If you want to try this at home be more careful than me!
What am I talking about? Well I tried to emulate this Baby Water Play idea (piccie to your right ) from a site called “Dirt and Boogers” (written by a “play therapist turned stay at home mom”; see whole article here with some nice pictures of baby playing with the water tray. There is also a range of play ideas from baby to preschool age on the site). This looked like a great way to introduce the Little Lovely (LL) to some sensory play of a different nature as we have never used water during play other than bath time I suppose, but I haven’t introduced any bath toys yet. I didn’t read the instructions properly and I think this activity is for babies who are not sitting yet, or at least is to be done in a non-sitting position.
Anyway, I set up a baking tray with some toys including linky loops, a sippy cup top and rattle (basically things that would glide about on the water), added water and put a plastic sheet under the tray so as not to spill water everywhere, as demonstrated in the picture below.
I sat LL down in front of it (aged 6.5 months) and IMMEDIATELY… WOOSH… the first thing he did was grab the bottom of the tray and tipped it up. The water all spilled out right across the plastic and on to the rug. Oh well, it’s only water.
So this might have been a good sensory experience activity but maybe do as Dirt and Boogers and put baby on their tummy (baby in the original article is 6 months – so similar to LL). Although, I’m not sure if LL wouldn’t have tipped the tray up anyway even if he was on his front.
Maybe I’ll repeat this at some point and see what LL does next time. And maybe I’ll add some balls. I’ve found another water sensory play idea here from Learn with Play at Home (written by a teacher and mother of 2) and they suggest using a high chair tray, which actually might have been a better idea for LL so he couldn’t tip it up, or maybe I could find a heavier or larger water receptacle that he couldn’t tip over. Anyway, try it at home, add some interesting toys/objects to the water that baby can push around and experience the feel and sound of the water. Oh, and at least LL had fun playing with the metal tray, tipping it up and bashing on it with some of his other sensory play objects after his water emptying handiwork was done. He was able experiment with making some nice sounds with the tray – so we got some sensory play after all, just of a different nature to what was planned! Here’s some pictures of him having fun (below).
Safety first! As always, always supervise activities and be careful with with water around your baby. Never leave baby unattended.
See more stuff the Little Lovely and I made and did together: ⇒back to Let’s Make Stuff!
Thank you for reading: Baby Water Sensory Play: baby-brain.co.uk, psychology resource, perspective & blog
So the other day we went to the eye doctor
I was slightly concerned by one the toddler’s eyes (aged 2 years 4.5 months). He kept rubbing it a lot and sometimes one eye looked a bit different to the other. Hard to explain exactly what it was but probably a mild case of me being overly concerned. Anyway… eye tests for under 16 year olds are free on the NHS and I thought it would be good to assess and get a general idea of his eye health and visual development.
As it turned out, both of his eyes are fine. I was unsure about how he would react to the testing; at our last dentist appointment, for example, he refused to open his mouth, although this was over 6 months ago and he’s changed since. We talked about the eye doctor with him a few times in the days before we visited and explained what would happen and that we were just going to check his eyes, just like we check his ears (the term we use when we take his temperature) and to make sure his eyes were OK. Hopefully by likening the new experience to his previous and known experiences this would make the new optometrist experience feel less alien and a normal thing to do.
Fortunately the optometrist was very friendly and the session was quite child orientated and we were able to get some good testing done. There were no problems or signs of infection. Next eye check in 1 year!
Here’s what the NHS has to say about children’s eye health and eye tests:
Children may not realise they have a vision problem, so without routine tests there is a risk that any problems could go undiagnosed …
…Eye problems are often much easier to treat if detected while a child’s vision is still developing (usually up to about seven or eight years of age).
When do children have their eyes tested?
- Within 72 hours of birth
- Between six and eight weeks old
- Around one year old or between two and two-and-a-half years old – as part of the child’s health review
- Around four or five years old – some children may have an eye test when they start school
It’s also recommended that children have regular eye tests at least once every two years. These tests can be done at a high street opticians and are free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).
For further information on children’s eyes and eye health see this page here from the NHS
Tummy Time (TT) is important in that long road toward crawling and eventually walking. It involves baby working their muscles, coordination skills and learning to push up, sit up, roll over and other gross motor skills. It’s therefore important to give babies time on their tummy.
Since the Back To Sleep campaign (babies to sleep on their backs), babies were apparently getting less “tummy time” during the day, leading to some delays in reaching important developmental milestones such as crawling (according to this article from the BBC on the importance of Tummy Time for babies and their development). These children did catch up, however.
Some babies can really dislike tummy time, however. I found some tips on this site from a paediatric occupational therapist
– 7 tips for making tummy time a little less miserable, if TT needs some encouragement.
It writes about 7 steps to independent TT, starting each step a few times a day for a few minutes while progressing up the steps. It’s also a good idea not to do TT too soon after a meal otherwise there might be a bit of spit up.
The Little Lovely (LL) didn’t really mind TT, although in the first few months he could only tolerate a short amount of time on his tummy before making frustrated sounds. I think this was because he was working quite hard in trying to do mini push ups and so it was probably quite tiring for him.
There is a wealth of information out there on how to make tummy time fun and interesting for you both, how to assist baby with tummy time and what to do if baby does not like being on this tummy.
When I first started with LL we tried some assisted TT by rolling up a towel or blanket and putting this under his chest so that he could experience his chest being raised and pushed up from the floor, but without so much of the strain for him.
Make it a bonding experience – there are different games you can play while practising TT and baby doesn’t have to be on their own, tummy down on the floor. Try placing baby on your tummy, tummy to tummy so that you can both see each other when they lift their head. Or, lie on your back and put baby on his tummy on your legs.Lift up your legs, while holding baby securely, and pretend to be an aeroplane. If baby is tummy down on the floor, use toys to encourage them to reach, move, and lift their head. Or, talk or sing to your baby to encourage this. Always supervise TT with baby.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on TT, because i’m not, but here’s a website totally devoted to it – Tummy Time Tips (from a paediatric occupational therapist) that you can check out for more information. It includes information on the importance of TT, what it is, how to do it (tummy time tips), and a helpful video.
Some further links regarding Tummy Time that I have found on my travels:
How to make tummy time more fun for your baby – some tips including “forget the floor”, “prop up”, “face to face” and “make it fun”, from a website where the authors are “moms and pediatric therapists”
The “ultimate guide to happy tummy time”, from CanDoKiddo, written by a “pediatric occupational therapist”. Lots of links to her articles, tips, and a handy short video of tummy time tips. Great!
Newborn visual development: babies prefer high contrast images because their visual system is still developing. They can find it difficult to distinguish between similar colours such as red and orange. The hard contrast of black on white (or any strong colour) therefore stands out well. Here’s some simple images to try out. Read more on visual development here.
So, we are 6 months old!
I tried to go away for the weekend. The baby did not like it. He wanted to be fed and wanted me there. I had to come back slightly early. Then I realised (slight second baby syndrome related delay about this) that hey he’s 6 months now and so I should think about weaning (also known as “complementary feeding”, CF).
When is baby ready for solids?
The NHS writes that:
Every baby is an individual, but there are three clear signs that, together, show your baby is ready for solid foods… It’s very rare for these signs to appear together before your baby is six months old.
1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.
3. They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths.
Where to start?
Question: How do you get your child to eat vegetables?
Answer: …feed them vegetables!
Some research suggests introducing vegetables in the first few weeks of weaning. Infants may be more willing to try and like new vegetables if vegetables are offered in the first few weeks of weaning – a variety of vegetables, both bitter and sweet, and trying each one a few times because baby may initially dislike or refuse to taste it (as discussed in this article here by Nicola Slawson, 2015). One study (3) reported that
Early exposure to a rotation of vegetable flavours first added to milk then to cereal increased intake and liking of these vegetables during CF [complementary feeding]
Why start with vegetables? – The first few years of life are important in terms of developing healthy eating habits (1) and new foods are more readily accepted in those early years (2). Once a food habit is established they tend to be quite stable (3). So introducing vegetables at the start of weaning/CF might make it more likely for the child to like and accept vegetables as they grow older
Several studies have now shown that CF with vegetables facilitates liking and intake of vegetables compared to CF with fruit (a, b, cited in Hetherington et al. 2015)
What helps a kid to like vegetables? Hetherington and colleages (3) report on different methods such as “stealth” to disguise vegetables in food, or adding other flavours that the child already likes. However, the most successful strategy in promoting vegetable eating is
Mere or repeated exposure…
…Early and repeated experience with vegetables serves to increase acceptance
So basically, giving them the vegetables, again and again, to promote “familiarity” (4) and “learned safety” (5). Vegetable presentation needs to be rotated with daily variety, in addition to the exposure (6). Hetherington et al (3) also report that adding vegetables to familiar and liked foods such as milk and cereal facilitated intake and liking of the vegetable. Adding milk to the vegetable can reduce any bitter or sour tastes due to the sweetness in the milk (both breast and formula milk) and dilution effect of adding it (3).
Our first foods
We started with baby rice mixed with his usual milk. In the first week we then moved on to a few spoonfuls of:
Cauliflower purée (mixed with his usual milk)
Avocado (in a mesh self feeder, see picture)
Banana (yeah I know this isn’t a vegetable but it was easy to put in the mesh self feeder)
Future planned foods for week 2:
The weaning plan (read more on this useful sheet here):
Offer one vegetable at a time
Offer a variety of vegetables (because of issues as discussed above)
Repeated exposure, to vegetables! Keep trying and offer the food a good few times even if baby doesn’t seem to like it at first (increases chance that baby will eventually accept the food (7) )
References 1-6 cited in Hetherington et al., 2015:
- Cashdan, E. (1994). 1994. A sensitive period for learning about food. Human Nature, 5 (3), pp. 279–291
- Lange, M. Visalli, S. Jacob, C. Chabanet, P. Schlich, S. Nicklaus. (2013). Maternal feeding practices during the first year and their impact on infants’ acceptance of complementary food. Food Quality and Preference, 29 (2), pp. 89–98.
- Hetherington, M. M., Schwartz, C., Madrelle, J., Croden, F., Nekitsing, C., Vereijken, C.M.J.L. & Weenen, H. (2015). A step-by-step introduction to vegetables at the beginning of complementary feeding: The effects of early and repeated exposure. Appetite, 84, pp. 280–290
- Zajonc, R.B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Monograph Supplement 9 (2 Pt. 2), pp. 1–27.
- Kalat,J. W. & Rozin, P. (1973). Learned safety” as a mechanism in long-delay taste-aversion learning in rats. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 83 (2) (1973), pp. 198–207.
- Nicklaus, S. (2011). Children’s acceptance of new foods at weaning. Role of practices of weaning and of food sensory properties. Appetite, 57 (3), pp. 812–815
- Maier, A. et al. (2007). Effects of Repeated Exposure on Acceptance of Initially Disliked Vegetables in 7-month Old Infants. Food Quality and Preference 18(8): 1023-1032.
a) Barends, J. de Vries, J. Mojet, C. de Graaf. (2013). Effects of repeated exposure to either vegetables or fruits on infant’s vegetable and fruit acceptance at the beginning of weaning. Food Quality and Preference, 29 (2), pp. 157–165
b) Remy, S. Issanchou, C. Chabanet, S. Nicklaus. (2013.) Repeated exposure of infants at complementary feeding to a vegetable puree increases acceptance as effectively as flavor-flavor learning and more effectively than flavor-nutrient learning. The Journal of Nutrition, pp. 1194–1200
As I approach the 5th month with the new baby (already!) I was looking back and thinking of the ways that we “played”. There’s a lot of time in the day so how can you play with baby and what can you do all day long? Well, apart from nappy changes, sleeps, screams, baths and other practical “stuff”, here’s some ways we played together and some of the psychology/research behind activity ideas:
SOUND – COMMUNE
Face to Face time is a GREAT way to play. This means simply being face to face with baby and having a chat. You can talk about anything; something that you did that day or just make certain sounds with some over the top mouth-moving to show how you’re making it, like B-B-B-B-B-B, OOoooo.
→ → → Talk in a funny voice!
Talking is important but it’s a case of Quality, not Quantity
Talking in “parentese” – that baby talk that we do, characterised by higher pitch, slowed down and exaggerated intonation (6) – might irritate some but apparently it has it’s benefits; slowing speech down and exaggerating sounds, also introducing that “sing song” element to the voice is something babies like. It works well with very young babies according to this article who report that prevalence of baby talk with children (in one to one conversations rather than in groups) was linked to better language development,
The more parents exaggerated vowels – for example “How are youuuuu?” – and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production.
When the babies were 2 years old, parents filled out a questionnaire measuring how many words their children knew. Infants who had heard more baby talk knew more words
Again, communication is paramount so singing counts too. Apparently, from day one babies have an ability (innate) to discriminate rhythmic patterns. See this interesting article from Psychology Today for more but in sum, you can start in utero – around 25 weeks of pregnancy the baby starts to process auditory signals – which is why newborns may prefer their mother’s voice, because it is quite familiar to them!
Reading from birth is a great thing to practice, and has benefits. See my reading page for more in-depth information on the psychology of reading with babies and small children. In brief, baby will recognise their mother’s voice from the womb (1) and hearing it from day one may be familiar and comforting to them, reassuring them of your presence (2).
When we read we usually read with different expression and voices than when we talk and books/reading materials contain different vocabularies, words, expressions than what we might use in every day talk around our children. This is useful because it exposes the child to more varied language and sounds.
Reading to babies from the early months has been found (3) to be related to increased reading with babies at 8 months old (creating a reading habit), which in turn, related to language abilities at 12 and 16 months, particularly with expressive language (being able to put thoughts into words and sentences).
Interaction when reading has also been highlighted as an important element in relation to language development (4) with older babies (12 months).
Touching hands, touching feet – we did a lot of this in month one, mainly because his little feet were so cute. The baby and I are due to take part in a research study soon at a Baby Lab about whether infants in the early months can distinguish between a social touch and other touch. This will involve monitoring activity and touching baby’s arm with a toothbrush and then touching by hand.
Skin to skin is recommended and touch is going to be important! Research has reported increased touch to facilitate growth and development (cited in 5). Research on benefits of touch with premature babies has also influenced procedures in some hospitals such as use of “kangaroo care” where the baby receives skin to skin contact being held upright against the bare chest of the carrier (5). There is a huge wealth of literature out there about importance of touch and skin to skin with babies and infants which I encourage you to read further if this is an area of interest to you.
We also did lots of sensory play such as touching soft toys, a range of textured material and letting him touch/kick his little feet on some crunchy sounding tissue paper.
Mirroring, including mirroring noises and chatting, having a conversation
We spent a lot of time sticking our tongues out at each other! Given baby’s limited communication channels, this was something he was able to do and I sat there and “Mirrored” him, i.e. copying what he was doing and sticking my tongue out in response to him. This then turned into a kind of “conversation” where we would take it it turns. I then threw a few more facial expressions in and tongue clicks which seemed to interest him. This early study (6) writes that babies between 12-21 days old are able to imitate facial gestures, so you can try it from the first few weeks! Also loving the pictures in that article of the baby imitating “mouth opening” and especially the “lip protrusion”.
In terms of visual aspects and development, the visual system is not yet fully developed at birth (a). Baby has difficulty distinguishing between similar colours such as orange and red and so prefer high contrast colours such as black against white. We used several “high contrast” images and resources such as a black and white book and flash cards.
Let’s Face It
Babies love looking at faces; even in the days after birth a baby will prefer to look at images of a face compared to other images. YOU are their favourite play thing and baby will be very interested in staring at you whilst you sing/talk/coocheecoo at them.
YOU are your baby’s favourite play thing!
Mirroring and attachment:
Here’s a good video about “marked mirroring” with your baby. The page has described it nicely so I’ll just quote here:
Facial expressions that help a baby to know his feelings are understood are known as ‘mirroring’. Mirroring is said to be ‘marked’ when the parent mirrors the emotion then quickly ‘marks’ the interaction with a reassuring expression. Mirroring shows the baby that he is understood and reflects the feeling he is experiencing.
The’marking’ helps the baby know the feeling belongs to him and that the parent understands but is not overwhelmed and is therefore able to help him or her to manage such feelings.
(Warwick Medical School, 2014, http://www.your-baby.org.uk/early-interactions/marked-mirroring-showing-they-understand-their-babys-emotions).
Home activities: Tummy Time, Mirror Play, Play Gym
Tummy Time, play in the mirror and play gym were some fun and easy activities we tried at home. See links for more information on these activities. Play gyms for example have some great cognitive, visual perception, grasping and reaching skills, gross motor skills, self-awareness and sensory stimulation benefits as summarized in this nice article here by Mama OT. Personally, I could really see the baby developing in terms of gross motor skills, coordination and crossing his midline to reach out and grasp at toys.
Getting out and about
At first I remember it seeming very daunting and difficult on a practical level to get out of the house. Add two kids to the mix and there seemed like even more obstacles and things “to do” before we could get out the front door. However, there are many benefits and aspects for parent and child including social and mental health elements. Here’s a page about choosing activities and benefits of them for maternal mental health.
Lastly: Enjoy this time with baby!
- Decasper AJ, Fifer WP. Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voice. Science. 1980;208:1174 –1176.
- Lariviere & Rennick (2011). Parent picture-book reading to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit as an intervention supporting parent-infant interaction and later book reading. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32 (2), pp 146-152.
- Karras, J. & Braungart-Rieker, J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.
- Julie Gros-Louis, Meredith J. West, Andrew P. King. The Influence of Interactive Context on Prelinguistic Vocalizations and Maternal Responses. Language Learning and Development, 2016; DOI:10.1080/15475441.2015.1053563
- Ardiel, E. L., & Rankin, C. H. (2010). The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Mar; 15(3): 153–156.
- Ramírez-Esparza, N., García-Sierra, A., & Kuhl, P. K. (2014). Look who’s talking: speech style and social context in language input to infants are linked to concurrent and future speech development. Developmental Science, 17 (6): 880–891
a) Brémond-Gignac D., Copin H., Lapillonne A., Milazzo S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanisms. Curr. Opin. Ophthalmol. 22, S1–S8.
The potty “training” still seems to be going well. I say “training” because I feel like we’re not specifically doing anything, but then I looked back on what we had set up, and, actually I can think some psychological and “set-up” aspects apply.
Firstly, we upgraded the basic boring plastic potty we had previously (that he never sat on) to a fancy Thomas the Tank Engine colourful potty that plays a little song when something is deposited in it. This is a reward in itself. We made the potty interesting and something exciting to sit on by selecting one where he recognises the theme (Thomas), and likes and potentially trusts that brand (because he likes the toy). We set it up so that it wasn’t a toy, though, so he knows there’s a particular function around it. We started to talk more about that “function” and make it part of our every day, normal, conversation by saying things like “mummy is going to the big potty now”, etc, to make the toddler aware that going on the potty is a normal thing people do. I suppose we kind of set up a graded step by step hierarchy as well by:
Introducing the potty
Having the potty out in the living room
Discussing that the potty is for doing a wee or poo in, not a toy, and normalizing this process when adults in the house needed to go to the “big potty”
Encouraging the toddler to sit on the potty, with clothes on in the first instance (as he wasn’t sure about it)
offering a reward/reinforcement for just sitting on it (I can’t remember if this was a biscuit or watching his favourite TV show, which also probably reduced any anxiety or concerns because he was distracted by the TV and calmed by his favourite show)
Encouraging the toddler to sit on the potty without a nappy (diaper) on
Encouraging him to sit on it when we thought he might need a wee, e.g. after a bath because that’s when he often does one, and offering a reward for doing a wee – also talking about what reward he would get
offering a reward/reinforcement for doing a wee which was chocolate and now also a reward “coupon”, which the toddler calls “tickets”. He likes the fire engine tickets the most (pictured)
We haven’t got to the point yet where the toddler can tell us that he feels the need to use the potty. That is still to come. But, we’ve done very well so far I think!
Also, here’s a complete cut and paste job from a previous post of mine about reinforcement:
Ψ reinforcers = increase frequency/likelihood of a behaviour
Ψ punishers = decrease frequency/likelihood of a behaviour
Ψ Here’s a good page that explains positive/negative reinforcement and punishers – for example, they explain that “punishment” doesn’t necessarily mean there is a harmful or dangerous consequence, it’s a process where a consequence immediately follows a behaviour which decreases the future likelihood of that behaviour occurring. Positive punishment is where a negative consequence is put in place after the behaviour, like sending child to “time out” or telling them off, and negative punishment where a good thing or desired outcome is removed after the behaviour occurs, such as removing cake/sweets/ice cream because the child was “naughty”. Reinforcement is where behaviour increases. Positive reinforcement is where a behaviour increases because it’s followed by a positive/motivating consequence such as praise, reward, like giving a kid money (positive) for doing chores (the behaviour). Negative reinforcement is where behaviour increases because a negative consequence is removed, such as a kid does his chores (behaviour) to avoid being nagged to do it (negative).
So we’ve been attempting to “potty train” the toddler. By potty train I mean buy a potty and hope he sits on it. I’ve not actually developed any formal training schedule. Anyway, some time ago I bought a basic plastic potty. He didn’t like it and only sat on it once or twice I think. Maybe it was too uncomfortable and uninteresting. We upgraded a few weeks ago to an all singing fancy Thomas the Tank Engine potty which is colourful, has a picture of Thomas on the inside and also (apparently) plays a song or noise when he (eventually) deposits something in it!
And now something (slightly) more psychological about potty training and shaping behaviours:
So far my attempts have been to encourage him to sit on it for a start. He’s done this. I had to bribe him with promise of a biscuit if he sat on it because he was slightly dubious of the thing (despite it being Thomas related, and even then he kind of thought it was just a new toy). We then upgraded to him sitting on it with no trousers (pants) or nappy, usually after a bath as this is sometimes when he does a wee and has no nappy on anyway. He’s done that too. I’ve promised him chocolate if he does a wee or poo. You could class this as reinforcement I suppose, rather than bribe! Note though, maybe offering food as a consequence isn’t always the best answer but hey ho I’m into new territory here with the potty so I’m winging it. If you want to set up some less food related rewards and consequences schedule there’s some great behaviour charts here for “things I need to work on” (useful for general behaviours and issues) and their potty training section here. The potty training reward coupons look great and i’m going to print some off to give to the toddler appropriately. Yes, suppose I could have done a sticker reward chart too to encourage repetition of potty sitting and eventually wee/poo related behaviour on the potty.
So last night, he apparently did a very small wee in the potty!! Unfortunately, nobody noticed and he didn’t say that he’d done anything . The darned potty is supposed to play a song to alert us to this fact but I think it was too small an amount so it didn’t set the song button off. Fingers crossed he’ll do it again soon though so we can celebrate! Yeah, let’s all celebrate successful weeing!!
**update the next day: he did a really small wee in the potty tonight! He had chocolate and a special “coupon” as a reward (pictured, from freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com) Hopefully the coupon is a bit more tangible and longer lasting than the chocolate; he can see it and it will act as a reminder, encouragement and reward for the behaviour.
Another year has come and gone…wishing everyone :