Simple Bottle Shaker!
We made this simple sensory DIY toy when my Little Lovely was about 8.5 months old, inspired by the home-made sensory bottles I often came across at baby classes:
This was a quick, simple and cheap way to provide baby with something novel and stimulating!
Wash and dry a used drink bottle
Fill with something that will make a noise when shaken – we used tapioca and dried lentils
I fitted the lid back on tightly. You can’t see that well from the picture but the lid is quite big and so hopefully is not a swallowing risk.
age: LL was about 8.5 months when we did this but we have also used a bottle shaker when he was a bit younger and i’m sure it will amuse him in the future.
Here’s the Little Lovely enjoying his new toy. He enjoyed shaking and bashing it about, and was quite curious about it, as he usually is with new things!
A few safety issues: This activity was supervised. The lid is fitted on very tightly so LL will not be able to get it off, chew on it, spill or eat the contents of the bottle, please be careful and decide what, if any, fillings and bottles will be appropriate and safe for your child. Always supervise baby with any activities posted on this blog.
So today I bought my Little Lovely (just over 12 months old) one of those bowls that suck down onto the table so that the baby can’t pick it up and throw it about.
I’d been meaning to buy one for a while because he’s been able to accurately direct the spoon to his mouth if you give him a spoonfull of food in his hand, but we didn’t have any plastic bowls for him to use.
Here’s some pictures of how it went. Initially, it went well. He picked up the spoon and had a few half spoonfuls of yoghurt.
Then, he decided to eat the yoghurt using his hand because maybe it was quicker. It soon got more messy but it’s a start!
What was your child’s first word? What words are “normal”?
This article discusses: first words – speech development at 6-12 months and 0-6 months, tips to support and encourage development at 12 months, the importance of talking to and around infants
Just came across this list of first words with examples from a number of children, and the story behind them. Here are a few:
Oscar – Oscar is the cat next door. When Oscar comes in to the house, he always says ‘hello’ to the baby
Pop – When a balloon she was holding burst she copied the word pop
Book – As her parents used to look through books with her and repeatedly tell her what they were
Quack quack– baby started saying quack quack when her parents played with her rubber duck in the bath. Now she gets very excited whenever she sees ducks or chicks in books
Hat – As she loved putting on hats
Bear – As mum’s old bear was always on her bed
Fish – He loved watching fish in his friend’s aquarium
Samich (sandwich)- His mother was standing at the kitchen counter right beside him when baby reached up and said “samich”
So looks like first words can really vary. I think that the Little Lovely might have said “dada” first, but also he was saying a few other things like “kiss”, and “fish” because we went to an aquarium and I kept saying look at the fish, the fish, a lot. By the end of it, he was saying fish. Quack was also an early favourite.
Monitoring and encouraging first words
Baby’s First Word – an initiative from the National Literacy Trust (see the Words for Life website) – you can download a pack from here that has a series of templates to monitor first words and more information. The pack includes:
Everything you need to get involved in Baby’s First Word, including a step-by-step guide, poster and hand-out for parents.
How does speech develop?
Talking Point, a site that gives some good information and resources on children’s communication writes that children develop skills at their own pace but some general things that you might see between 6 months and 1 year are that children will:
- Listen carefully, and turn to someone talking on the other side of the room.
- Look at you when you speak and when their name is called.
- Babble strings of sounds, like ‘no-no’ and ‘go-go’.
- Make noises, point and look at you to get your attention.
- Smile at people who are smiling at them.
- Start to understand words like ‘bye-bye’ and ‘up’ especially when a gesture is used at the same time.
- Recognise the names of familiar objects, things like ‘car’ and ‘daddy’.
- Enjoy action songs and rhymes and get excited when sung to.
- Take turns in conversations, babbling back to an adult.
How to encourage and support your child 12 months:
encourage your child at this stage:
- Make different sounds to interest your child. This can be the sound of your voice or things like a rattle or squeaky toy.
- Pointing to sounds will help develop your child’s listening skills. This will also help their awareness of the world around them.
- Encourage your child to look at you during activities. This could be dressing, feeding or nappy changing. This will help your child’s attention and communication skills.
- Talk about everyday activities, like getting dressed, eating and bathing.
- Copy your baby when they are babbling. This is a very good way to show how to take turns in communication. This will encourage them to make even more sounds.
- Use actions with words. Try waving as you say ‘bye-bye’ or picking up their cup as you say ‘drink’. This will help your child to relate what they see and do with language.
- Sing action songs and play games like ‘peek-a-boo’ to encourage communication and attention skills.
- Have some special time with your child each day to play with toys and picture books.
Talking about everyday activities with babies is important.
Research (1) has also shown that while reading to baby and showing them pictures did contribute to cognitive development in terms of increasing scores on problem-solving and communication scales of a test, more substantial effects were found for:
the more informal activity of frequently talking to the infant while doing other things; and this was observed for both communication and problem-solving.
Reading was shown to increase both problem-solving and communication, showing pictures only had a positive effect on communication scores, but talking had a more substantial effect than both reading and picture showing.
But will baby understand when I talk to them?
Babies at 6 months have been shown to understand that concept of speech (2) – i.e. that speech is used to communicate information (rather than random, interesting sounds that come out of our mouths). They also prefer speech over other sounds (3)
How children develop speech and language between 0 and 6 months (quote from talking point)
by 6 months, usually children will:
- Turn towards a sound when they hear it.
- Be startled by loud noises.
- Watch your face when you talk to them.
- Recognise your voice.
- Smile and laugh when other people smile and laugh.
- Make sounds to themselves, like cooing, gurgling and babbling.
- Make noises, like coos or squeals, to get your attention.
- Have different cries for different needs. For example one cry for hunger, another when they are tired.
How to support the child at this stage:
Mirror/copy the sounds baby makes – it’s the start of a conversation and will encourage more sound making
Ensure baby can see your face clearly when you talk to them. Newborn visual range is not that great and vision is developing the first months, so maybe move a little closer to talk to them. Eye contact is important for language development.
As with 12 month olds, talking to baby about what you are doing is important as they will hear and start to learn words.
I didn’t even know my Little Lovely was paying attention until one day he copied a word that I had been saying, or I was talking about brushing my hair and then he made a motion on his own head like he was brushing his hair. He was listening to me, all along but with no verbal feedback from him before that point, I didn’t realise just how much he was taking in.
Talking point suggests using a “sing-song” voice with baby to keep them interested in what you are saying. An article on music and child development that baby-brain wrote recently also highlighted the usefulness of singing with baby:
Singing is important for vocabulary development: “Singing songs teaches children about how language is constructed. When you sing, words and phrases are slowed down and can be better understood by your baby. Singing regularly will help your baby to build up a vocabulary of sounds and words long before they can understand the meaning”, according to this article from the BBC.
Some links to other resources
Talking Point website
Talk to you baby – from the Words for Life website
More tips here, from the NHS on “helping your child’s speech”.
A video from the NHS on “how can I help my child to start talking? (12 to 30 months)”
- Murrary, A., & Egan, S. (2014). Does Reading to Infants Benefit their Cognitive Development at 9-months-old? An Investigation using a Large Birth Cohort Survey. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, Vol. 30, No. 3, October 2014, pp.303-315
- Vouloumanos, A., Martin, A., & Onishi, K. H. (2014). Do 6-month-olds understand that speech can communicate? Developmental Science, pp 1–8
- Vouloumanos, A., & Werker, J.F. (2004). Tuned to the signal:the privileged status of speech for young infants. Develop-mental Science. 7 (3), 270-276
Do-it-yourself Object Permanence Box for infants: Inspired by Montessori materials.
This is practically free to make. You just need some cardboard, glue or tape, and a ball
Inspired by Montessori materials and activities, I’d always wanted an object permanence box but didn’t really want to spend £40 or so on the wooden box. So – I decided to try and make one out of cardboard and old boxes and it seemed to work. My Little Lovely (LL) really enjoys using it, putting the ball and other items in the top, exploring the box and seeing what happens if he puts the ball in the other hole.
Aims of the object permanence box: The infant has to drop a ball into the hole in the top of the box. The ball is then not visible for a moment but rolls out of the box onto the tray. The child therefore experiences a lesson in “object permanence” because they see that the ball didn’t just disappear out of existence – even though they couldn’t see it for a second, it still exists
Other learning benefits of the box: encourages curiosity, cause and effect, hand movements and fine motor skills (dropping the ball into the hole, etc), achieving a goal independently with repeated practice.
When to use the box: From when babies are old enough to sit up without support.
Here’s a short video of what the real deal looks like, as used by a 9 month old, and another of a child at nearly 1 year
Psychology & Object Permanence: Object Permanence is an awareness that children develop where “out of sight” does not mean “out of mind”. Initially, when something is removed from view of the baby then from their understanding it ceases to exist – they can’t see it, so it doesn’t exist. Understanding that something exists even when you can’t see it is an important developmental stage, according to the Stages of Cognitive Development as posed by Jean Piaget, an eminent and Swiss psychologist. It is posed as a stage in development because it requires the child to form a “schema”, or mental representation of the object. Infants develop this skill by the end of the “sensorimotor stage”. It was thought to develop around 8-12 months, although there is research to suggest it can develop earlier, and the psychological research does not seem to agree on exact age.
How to make the box:
1: I found a long cardboard box and cut some of the sides down so that I had a long, not too deep tray for the ball to run into and be contained.
2: An old tea box looked good for the little box to house the ball. I cut a hole in the top and on the front for the ball to run out of.
3: The ball needed a bit of help rolling out of the tea box and onto the cardboard tray so I made a little ramp (otherwise the ball just sat in the box after being dropped in and didn’t roll out). This was actually part of the lid from the tea box and was already slanted so I didn’t need to do much to it.
I then slotted the ramp into the tea box and glued the tea box onto the long box. You might be able to see in picture 2, there are some little flaps on the bottom of the box on each side. This was quite helpful and I put the glue on these flaps then pressed it down onto the long cardboard tray.
4: I realised that the box was looking a bit DIY so for some reason I decided to make it look more hideous by adding some wrapping paper.
5: et voilà – here is the finished box (not particularly Montessori style with the wrapping paper)
If you would like to make your box look more hideous with wrapping paper like I did, I would not recommend anything too busy like the one I used. Maybe just some plain, nice calming colours?
If I made it again I would also probably find a slightly bigger box for the ball to drop into. The tea box was ok but the ball rolled out of it pretty quickly, so maybe something a bit bigger might have held the ball out of sight for slightly longer. The tray is also slightly long, but I was using materials just hanging around the house that were waiting to go for recycling so I had to make do with what was available.
How to use the box with baby:
I quote from a Montessori site:
Presentation of the Montessori Object Permanence Box
1. Put the work mat in place and put the object permanence box on the work mat so it will be in front of the child. Encourage the child to help.
2. Sit facing the child with the work mat between you.
3. Name the box and the ball: “This is the box. This is the ball.”
4. Slowly and deliberately place the ball in the hole.
5. When the ball rolls to a stop in the tray, smile and pick it up.
6. Repeat the action.
7. Invite the child to place the ball in the hole.
8. Once the child begins putting the ball in the hole, quietly move aside and allow her to work undisturbed.
9. When finished, invite the child to put the materials away on a low shelf so she may work with them again when she wishes.
And here we are experiencing the box:
(age 12 months)
Apologies to Montessori enthusiasts – I know that you value natural materials like wood, but i’m not a carpenter and couldn’t make a box out of wood. I also know that adding wrapping paper doesn’t make it look too natural. But, hopefully I’ve captured the essence of the box, the principles and learning benefits for the child, and made an accessible and cheap alternative that can be put together easily at home.
The other month we had some fun with a “painting” sensory activity. We were sitting there one afternoon and I realised that we had some old cardboard, large pieces of packing paper and some yoghurt in the fridge. So we made it into a fun game.
I’m calling it “paint” because we used the yoghurt like paint. It’s also safe and edible for baby (although, of course check ingredients and make your own decision as to whether the product is safe for your child). To replicate this you can use:
Yoghurt as the “paint”. If you want to make colours I suppose you could add natural colouring by mixing in crushed up fruits (e.g. raspberries, blueberries), or food colouring if you don’t mind baby tasting it.
A large piece of cardboard or something to protect the floor like a plastic sheet or old sheet. It also makes it easy to clean up because you can just wipe it off after
Paper to “paint” on. We used old packaging paper
The Little Lovely really enjoyed this. It was something novel for him. He liked smearing the yoghurt and feeling the sensation of it. He tried a little taste as well but looked like it was a bit sour for him! (natural yoghurt). Afterwards he was quite messy, but fortunately the overall had taken some of the yoghurt. Here’s some more pictures of what we did:
Yoghurt is presented to LL. He gets stuck in and has a feel. I needed to put a bit of paint on the paper and swish it about a bit to start him off and model what to do. Then, he was able to start “painting” by himself.
What does the paint feel like? LL decided it was quite fun (middle picture), and continued to swish it about the paper. This became more of a sensory/fun/swishing game rather than a fine art project!
We ran out of yoghurt so I got another load in a plastic container this time. LL wanted to taste it. Looks like it was a bit sour. He got progressively messier!
Safety first: be mindful of any allergies (e.g. to fruits, colours, yoghurts, cow’s milk, etc, and be mindful of baby’s age and if they can have cow’s milk should they decide to taste the yoghurt).
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.
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.
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.
Look at that lovely spread!
Decorations up. LL was quite interested in all the sparkly things hanging around the house.
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
The Little Lovely, (age 11m 2 weeks) acted as a baby research participant again.
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.
The study: We’re ready to learn!
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.
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.