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Archive for the ‘Infants’ Category

Baby Safety Tips

A few helpful tips for first-time moms and dads:

  • Always place your baby on her back to sleep unless your pediatrician advises otherwise for medical reasons;Baby
  • Remember not to put bumpers and blankets in an infant’s crib;
  • Be sure to childproof your home before your baby begins to crawl. Get down to a baby’s level and crawl around looking at your home from a baby’s point of view. Ensure that electrical cords and outlets are child-proof and that TVs and other electrical devices are safe;
  • Make sure that an adult feeds your baby until she can safely hold her own bottle. Propping bottles can be dangerous;
  • Be sure all toys are age appropriate. A great rule of thumb is that toys that fit in an empty toilet paper tube are too small for a baby;
  • Remember that babies are naturally curious. Save the word “No!” for when it really matters, like when safety is concerned.

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

Learning language is a natural process when children are young. Introducing them to second languages such as Spanish, SigningFrench and American Sign Language (ASL) encourages brain development. The earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater the likelihood is that the child will become fluent in the language.

Second languages also help celebrate cultural diversity and create an understanding of the written word. A second language can unleash a child’s curiosity.

The sooner a child is introduced to a second language, the more success he will have in learning the language. Following are some age-appropriate activities to help you incorporate a second language into your baby’s daily routine.

Infant to 12 months

  • Sign as you say words;
  • Use one-word signs, like more, mom, dad, ball or cup;
  • Gently move your child’s hands to make a sign;
  • Play music in the target language.

12 to 18 months

  • Add to your child’s signing vocabulary;
  • Use signs with verbal cues;
  • Say both the English word and the target language word for an object;
  • Practice the target language while playing ball. As you roll the ball to your child, you could say, “Here comes the red ball, la pelota roja”;
  • Use the target language words interchangeably in your own speech;
  • Name body parts, animals and colors in the target language.

Language and Literacy Series: Talking with our Hands – A Hidden Key to Learning!

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for the Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

It just amazes me the way newborn babies come into the world as natural communicators. After their first wail, they exhibit an increasing variety of gestures and sounds; quickly becoming full-bodied, kinesthetic communicators, successfully letting us know their needs and desires through a barrage of gestures and gesticulations.

Throughout his/her early growth spurts, a young child’s gesture vocabulary expands in complex and Handsfascinating ways.  Children begin with what is called deictic gestures (pointing at actual objects), and metaphoric gestures (movements in space to represent an abstract idea, such as gesturing upward to indicate “high”).  Then, as their use of language and vocabulary become more fluid, they begin to slowly connect words to objects and abstract thoughts.  Little ones form a fully integrated relationship between gestures and words as they grow from toddlers to preschoolers. This relationship with language will continue to be refined throughout life.

Recent research in language acquisition has revealed just how important gestures are in supporting word acquisition, as well as in other learning areas, including math.  The Goldin-Meadow Laboratory at the University of Chicago, headed by Susan Goldin-Meadow, is an important research hub for the exploration of the role and value of gestures. The lab focuses on topics related to cognition, development, education and linguistics, including the study of non-verbal communication, like gestures.

In a 2011 TexXUChicago TED Talk, Goldin-Meadow makes the case that gestures not only reveal what is on a child’s mind, but can also help change a child’s mind in order to support instruction and learning. This exciting discovery reinforces and supports our innate impulse to use gesture as a way to convey meaning.

Families can play an active role in word recognition and vocabulary skills simply by incorporating gestures, creative movement and meaningful play experiences into a child’s world, whether at home or on the go! Here are five easy activities that use gesture to generate vocabulary practice and boost literacy skills over time.

  1. Trust your instincts: Use your own hands to gesture with your children.  It’s not clowning around, it’s communicating! And nothing works better than modeling.
  2. Words and actions go together: When reading, encourage your child to point to images and identify them not only with words and sounds, but also by making shapes with their hands/bodies.
  3. Sing along: When in the car, play simple songs that encourage children to use gesture and movement. There are a ton of great silly songs – remember “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”?
  4. Play: Encourage make-believe play where kids are given the opportunity to pretend and act out ideas.
  5. Practice: Try ‘Simon Says’ using gestures.  Practice is fun and it reinforces word and object recognition.

Whether you start with simple hand gestures or animated body language, by incorporating these elements into play and daily routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s literacy growth right in your own home!

Tips for Your Baby’s First Days

Your baby’s first days can be quite an adjustment, especially since you might not be getting enough sleep. Remember to do the following:

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps;
  • Keep scheduled activities to a minimum. Settling into a schedule with a new baby takes time;
  • Accept help when it is offered. You can’t do everything yourself, and that’s okay;
  • Leave baby with a trusted family member or friend so you can get a few minutes to yourself;
  • Eat properly and drink lots of water. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy you need to take care of your newborn;
  • Let non-essential household chores wait. Give yourself a little leeway and enjoy your baby’s first days;
  • Set limits with visitors. This may mean insisting that visitors wash their hands before holding your baby or asking anyone who is ill not to visit until he or she feels better. Also, let friends and loved ones know the best times to visit and how much or how little time you have for these visits.

Playful Parenting: Fun Activities for Newborns

Like all children, babies learn best by having fun. Here are some simple, play-based activities you can do with your infant to help him or her develop motor and learning skills.

  • Encourage tummy time. Tummy time is good exercise and allows your baby to practiceInfant_jpg
    moving. Lie your baby on her stomach and put one or two colorful toys in front of her or around her;
  • Read. Besides being an excellent bonding activity, reading to your newborn also prepares him for reading on his own and introduces him to shapes, letters and colors;
  • Talk to your baby. Simply chatting to your baby about whatever you’re doing keeps her entertained and helps to establish a foundation for language development;
  • Play with toys. Playing with age-appropriate toys helps your newborn exercise his sense of touch. Babies especially enjoy toys with different textures, such as crinkly fabric, satin and velvet.

Ten Tips for First-Time Parents

20120920_goddard_CA_0016Being a new parent is an exciting, life-changing experience, but it can also be scary. After all, nobody is born knowing how to be Supermom or Superdad. Here are ten helpful tips for first-time parents:

  1. Don’t panic. Babies cry, spit up and vomit, which is usually normal. Even if you’re worried, panicking will not help because babies can pick up on anxiety, and it can upset them.
  2. Be gentle but realistic. Supporting your newborn’s head when you hold him and washing him gently when you give him a bath are important practices. However, if your baby’s head isn’t fully supported for a second or if he gets some water in his eyes, he should be okay.
  3. Get close. Hold your baby close to your skin. Skin-to-skin contact is calming and soothing both parent and baby – really!
  4. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Your baby’s sleep patterns might be erratic for the first few weeks, so sleep when you can. If you have a partner, take turns getting up to tend to him.
  5. Avoid scheduled activities. At least at first. As your baby adjusts to a regular routine, your schedule will become more regular, too.
  6. Accept help when it’s offered. You can’t do everything yourself, and that’s okay. If a friend or family member offers to help you, ask him or her to do whatever will help you the most.
  7. Go outside. If you become a little stir-crazy, take your baby for a walk. If you can, let somebody you trust watch your infant while you get some fresh air.
  8. Take care of yourself. Eat properly, drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can. Taking care of yourself will help you maintain the energy you need to take care of your baby.
  9. Skip less important chores. Leave clean clothes in the laundry basket, don’t worry about the dust bunnies under the furniture and/or have cereal and toast for dinner occasionally. It’s okay to relax your standards a bit while you adjust to your baby’s arrival.
  10. Set limits with visitors. This means insisting that your visitors wash their hands before holding your baby or asking loved ones who are ill not to visit until they’re better. Also, let your friends and relatives know which days will work best and how much or how little time you have for a visit.

Concussions in Infants & Toddlers: Sung to the tune of “Five Little Monkeys Jumpin’ on the Bed”

By Jack Maypole, MD
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Gravity sucks (well, actually, it pulls). If you are an infant or toddler, The Goddard Schoolanyway, it remains one of the greatest challenges you face. One does not need to be a phrenologist to know that the noggins of our littlest children get bumpy as they are knocked and bonked with zillions of pratfalls and tumbles each day. The question is: when is it serious? When should these kids be seen by a doctor?

To truly gain insight into this phenomenon, let us turn to the celebrated case study of the “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”

To the less initiated, this case presented as follows. Five infant and toddler primates were performing gymnastics in a bedroom. In succession, each individual was observed to fall, striking some aspect of his or her brainpan.

Their parents wisely and serially put the question to the on-call clinician: how will I know if my child has a concussion?

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One four-year-old fell off and bumped his head
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said:
“Look at the bump: is it bleeding, swollen or red?
As for the kiddo, check STAT for these signs
(as a pediatrician and dad who’s done this a few hundred times):
Most worrisome is a child who is unconscious or seizes
Or who oozes blood or fluid from their nose, mouth or earses.
If that happens, it suggests urgency,
Call 911, or get the to a room of Emergency…
Or — think right away, did he cry right after?
Was he quickly recovering with grinning and laughter?
That’d be reassuring, to see a smiling squirt-
Headbonked, perhaps, but likely not badly hurt.
There are some things in which you can trust,
That’ll manifest sooner or later, in a littlun concussed.
But then four little monkeys were jumping on the bed,
The 3-year-old fell off and bumped her head. Papa called the NP and she said:
“Cried right away! Good, she’s awake, and again busy?
Ask her if she feels a headache, pukey, or dizzy.
She might feel funky, get crabby, or throw up in your flowers.
These symptoms usually show up in the first six to eight hours.
For toddlers and up a mild headache or single throw-up can be par for the course;
I’d consider a callback to the doc if you think it gets worse.
These could herald a mild brain injury, or concussion;
To the ER or clinic you’d best go, to have that discussion.
And soon three little monkeys were jumping on the bed,
Then the 2-year-old fell off and bumped her head. Zen-like, Momma called the on-call doc and he said:
“Thanks for calling, now ask me your questions.
I’ll ponder the story, and make some suggestions.
Can she sleep? Sure. That the concussed can’t is a myth. (Lethargy is the concern, and is hard to miss!)
Might she be crabby? Somewhat is okay,
but unceasing crankiness get check’d, forthwith!
Most kids should respond to “supportive care”-
Hugs, chilling out and Motrin work there.
And, on cue, two little monkeys were left on the bed,
and the yearling old rolled off and bumped his head.
Papa called the clinic and the care provider said:
“For these kids who cannot talk yet,
Our approach is as much doctor as it is vet.
Fortunately, we consider lower risk for the kids with lesser falls,
Like sliding off a couch, stumbling over their feet, or careening off walls.
These tend to be a bit more tame;
(though we take ’em all seriously in the head injury game!)
But folks should check ’em out, just the same.
And for all kids who fell farther, or with a ’worse mechanism of injury’
Like a car crash or sledding accident when do you worry?
We’re extra cautious for them, as for babies of six months or less.
Consulting a doc for all these may be best.
And do a headcheck as a part of routine:
Kids with scalp dents or babies with big bumps may need to be seen.
Ditto for headaches, copious vomiting, or confusion;
Your clinic’s contact info might need using!
And then there was a six-month-old monkey snoozing on the bed
While stirring, she slipped, and down to earth she sped.
Momma called the doctor and then Momma said:
“I have successfully prevented an injury to her head!
Carseats, bike helmets, and childproofing our homes
Will lower the rate of bonks to lil monkey’s dome.
Not leaving babies unattended up on high places,
Closing my windows against where they press faces,
Are steps on the road to safety, a trip I’m starting,
To avert the dangers of head injury, as research is imparting…
Concussions happen, and can be treated, ’nuff said.
Oh, and there’d best be no more monkeys jumpin’ on the bed!

Observing Babies as They Learn

You love to watch your little one playing and learning, and so do Goddard School teachers. Observation is a core method our teachers use to assess what children are learning, when they are ready to learn new tasks and what their interests are.  We use these observations to track the children’s progress, develop lesson plans and share the children’s development with their parents. The Goddard School

As parents, we often teach our children, yet they can teach us a lot while we observe them. Children will inform us of their needs and interests if we pay attention to them. You may want to keep a notebook or record your observations on your computer or tablet. Observe your child at different times of the day, such as at mealtimes and bedtime. Over time, your notes will form an interesting record of your child’s behavior at different ages and help you notice whether a pattern of behavior is emerging. When you notice that your child develops a new interest, try to nurture it without overwhelming your child. Think about ways you can introduce some new activities that will appeal to those interests.

Through observation, you will gain a better understanding of your child and create a record of special memories.

Signing with Your Little One

The Goddard SchoolBaby sign language has been increasing in popularity for the past ten years, but is it really helpful?  The recent study from researchers from the University of Hertfordshire (2012) found no evidence that using baby sign language helps to accelerate language development.  The study did show that the mothers who had used sign language with their infants behaved differently. They were more responsive to their babies’ nonverbal cues and they encouraged independent exploration. When parents are more attuned to their baby’s thoughts and feelings, babies are more likely to develop secure attachment relationships.

At The Goddard School®, we start teaching babies simple signs for communicating their basic needs, and you can too.  Start with words like more, drink, food/eat, book, bed/sleep, diaper and, of course, Mommy and Daddy.  Many online resources demonstrate how make the signs.  Don’t feel pressured or anxious if your baby doesn’t sign right away and just have fun.

Really? Is Infant Colic Due to Migraine?

Jack Maypole, MD
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

For those of you who might be pediatric research wonks, or better yet, for those of you out there who may be parents of young fussy infants, take note: now we have a (another) new theory as to the cause of colic. Now, while you shift that crying baby to your other shoulder and rock gently, let’s dig a little deeper as to what this is all about.

Colic is the unpleasant term for the young infant who follows the Rule of Threes: he or she cries for three or more hours a day for three or more weeks, at least three days out of the week(for anyone who has survived even a flight with a howling babe, we know that is a lot). Colic is common: it happens in about 1 in 5 babies. These so-called colicky infants tend to have a sort of routine, with the onset of a frantic crying pattern— often at around the same time each day(perhaps leading to why some parents call this ‘grandma time!”).  The peak of intensity for colic hits at around 6 weeks of age and can last up to about 2 or 3 months, depending on the child.  As one might expect, colic is a common topic in the first few visits to the primary care clinic.

And, colic is a bit of a medical conundrum. There is no blood test for colic, and nor is there any physical finding that slam dunks the diagnosis.  Sorry, Dr. House. Classically, the diagnosis of colic is one of exclusion, whereby the clinician works with the family to rule out other potential causes of infant crying and fussiness. And, for the record, the comprehensive list of ‘what makes babies cry’ would—no joke—go on for dozens of lines.

For the family members and the health provider, the history is key.  An evaluation best reviews the entirety of a child’s schedule, patterns of eating and sleep and wakefulness, and makes a careful examination of how the crying and fussiness occur (are there triggers? What makes it better? When does it happen? What have you tried so far? And how has it worked?).  Fortunately, a little bit of information, time, and a reassuring exam can go a long way towards making the diagnosis.  Along the way, a discerning clinician will work to rule out the more common or concerning causes of infant distress, such as fever, acid reflux, food or milk protein allergy, a hair in the eye, or a piece of hair tourniqueting on a toe.  When necessary or if other causes are suspected, appropriate lab testing may be considered.  If all else turns up unremarkable, and there is an otherwise thriving, growing child before us  who cries with regularity…colic rises to the top of likely explanations.

So what is the most recent explanation for colic in infancy?  A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that colic may be a form of infant migraine. You heard that right:  there may be an association between babies with colic and migraine headaches in older children.   Migraines themselves are incompletely understood and are thought to arise from the interplay of inflammation, nerves and blood vessels running to the brain. Alterations in blood circulation precipitate the infamous headthumpers with their raft of other symptoms.  And, we do know in preschool and school age children, a fair number of pediatric migraine sufferers describe abdominal discomfort as the most prominent symptom of their episodes, especially nausea and belly pain. Interesting, eh?

In the study, researchers followed 208 children, ages 6-18 year old, diagnosed with migraines in 3 European medical center emergency rooms. Parents were questioned  about their children’s headaches and personal health history. Analysis of the data showed children with migraine headaches were more likely to have had a history of colic than children without migraine headache histories—(about 73% versus 26% respectively).

Here’s the rub:  the researchers propose the colicky symptoms in infants could be due to disruptions in blood flow to the gut that mirror the supposed mechanism of migraines in older children and adults. In effect, the babies  have a headache in their stomach. Total bunk? Not necessarily.  But, as parents and clinicians, we have remember the old trap of ‘association doesn’t necessarily mean causation.”  In other words, this baby migraine theory could explain some or all of colic. Or, not.  The study goes on to propose (like all good researchy papers) with a call for more research, including trialing migraine therapies on infants with colic. Given babies are fragile research subjects, and the enthusiasm for trying pharmaceuticals on them is low, this is not likely to happen soon.

So,  babies will continue to fuss and kick and scream during their grandma’s time while we suss this out. Meantime,  I recommend that parents work with their child’s primary care provider on the tried and true approaches to reducing colic-related fussiness. White noise (such as fans, washing machines, or TV screen snow), gentle rocking, or spins around the block in the stroller or carseat work best. For other mainstream and complementary and alternative approaches, see here: (http://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-edge-newspaper-2010/oct-29a.html  )

And, stay tuned colicwatchers! We will see if this new theory on an old problem bears out.

Link to the Journal of the American Medical Association Article

http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1679399