The psychology of play with baby and child

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What is play? How does it benefit infants & children? The Psychology of Play explained

Come and play!

Play

Play is fundamental to learning. It contributes to cognitive, social, physical and emotional well-being and therefore is essential to development (1). Through play the child explores their environment and tests out their skills and abilities. The child also learns that they have some effect and control over their environment through their actions, build communication skills and relationships with their caregiver and gain social feedback.

 

In sum, some of the many benefits of play are:

  • A great list of the many benefits of play for babies, toddlers, children!
    Physical skill development (fine and gross motor skills) e.g. through sorting blocks, putting objects in and out of a container
  • Develops language skills – Research (2) suggests that play incorporates many of the socially interactive and cognitive elements known to enhance language, especially “guided play” (parents follow child’s lead while scaffolding the interaction, rather than “free play” where play goes wherever child wants)
  • Develops communication and social skills – e.g.sharing, taking turns (with older children), social communication with other children and adults, negotiation skills
  • Understanding of cause and effect relationships – e.g. testing out a toy to try and understand how it works (3)
  • Relationships and bonding
  • Awareness of self in environment – control and ability to make decisions and direct the play
  • Self expression – of choices, wants, needs – experience of these being recognised by another person and learning their influence on the outcome
  • Creativity and imagination skills (1)
  • Independence – e.g. when playing on own and entertaining self
  • Benefits for parents: Observing or joining in child-driven play gives opportunity to see the world from their child’s perspective, especially with younger children who cannot talk yet – they might be able to express their views and frustrations through play . Learning to communicate more effectively and gives another setting in which to offer nurture and guidance (1)

 

How to support your child during play – what parents can do:

Scaffolding; a psychological learning approach, zone of proximal development. Vygotsky

“Scaffolding” learning

Playing alone can be important – it might help the child develop confidence and independence skills, and at other times you (the parent or caregiver) might join in. I remember my toddler when he was a bit younger went through a stage when he didn’t want me to interfere too much in what he was doing and communicated this to me by making annoyed sounds and taking the object(s) we were playing with away from me. For example, if we were trying to sort shapes and I tried to “help” him he’d say waarrah and get annoyed. So I stopped. But, he still wanted me to sit with him. This made me think of the concept of:
  • Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky)

  • This is about what we can do with the help of others, that we could not do alone.
  • The support and interaction with others helps develop skills, learning and understanding in the area the child is trying to develop.
  • Here’s a brief page explaining zone of proximal development and scaffolding

 

The Psychology of Play with baby, toddler and kids - the benefits and more!

This is a learning model that actually applies to learning over the lifespan and is relevant us as infants, children, teenagers and as adults, across contexts from school to work. For example, a teacher or supervisor at work might refer to this concept when assisting the learning of a student or less experienced employee.
  • The teacher or supervisor can provide “scaffolding” to support the child’s developing knowledge, skills or understanding of the area they are trying to master.

 

In general, a consistent and predictable parental approach is beneficial

  • Encourage curiosity when playing together e.g. asking – where did that ball go?
  • If baby is exploring and experimenting comment on what they are doing. If they’re not quite getting something “right” e.g. stacking the wrong size block and it keeps falling off – try a comment to acknowledge their hard work and motivation such as “I can see you’re trying to stack those, it doesn’t look like that one fits does it?” – and maybe try scaffolding their attempts by suggesting another block or holding the blocks so they don’t fall to maintain baby’s interest and perseverance.

Get Creative! The Psychology of Play with baby, toddler and kids - the benefits and more!Get creative

You don’t need fancy expensive toys for play or to aid development. This study here (4) discusses the possible benefit of every day items and furniture that can support gross and fine motor skill development (being mindful of risky items or dangerous situations)

Toys, appliances, and even a sofa and coffee table can impact the way or when a baby first crawls, walks or achieves other growth milestones… the significant role household items play in their infant’s motor skill development.

 

‘What does a toy or a coffee table do?’ Well, depending on the space between the couch and the coffee table, it could be the first distance that the child wants to cross… If a toy is cranked and pops up, the child might want to go grab it, which could lead the child to walking. But the challenge is the thing that stimulates that child to begin walking.

Get Social

And of course, another free and thrifty play option is the local playground or park, where you can hang with your other parent friends and benefit from some conversation normalising the trials and tribulations of parenthood… Outdoor Play! The Psychology of Play with baby, toddler and kids - the benefits and more!

 

 

 

References:
  1. Ginsburg, K. R. (2007).The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. PEDIATRICS Vol. 119 No. 1, pp. 182 -191. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182.full
  2. Weisberg, D. S., Zosh, J. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M. (2013). Talking It Up: Play, Language Development, and the Role of Adult Support. American Journal of Play, 6 (1), pp. 39-54. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1016058.pdf
  3. Schulz, Laura E., and Bonawitz, Elizabeth. (2007). Serious fun: Preschoolers engage in more exploratory play when evidence is confounded. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1045-1050.
  4. P. M. Cacola, C. Gabbard, M. I. L. Montebelo, D. C. C. Santos. Further Development and Validation of the Affordances in the Home Environment for Motor Development-Infant Scale (AHEMD-IS).Physical Therapy, 2014; 95 (6): 901 DOI: 10.2522/%u200Bptj.20140011

The Preschooler is 3! – child development and milestones at age 3

 

We are no longer a baby. We are no longer a toddler. I suppose we are now a… preschooler! Yes happy birthday Little Lovely!

 

What to expect age 3: developments, milestones, psychology, preschooler

Happy Birthday!

What can we expect aged 3? Here’s some areas of development:

(remember, every child develops at their own rate and there will be differences between children)
Language:
  • I’ve noticed his talking really take off; everything is more fluent and we can have near-proper conversations. According to Talking Point, some areas of language development usually present by age 4 are being able to use longer sentences, starting to like simple jokes (we like burps and farts especially), describing events that have happened e.g. “we went beach”, but still making mistakes with tenses e.g. saying “runned for ran”.
Cognitive:
  • We’re enjoying small world play and developing simple story lines and narratives with toys – this sounds fancy but really it just means he’s using one toy (e.g. a Lego car) and pretending that it’s talking to or giving instructions to another toy, following a basic story, e.g. the car is going to the shops. He sometimes uses a different voice to indicate that he’s talking as the car and not as himself. It’s always the same voice he uses and has not experimented with different pitches, genders, ages, volume etc
  • Other areas of cognitive development according to CDC (centers for disease control and prevention) include this “make-believe” play with dolls, animals and people, doing a 3 or 4 piece puzzle, building towers of more than 6 blocks (read more here)
  • Social cognition and Theory of Mind – understanding that other people possess a mind and beginning to understand the minds of others – that they think, feel and perceive and these might be different thoughts, feelings, perceptions to our own. This is constantly developing in the early years; 3 year olds ,might talk about what other people think (Bartsch & Wellman, 1995*) but at age 3 the development of ToM has further to go…
Motor skills:
  • According to this great timeline of development from the NHS, at aged 3-4 years children start to draw people! Can’t wait… I’ve noticed him starting to colour in specific areas of a picture (e.g. the eyes) rather than general scribbles and colouring
  • Starts using a knife and fork (age 3-5; NHS timeline, link above)

 

 

*Bartsch, K & Wellman, H. M (1995). Children talk about the mind. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Baby is 15 months – walking & talking – what we can say and do

How many words can a 15 month old say? Here's a list of ours and walking progress! baby-brain.co.uk

Look at my cool yellow hat

The baby (or is it toddler now?) is 15 months! He’s been talking more and is now walking fully – when I say fully, i mean he’s walking everywhere and not resorting to any crawling. However, his walking is still a bit robotic and jerky, cowboy-esque.

 

Here’s some words I’ve noticed he can say, appropriately and in context, although not all of them are clear:

  • thank you (clear; one of his first words)
  • daddy (very clear)
  • pea (very clear; he likes peas)
  • sock(s) (clear)
  • banana (but not very clearly)
  • attempts to say “open” but not clear at all
  • down (clear; put me down – is confusing up and down though, mainly just says “down” for wanting both to be picked up and put down)
  • sit down (clear; he likes to sit on the sofa)
  • wow (very clear)
  • wee wee (very clear; and will go sit on the potty – has probably been influenced by his brother’s potty training, also see here and here for more on potty training)
  • poo (clear)
  • apple (clear; one of his first words)
  • Sarah duck (kind of clear; a kid’s cartoon he and his brother like to watch about a girl called Sarah and her friend, a duck)
  • ball (not very clear)
  • twinkle twinkle (and can sing more of the song including up above the world so high, not very clear)
  • round (kind of clear – relates to wheels on the bus song)

 

Next development step with talking: putting two words together!! (not including wee wee)…

 

Potty Training the Toddler – Potty Charts, Rewards & Tips

How we potty trained: Psychology, reward charts, practice!

So we started potty training some time ago, but then lost momentum

The toddler (2.5 years as I write this) is pretty good at going to the potty now at home and if he is not wearing a nappy or trousers. But, if he has nappy and clothes on then he will just continue to use the nappy, not say when he needs the potty, and not use the potty. So I needed to get back on track with the training:

 

Potty training – Stage 2

The toddler is acquainted with the potty now so that’s some of the hard work done. I decided to make a chart where he can see his gains and successes and include rewards and positive reinforcement.

 

The psychology behind it

  • Graded exposure – to the potty (practice) – Child gets used to using the potty and increased skill and confidence with experience working their way up to a final goal (e.g. using potty or big toilet and no longer wearing nappy)
  • Behavioural psychology – rewards and reinforcement
What does this mean? Graded exposure relates to gradually in a step by step manner getting used to something starting with one small step and building on this with bigger steps. You might make an exposure hierarchy which is a ladder of experiences starting with a step that causes only a small amount of change/disruption that would be more manageable, and an experience at the top that would be very difficult to achieve in the first instance (but more manageable after you’ve achieved all the steps leading up to it). Once a step has been mastered any concern or upset about the following step tends to reduce because we learn that it “was ok”, “not as bad as we thought”, we have the experience from the previous step, and so on.
  • Example of steps with increasing difficulty: sitting on potty with clothes on as a first step. Doing a wee on the potty. Doing a number 2 on potty. Not wearing a nappy and using the potty. Using the potty at night time, using the “big toilet”… etc etc

 

Rewards and Reinforcement:
Reinforcement is where behaviour increases. Positive reinforcement is where a behaviour increases because it’s followed by a positive/motivating consequence such as praise or a toy. Negative reinforcement is where behaviour increases because a negative consequence is removed, maybe using the potty prevents wet and soiled clothes, change of nappy, change of clothes (if they don’t like this).

 

The Potty Chart

How we made our potty chart - potty training, how to & psychology

How we made the chart

The potty chart I made is a very lose hierarchy I suppose because I included a point where we ditch the nappy and wear pants (there’s a little photo of a pair of pants at this stage), in the hope that the toddler will be able to go straight to the potty when needed.
The general look is supposed to be a train track which goes down to a station at the end (see the photo of the station at the bottom of the chart which attaches to the toddler’s train track and he can actually play with it). There are trains (rewards) to collect along the way. I spaced these out so that the target behaviour (using the potty) is continually reinforced and rewarded, see more below:

 

How we potty trained: Our big toy reward! Psychology, reward charts, practice!

The “big reward”

  • I spaced the rewards out to keep the toddler motivated – there are several and they start soon on in the process.
  • There is a “big reward” at the end – a train station, which he really wants
  • We talk about the rewards which are trains from Thomas the Tank Engine in the hope that this maintains his attention and reminds him of the aims and potty frequently
  • I ask him frequently if he needs to use the potty and of the reward process – Use potty – Get sticker – get train after so many stickers
  • I keep the potty chart close to the potty so he can see his progress and to act as a reminder
  • The theme of trains and train track is meaningful to him and something he values. It taps into his personal interests.

 

How we’re using the Potty Chart

How we potty trained: Choosing stickers for our reward chart.

Choosing stickers for the reward chart

  • Use potty and get a sticker
  • Toddler picks a sticker and puts it on the chart himself (control, autonomy, increasing interest, ownership etc)
  • Stickers go down the train track towards a reward (toy).
  • Get enough stickers and he gets a toy.
  • Keep going down the track to the BIG reward at the end – a train station

 

Outcomes – what happened…

I wrote the above a few months ago now. We successfully navigated around and down the train track to the station at the end! The focused reward chart was a success. I also liked the idea of keeping the chart up in the living room where the toddler could see it, track his progress and act as a reminder of his success alongside the repetitive and reinforcing potty behaviour. He was very pleased with his station.

 

How we potty trained: Our big toy reward! Psychology, reward charts, practice!

Finally got his big reward! (station)

Wasn’t all plain sailing…

The area of the chart where it says “now wear your pants” didn’t happen – we started with the pants a bit later down the track. Why? Well we used them and we wet them a few times. I wondered if it was a bit too early and if they felt like wearing a nappy. Pants were a new concept for the toddler. So I waited a bit longer until the potty visiting behaviour was more familiar and routine and then we added the pants.
We had a few accidents, but I think this is normal.
But, finally, we are now “potty trained” inside the house for wee! (apart from at night time and long naps where we use a nappy still)

 

 

Next step – potty use OUTSIDE the house!…

(note how I’m breaking this all down into steps – this is also for my benefit! – but if you prefer to do it quicker or all in one go, then that’s a personal choice).

 

Developments and progress at 1 year old – baby’s 1st birthday

Typical baby development at 12 months old - psychological, physical, social. We are one year old, happy birthday baby!

Happy Birthday Baby! You’re now one. Time has gone so quickly!

 

So what has he been up to?
In the week or so before his first birthday he’s
  • Spoken his first word, taken his first steps (although the steps have not been repeated since then, grrr)
  • Appears to understand more words and basic instruction, e.g. can you put this in the box (or maybe it’s just fluke each time). Can say “up”, kind of say “moo”, knows the cow says moo, knows the chicken says “bukkarr” and can say his version of a chicken sound, might have said “book” but i’m not 100% sure, say dada, has said “hi” a few times.
  • We have two new teeth coming through – he has 8 already so this will make 10.
  • He can nod his head, wave hello and bye bye and wave this if you ask him to say bye/hello
  • He can play ball by rolling it to me (though not completely accurately)
  • His concentration during reading has improved and he can sit most of the way through a baby book.
  • He eats a lot of finger food and cut up “regular” food, such as pasta, sandwhiches, cheese, basically meals and food that I feel to the toddler (nearly 2.75 years old) but with extra attention to salt content. However, saying that, now that he is one he could have a little more salt in his diet. The NHS write:
The maximum recommended amount of salt for babies and children is:
  • up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
  • 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)

What are general developments and milestones at 12 months?

You can find a useful birth to five development timeline here, from the NHS. According to this timeline:
  • 10-18 months, baby usually walks alone
  • by 12 months, responds to their own name
  • 12-18 months, takes an interest in words

 

There is also useful information on development across a range of areas here from the CDC, including social/emotional, language/communication, cognitive and physical developments:
  • Plays games such as peek a boo, can hand you a book if they want a story, repeats sounds to get attention
  • responds to simple verbal requests and follow simple directions e.g. pick up the (item)
  • can bang two things together
  • moves into a sitting position without assistance, cruises/pulls to stand, may take a few steps, may stand alone

 

For further reading on development in young children, have a look at this article “Children under three years: the time of their lives” (M. Dowling), a free resource from the British Association for Early Childhood Education (more resources found here). It discusses areas of progress, important social and attachment related elements, cognitive and emotional development and more.

 

First words, first steps and (nearly) first birthday baby

Baby's first word and steps, nearly 12 months old. Baby-Brain.co.uk. Psychology, children, parenthood

I can talk and walk now! (nearly)

Ever noticed your baby/child becomes a little more grumpy, more difficult to settle, get to sleep, more crying etc just before a big developmental change? A week or so ago the baby (nearly 12 months old) needed a lot of help getting to sleep. He cried and cried if I dared put him down in his cot. I had to hold him, rock him, sit down next to the cot and pat his back until he fell asleep. He didn’t want to nap and was quite grumpy.
Big changes were afoot
So a few days ago we think he said his first word. He appeared to use it in context and appropriately. His first word was…
“Up”
Then today, he took his first steps! Haven’t been able to get him to re-create this however. The toddler I remember was quite uncertain around walking at first, but after a few tries his walking really sped on. So here’s to crazy baby and toddler running up and down the corridors!

Baby says Moo

Baby says moo: what my 11.5 month old can say and do (nodding)

“moo”

Baby says moo
The “baby” can now say moo. I’m not sure why it’s important or that I think it’s significant that a 11.5 month old can say “moo” when you ask “what sound does the cow make?”, but there we go. I also caught him nodding today like he was actually trying to say yes. I experimented with and observed what he was nodding in response to (when I say nod, he was kind of nodding his head but quite jerkily and if he was sitting down he would kind of bob his whole upper half up and down). He was apparently actually nodding to communicate yes. Woo, infant communication has been somewhat shaped and constructed in a way that adult humans can understand!!
Now on to other important animal sounds…

First “day” back at work after maternity!

Mum's 1st "day" back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

There is light

So today I was back at work. I’m only doing a certain number of days this month and re-entering slowly.

It was all going so well. I got the lovely crowded tube in the morning; it felt great to get back into the old swing of things despite the mass of people and heat on the tube. Stopped off for a coffee, stopped to look at the shops, the trees, the people, acknowledged the absence of small children, screams, whines, sounds, pushing of a buggy like it’s an extra appendage.
Braving the tube: Mum's 1st "day" back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

Busy tube, morning commute

Walked into the office. People rubbing their eyes in disbelief – “you’re back?!” – well, not quite like that, they were a bit surprised to see me though (despite various emails about when I was coming back). Chatting. Catching up. Enjoying the conversation.
Logging onto the computers – checking and deleting masses of emails that are now out of date and irrelevant. Setting up my diary. Doing all those fiddly things that don’t really seem that important but need to be done and will save you time later.
Planning and longing for my lunch – thinking about going somewhere with comfortable seats and eating a nice tasty lunch, without distraction, demands or uncertainty about whether a child will wake up from their nap, start to get tired and grumpy, etc.
Re-mapping my brain – reading – thinking – trying to connect back up the links, memories, knowledge in my mind where these had somewhat decayed or stagnated over the maternity leave.
How NOT to have a 1st day back at work after maternity leave - what it was like, how I felt, what happened!

Stickers from the hospital

Anyway, It so happened that I’d set up a doctor’s appointment for the toddler because he’d come down with a puffy and red eye. This had started the evening before but looked worse the next morning (my 1st day back). The childcare provider was going to take him to the appointment. I thought everything would be fine as he’s had some redness and problems with his eyes before and i’ve taken him to the doctors (and an eye test). But no, THIS TIME, this time is different. The GP talks to me on the phone. They say that the toddler needs to go to A&E (emergency room) to be checked by the paediatric specialist because she does not want to take any risks with his eye. She said it was more precautionary. So I pack up. Tell my colleagues this news. Feel like it looks like an excuse and maybe i’m not able to leave the kids or something. Rush back to the tube grabbing a sad egg mayonnaise sandwich on the way. Eat sandwich on tube.
Get home, take child out to the hospital (which takes ages to get to). Wait for nurse triage. Wait for doctor. Wait for antibiotic medication and eye drops. Make our way home.
My first day back at work! Wheeee..eee.eee
(psychotherapists might have a field day about this – the attachment – the separation – me rushing back to give pure physical care and some kind of teleological act of caregiving e.g. giving medication, eye drops, sigh)

 

Psychology Resources & Links – Parenting, Child, Mental health & Wellbeing

Psychology related worksheets, resources, psychoeducation – and links to other sites that provide valuable resources along these lines including self help resources and information.

 

Links to external resources:

Psychology Tools(http://psychology.tools/)

  • Provides free resources for therapists, including worksheets to download, psychological models, translated resources, and welcomes resource contributions from everyone. Psychology Tools was set up by a clinical psychologist in 2008 “as a way to develop and share materials useful to psychological therapists”. I have made use of this website for several years.

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Get Self Help – (http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/)

  • “Self Help & Therapist Resources”. A good resource for psychological education sheets, worksheets, therapy and self help related materials. Provides information for self help, therapists, trainees, mental health professionals. I have been using this site for helpful worksheets and inspiration for, hmm probably about 5 years!

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NHS self help leaflets

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Centre for Clinical Interventions

  • Has a number of resources for mental health practitioners including therapist manuals, brief information sheets and worksheets covering a range of topics including depression, bipolar disorder, social anxiety, unhelpful thinking styles, self-esteem, eating disorders, generalized anxiety and mindfulness, panic, sleep, procrastination, pperfectionism
  • Sheets include resources such as thought diaries, goals records, core beliefs worksheets, to name a few
  • There are also downloadable packs for “consumers
  • Downloads are well and neatly presented, illustrated, and contain many examples to explain and illustrate the points they present
  • Please read their full disclaimer if you are interested, for example they write that the information provided in the information packages is intended for information purposes only…. “information packages are not meant to treat depression, social anxiety, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness….the information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional…”[more]

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Mind – for better mental health – charity – information and support

  • Information on types of mental health problems, treatments, helping others, legal rights, tips for everyday living guides to support and services, and helplines
  • Helpful resource on A-Z mental health

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The Compassionate Mind Foundation

  • Set up in 2006 the Foundation aims to promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion”

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The Counselling Directory

  • Useful directory and search engine for finding a counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist near you (UK)

 

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The British Psychological Society – Careers Resources

  • Information about careers, education and training in psychology from the BPS

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General Links

Links to a range of pregnancy/parenting/baby/child related information

(I am not affiliated with any of these sites / resources; they are just some options that I’ve come across that you might find relevant)

 

General pregnancy and baby guides

  • A general pregnancy and baby guide from the NHS website –  I looked up many issues and queries during my pregnancy and first few months of LL’s life here.  Pages include short videos on many topics.
  • Pregnancy related questions – From the NHS website. covers issues including food and drink during pregnancy, pre-conception, travel during pregnancy, labour, and more.

 

Information for parents

  • The Start 4 Life website – There is a range of information on the Start 4 Life website including on breastfeeding, introducing solids, and sections relevant to Mums, Dads, Babies and Professionals. You can also sign up for weekly emails

 

Feeding

 

General activities, play and learning ideas/tips

There are so many sites and resources out there that detail creative and helpful play and activity ideas. These are just a few that i’ve come across and have probably pinned ideas to the Baby Brain Pinterest board. I have no personal or professional connection to any of the boards or authors, I just liked some of their activities and ideas.

  • The Imagination Tree – a wide range of creative play and learning activities for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and school age
  • Where imagination grows – range of art, craft, toddler and preschoolers activities including playing with light
  • Laughing kids learn – range of sensory play, art&craft, numeracy, science and recipe examples including a zipper board, busy bags, tugging box, with lovely bright and easy to follow pictures
  • Adventures at home with mum – a variety of play and DIY activity ideas including sensory boxes and home made toys, with pictures to illustrate the idea and how baby responds, and nice clear lists of “baby learning concepts” included for the activity such as helps with fine motor skills, developing hand eye coordination, etc.
  • No Time for Flash Cards – site that covers a range of early education and creative play ideas, activities and crafts for kids, including sensory activities, fine and gross motor skills, pretend play, books and reading. You can also helpfully search for activities by age, from infant to school age

Disclaimer: baby-brain.co.uk can not take responsibility for any of the content or advice supplied on any linked to external websites. Baby-brain.co.uk is not affiliated with any of these sites and only links to them as a references source that you may chose to look at for further information if you deem necessary. Baby-brain.co.uk accepts no liability for any consequences arising from the use of any resources made available on this website. Materials referred to and supplied here are intended to be read as interest pieces only, and not as direct advice or in place of guidance and advice from a qualified health care professional who you have consulted with. If you have any questions / concerns / issues regarding your child’s development / well-being, or yours or anyone’s mental health and well-being, please contact your GP, Health Visitor, Paediatrician, Midwife, or other relevant health care professional. Adult supervision is required for any activity featured on this blog. Please decide based on each individual activity if it is appropriate for you and your own child.
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