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Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Parents know that early education and child care are expensive. But for a refresher on just how expensive, the Boston Globe recently featured a 50-state map of child care costs across the nation. As the Globe explains, Massachusetts is among the least affordable states with an annual cost of $12,176 for 4-year-olds and $16,430 for infants. Compared to “the state median income for married couples, Massachusetts is the fourth least-affordable state for center-based infant care in the country.”

A recent report from Child Care Aware of America, the data source for the Globe’s map, explains just how high these costs are across the country.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers 10 percent of family income for child care as a benchmark for affordable care,” according to Child Care Aware’s “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care 2013 Report.” (more…)

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14359821987_be01fd4731_mYesterday, The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 25th edition of its KIDS COUNT Data Book, a statistical look at children’s well-being.

The report shows that, “Children have a greater opportunity to thrive and succeed in Massachusetts than in any other state,” according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), the home of KIDS COUNT here in the commonwealth.

This is exciting news for Massachusetts, but it comes with an important caveat: There is still much more work to do.

The Massachusetts KIDS COUNT data profile reports that 15 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2012. And despite being first in the nation in education and fourth grade reading, 53 percent of this state’s fourth graders cannot read proficiently. Thirty percent of children have parents who don’t have secure jobs. And while an impressive 99 percent of Massachusetts’s children have health insurance, it’s also true that this state’s children are as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as children across the country.

MassBudget released the new data yesterday at an event hosted by Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education) in its brand new Learning Lab in Jamaica Plain where Governor Deval Patrick spoke, along with state legislators, local leaders, and Chris Martes, Strategies for Children’s new president and CEO. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of Brain Building in Progress

Illustration: Courtesy of Brain Building in Progress

Don’t settle for just commuting on the T’s buses and trains. If you’re traveling with a child, use the trip to help build that child’s brain.

“When you ride the T this summer, you may see this ‘I am a Brain Builder’ ad highlighting teachable moments for parents and children while they ride public transit,” according to the Brain Building on the T website.

That ad is part of a campaign that was launched on Monday by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley – both leaders of the state’s Brain Building in Progress effort.

Brain Building in Progress is a public/private partnership “to raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on the economic prosperity of everyone in Massachusetts.”

Commuters can see the brain building ads on Orange and Red Line trains as well as on several bus routes. They are scheduled to run through the summer. (more…)

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