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Archive for Growth and Development

Effects of Watching TV on Babies and Children?

by Jan

Television is my pet hate – just ask my kids”. I have been a television Nazi since day one because it is a serious issue in a child’s development. In my opinion when it comes to television, turn it off, pretend it is broken, whatever; just be in control of it while you can and while your children are forming behaviour habits. It is not just my opinion there is much research around in all areas of development to justify my hate.

Brain research suggests that watching television under two years old is pushing your child into tasks the brain is not developmentally ready to take on. (John Medina – developmental biologist) Television is an all-pervasive and highly influential element in the lives of most Australian babies and children today. Children of different ages watch and understand television in different ways, depending on the length of their attention span, the ways in which they process information, the amount of mental effort they invest, their own life experiences and parental input.

There are a variety of studies that show television viewing before the age of three may have adverse effects on subsequent cognitive development and neural programming for the future. In fact, 90% of the brain’s neural pathways are laid down by three years old. After this, they are added to and built on.

Babies discover the ways of their mother from listening and intuitively picking up on her specific movements and sounds. Having the constant background noise and flashes of the television may inhibit this vital connection.

Learn more about your toddler

Under two years old television is a negative influence in a variety of ways. This is seen regularly in babies and toddlers with eating and sleeping issues. Some situations that occur with regular television watching include:

  • the inability to settle and sleep
  • a low energy output
  • their lack of muscle strength
  • the flattened head shape of a baby who is propped regularly in front of the television
  • their lack of enjoyment and involvement in the developing process of eating
  • the reduced eye contact and interaction that parents have with their babies

Encourage no television watching for children under two years old; instead focus on interacting with them and helping them to discover life skills that stay with them into the future.

Preschoolers (three to five year olds), actively search for meaning in television content but are also attracted to vivid production features, such as rapid character movement, rapid changes of scenery and intense or unexpected sights and sounds. With this preference for cartoons, preschoolers are being exposed to a large number of violent acts in their viewing day leading to the increased risk of violent behaviour and poor sleeping patterns. Aim to limit preschool television to no more than one hour of non violent or educational shows per day.

Up until seven years old children are active participants, initiators and experimenters of what life has to offer. In other words, they learn through play. The cognitive growth and formulation of answers to their many questions occur as they interact using all their senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell) with the world around them. Babies and children need to be given opportunities to participate, initiate and experiment with a variety of materials to enhance this growth. If they are watching television be mindful of what is shown on the screen as children do not understand the difference between fact and fantasy until they are seven years old. Logical reasoning does not develop until later. Three to seven year olds think in images and pictures therefore characters may come alive in their vivid imagination during the quiet of the night. Turning the television off two hours prior to bed and encouraging happy and relaxing books and play as a family, can help reduce the incidence of nightmares and night terrors.

There is increasing evidence to support television viewing is associated with obesity (effecting one in four children) in the areas of:

  • snacking on poor nutritive foods
  • decreased awareness of the amount of food consumed
  • demands of poor food choices from advertising
  • lack of physical activity
  • unmotivated energies

It is also associated with anger, nightmares and increasing brain wave activity, making it difficult for babies and children to settle and sleep well. Poor sleep then produces overtiredness and further behaviour challenges.

Suggested television viewing for optimum growth and development of babies and children:

  • no television viewing under two years old (even in the background)
  • half an hour of television viewing for toddlers (12 months to three years)
  • limit viewing to a maximum of an hour a day for preschoolers (three to five years)
  • no snacking while watching television
  • no watching television while eating meals
  • discuss the shows that are watched and suggest role play ideas and activities

This article may seem tough but your child’s future depends on it.

Separation Anxiety

Ever had a ‘Velcro baby’ where she’d hold tight and not let you go? You’d step away and she’d cry and reach out for you in a desperate attempt to go with you. Even going to the bathroom or having a shower proved difficult without your baby dissolving into a flood of distressed tears. You probably found that these acts of insecurity were heightened when she was unwell, teething, tired or hungry.

It’s normal behaviour at certain ages

But don’t panic—it’s a normal stage of developmental that occurs around seven to nine months of age. It’s a time when most babies start to crawl.

Handling a new stage of development

Your baby is developing ‘object permanence’ where just because something is out of sight and out of hearing doesn’t mean it no longer exists. Coupled with the new skill of crawling she takes herself away from her place of security, her primary carer (usually mum).

The passion to explore, plus her leap in brain development, makes her feel unsure whether she can get back to mum or that mum will come back to her. How you handle this period of separation anxiety will have a strong influence on how well your baby learns to separate.

Help baby adjust

To help your baby adjust, don’t always rescue her and pick her up and take her with you. Instead, help her feel comfortable with separating. Come back to her and play for a few more minutes before going again. As you leave the room, let her see that you feel confident saying goodbye. Talk to her in an upbeat tone as you leave, assuring her that she’s ok and that you’ll be coming back to her. This is the same when leaving her at day care or grandmas. Give her time to feel comfortable in the company of a new carer before you leave. It will help her to separate with a minimum of distress. Avoid sneaking away, always say goodbye otherwise an unexpected disappearance can leave your baby wondering when and if you will return, which builds mistrust and feelings of insecurity.

Baby’s temperament

Temperament has a major impact on how she copes with this stage of her development. You may have already noticed one of the three temperaments[i] (easy, difficult, and slow-to-warm) in babies that you know, and recognised the different ways they handle change.

Home environment

The harmony of the home environment and whether dad works away for extended periods, also impacts on her ability to separate

Separation anxiety returns

‘Object permanence’ isn’t completely established until two years old, which means your toddler may go through this stage of separation anxiety again at around 15 to 18 months old. At this age your toddler’s inquisitive nature and spirit reaches a new level that often causes the clingy behaviour and distress of separating from significant carers to reoccur. This is because her brain development has taken another leap and her understanding of the world has changed. At this age your toddler has an amazing grasp of language and can understand what you say, even if she can’t say it back yet. For this reason, talk to her, tell her what is happening, where you are going, and when you will be back. Wave goodbye and eventually she’ll associate going away with coming back.[ii]

Keep her life stable and help her through this period of insecurity and uncertainly. Have a regular routine, feed her healthy food and encourage good day and night sleep patterns. Stay calm yourself knowing this time will pass.

Bub can also experience separation anxiety at bedtime, as this is a period of long separation. Avoid cry-it-out strategies to encourage sleep during these times as this will only cause more distress. ‘Putting them to Sleep[iii] eBook has alternative bedtime strategies for you to try. Again, temperament and the family environment are factors that interfere with her ability to manage separating, leaving her to cling for longer.

While separation anxiety can prove difficult for you and your child, try to accept that it’s a normal stage of brain maturity and infant development, and remain patient, encouraging and reassuring. Be sensitive to individual temperament and needs.

Push away or hold on tight

Try not to push her away too soon or hold on too tight for too long, as this can hinder the developmental process of independence and self-assurance. Avoid comparing your baby with others of the same age as every child and every environment is different and as always seek professional help if you feel that separation is an ongoing problem.

References:

[i] Peterson, 2004 referred to in (Burton, 2011, Psychology)

[ii] http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=141&id=1848

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.

Play Ideas in the First 12 Months

By Jan Murray

Play helps children learn and develop. During the early years infants use all their senses to explore the environment. They intently look, smell, taste, hear and feel everything they can in order to make sense of their world. Children’s’ genetic makeup combined with opportunities to explore, shapes who they become.

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Physical development begins at the head and works downwards. Infants first gain strength and control of their head and neck, followed by the hands and arms. Then the spine and trunk strengthen in order to assist them to sit and swivel. Next, the legs strengthen, which helps them crawl, stand and eventually walk. Exposing infants to games and toys that match their physical abilities and mental alertness encourages mastery of one area in readiness for the next.

sit

An infant’s first year can be divided into five developmental stages:

  1. For the first six weeks there is no need for toys. Infants are more concerned with who is caring for them. Newborns delight in familiar voices and heartbeats so cuddle up close, read and sing to them. Newborns are comforted by touch and rhythmical movements so carry, sway, rock, give tummy time on your chest, across your lap or on a soft mat on the floor. Newborn vision is limited to about 20cm so get close to get their attention.
  2. From six weeks to four months you’ll notice infants looking at you intently. They often have a puzzled frown as they closely observe objects and faces. Black and white patterns and hanging mobiles hold their attention and they grip thin toys when placed in their grasp but won’t have very good control so may drop objects or hit them self in the head. Their refection in the mirror is fascinating. Tummy time continues to be important but is not always enjoyed so use various distractions and persevere.
  3. From four to six months most infants are not mobile although many have mastered rolling over. They reach out for and hold toys with better coordination and enjoy feeling textured fabrics and surfaces with their hands and feet. Many infants are nearly sitting but avoid leaving them in ‘sitting aids’ for too long as their spine and hips are not developed enough for this until they can sit naturally. Mimicking sounds and ‘talking’ to your baby is a game they love and so is exploring the taste of different foods.
  4. From six to nine months infants are rolling over and have mastered sitting up. Seeing the world from this angle provides more ‘play’ opportunities. Stacking blocks and cups make colourful fun. Sit them in the highchair while you cook and hand them safe kitchen implements and foods to explore. Sit them on a rug, in a washing basket or in a stroller while you hang the washing on the line. Hand them some wet washing and coloured pegs to examine. Infants begin to understand ‘object permanence’, where just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. For this reason, introduce games like ‘peek–a–boo’ and hiding objects under something nearby and encouraging them to look for it.
  5. From nine to twelve months life starts to get even more interesting. Most infants are now on the move, crawling, cruising around furniture or walking. Introduce toys they can stand at. Tables with nobs to push twist and pop are entertaining. Discovering finger food is a great game but be prepared for mess before manners. Hazards are a big problem at this stage because they are very quick and very inquisitive. If you have older children, be aware of very small bits on their toys. If they are walking they love pushing things around. Pulling and throwing objects are also popular.

To be able to coordinate and learn well infants need adequate sleep.

Play is exciting and it’s how children learn about their world. Help them get involved and provide consistent boundaries to show them how far they can go. Keep them safe and stimulated to foster their inquisitive spirit and enjoy their limitless enthusiasm.

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This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, Private Child Health Consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. 

Gagging is not Choking

by Jan Murray

It is important for parents to understand the difference between when a baby gags on food and chokes on food… gagging is normal infant development whereas choking can be harmful.

Learning in the mouth

During the first year of life babies learn through senses in the mouth. Different textures, temperatures and tastes stimulate learning and the development of neural pathways in the brain. Until four to six months of age babies only swallow liquid. Swallowing is different when food is involved. There are different tastes, textures and temperatures to explore and become familiar with. Some babies are sensitive to these changes while others are not.

Swallowing

Soft, pureed or chewed food pass over the tongue touching the gag reflex at the back of the throat on the way to the stomach. Suitably prepared food, softened and mushed (mechanically or in the mouth) slides down the oesophagus into the stomach and intestines for further digestion.

This process of swallowing often involves gagging when the food is new. Choking occurs when food items are too hard or large. Gagging is not the same as choking.

Choking

Choking occurs when a substance gets lodged in the small oesophageal tube and pushes into into the trachea (airway) lying alongside it.

Food matter can partially obstruct the trachea or completely obstruct the tube. This depends on the size and firmness of the lodged substance. Sitting upright helps food matter slide down.

Never offer babies food that could get lodged in this tube such as peanuts, raw carrot, apple, and hard biscuits that don’t soften with saliva.

Gagging

Gagging is when babies are getting use to different textures. When food travels down the oesophagus babies may regurgitate it up from the back of their throat but often swallow it again. It is important for babies to be in an upright position to aid this process. Gagging is necessary for babies to understand how to chew and swallow different textures. Giving babies soft foods that are age appropriate will usually not cause choking but often causes gagging during the chewing and swallowing process.

Always sit with babies when offering them solid food. Avoid showing panic reactions in front of them if they do gag. Instead, smile and be encouraging, knowing that they are capable of regurgitating and re-swallowing. If you panic babies may inhale the food they have in their mouth.

Enjoy the experience of eating 

Help babies enjoy the experience of eating in a non-rushed, non-distracted atmosphere. Sit in front of them face-to-face with an encouraging smile and keep a ‘sippy cup’ of water handy.

Staying on mush

Many parents hold off moving their infants onto textured food. This can lead to fussy eating and slowed speech development. Parents may fear choking or only use processed foods from jars, squeeze packets and tins, which are kept soft for legal reasons.

This article was brought to you by Jan Murray, private child health consultant who is an internationally renowned expert in her field. Jan encourages parents in the area of infant sleep, nutrition, activities and family balance. Jan publishes regular ezine and blog articles to provide free parenting tips, tools and resources to educate and support those caring for young babies and children.