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Friday, October 17th, 2014
An interesting study has determined that babies who grow up in diverse neighborhoods are more likely to be open-minded and to interact with people of different cultures and races. (No real surprise there, right?) Plus, not only can raising babies in multicultural areas likely help them develop tolerance, compassion, and empathy for others, but babies are also exposed to other languages — a bonus because they have the opportunity to learn a foreign language.
And studies through the years have pointed out the benefit of raising bilingual babies. Bilingual babies are better creative thinkers and they have sharper brain functions — in fact, learning a foreign language helps babies improve verbal and problem-solving skills, which come in handy when they begin taking tests in school. A more recent study on bilingual babies further supports this fact, by showing that babies who learn a different language around 6 months seem to learn and process information faster.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences studied 114 babies around 6-months old; each baby was repeatedly shown the same image to gauge their response to it. The babies growing up in bilingual households or surroundings got bored more quickly when shown the same image repeatedly, and they were likely to move on to a new image. This indicated that babies who are still learning to distinguish two vocabularies and languages have increased cognitive development to process differences (like images) faster. Although the research focused on a small sample size in a specific geographical region, the study confirmed an advantage of learning more than one language.
Growing up, I was immersed in a bilingual environment — I spoke English at school and Mandarin at home, alternating between the two languages seamlessly or substituting Chinese vocabulary I didn’t know with English words. Although my neighborhood wasn’t multicultural, being exposed to two languages certainly helped me see the value of learning a foreign language — if only to expand communication and improve translation skills, understand the nuances of different verbal expression, and open up ways to understand others of different backgrounds.
Within the past few years, as more and more parents realize the advantages of preparing baby for an increasingly global world, they have started to enroll their kids in foreign language classes — starting as early as preschool! — with the hope that having them learn Chinese or learn Spanish will give them an edge and a better sense of the world later in life. But making sure kids are practicing and speaking a different language on a daily basis is just as important, so they can speak the language better and remember vocabulary. From middle school to high school, I also took French classes, but it was difficult to become fluent because I didn’t speak it daily outside of school. And by the time I got to college to learn how to read and write Chinese, those lessons really didn’t stick with me beyond the classroom. So there’s no doubt that the younger the kids are, the more likely they’ll have an easier time retaining another language (or two!) faster — which is just another positive reason why parents should consider raising babies in environments with cultural and linguistic diversity.
Imagine this: if every child has the opportunity to learn a foreign language, just imagine a future where everyone understands each other just a little better!
More related features on Parents.com:
Image: Group of multiethnic babies via Shutterstock
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Babies, The Parents Perspective
Thursday, June 5th, 2014
There was a time where I didn’t like my name. “Maryn” was too different; people had trouble pronouncing it; and there were never any coffee mugs for sale that had my name printed on it. But as an adult, I sing a completely different tune. I love my name. I’ve never met another Maryn; I’ve only heard of others. (You know, a “friend of a friend” kind of thing). And that, in my opinion, has allowed me to grow into my name in any way I choose.
These thoughts—and more—come into play when deciding upon the perfect moniker for your baby. Everything matters: Does it roll of the tongue easily? How does it sound with your baby’s last name? Is it the right number of syllables?
Turns out, naming a hurricane is just as complex. (Who knew!) A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, found that female-named hurricanes caused the most deaths: an average of 45 death in storms named after women as compared to an average of 23 deaths in storms named after men. What these findings suggest is that perhaps people perceive storms with female names as being less dangerous, and therefore are less likely to flee harm’s way.
Now that’s a lot of power in a name—and that’s precisely why parents-to-be spend so much time deciding upon the perfect name for their baby, since it’s a big part of your child’s first impression.
According to Time.com, past research conducted by David Figlio at Northwestern University set out to find exactly what effects your child’s name will have on his future. Among his conclusions: Kids with so-called “linguistically low-status” names (such as those that include letter combinations almost never seen in middle-class families, like “kz”) were treated differently and were more likely to be referred for special education than their peers. Boys with girly-sounding names, like Shannon, Ashley and Courtney, were more likely to have behavior problems in middle school. And females with linguistically feminine names (like Anastasia) were more likely to stick with arts and humanities classes in school than their androgynously named (like Jordan) counterparts.
These findings reinforce the idea that a name has influence on a child’s future, making the answer to, “What are you going to name your baby?” all the more complex.
For thousands of ideas, try our Baby Name Finder. Or, keep dreaming up names on the go, with our free Baby Names app for Android or iPhone.
Image: Baby names list via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014
A new study released this week by The New England Journal of Medicine, which tracked children’s weight fluctuations over time, found that a child’s weight in kindergarten was a strong predictor of his or her weight by eighth grade.
Of the 7,738 children studied, roughly three-quarters of those who become obese between the ages of 5 and 14 had been above the 70th percentile for body-mass index when entering kindergarten. With each passing year, the chances that a child would break away from their current weight trajectory decreased—meaning children whose weight was in a normal range stayed that way, while those who were heavy remained so. These findings suggest that a parent’s efforts in his or her child’s early years to encourage healthy food choices and instill a fitness-focused mentality can help set a child up for a lifetime of successful weight management.
But will harping on “eating right” and “staying active” at such a young age backfire and make future generations even more body image-obsessed than they currently are? Studies show that even young children are aware of body image and feel tremendous pressure to live up to images portrayed by the media. This creates a challenge for parents to strike a balance between advocating for good health and encouraging a positive self-image, despite outside appearances. To downplay body image concerns while still inspiring a healthy lifestyle, try the following:
- Emphasize nutrition rather than weight.
- Describe food as energy for the body.
- Encourage the formation of exercise habits now, which research shows are likely to continue into adulthood.
- Get active together. Sign-up for our “12 Weeks to a Healthier Family” newsletter to get started.
Image: Mother and daughter eating fresh vegetables via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
A guaranteed daily laugh is one of the many highlights of my job at Parents. As the editor of our Baby Bloopers column and blog, I get to enjoy the submissions our readers share with us about the goofy things their child does or says—some of which are so funny that they have me crying tears of laughter at my desk.
Turns out, this daily pick-me-up offers more than just a mood boost. Research shows that laughter has health benefits, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, in the short-term, laughter increases your intake of air, which stimulates your heart and other muscles and increases the release of endorphins. A good laugh also has the power to stimulate circulation, aid in muscle relaxation, and lower your blood pressure.
In the long term, regular bouts of laughter can lessen anxiety and depression, in addition to inducing the body to produce it’s own natural painkillers. And better still, your giggles can boost the production of neuropeptides that support the immune system by fighting stress and illness.
Interestingly, a study by Mora Ripoll Ramón at the Laughter Research Network suggests that the human body cannot distinguish between spontaneous and simulated laughter. So the next time your kiddo shares a certifiably awful knock-knock joke with you, reward her with a laugh. You’ll make her day and increase your health in the process. And if that doesn’t do it for you, visit our Baby Bloopers blog, to partake in healthy dose of laughter daily.
Image: Mom laughing and holding baby via Shutterstock.
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Monday, August 19th, 2013
By Rosie Pope
A new, buzzed-about study published by JAMA Pediatrics last week indicates that inducing and augmenting labor may be tied to an increased risk of the birthed child later being diagnosed with autism. These findings are alarming and scary for many, including myself. My labor was induced or augmented for all three of my children due to a variety of medical reasons. To cushion the blow of this news, I decided to learn more of the facts:
To derive this conclusion, the researchers used data from over 600,000 births in North Carolina between 1990 and 1998 paired with corresponding school records documenting a designation for autism. These findings are from an observational study that warrants more research, but it only suggests that induction and labor augmentation might be “tied to” autism. The study in no way claims that these procedures “cause” autism in children. In fact, according to Reuters Health, the lead researcher, Simon Gregory of Duke Medicine in Durham, NC, says, ”The benefits of induction or augmentation by (obstetricians and gynecologists) far outweigh the risks to maternal and fetal health.”
It is important that the medical experts continue to research this issue. However, both the media and we mums need to be careful in the way we handle this information so there are no unintentional and significant consequences—like there were with the vaccination crisis where many children do not receive the shots they need. As concerned parents, we have a tendency to twist an observation that needs more investigating into a “fact” or “cause-and-effect” scenario, but there could be so many other underlying reasons why this link was observed that we need to take into account before jumping to conclusions.
I would be lying if I told you this information didn’t scare me or that this study wouldn’t cross my mind should I have another baby and need to be induced or have my labor augmented. But I am not a doctor, so I have chosen one I trust whole-heartedly. If my health and the health of my baby requires such practices to get them safely into this world (and there is no concrete evidence yet that these procedures are harmful), then I must trust what we know—not what we might fear.
As we speak to our family, friends, and colleagues about these worries, I urge you to resist adding to the hype. Do stay educated about new research that takes us closer to pinpointing the cause(s) of autism, but in the meantime, proceed with caution and good judgment until a future study actually proves a cause before taking potentially medically dangerous decisions for ourselves and our children.
For more details about this study, read Holli Lebowitz Rossi’s post on Parents News Now.
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