The importance of physical activity for baby and infants


Let's get physical! Physical activity with babies and toddlers: the importance of it, and guidelines.

Let’s get physical, baby

I found this nice page from the NHS on physical activity guidelines for children under 5 (walking and non-walking)

 

Baby containers
Often, it is very easy for baby to spend time being still or strapped in somewhere like, the high-chair, then maybe into the buggy for an outing, then when you get home, maybe into the cot for nap, then into the high-chair again for lunch, into the walker, swing, or bouncer…etc…etc. See this post here from Starfish Therapies for more about this “container shuffle”, as they call it (baby shuffles from one container to the next)

 

Ok… So How much physical activity do children under 5 years old need to do to keep healthy?
The NHS writes that it is important for babies and infants to be physically active every day for healthy growth and development.

 

 

 

Babies

Babies should be encouraged to be active from birth. Before your baby begins to crawl, encourage them to be physically active by reaching and grasping, pulling and pushing, moving their head, body and limbs during daily routines, and during supervised floor play, including tummy time. Once babies can move around, encourage them to be as active as possible in a safe, supervised and nurturing play environment. For more ideas, see Keeping kids active.

 

 

Toddlers

Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside. The 180 minutes can include light activity such as standing up, moving around, rolling and playing, as well as more energetic activity like skipping, hopping, running and jumping. Active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games, is the best way for this age group to be physically active.

 

 

All children under 5 years old

Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they’re asleep. Watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train or being strapped into a buggy for long periods are not good for a child’s health and development

 

Hah – don’t think my Little Lovely would qualify as being inactive for long periods, he is far too busy exploring and needing to pick up everything he sees to be doing that.

There are also two nicely set out downloads of Physical Activity Guidelines for under 5s who are not yet walking here, and under 5s capable of walking here.

 

Examples of physical activity for children who are not yet walking includes:
  • Have a Tummy Fun Time

    Tummy Time Baby

    ‘Tummy time’ – this includes any time spent on the stomach including rolling and playing on the floor
  • Reaching for and grasping objects, pulling, pushing and playing with other people
  • ‘Parent and baby’ swim sessions

 

 

What are the benefits of movement?
• Develops motor skills
• Improves cognitive development
• Contributes to a healthy weight
• Enhances bone and muscular development
• Supports learning of social skills

What are the benefits of being active for at least 180 minutes each day?
• Improves cardiovascular health
• Contributes to a healthy weight
• Improves bone health
• Supports learning of social skills
• Develops movement and co-ordination

⇒ Sounds good, so let’s get physical, then!

Happy Birthday Baby! Now we are one

now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk. (Baby's first birthday)

Now We Are One

Now we are one. I can’t believe how quickly it’s all gone. This time last year he was only a few hours old. I had no idea how much things were going to change after that. We had a great day today. Friends and family came round for a little party. Nothing too big and fancy. Had a cake, some food, some fun. It was loosely Caterpillar themed, based on our experiences of reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and that being something the Little Lovely might recognise.

 

We are going to continue the celebration tomorrow with a “birthday twin” friend who was born on the same day as LL, and her parents.

 

Time has flown. Back at work. Need to enjoy my free time with LL. Soon I’ll be writing a post or something on facebook and saying “now we are 10″, or something. Too fast.

 

now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk

First birthday mix

 

Our caterpillar themed cake complete with 1 candle! He couldn’t blow it out but we still did the whole happy birthday song to him. He pointed at the cake while we sang.

 

now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk

Birthday caterpillar cake

 

I tried to make some grape caterpillars by threading green and red grapes onto a cake pop stick. I avoided anything too sharp and spiky; the cake pop stick seemed good and no small children managed to poke themselves with it. Not everyone could tell they were supposed to be caterpillars though! Mainly the mothers could tell. Oh well. I was going to put icing sugar eyes on and little antennae made of carrot, but ran out of preparation time this morning. Here they are eating some paper fruit, a la The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk

Grape caterpillars trying to get at some fruit

 

Look at that lovely spread!
now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk

Food spread

Decorations up. LL was quite interested in all the sparkly things hanging around the house.
now we are one, happy birthday baby, baby-brain.co.uk

First birthday decorations

Research on reading: vocabulary benefits. Oh and our baby health review

reading with baby, research shows link between reading for pleasure and vocabulary. baby-brain.co.uk

Free stuff from our child health review; toothbrush and books

We went for a health review today as the Little Lovely is NEARLY A YEAR OLD (almost unbelievable).
Anyway, as part of that we got some free stuff from the government. Booty! Yes, we got a free toothbrush, toothpaste and a bookstart kit that included 2 baby board books, some nursery rhymes and a booklet with a £1 book voucher in it. So, looks like government wants to develop a generation of book readers with good teeth. Sounds alright to me I suppose!

So when I got home, I looked up the bookstart website and had a look around their site. Came across some interesting research on their research blog about the benefits on vocabulary of reading for pleasure. They write:

 

 

 

Reading for pleasure in childhood has big vocabulary benefits later in life

 

This research from the Institute of Education looks at how vocabulary scores change between ages 16 to 42.

 

The findings show that the frequency of reading for pleasure is positively linked with vocabulary scores, and what people read matters just as much as how often they read.

“Those who regularly read for pleasure at age 10 scored 67% in the vocabulary test at age 42, whereas those who didn’t read regularly aged 10 scored 52%.

- Regular readers tended to have higher vocabulary scores at age 10 and 16

 

– Regular childhood readers (measured at age 10 and age 16) were still 9 percentage points ahead at age 42.

 

 

– The researchers speculate that regular childhood readers are likely to have picked up ‘good reading habits’ which continued into adulthood.

 

– The type of reading material also made a difference: the greatest gains in vocabulary scores were seen in those who read ‘highbrow’ fiction.

Based on information from bookstart research blog, The Institute of Education news (read their article here) and Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Working Paper 2014/7

Return to the baby lab – we’re infant scientists, again! (psychological research participant)

The Little Lovely, (age 11m 2 weeks) acted as a baby research participant again.

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat

Taking part in another research study

I wrote a few months ago about how we took part in some psychological research (i’m an infant scientist) at the Birkbeck BabyLab and Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. LL took part in a study that was looking at which parts of the brain were responsible for understanding others’ beliefs. He wore some fancy headgear which I assume was supposed to detect which areas of the brain become activated and “light up”, when looking at some video clips during the study.
Well, we got a call asking if we would like to take part in another project. LL seemed to like it the first time so we went back. This was a different study and the headgear was slightly different. Fortunately, Mr Bear was on hand to model the new “hat” and tell us all about it and whether LL would like to wear it himself (pics left, and below)

 

What is this EEG hat thing?

The information sheet from the baby lab says that our brain cells communicate with each other using faint electric signals. We can “eavesdrop” on the communication by placing an array of sensors on the head that can pick up the natural activity of the person’s brain (EEG, electroencephalogram). The netted “hat” used (as shown on Mr Bear below, and later pictures by LL) is specifically designed for babies and can help researchers achieve a detailed “map” of the working brain. It’s safe and only monitors brain activity, a bit like a thermometer, it only measures what’s going on – it can take your temperature but can’t change it at all.

 

baby-brain.co.uk infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. bear shows EEG
Mr Bear shows us how to wear the EEG hat

 

The study: We’re ready to learn!

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
Another day, another fancy hat
The researcher put the EEG net on LL, while another one distracted him with some toys. He didn’t seem to mind it at all and was not in any distress or discomfort. We then went into a room with a television screen. LL sat in a high chair and watched video clips of two women pointing to an object and naming it. One woman always named a familiar object correctly, the other incorrectly. Then, LL saw videos of only one of the women naming novel objects.
What was the aim of the study? The aim was to help us understand more about how infants prepare themselves to learn new information, and will enable further research into how infants seek information and how expectancy of information affects learning.
The idea behind the study was, as adults we learn best when we are interested in what we are learning. When we know we are about to be taught something we prepare so that we can process and remember as much as possible. This “readiness to learn” can be reflected in brain states, the intensity of which can be used to predict how well the information will be learned. This study was looking at these brain states reflecting “readiness to learn”.
When LL watched the video, the lab was observing his eye movement using an eyetracker and brain activation using the EEG.
The eye movement findings will help to establish whether infants preferred the informing or mis-informing woman in the videos. With the EEG – if infants learn to expect reliable information from one of the women, and not the other, we should see increased activation when the informing adult is present compared to when the mis-informing adult is present.

 

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
In the study room – what’s going on?

 

Again, we got to contribute to a study that will tell us more about infant brain development and behaviour, and it was a fun afternoon out for us. The place was very baby friendly, and set up for us, of course.
And after all his hard work, LL got to have a nice play with some toys, oh and another free T-shirt! Then, he was quite tired and so had a nice sleep on the way home.

 

infant psychological research participant @the baby lab. Taking part in the study with EEG hat
A well deserved play and nap after taking part in the research

What happens in the brain when we read? – psychological research

“Brain regions that encode words, grammar, [and] story identified”

 

what happens in the brain when you read? psychological research paper

What happens when I read this book?

Psychological research says:
A study involved functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of eight people as they read a chapter of a Harry Potter book. On analyzing the scans, by every four-word segment, they produced an “integrated computational model of reading”, identifying, (they claim) which parts of the brain were responsible for processes such as determining the meaning of words, understanding relationships between characters, and parsing sentences.

Interestingly – 

“The test subjects read Chapter 9 of Sorcerer’s Stone, which is about Harry’s first flying lesson,” …

 

It turns out that movement of the characters — such as when they are flying their brooms — is associated with activation in the same brain region that we use to perceive other people’s motion.

 

Similarly, the characters in the story are associated with activation in the same brain region we use to process other people’s intentions.”

Method: The study used a technique where people saw four words of a passage every half two seconds. “For each word, they identified 195 detailed features — everything from the number of letters in the word to its part of speech. They then used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the activation of each cubic centimeter of the brain for each four-word segment.”

Bit by bit, the algorithm was able to associate certain features with certain regions of the brain

 

Exactly how the brain creates these neural encodings is still a mystery, they said, but it is the beginning of understanding what the brain is doing when a person reads.

 

 

This article was based on information from:

Carnegie Mellon News

and Science Daily

Journal article reference:

Leila Wehbe, Brian Murphy, Partha Talukdar, Alona Fyshe, Aaditya Ramdas, Tom Mitchell. Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Subprocesses. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (11): e112575 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112575

 

baby and infant visual development

Stuff about baby and infant visual development:

What can babies see in the first few months of life?

The visual system is not fully developed at birth (1), and sight develops gradually. Baby has difficulty distinguishing between similar colours such as orange and red and so prefer high contrast colours such as black and white.
  • This is why you might see toys, pictures, stories for young infants in black and white, or simple high contrast patterns and colours
In fact, some research shows that infants might prefer blue and purple colours (2). This article outlines that:

Babies do have color preferences, and these preferences seem to be mostly determined by hue. Blues and purples are babies’ favorites, while greens, yellows, and reds are liked less

 

…Does this mean expectant parents should run off to buy purple and blue toys?… In the end, I doubt it would make that much difference in a baby’s life. The first few months of infancy are over quite quickly, and are spent mostly sleeping…but it’s still interesting to see how babies’ visual systems develop, and how at just 3 months of age they do appear perceive colors in a way that is analogous to adults.”

 

What do babies prefer to look at?

  • Newborns have shown a preference for looking at faces (3)
  • Some research suggests that ability to process faces is quite well developed, despite the very young age, and might not be much different to an adults’ ability (4)
  • Infants are probably born with some information about the structure of faces (5)

 

 

What about other stuff like depth perception? Are babies born with it?

No one wants their child to go crawling off the sofa, table, any other deep drop. There’s a “classic” psychological study called the “visual cliff” (6) (Gibson and Walk, 1960; read the article here) that looked at depth perception. The psychologists predicted that depth perception would be something we are born with, rather than something we learn as children. They therefore developed an experiment to test this prediction with babies aged 6-14 months.
The study set up a “visual cliff”, which used a board laid over a heavy glass sheet, raised from the floor, with some patterned fabric under it. The fabric was immediately beneath the glass but then it looks as though it “drops off” on one half of the glass because the fabric is then laid down on the floor below (rather than directly beneath the glass). The glass still covers the space though, so it creates the visual effect of a drop off, or “cliff”, but the glass is still sturdy and continues across the drop so that any crawling baby will not actually fall, but it can see that there is a drop below.
The parent then stands on the “cliff side” and calls for the baby to crawl over to them from the “shallow side”. Many of the children found it difficult to crawl over to the parent because of the perceived drop. Only 3 of 27 “crept off the brink” onto the drop, many crawled away from the parent as they called to the baby from the cliff side, and some cried because they couldn’t get to the parent without crossing an apparent drop (this is an old study when ethics committees were maybe slightly differently, ok, so maybe not so nice to read about the kids crying)

Often they would peer down through the glass on the deep side and then back away. Others would pat the glass with their hands, yet despite this tactual assurance of solidity would refuse to cross. (pg 64)

The study concludes that:
Most human infants can discriminate depth as soon as they can crawl.

 

and… The behavior of the children in this situation gave clear evidence of their dependence on vision. (pg 64)

 Still, a good idea to buy those stair gates and other relevant protection though, yeah?!

 

 

References:

  1. Brémond-Gignac D., Copin H., Lapillonne A., Milazzo S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanismsCurr. Opin. Ophthalmol. 22, S1–S8
  2. ZEMACH, I., CHANG, S., & TELLER, D. (2007). Infant color vision: Prediction of infants’ spontaneous color preferences Vision Research, 47 (10), 1368-1381
  3. Stein, T., Peelen, M. V., & Sterzer, P. (2011b). Adults’ awareness of faces follows newborns’ looking preferences. PLoS ONE, 6(12), e29361.
  4. Farroni T, Johnson MH, Menon E, Zulian L, Faraguna D, et al. (2005) Newborns’ preference for face-relevant stimuli: Effects of contrast polarity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102: 17245–17250.
  5. Morton, J., & Johnson, M. H. (1991). A Two-Process Theory of Infant Face Recognition. Psychological Review, 98 (2),164-181
  6. Gibson, E.J.; Walk, R.D. (1960). “Visual Cliff”. Scientific American 202 (4): 64

Tooth explosion

Long time no write. Had a few bad nights sleep. The Little Lovely appears to have about 6 different teeth all coming in in various stages. His molars are coming in/have come in on the top and bottom, and also it looks like his top “fangs” are through. His bottom fangs also look like they might be attempting to push through. There is some drool going on. There is terrible nappy rash. It’s the worst i’ve ever seen it. Very odd tooth explosion occurring. At this rate he’s going to have all of his teeth apart from the back molars by the time he is 1. He almost has 16 teeth, if you count the 4 fangs, well actually, the bottom two might not be coming in, i’m not sure, it just looks like there’s something very very small threatening to poke out of there. Poor boy (he’s just over 11 months now).

Tis the season – for sickness

So we just got over a bout of sickness that lasted nearly a week whereby I had to take the Little Lovely to the doctors 3 times. I now have a large supply of re-hydration solution sachets that contain all the necessary salts and sugars one needs when being sick. We didn’t need to use them much and LL didn’t like the taste anyway. And so the sickness came to an end, and then just over a week later he became sick again with a cough-cold-virus thing! He also has an occasional temperature. So cue going to the doctors again when he was sick and had a temperature a few days ago. They said he has some cold virus. He is quite miserable.

Simple colour match activity idea for baby and toddler

Simple colour match activity idea for baby and toddler

A quick & easy colour match activity to try with baby and toddler, use existing items around the house. baby-brain.co.uk

Colour match activity idea: Easy and quick to set up

I Just set this up for the Little Lovely to play with tomorrow morning.

At 10.5 months he’s probably a bit young for colour matching (I think, but let’s see what he does tomorrow), but we will:

  • talk about the colours

  • and I’ll demonstrate (model) sorting them

I think these will be important aspects if the kid is a bit too young to sort the colours themselves → Learning through observation (vicarious learning), and also the social and fun aspects of doing it this way will be important.

Other things he might get from this activity: Motor skill development, sensory play (items have different textures and functions), exploration, learning about colours.

 

Materials:

I used things that I already had about the house for this. The items are:

Blue: wooden round shapes, dolphin bath toy, a large lid from fridge pack of baked beans, linky loop, and a small plastic baby food pot

Green: crab bath toy, rattle, linky loop, and gum massager stick for teething

Pink: ball, wooden triangle shape, measuring spoon, and a roller with Velcro texture.

They are sitting on two pieces of LL’s clothing (blue vest and green jumper), and one of his toys (child safe mirror turned face down).

 

….. Hope he enjoys it!

Psychological Research: Does having children make you any happier?

Research on: does having children make us any happier? 

 

See the full article from the London School of Economics, here

 

In summary:
The birth of a first and a second child briefly increases the level of their parents’ happiness, but a third does not, according to new research from LSE and Western University, Canada

 

“According to the research, published in the journal Demography, parents’ happiness increases in the year before and after the birth of a first child, it then quickly decreases and returns to their ‘pre-child’ level of happiness”

 

“Those who become parents between the ages of 23 -34 have increasing happiness before a first birth, however one to two years after the birth, happiness decreases to baseline or below.”

 

“The arrival of a third child is not associated with an increase in the parents’ happiness, but this is not to suggest they are any less loved than their older siblings. Instead, this may reflect that the experience of parenthood is less novel and exciting by the time the third child is born or that a larger family puts extra pressure on the parents’ resources. Also, the likelihood of a pregnancy being unplanned may increase with the number of children a woman already has – and this brings its own stresses.”
  • So – they’re not saying there’s any link between no increase in happiness and not loving or looking after the child! (phew). I like the idea of it being less novel though, kind of makes sense, or other social/economic factors that could affect the “third child” (or later children in general) such as pressure on resources.

 

  • Baby-Brain thinks: Of course, “happiness”, will depend on what you want it to mean and there are going to be many other “changes” that come with children – positive, not so positive (?!) or just differences to one’s life that come with such a significant thing as having a child!
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