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Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

This month, a National Geographic article explores “Baby Brains,” looking at the factors that hinder or help infants’ neurological development.

“Peering inside children’s brains with new imaging tools, scientists are untangling the mystery of how a child goes from being barely able to see when just born to being able to talk, ride a tricycle, draw, and invent an imaginary friend by the age of five,” the article explains. “The more scientists find out about how children acquire the capacity for language, numbers, and emotional understanding during this period, the more they realize that the baby brain is an incredible learning machine. Its future—to a great extent—is in our hands.”

The article adds: “The amount of brain activity in the earliest years affects how much there is later in life.” A picture of the EEG scans of eight-year-olds shows “that institutionalized children who were not moved to a nurturing foster care environment before they were two years old have less activity than those who were.” Again, early nurturing was essential for building brains.  (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

During last month’s White House Summit on Early Education, the Obama Administration released a new public policy tool, the “Playbook for Becoming an Early Learning Community.”

The playbook offers communities “strategies for local leaders to develop and expand early education in their communities,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s part of the president’s national early learning agenda called “Invest in US.”

The playbook should be a helpful resource to local communities — both here in Massachusetts and across the nation — that are working to improve early learning and kindergarten readiness.

As the playbook explains, “An Early Learning Community works together to deliver measurable improvements in the lives of its youngest children. It provides all (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This post was originally published on November 25, 2013.

“The time is now to redesign this country’s approach to language and literacy instruction, and governors who choose to can lead the charge,” according to the National Governors Association (NGA) report, “A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting all Students Reading by Third Grade.

Acknowledging the fact that only one-third of America’s fourth graders are reading proficiently, the report points out that America’s governors can help address this challenge. They can build a bridge between knowledge and action, connecting what researchers know to what policymakers do.

What the Research Says

To provide the research background on the literacy issue, the report points to three widely accepted research findings:

1. “Starting at kindergarten is too late.” Because literacy skills start developing at birth and because achievement gaps show up early, infants, toddlers and preschoolers need effective, high-quality early education and care programs that introduce early literacy concepts.
(more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Research on how infants develop language skills is providing crucial insights on how language-rich environments benefit babies. And helping babies develop language skill is a crucial early step in helping them grow into proficient third-grade readers who can tackle the challenges of school and careers.

Two new studies that describe some of the fine points of boosting infants’ and toddlers’ language come from the University of Iowa, Indiana University, and the University of Missouri.

The research from the University of Iowa encourages parents to try to figure out what their babbling babies might be saying because doing so could help babies learn to communicate sooner.

“Pay attention, mom and dad, especially when your infant looks at you and babbles,” a university article explains.

“Parents may not understand a baby’s prattling, but by listening and responding, they let their infants know they can communicate which leads to children forming complex sounds and using language more quickly.”

This advice is based on a new study — “Maternal Responsiveness and the Development of Directed Vocalizing in Social Interactions” — conducted by researchers at Iowa and at Indiana University. The study, which was published in the journal Infancy, found that “how parents respond to their children’s babbling can actually shape the way infants communicate and use vocalizations.” (more…)

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“Talking, reading, and singing to your baby are the easiest ways to help them grow up smarter, happier and with a brighter future to look forward to. In fact 80 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of three, and your words are a very influential part of that development. Even before your child can talk back, your words help their brain grow.”

From talkreadsing.org, a project launched by former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

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(Warning: Parts of this video can be distressing to watch.)

Posted on YouTube in 2009, the “Still Face Experiment” video makes its point bluntly.

“Babies this young are extremely responsive to the emotions and the reactivity and the social interaction that they get from the world around them,” Edward Tronick explains in the video.

To illustrate this, Tronick, a UMass Boston psychology professor and child development expert, has a mother interact with her baby using a playful, happy voice.

The experiment? After a moment, the mom turns away from the baby, turns back, and holds her face still: no smiles, no conversation, just stone-faced eye contact. The baby tries but fails to reestablish the happy connection. The longer the baby struggles to engage the mom, the more distressed the baby becomes.

It’s excruciating to watch. But the video shows the power of warm, engaging, and responsive relationships between babies and adults. It also shows how harmful abuse and neglect can be for infants. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington

Photo: Courtesy of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington

Babies who babble are actually rehearsing, according to a new study. As early as seven months, those vocalizing babies are practicing the movements they will need to start forming words, Patricia Kuhl explained recently in an interview on NPR.

Kuhl is the co-direcor of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

To do this research, Kuhl and her research team used a magnetoencephalography, a brain scanner also called MEG. Babies sat in the brain scanner, which “resembles an egg-shaped vintage hair dryer and is completely safe for infants,” according to a University of Washington news release, which adds, “The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences was the first in the world to use such a tool to study babies while they engaged in a task.” (more…)

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