Friday, November 5, 2010

On Baby Signing

This is an excellent article written on the topic of using sign language to enhance language and literacy skills. The bottom line is that signing can be fun and enjoyable and it doesn't hurt language development. But, it's not clear that it helps either. So, if you want to learn to use sign with your baby go for it. At the same time, don't feel that you MUST do this, young children can learn to talk without it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


As you already know, newborn babies communicate mainly through cries. The first cry you probably heard was your baby’s birth cry, which consists of a couple of gasps and a wail lasting about a second. Other cries will tell you things like “I’m hungry,” “I’m in pain,” or “I’m upset.” The hunger cry is typically a pattern of loud crying, silence, whistling inhalation, and rest, which may include a sucking response. Pain is expressed by a loud, shrill cry. This pattern includes a long cry, a long breath-holding silence, and whimpering. Often your baby will manifest tension in his face, some frowns, or clenched fists. An upset or angry cry expends a large volume of air, resulting in an exasperated sound. These are general patterns of cries— your baby will have his own variation. It won’t take you long to tell the difference between your baby’s cries. This is a first area of connection for you and your baby, just like eye contact in the visual system and reflexes in the motor system.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Vision and hearing are relatively well developed in the newborn (compared to other areas). Your newborn can see things best about 7½ inches from his or her face. Babies are sensitive to color and bright light, closing their eyes if the light is too bright. They can recognize an object if it reappears within 2½ seconds—meaning that their memory lasts for a very short time, but is still present. During the newborn period, babies are alert—looking around their environment—about 5% of the time they are awake. And they sleep about 70% of the time—though not all at once! This means that newborns are alert a total of about 22 minutes a day. Sometimes newborns get “stuck” on interesting objects, because they don’t yet have the movement or motor control over their body to shift attention from one object to another.

Newborns seem to have preferences about what to attend to. They like objects that move, things that have sharp contours, and dark/light contrasts. When looking at your face, your baby will tend to look at your hairline, eyes, or mouth—areas that present high-contrast visual stimuli.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Motor Skills

Newborns, soon after birth, typically fall into a long sleep that lasts about 14-18 hours. This deep sleep helps your baby to conserve energy. It also helps him to stabilize functions such as blood circulation, breathing, and digestion. At birth and during the first few days, newborn babies move randomly. These twitching movements and jerks are involuntary and referred to as reflexes. Reflexes are the first reliable movement responses your baby makes to his environment, and they occur automatically. Some of your baby’s reflexes—mass activity reflexes—manifest themselves by their whole body responding to stimulation of one part of the body. Examples might be changes in temperature, light, and sound. Other reflexes—specific activity reflexes—are seen within an isolated part of your baby’s body. Some researchers believe that babies’ reflexes let them respond to their environment and learn about how to organize their bodies. Some reflexes, such as gagging and coughing, protect your baby. The phasic bite reflex is seen when your baby’s gums are touched and rubbed—here, your baby will respond by opening his mouth from a biting position. The rooting reflex is seen when your baby’s cheek is stroked—he will turn his lips, tongue, and jaw toward the touch. The rhythmic suck-swallow pattern is seen when a finger or nipple is inserted into your baby’s mouth. These reflexes are often seen during eating, and are crucial for nourishment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Social Skills

Newborns tend to prefer the sound of the human voice. So your singing, cooing, and talking to them soothes them. They’ve heard mommy’s and daddy’s voices in the last 3 months of pregnancy because their auditory system was already functioning, There are some reports of newborns recognizing their parents’ voices at birth. Newborn babies also smile reflexively. This smile typically occurs when the cheek or lips are touched or in light sleep. You’ll know it’s a reflex because the area around the eyes doesn’t crinkle— a significant difference between social and reflexive smiles. Nonetheless, this reflexive smiling helps to set the stage for face to face connection, attention, and continued learning. These early abilities probably help newborns to “tune in” to their parents and set the stage for parent-child attachment.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Babies are born with fluid in their middle ear (behind the eardrum), so their hearing is not as sensitive as it will be in about 2 weeks when this fluid is absorbed. Nevertheless, they can tell the difference between loud and soft sounds and between short and long sound duration. The auditory feedback loop is already present and used by your newborn baby. The auditory feedback loop is the relationship between the ability of a baby to use sounds that she hears in order to control or monitor sounds that she produces. Experiments testing the auditory feedback loop examine a baby’s change in heart rate or breathing rate in response to presentation of the same or a different sound. Amazingly, within the first few days after birth, babies can tell the difference between sounds. Distinguishing specific sounds in words, however, comes later. But newborns are able to perceive a great deal right from birth.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Really? I'll say it again really? People thought that Baby Einstein was going to make their babies smart? Okay, if it didn't work you can go get a refund.

I'm so glad I never was given a set of those things, I know many people who did. My worry was that I couldn't then in good consciousness go and give the things to the Good Will or somthing, it would be perpetuating the notion that sticking babies in front of the television would make them smarter. And, yes it IS television.

But, it's educational!! No, it isn't. What made people go for this drivel in the first place? Well, it turns out that very young children can learn to distinguish different sounds. They can even distinguish sounds in languages that are not in their native language. But, over time, they lose the ability to make the distinctions in the language that they don't hear everyday.

We also know that babies who are exposed to lots of language on average learn more words. But, videos and television-- while they may use language, words, and concepts that babies can learn are not INTERACTIVE. Duh! Here's more on that issue.

Now, I'm not saying that sometimes it isn't convenient to park your baby in front of something like this so that you can take a shower. I'm just saying that you can't count on videos to teach your baby language. Language has give and take, it's responsive-- those are things that only other people in your baby's life can do.