Archive for the ‘ Parenting ’ Category

The 3 Speech Benchmarks 3-Year-Olds Should Have

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Although toddlers reach language milestones at different ages, substantial delays can be associated with long term language problems. Given that, it’s worth giving careful consideration to benchmarks at different key ages. For example, a typical milestone is using 50 words by age two – though recent research suggests that a more telling indicator may be functional use of 25 words by that age. Perhaps less attention is typically given to language milestones at later ages – even though these can signal the need for evaluation and intervention.

To this end, Dr. Leslie Rescorla – a leading expert on language delay – has offered 3 speech benchmarks for 3-year-olds:

1) Using 3-4 word sentences with subject-verb-object (e.g., “I like ice cream”)
2) Can be understood consistently by most people – not just family members
3) Using the following: -ing (e.g., “crying”); in/on (e.g., “on the table”), plural forms (e.g., “two cars”), and possessives (e.g., “daddy’s car”)

This array of speech benchmarks provides a good indicator of a 3-year-old’s emerging language skills. Delays on one or more of these do not necessarily indicate the need for intervention. That said, there is utility to having your pediatrician determine if an evaluation by language experts is warranted – for one principle we have learned is that early intervention can be very beneficial for toddlers. It’s better to evaluate early and intervene if necessary rather than simply “wait and see.”

Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months
Development Milestones: Age 24 Months

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Parenting Principle #7: Embrace Intervention

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on the importance of intervention.

Many parents of babies and toddlers grew up in an era of “wait and see” – the idea being to not focus too much on developmental milestones and wait until there was a strong signal that a baby or toddler may have a developmental issue. That has changed.

It’s still a reality that babies and toddlers develop at different rates. There is much more of a normal range for developmental milestones than there is hard and fast age markers. That said, there are benchmark milestones and ages that are useful checkpoints for potential evaluation and intervention.

What has changed? Two things. First, developmentalists have a much more sophisticated understanding of developmental milestones and early signs of potential problems, including early symptoms of autism, language delay, and motor delay. Second, early interventions are much more powerful and can be administered at younger ages. They can make a huge difference in a young child’s life.

Pediatricians are trained to screen at key ages for fundamental milestones. If your pediatrician suggests a developmental evaluation, it doesn’t mean that intervention will be necessary. It may be that the conclusion is to “wait and see.” But given the sophistication of modern evaluation and the success of early intervention, it’s very much worth letting professionals make that call.

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Find the right pediatrician for your baby. 

Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months

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Parenting Principle #5: Cultivate Exploration

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on cultivating the innate need to explore.

Right from birth, babies are explorers. They come equipped with the skills to scan their world for interesting information and process it in a meaningful way. Stick your tongue out at a newborn … and they may stick their tongue out too. Watch as babies orient to your voice when you are not right in front of them. Stroke their cheek and observe the rooting reflex. All this happens very early, before they can get around on their own.

The principle of exploration should be cultivated at every developmental stage. You won’t be doing damage to a baby’s brain by letting them look at a screen – but they will explore much more if you interact with them because they will be scanning your face for all kinds of signals that are constantly changing. Well before they walk they are equipped to use their developing motor skills to not only move around their world but to get to things they want to touch – that’s why crawling is so important for cognitive development. Walking babies and toddlers are moving about to explore. While it’s up to you to give them safe boundaries and set parameters, understand that they are trying to soak up information – so help them do that as safely as possible, and as much as possible.

What about the toddler years? Maybe it’s a little annoying, but banging on a pot in the kitchen is the stuff of cognitive exploration. They don’t need anything fancy – they can do plenty with an empty box, or a blank piece of paper and crayons. Arts and crafts should be paramount, as all that fine motor manipulation is not only important in its own right, but in fact promotes higher order cognitive processes. Take them with you and treat your outings as chances for them to explore. It’s not just the grocery store – it’s a large structure with all kinds of sensory stimulation and people to observe. Share their wonder and encourage them to take it all in.

As they get older, give them lots of opportunities to try lots of things. Parenting culture favors overspecialization at younger and younger ages. Who knows what a kid will want to do when they are older? Give them a chance to try out a lot of things – in part to send the message that they should feel free to explore and figure out what they want to do more of when they are of age. No matter what age, they should always have a sense of wonder about the world.

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Use our activity finder to keep your cutie busy. 

Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities
Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities
Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities

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Parenting Principle #4: Reduce Electronic Noise

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on reducing the electronic noise that permeates modern family life.

Electronic devices are a fundamental part of the fabric of modern family life. Most families have some form of electronic device in operation, and most have multiple streams going on, typically simultaneously. There’s no point to suggesting that life will be any different in the near future.

The reality is that it is up to parents to try to make sure that the benefits of screen time outweigh the downsides. The primary downside is when electronics interfere with parent-child interaction.

We can see this everywhere. It’s not hard to discover young kids in restaurants spending most of their time on their smartphone or other device. Their parents may be on theirs as well. The fact that this is happening isn’t so disconcerting, if it is balanced with some quality family talk time. Meals used to be a primary way for families to interact and talk and all be together without interruption. We need some of that back.

And the same goes for family time at home. Even the good old television is a continuing source of interference for parent-child interaction. A recent paper published in the Journal of Children and Media found, using a controlled experimental setting, that parental talk (number of words and utterances per minute, as well as number of new words used) decreased when there was background noise from the TV. Electronic noise becomes intrusive even when we aren’t aware of it and, simply put, interferes with parent-child interaction.

We are aware that we need to monitor what kids are exposed to on television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers. We know that it’s important to turn those things off sometime so that parents and kids can talk and play and interact without distraction. But it’s really important to keep in mind that we aren’t good at blocking out the background noise even if we think we aren’t paying attention to it. We all get more than enough screen time. It’s worth making sure we get in the habit of reducing the electronic noise that we have floating in the background because it’s an insidious siphon of parent-child time. It’s easy – just turn it off.

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If you have school-age children, make sure they sign our Family Use Internet Contract.

Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Parenting Principle #3: Read, Read, Read

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on the power of reading.

You know that reading to your child is important for the development of language and cognitive abilities. But there’s a lot more that happens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed reading to babies, not just toddlers and children. Why is this is great idea?

Reading to babies is really talking to babies – and talking to babies is one of the most important things a parent can do. Talking yields much more than cognitive benefits. It’s a primary way to ensure social bonding. Reading offers the platform to express emotions which pique babies’ interest. And the act of moving your lips and conveying meaning in your eyes provides an endless stream of visual information that is fascinating to babies. So … in the first years of life reading is like dedicated talking and delivers a very rich payoff. And it’s also a way to make sure parent and baby are not preoccupied with screen time (we all get plenty of that now and reducing it here and there is a good thing).

In the toddler years, reading takes on an additional layer of importance in terms of providing a foundation for literacy. Again, the profit comes from not just reading but engaging your toddler. Interacting with them – by, for example, asking them to point to a picture, expand on an idea, answer a question, and even acting out the story – enriches the broader sense of communication skills and in fact promotes pre-reading skills.

As kids get older, and they are reading on their own, setting aside time for parents and kids to read in parallel sends the message that reading is important to you – and ensures that kids are reading. Don’t be afraid to let kids read books that interest them even if they don’t seem like they are books they “should” read. Reading is reading. Any reading is good. And parents and kids do well to read, read, read.

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 Keep track of your child’s milestones.

Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book
Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book
Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book

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