Play time and your baby. Why it's so important.
The first year of your baby's life is a very important one for their cognitive development. An infant's brain doubles in size between birth and age 1, and at least some of the billions of neural connections that form in that time, happen through play time and exploration of the world around them.
The benefits of playtime for a baby:
Fostering curiosity- Everything is new around them. Each sound, sight, smell, or touch
is a new piece of a giant puzzle they're putting together. Creating a supervised safe
space for an opportunity to experiment with different objects such as blocks, balls, and stuffed animals is a great way to nurture kids natural curiosity, and encourages creative and critical thinking.
Helping with speech and language- It may be a few years before your little one is able to speak in full sentences. But language learning actually starts before their first birthday! Playtime is a good way to develop playful "baby talk" which helps teach important communication skills.
Building motor skills- In their first year alone, babies go from not being able to hold up their own heads, rolling over, crawling and starting to stand and take their first steps. Object play with toys, rattles, and stuffed animals for example, help build hand-eye coordination. Interactive songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" or " Patty Cake" can help with body awareness and dexterity.
An important ingredient in play is not just the toys, but you! Your baby loves your attention,
and playing is how they bond with you! Here's a few tips for play and what they'll learn from
Newborn to 8 months-
Use things like a brightly colored floor mat with hanging detachable toys that make sound or play
music. Their motor skills get a fine tune-up when they kick, bat, reach and grab for toys. Also,
putting baby down on their tummy, gives them the opportunity to develop upper-body and neck strength, which are prerequisites for rolling, crawling and other physical feats.
8 months to 12 months-
Nesting blocks and cups, and stacking toys will help keep little hands busy, while helping tune their grasping and releasing finger skills. Try hiding a toy inside another nesting toy to see if they can find it. It adds the element of surprise and builds on the concept of object permanence. At this age they may be more interested in knocking down towers, rather than building them, to encourage building, show interest by commenting on what a big tower they're making or help them with balance!
Playing with your baby may seem like all fun and games- shaking rattles, squeaking stuffed animals,
rolling balls around, but make no mistake. What looks like downtime is a lot of work for little ones.
Toys are often tools for getting the job done. Playtime also helps strengthen your bond, it's an effective way to connect with baby. Babies learn best when engaged in interactions with their
parents, and remember parents are babies first and favorite toy!
Click here for the best baby toys of 2019!
Do school-aged children get enough sleep?
New research shows that more than half of school-aged children aren't getting the recommended nine hours of sleep at night. And they're not just losing out on that extra rest at night, sleep deprived kids don't show as many signs of development. Research from the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children's Health, in which caregivers and parents gave self-reported answers, of the 49,050 children aged 6-17 years old, only 47.6% got an average of nine hours of sleep during the week. Guidelines set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, state that children ages 6-12 years should sleep 9-12 hours a night, while teenagers aged 13-18 should sleep 8-10 hours. Infants need 12-16 hours, toddlers need 11-14 and preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep.
How does less sleep affect our children?
We already know that sleep makes kids (and adults) healthier, affecting everything from weight and growth, to attention and temperament. This survey also touched on the affects less sleep had on things like homework, interests, curiosity in new things, and staying calm when completing tasks. Those who got nine hours of sleep had better odds in all but the last category. Kids who didn't get enough sleep were about 12% less likely to flourish in all four categories. The biggest difference was in homework. It was reported that 68.4% of kids that got eight hours or less, did all required homework. While 80.2% who got nine hours or more hours of sleep did all required homework.
Signs your child may not be getting enough sleep:
Not getting enough sleep is common in school-aged children. With increasing school obligations, evening activities, and later bedtimes. But here are a few things to look out for as signs of sleep deprivation.
Mood- The child may become irritable, and cranky. They may have a difficult
time regulating their mood, by getting frustrated or upset more easily.
Behavior- They can become disagreeable, excitable, hyperactive and engage
in extreme behaviors like tantrums or aggression. They can also become
clumsy and impulsive without thinking things through.
Cognitive Ability- They can show problems with attention, memory, decision
making, reaction time and creativity. All which are important in school.
Tips for getting your children to sleep well:
Make sleep a priority- Just like scheduling time for homework, sports, or other activities, schedule time for sleep. Set a non-negotiable bedtime,
making sure your child goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time each day.
Start the bedtime routine earlier- No one can go straight from a physically and mentally intense day, right to sleep. If bedtime is 9:00 pm, that means
your child needs to start winding down between 8 and 8:30. So by 9:00 they are ready to fall asleep.
Limiting screen time- Blue light emitted from screens can wake up the brain and make it harder to fall asleep. This is particularly true for small screens like phones and tablets which are held close to the face. Shut them off at least an hour before bedtime. Also, phones and other screens should be charged outside of the bedroom.
Taking little steps towards a good night's rest, ensures your children flourish in all that they do. Sleep is so important because it enables the body to repair and be ready for another day, keeping our children healthy, thriving and succeeding in school.
Tricks and tips for a safe Halloween!
Kids love a good scare on Halloween! But not when it comes to staying safe on this spooky holiday! Fortunately, there are many things both children can do to keep themselves safe and parents can do to make sure their little trick-or-treaters stay safe too!
Choose costumes wisely:
Trick or treat with care:
Preparing your home for the trick-or-treaters:
If trick-or-treating isn't right for your child, consider a candy swapping party with friends and neighbors! You could have a costume contest, monster mash dance off, or, mummy wrap game using toilet paper or crepe paper, first one to completely covering their partner wins!
You can also check local schools or community centers for other options such as trunk-or-treat! Where costumed children walk through a parking lot, stopping at cars with decorated trunks and receiving candy!
There is a lot of fun to be had on Halloween, and can be safely enjoyed! Putting some extra care into planning can ensure you aren’t fearful as you and your children celebrate! Happy Halloween!
We tell kids all the time that ordinary people can be superheroes too. This March, a tiny bit more proof of that concept came to light. Kristen Braconi took her son Carter, a 5-year-old boy with high functioning autism and ADHD, to a skate park in South Brunswick for his birthday. They wanted to use the park for about a half hour before the local group of middle schoolers showed up. According to his mother, Carter was worried that the older children would take over the park and exclude them, and that he would have to leave. Luckily for Carter, that was not the case: “[The] kids came up to him, started being super nice, playing, and showing him things” said Kristen.
Elated, Carter zipped around the park with the group of older boys on his scooter, impressing them with his tricks. The boys came together and sang Happy Birthday, bringing Kristen to tears. One of the boys, Gavin Mabes, gave Carter a mini skateboard and taught him how to use it. “When he fell, without even hesitating, Gavin picked him up and showed him how to ride. It was amazing, and they did all this without anyone prompting them,” Braconi said. She posted a heartwarming video of Carter with the boys on Facebook, which quickly went viral.
“These kids showed the care and compassion of Superheroes,” the South Brunswick police department posted on Facebook. “We want to throw them a little pizza party to recognize their Superhero status.” Luckily, the police were quickly successful in “finding their men”, and in the best of circumstances. The boys were identified on Friday as: Gavin Mabes, David Lakatos, Aaron Perna, Luis Velazquez, Damon Andon, Jiya Salman, Jessica George, Lauren Mazur, Samantha Schwab and Om Patel.
It only takes a few minutes to make a child’s day, and you may even improve their whole life. Remember how you wanted to be treated by the older kids and adults when you were a kid; a little sunshine spreads a long way! We’re lucky to have our everyday “superheroes” like this group of boys in our community.
The twelfth annual World Autism Awareness day is April 2, 2019! Blue lights will be lit all around the world to recognize the wonderful people living with autism every day. This is the start of World Autism Month, an event hosted by Autism Speaks to “increase understanding, acceptance, and foster worldwide support.”
Just what is life with autism like, though? Many of us never consider how it feels inside the mind of an autistic person because we know we could never truly understand. There is a book that provides a window into that world. The Reason I Jump is an autobiography written by Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old autistic boy from Japan, and translated by KA Yoshida David Mitchell. When the book was written, Naoki was nearly completely nonverbal, but the way he describes his view of the world is absolutely fascinating: he communicated using a table with Japanese characters on it to spell out words to his translators. The book answers many questions that most people have been too shy or uncomfortable to ask, such as “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?,” “Do you prefer to be on your own?,” and “When you look at something, what do you see first?”. Naoki responds with almost brutal honesty and the reader gets all angles of his daily life.
“When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”
Although Naoki’s experiences are not the same as every other autistic child, The Reason I Jump is a fantastic resource to spread awareness, understand autism more yourself, and an emotional read. Naoki reveals the struggles autism brings; he gets lost often and panics, and sometimes loses his sense of time among other things. He spends days feeling like a failure because he screws up often. Sometimes his body even moves on its own: “both staying still and moving when we’re told to is tricky — it’s as if we’re remote-controlling a faulty robot…You can’t always tell just by looking at people with autism, but we never really feel that our bodies are our own…Stuck inside them, we’re struggling so hard to make them do what we tell them.”
Impairment does not betray a lack of intelligence. There are bright shining people with colorful personalities and a lot to say inside. They just need a little help and a lot of patience. Spread autism awareness this April 2 and I cannot recommend reading The Reason I Jump enough!