adjusting to new environments and be less enthusiastic or imaginative when it comes to school.
However it's not all bad. There are some benefits that television can bring, if watched in moderation.
- It can teach basic skills, numbers, letters, sounds and good behaviour.
- They can see things that are not immediately around them, extending their experience: wild animals, foreign lands, history.
- TV can support other learning and reinforce what they learn at nursery or preschool.
- It does provide a little down time from physcial activity if they are tired, or after a long day at school.
- Unless billed specifically for preschoolers, watch programmes or DVD's before you show them to your child as there might be scary or sad bits you wish to keep from your child.
- Choose age appropriate programmes.
- Watch with your child so you can talk about the pictures or content together. Talk about the programmes after.
- Make rules about the duration and timing of TV watching and keep to it.
If in doubt, just go and do something more interesting outside!
Children can be very inquisitive, often asking very good questions, and it's easy to brush off or ignore ones we can't answer, but if they ask a question that you don't know the answer to, seize the opportunity to explore the topic and both you and your children will learn something new!
The internet gives us the most amazing resource imaginable - at our fingertips are the answers to almost any question on the planet, and certainly to any questions that our children will pose! If a challenging question comes your way, take time to research the answer, and encourage the inquisitive, learning nature of your little ones.
The internet is not the only resource at hand. Perhaps a question might lead to a trip to the library, a museum or the zoo? You don't have to answer just a single question, take the time to explore the topic area more broadly and that way your children will learn so much more. Young children absorb facts in an astounding way, but they also need to hear the conceptual reasons behind something as they build up their knowledge and understanding of the world more broadly.
Of course, your children won't understand scientific reasoning behind complex answers, your job is to couch explanations in terms that they will comprehend. Reference things that they do understand, and explain things using examples and experiences from everyday life that your little ones will understand.
Well, why is the sky blue and why do fish live in water?
The sky appears to be blue because air molecules scatter more blue light than other colours, until the sun sinks on the horizon at which point the light is coming indirectly and more red, yellow and orange light is scattered, sometimes leading to glorious sunsets!
Fish don't have lungs, but gills - these have developed to filter oxygen out of water rather than taking oxygen from the air.
Now, try explaining those in terms that a four year old will understand!
New, and slightly worrying research, suggests that having a healthy diet containinging plenty of fibre has a detrimental effect on your chances of having a baby. This is something women trying for a baby will be horrified to hear.
Wholemeal bread, brown pasta and brown rice when eaten in large quantities seem to effect the hormone levels of women and therefore may impact on fertility levels. The more wholemeal food women ate, the lower the levels of vital hormones that influence the reproduction process.
The research was carried out in America, using a sample of 250 women of childbearing age, over a two year period. They made two important discoveries when looking at the women and their fibre intake:
- Hormone levels were less in those with a high fibre diet
- There was an increase in something called anovulation (which is when a women goes through her menstrual cycle but her ovaries fail to release an egg)
Anovulation is known to occur when hormone levels drop due to anxiety, stress or extreme exercise.
This is the first time that a healthy diet has been deemed to impact on a person in a negative way. Serious claims!