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7 Simple Ways to Bond With Your Baby

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As a new parent, you’ve got tons of questions. There’s so much you need to know, like how to deal with separation anxiety as a working mom or how exactly to travel with a newborn. Sure, you read dozens of books about how to parent while pregnant, but now that your babe is here, you don’t have time to read the millions of parenting books out there. You want to spend quality time with your kiddo, but beyond bath time, you’re wondering what you can do to squeeze the most learning and fun into every minute. We chatted with Randy McCoy, the curriculum director at The Little Gym, about seven simple ways to engage your baby in some developmental learning that’s fun for both of you.

  1. Divide and conquer. With the many responsibilities that come with parenthood — diaper changes, baths and meal time — chores such as doing the dishes and sweeping suddenly seem like Herculean tasks. Split the household duties with your partner so that one of you is with the baby and the other is taking care of the little things that keep your house running. “If moms and dads make a concerted effort to divide up and share these responsibilities, then some dads might find themselves with more quality time with their children,” says Randy. If you’re a parent of multiples, consider hiring a housekeeper so you can spend more time with your little ones. It’s totally okay to have a messy house too!
  2. Class it up. It can be tough those first few months without another adult to talk to other than your partner. Look for Mommy, Daddy + Me classes in your area that are age appropriate to socialize with other new parents who are going through the same joys and fears as you. “Not only do Parent/Child programs offer activities that parents can do with their child at home, they also provide valuable developmental information too,” says Randy. Plus, you can bond with other parents about milestones like crawling, eating first foods and rolling over.
  3. Get chatty. From newborns through the first year of their lives, babies are adorable little sponges who absorb every detail, sight and sound around them. So the best thing you can do to boost their language skills is talk to them often, even if it feels a little silly. “Playful speech — higher pitched with inflections — helps develop language skills in babies,” says Randy. “Your baby is listening, watching and taking it all in. They are hearing the sound of your voice, watching the movements of your mouth and tongue and hearing the individual sounds of the words you speak.” Pick up board books to read out loud to your baby. Narrate throughout their diaper change. Talk about your day. Have fun and don’t be afraid to bust out some silly voices too.
  4. Give ’em a song. Music for babies doesn’t have to be limited to nursery rhymes. You can make a playlist of your favorite tunes and sing while giving them a bath. Make up songs about anything and everything. Your baby isn’t judging your not-so-American-Idol voice. They just enjoy the sound of your voice, since they’ve been listening to you since day one from the womb.
  5. Get down on the floor. Play time is learning time for your kiddo and is a great way for some quality one-on-one time. “Putting your baby on the floor with a variety of colorful and interesting things to reach for and look at accomplishes two things. One, it’s a great way to exercise the muscles of their back and core. Two, it stimulates their sense of touch and sight,” says Randy. Randy suggests cuddling, rocking them back and forth and trying out different movements and motions. In short, play like you’re a kid!
  6. Cuddle up. If you’re a working parent, you might be stressing out how to squeeze in all of this quality time before and after your full-time job. Randy says that at least one hour every day will go a long way. Daily activities like diaper changes, getting your baby ready for bed and story time are all times to focus solely on your baby with plenty of kisses and cuddles afterward. “Holding, cuddling, kissing and hugging are all quality moments that allow for maximum parent-child bonding,” says Randy. Those sweet baby cheeks are practically begging for unlimited smooches from Mom and Dad.
  7. Feast for the senses. Your baby’s brain is developing every single day. Provide them with lots of sensory input to get their five senses working. “Make their environment interesting and stimulating. It’s one of the best things you can do with your baby,” says Randy. Let them hang out in their high chair while you cook dinner to engage their sense of smell. Play different types of music or offer musical toys. Give them different textures to feel. Offer colorful toys that make sounds when shaken. Talk about your day with them. Even if they don’t respond to every single thing you’re doing, just know that they’re taking it all in.

Even with a busy schedule and a messy house, you can still make quality time with your baby productive and fun. To learn more about The Little Gym or to find a class near you, visit www.sofia.thelittlegym.eu

The Importance of Reading Aloud

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It’s no secret that reading to your child is a good thing – but do you know the positive effects reading has on your child’s development now and in the future? According to a recent study in Time Magazine, reading at home with your child early and often activates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language. The study also added that reading has been proven to expand a child’s vocabulary and helps to strengthen the bond between parent and child! Need we say more? Check out these four tips to help make reading together a daily habit:

 

  1. Read to your child in the morning when they wake up and each night before they go to bed. Setting aside special time to read together will help make this a daily routine you and your child will cherish forever.
  2. Keep books in every room throughout the house; in the bedroom, bathroom, living-room, and even in the kitchen! Exposure to books throughout the day will encourage your child to read more frequently.
  3. Introduce new books. Check out your local library and let your child explore all of the books they have to offer; your child will enjoy the ability to pick and choose new books each week.
  4. Most importantly, make reading fun! Create silly voices for different characters or actions; this will help keep your child’s attention and will even encourage a giggle or two!

Physical Activity can Boost a Child’s Attention, Memory, Self-control & Goal-setting

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Everyone knows that physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that it can also go a long way toward children’s brain development? The results of several studies involving grade school children suggest that daily vigorous physical activity can greatly improve children’s development in areas such as a child’s attention, memory, self-control, strategies and goal-setting.

 

In general, these skills develop rapidly through the elementary school years and then develop at a slower pace during adolescence.[1] The more vigorous exercise a child gets, the more the development of these skills increases and is reinforced. Think of kids on the playground who learn that by pushing themselves to run faster, they can catch who’s “it.” Or consider children shooting hoops who learn that, though it may be frustrating when they miss, the more they practice, the more consistently they’ll make it.

 

One researcher suggests that:

 

…in a period when greater emphasis is being placed on preparing children to take standardized tests, these studies should give school administrators reasons to consider investing in quality physical education and vigorous activity programs, even at the expense of time spent in the classroom. Time devoted to physical activity at school does not harm academic performance and may actually improve it. [2]

 

So what can you do to help boost your child’s brain through exercise?

 

  • Train as a family for a charity run or walk
  • Celebrate special occasions—like birthday or anniversaries—with something active such as a hike, a basketball or soccer game or a bike ride.
  • Play tag, jump rope, dance, or even play a dancing video game.
  • Get Moving at your local The Little Gym

 




[1]Davis PhD, Catherine L, and Norman K Pollock Phd. "Does Physical Activity Enhance Cognition and Academic Achievement in Children? A Review." Medscape. http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/764365 (accessed February 6, 2014)

[2] Tomporowski, P.D., Lambourne, K., & Okumura, M.S. (2011). Physical activity interventions and children’s mental function: An introduction and overview. Preventive Medicine, 52(Suppl.1):S3- S9.

Pediatricians Call for Parent to Read to their Children Everyday

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Do you read aloud to your child every day? After numerous studies have been conducted to measure the importance of reading aloud to children, The American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy in telling parents to read aloud to their children daily.

 

Reading, singing, and talking to your child starting at birth has a significant impact on your child’s literacy development. During the first three years of a child’s life their brain is like a sponge, soaking up information and growing at a faster rate than any other time in their lives. That is why it is important to begin conversing with your child to enhance that brain development, and to ultimately set your child up for a lifetime of success.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use the five R’s of Early Childhood Education to help boost your child’s development. The five R’s are;

 

  • Read together. Again – read aloud to your child EVERY DAY starting at birth. This will help with your child’s literacy development.
  • Rhyming, playing, talking and singing together.
  • Routines and regular times for meals, play, and sleep which allows children to know what they can expect and what is expected of them.
  • Rewards for everyday successes – praise is a great reward!
  • Relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing and enduring.

 

Reading aloud to your child daily has so many benefits that will help your child enhance their vocabulary and communication skills at a very young age. Use the 5 R’s of Early Childhood Education from The American Academy of Pediatrics to help give you ideas on how to boost your child’s development starting at birth.


Let your Child’s Imagination Run WILD!

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Imaginative play is more than just fun and games. In fact, young children learn by expressing their imagination. Picture a child caring for a doll or stuffed animal, or a child pretending to be a fireman and saving the day. These children are creating life-like scenarios and acting them out. With pretend play, children are able to take on different roles, giving them the unique opportunity to learn social skills, problem solving skills, communication, and empathy.  

How can you encourage your child to use their imagination? Join the fun! Observe your child’s interest and get on their level, sit face to face with your child and imitate his actions. Keep it simple and take turns. Your child will likely mimic your actions as well.  Let your child’s imagination run wild and get playing today!


Is Your Child Getting Too Much Screen Time?

Is-Your-Child-Getting-Too-Much-Screen-Time

In this day and age, it is impossible for children not to be exposed to screen time. From tablets, phones, computers, and television, technology is everywhere.  But how much screen time, if any is appropriate for young children?

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

As easy as it may be to place your child in front of a screen, there is no evidence showing that electronic media has developmental benefit. Instead, put the electronics away and offer your child non-electronic formats of fun such as books, board games, and active play. Taking a “electronic diet” doesn’t need to be grueling, rather see the developmental benefits in limiting screen time now and in the long run.

Read the entire article from The American Academy of Pediatrics here: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx