Ways To Nurture Your Child’s Language Development

There is no shortage of studies showing that children who are read to, and spoken with, routinely during early childhood will have bigger vocabularies and much better grammar than those who aren’t. With the growing popularity of television programs, however, from Kipper to Curious George marketed to children ages three years and under, the research surrounding them serve both as a benefit and a warning for parents who believe that children programs support language development.

On positive side, three years olds can learn verbs from video with (or without) parental help. On the negative side, children under age three do not appear to gather any verb learning benefit from watching videos, unless given parental aid. Even though findings on learning from video are mixed, the research in the language literature suggests that live social interaction is still the most solid ground for language development.

Read to your baby routinely

It is never too early to start developing a reading routine with your baby. Believe it or not, a baby recognizes their mommy’s voice even before birth. That’s why one way to start developing shared reading time is by reading books aloud to your baby during pregnancy. Once your baby arrives, try reading a little each day. Even though, of course, your newborn still doesn’t know what you’re saying, he or she can begin to learn the tones and inflections in your voice. Plus, it is a mother-to-baby bedtime activity that you can make into a special bonding moment.

Let dad read the bedtime stories too

When dads are actively involved in their children’s lives, it has long been confirmed that children are more social, perform better in school and develop way less behavioral problems. But researchers at Harvard have unveiled another interesting plus to having a hands-on dad: children benefit more when fathers read bedtime stories than when their mothers do it. They found that when fathers read to their young children, there was an effect on their language development one year later and their literacy two years later. Even more interesting, the mothers’ reading did not have a real impact on language development. The difference between mommy and daddy’s reading was: fathers used more abstract and complex language when reading with their child. They would often relate events in the book to personal experiences. For instance, when a ladder was talked about in the book, many fathers brought up the last time they had used a ladder to mount up on the roof or use it for their work. On the other hand, mothers fixated more on the details in the book and often asked children to label and count objects and name colors. It appears that the abstract thinking is more beneficial for little ones’ minds because it’s more challenging. That makes sense as abstract thinkers are able to perceive analogies and relationships that others may not see and thereby understand higher levels of abstraction.

Share stories with your child

Think outside of the “Dr. Seuss” box and think up your own stories complete with colorful characters, interesting themes, twists and turns and uplifting endings. Besides, they can be used as opportunities to teach your child the life lessons you want them to learn about and reflect on such as love, hate, jealousy, humility etc. You can even share stories about your childhood experiences. This will certainly work to connect your child to you.

Also, consistently listening to stories without seeing images enables a child to create vivid pictures in his or her mind, opening a wide door to creativity. Reading chapter books is an important milestone that should be met well. So this ability will be especially useful later when you introduce your child to books that are not primarily very picture heavy.

Narrate the day as it unfolds

Similar to a play-by-play sports announcer, keep your child up to date with activities all throughout the day: “We are going to put on our Fall jackets now because it’s chilly outside” or “Look outside at the sky. It’s dark so that means it is time for bed.” This is an effective way to help build your child’s vocabulary. A child’s mind is like a sponge, soaking up huge amounts of information from their environment effortlessly, continuously, and indiscriminately. The more they hear you speak, the more words they’ll use. That includes bad words so be careful not to let any slip out in front of your child when you’re frustrated because, as God made little green apples, your child will keep those cuss words filed away for future use when feeling the same.

Introduce your child to “big” words

Vocabulary is a key predictor of school preparedness and success. And so, every now then bring in words into your conversation with your toddler that you know he or she is unfamiliar with. When your child asks for clarification about a word, teach the meaning and provide enough detail for them to full grasp it. For instance, if you’re asked what does “infectious disease” mean? You may want to say something along the lines of “a disease that can spread really fast from one person to the next”. By not totally dumbing-down the way you speak to children and using more complex sentences, they’ll naturally remember to use new words as you use them.

Carefully Correct poor pronunciations

It’s normal for toddlers to mispronounce or use new words wrongly. Regardless of how funny their mistakes may sound, avoid chuckling or poking fun at your child when this happens especially if he or she is shy. Nothing undermines your attempt at teaching more than laughter in the middle of teachable moments. Instead, keep in mind that children thrive on approval. Therefore, praise your child’s effort, mention what they got right and then go over the proper way to use and/or say the word. The more encouraging and positive the learning experience is, the more your child will strive to boost and practice their vocabulary.

#babyplus #momstobe #parenting #readingtochildren #childrenlanguagedevelopment

How A Baby’s Food Favorites Start In The Womb and Breast Milk

Tasting Begins With Taste Pores

By the time you’re nine weeks pregnant your developing baby’s mouth and tongue have formed and he or she has tiny taste buds. Neurons from the brain will have connected with them. Still, your baby can’t totally taste the surrounding amniotic fluid yet. Taste pores which are the small pits on the surface of the tongue that enable the molecules from food to connect with the taste receptors that make up taste buds are needed for that to happen.

Pregnancy Diets Matter

At 21 weeks after conception, though, the growing baby is able to gobble up several ounces of amniotic fluid daily. The fluid surrounding the baby is in fact flavored by the foods and beverages you have eaten in the last few hours. So as your baby tastes the amniotic fluid it has its first experiences with different “second hand” flavors and smells too.

Research has shown that the foods you eat during pregnancy have an effect on the foods that your baby favors. In one study, mothers who drank carrot juice during the last trimester of pregnancy had babies who frowned way less when fed carrot juice than those who were not.

Meanwhile, another 2012 study suggests that women who eat junk food during pregnancy and while breastfeeding tend to have obesity-prone children. Furthermore, the pregnant rats that munched on lots of junk food and had diets high in sodium, fat and sugar gave birth to babies who favored these foods and disliked more nourishing ones. Apparently, that is because “Mc Junk Foods” change the central reward system located in the brain known as the mesolimbic reward pathway. These changes lead to a higher preference for “appealing” or “enjoyable” foods with little to no nutritional content.

Encourage A Broad Palate

During pregnancy, make a real effort to eat healthy and flavorful foods. Choose a wide mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that children don’t usually have a desire for such as avocados, grapefruit, beans, asparagus etc. And if you’re jonesing for some Ruffles or Pringles, just opt for healthier interesting alternatives like seaweed chips or oven baked sweet potato chips and avocado dip instead. You can’t go wrong with either of these.

Breast Milk Matters Too

Next, something to keep in mind if you’re on the fence about whether to nurse or not is, unlike formula-fed babies, breast-fed babies tend to have broad palates. That’s because they sample many foods while nursing. Whereas formula -fed babies don’t encounter a variety of flavors. And so, as toddlers, the latter often develop food neophobia, which is the fear of trying new foods. They usually have a food repertoire of around ten items. It’s just too bad that the foods these toddlers tend to be most wary of are the very ones we most want them to like.

Encourage Nutrient Rich Food Choices

The baby-food months are also an important time for developing food preferences. Tasting a particular flavor about ten times during this period can help make your baby familiar enough with it to develop a liking for it later. However, trying to sell broccoli, or any member of the cruciferous family “ten times” or as “baby trees” may not sway toddlers who are highly sensitive to what they believe to be smelly foods.

As a child, like many, I could not tolerate the stench of overcooked greens, especially broccoli. Evidently, my mother ate no steamed “baby trees” at all when she was carrying or breastfeeding me. That unpleasant decaying plant smell overtaking the kitchen coupled with the bitter taste was enough to send me running for cover.

To prevent meltdowns at dinner time, simple-to-make sweet green smoothies are a way to ease little ones on board the veggie chew-chew train with the least amount of push back. In fact, fussy eaters often welcome drinking this cold green treat especially when they get to choose all ingredients themselves. And speaking of which, when your toddler is old enough to be involved in planting seeds in the garden, grocery shopping and following kid friendly recipes, he or she will feel connected to the process and is more likely to eat the foods they’ve played a big role in preparing. Even those who are too little to type up weekly grocery lists can help you make healthy choices along their healthy eating journey such as pears or plums? cheddar or feta? almonds or walnuts? etc., forming good food habits that may just last a lifetime.

#babyplus #mommoments #motherhoodmoments #momsoninstagram #momstobe #motherhood #babytryingfood

What Your Child’s “Bad Behavior” is Telling You

Cue child: kicking and screaming in the grocery store aisle because they were denied the sugary cereal.

Toddler enters room stage left, drops to the floor, crying, arms and legs flailing because you cut their toast after they asked you to. We have all been there or we will all be there at one point or another–that moment when things don’t go the way your child wants and they react in what seems like a disproportionate way to you, but seems completely reasonable to them.

Upon examining these scenes, most people, parents included only see a child who is having a tantrum, or a child who is misbehaving /acting out, or even worse they blame the behavior on poor parenting. What they don’t see is that this child is communicating.

All behavior is communication.

While simple enough, this realization offers a solution based perspective to ‘problem behavior’. It changes the narrative of “my child is bad” or “they are doing this TO me” and offers “they are trying to tell me something”. The behaviors in question can look like talking through a situation and clearly expressing feelings and thoughts which is what most people are used to. With younger children, those who don’t have a complex vocabulary or a lot of words, or children with special needs it can look like: throwing, crying, kicking, running away, biting, laughing, washing hands, not saying anything at all, over eating, refusing to use the washroom, not eating, hitting and the list goes on. These behaviors can be indications of insecurity, anger, pain, joy, curiosity, lack of sleep, fear etc.

Often times the thing your child is having a meltdown over i.e. the cereal, is not really at the root of the meltdown, then what is?

One of the first steps to understanding what is being communicated through these behaviors, is finding out what function or purpose the behavior serves.

Is your child trying to get access to something, a toy, the park? Is this behavior fulfilling a sensory need, it is helping them self sooth? Is your child trying to get attention from a parent or teacher, or perhaps they are trying to escape something, like chores, homework, or an unpleasant situation?

Once you have figured out what your child is trying to communicate through their behaviors, there are numerous ways they can be addressed but are not limited to:

  • Offering them more choices throughout the day. For example, if it is play time, do they want to play with a blue ball or a red ball?
  • Providing simple words or sentences they can use, for example: “I want the ball.”
  • You can model more appropriate or socially acceptable ways to self sooth, like taking deep breaths, or counting to 10.
  • Help them identify how they are feeling using simple words or sentences: “I’m sad, I need a hug.”
  • As an alternative to running away you can teach your child to ask for a break or schedule in down time during their day.

Keep in mind we have only just scratched the surface of functions of behavior and different strategies to address them. Figuring out what your child is trying to communicate through their behaviors isn’t always an easy task. It can take a long time and can be quite frustrating for both parent and child.

There are so many ways to communicate with your child and with a little effort and a lot of patience, you will find the one that works best for the both of you.

Four Proven Methods For Raising Bilingual Babies

There are long lasting benefits that come with being fluently bilingual.  They range from giving one a leg up in the job market and having the ability to converse with different people and understand the nuances of another culture, to improving brain function such as the ability to focus and perform mental tasks.

More importantly, if your native language is different from the majority language, you’ll feel emotionally closer to your baby if your baby is able to communicate with you in your native language.

Well, it turns out that the ideal time to start bilingualism is maybe even before your baby is born. Recently, neuroscience researchers have been able to actually see what is taking place inside developing babies’ minds. The results were published in the journal Acta Paediatrica. Apparently, babies understand things about language even before birth and develop verbal skills way before they say their very first words.

What’s more, the brain is primed in the first three years of life with synapses, which is the point at which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to another, creating optimal neural pathways to mediate language. This building of the brain’s language chip goes on, however, at an ever-slowing rate from the age of 6 until the age of 12 years. Therefore, as a child grows older their superior power language abilities weaken.  And so, by the teenage years they are almost entirely lost. This means that parents should take full advantage of the critical period if they want their child to be perfectly bilingual.

Keep in mind, though, that babies acquire language and they can’t actually be taught language. They identify the word form in the stream of speech.  Then they map these words onto meanings they have gathered from hearing repeated utterances of the same sound chunk in the same setting or context. Therefore, the idea is really to expose babies to languages through meaningful conversations that are attached to real life to support the language acquisition process.

With that being said, it would not be such a great idea to rely solely on any “ultimate foreign language course” where you park your toddler in front of a computer screen listening to and repeating phrases.  Needless to say, that does not qualify as meaningful communication. In my opinion this method should just be used to train pet parrots and cockatiels how to talk, not children. Like these birds, children most certainly will learn a few phrases, but the “repeat after me” method will not help them to carry on actual conversations. Plus, language is made up so many intricate expressions of culture and computer language learning programs never effectively cover them.

There are four methods for raising bilingual babies that are commonly used, so I’ll concentrate on them and show how they encourage bilingual development.

One Person One Language (OPOL)

The OPOL method is where each parent consistently speaks a different language to the child. This could mean that mom speaks her native language with her child, while dad speaks to them in English or his native language. The method is considered the best one for teaching babies two languages as it is believed that it results in less language confusion. It also ensures that the baby is equally exposed to both languages on a regular basis and can help both parents connect with the child in their respective languages. It’s especially great when the parents understand each other’s languages because neither one feels left out when the other is speaking their native language with the child.

Minority Language at Home (ML@H)

With the ML@H method the minority language is spoken at home by both mom and dad with the baby and the majority language is used with everyone else.  The risk with this method is that these children may not be up to speed with their monolingual pre-school mates. For this reason, some parents choose to switch to one of them speaking the majority language about year before their child starts school.  Parents needn’t, however, be too concerned about their child being at disadvantage when starting school.  For better or worse, children usually discover far more from other children than from any adult. When children interact with other children speaking the majority language on a daily basis, the time it takes to catch up is just six month.

Time and Place (T&P)

The T&P method is where one language is spoken at home, and another language is used at school. Or, the minority language is spoken only during the week, while the majority language is practiced on the weekends. This method is also commonly used in bilingual daycare centers and immersion schools whereby a set of activities and subjects are reserved for one language. If neither parent speaks their native language well, enrolling the child in a school that centers on bilingualism may be the best option.

Mixed Language Policy (MLP)

The MLP method uses the mix of languages in any circumstances – independent of person, time and place.  Mostly this is applied where many family members are at least bilingual. MLP can cultivate the child’s ability to be more flexible and get used to very different sounds and sayings. Then again, it can also lead to confusion, where the child starts to mix up the languages.  To prevent the latter, simply use the language that is appropriate to the situation. For example, the majority language may be used for reading stories and singing songs and homework, while the minority language may be used to chat about more personal and everyday subject matters.

Above all else it’s most important that you have a language acquisition method and follow it. And then just start early. Too, every child is different, and a parent is the best expert on what motivates their child, so work with what drives your child. Trips to where the language is spoken and play groups in the language are fun incentives for its use.