Jan 11, Hear Gwen discuss baby signing on NPR radio

The Parenting Science News Feed The Parenting Science news feed alerts you to updates on the Parenting Science website and to new blog posts or articles written by Gwen Dewar about parenting and child development topics. If you’d like to subscribe to the Parenting Science news feed, RIGHT-click on the RSS button (the last black button listed under the heading "Follow Us" to the right of this text) and paste the URL into your RSS reader. Alternatively, if you have a social media account, you can follow this site by clicking on one of the Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest buttons. Don't see anything new? Click your browser's refresh button to check for recent updates. Jan 08, 2019 Can babies sign before they can speak? Can babies sign before they can speak? To date, studies have failed to find compelling evidence in favor of the idea. And there's reason for doubt: Research confirms that babies start practicing spoken language at an early age. Continue reading "Ca..
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Jan 8, Can babies sign before they can speak?

Can babies sign before they can speak? © 2019 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED It's one of the most common assumptions that people make about baby sign language -- that babies can sign before they can speak. But is it true? The answer is: It might be true, but we don't know for sure, and skepticism is warranted. Studies confirm that babies start practicing spoken language at an early age. And currently there is no compelling evidence that true signing emerges before genuine speech. So let's take a closer look, starting with what we know about the development of language. 1. By the age of 6 months, many babies have begun repeating our speech sounds. They may also understand a variety of everyday words. Babies are born with a package of powerful mechanisms for learning to speak. It's a basic human trait, the hallmark of our species, and experiments show that babies begin learning about language while they are still in the womb. Infants can hear their mothe..
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Jan 1, How to start babies on solid food: An evidence-based guide

How to start babies on solid food: an evidence-based guide © 2019 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Introducing solid foods to your baby is a messy, amusing, and sometimes frustrating business. How do you start? The first thing to understand is the goal. You aren't trying to replace your baby's breast milk or formula intake with solid food. That's because solid foods don't provide the complete nutrition that young infants need. If young babies reduce their breast milk intake, and replace it with cereal or other baby foods, they are at risk for poor nutrition (Sen et al 2017). So when you introduce solids to your baby, you are entering a transitional period. Your baby will still rely on breast milk or formula for the bulk of his or her nutritional needs. But your baby will be learning about solid foods -- learning how to eat, and how to accept new flavors and textures. And this understanding can keep you from becoming overly frustrated. Your baby doesn&#03..
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Dec 18, Baby sign language: A guide for the science-minded parent

Baby sign language: An evidence-based guide © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What is "baby sign language"? The term is a bit misleading, since it doesn't refer to a genuine language. A true language has syntax, a grammatical structure. It has native speakers who converse fluently with each other. By contrast, baby sign language, also known as baby signing, refers to the act of communicating with babies using a modest number of symbolic gestures. Parents talk to their babies in the usual way – by speaking words – but they also make use of these signs. For instance, a mother might ask, "Do you want something to drink?" while making the sign for "drink." Does baby sign language work? The short answer is yes, it works -- in the sense that babies can learn to interpret and use signs. As I note below, research suggests that many babies can start producing signs by the time they are 8-10 months of age. But the same can be said for spoken words, and, as we'll se..
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Dec 13, Sensitive, responsive parenting: What are the health benefits?

The health effects of sensitive, responsive parenting © 2011-2016 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved When we hear about the benefits of responsive parenting, it's often in the context of cognitive development. Infants learn language more rapidly when caregivers respond promptly and contingently to what babies do (Tamis-Lamonda et al 2014). Young children develop better problem-solving ability, attention skills, and school readiness when their parents are sensitive and responsive (Landry et al 2003; Landry et al 2006; Yousafzai et al 2016). But there may be powerful health benefits, too, particularly for kids living in neighborhoods blighted by poverty and crime. These kids experience atypical fluctuations of the stress hormone cortisol, putting them at increased risk for a variety of metabolic conditions, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Elevated cortisol levels may also "turn on" genes that cause inflammation. When University of British Col..
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Dec 6, Dinosaur replay: Getting kids hooked on science

Paleontology and dinosaurs for kids: Tips for getting children hooked on science © 2009 - 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Dinosaurs for kids: A gateway for STEM learning Paleontology is a great opportunity to teach kids about biology, evolution, and scientific thinking. Most young children are fascinated by dinosaurs, and studies suggest that curiosity boosts learning. When kids are intrigued -- when they have questions -- their brains are especially primed to learn the answers. But being keen on dinosaurs isn't enough. It doesn't, by itself, doesn't lead kids to a deeper understanding or biology or science. As Kathy Johnson and her colleagues found, young dinosaur experts may know a lot about specific dinosaurs, but their knowledge is usually highly specific and disconnected from larger, biological concepts (Johnson et al 2004). A perfect opportunity is being missed! So we need to help children connect their natural interest in dinosaurs with big (a..
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Nov 29, Parenting stress: 10 tips for coping

Parenting Stress: 10 evidence-based tips for making life better © 2016 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Parenting stress puts a strain on the whole family -- sapping patience, damaging relationships, eroding well-being. What can we do about it? Parents are often urged to get more social support, and of course that's an excellent idea. Knowing you've got back up, even if it's just somebody who can talk constructively with you about your troubles, can protect you from the effects of toxic stress. But most parents lacking social support are painfully aware of the fact. The problem is that quality social support is like a lot of other resources: We don't all have equal access. You might try enrolling in parenting classes. Studies indicate that parenting classes can reduce your feelings of anger, guilt, and stress -- particularly if your child has difficult behavior problems (Barlow et al 2014; Furlong et al 2012; Feinberg et al 2014). But the effects usually ..
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Nov 23, STEM books for kids (and other resources too)

Stem books for kids (and some games too): Parenting science recommendations © 2017 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved If you care about the progress of STEM -- science, technology, mathematics, and engineering -- you already know the bad news. Around the world, rationality is under attack. Politicians deny the facts. Adults reject the scientific evidence. But the good news is it has never been easier to find excellent books and games for teaching children about STEM concepts. Here is are a few such resources, some of which I've mentioned in my articles for Parenting Science. I'll be adding more in the future. I include links to items that can be purchased through Amazon.com. Parenting Science is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, which means it receives a portion of the proceeds whenever you make a purchase through one of these links. Astronomy and physics The night sky used be a good recruiting tool for careers in STEM. Nowadays, light pollution make..
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Nov 14, Tangrams for kids: Educational tips and a printable template

Tangrams for kids: Educational tips and a printable tangram template © 2009 - 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Tangrams for kids: A learning tool for building STEM skills Like building blocks, tangrams can teach kids about spatial relationships. They may help kids learn geometric terms, and develop stronger problem solving abilities. They might even help children perform better on tests of basic arithmetic. But what is a tangram? Invented in China approximately 200 years ago, a tangram is a two-dimensional re-arrangement puzzle created by cutting a square into seven pieces -- seven geometric shapes called "tans" (Slocum et al 2003). What are the seven shapes in a tangram? Each tangram puzzle contains the following: 2 large right triangles 1 medium-sized right triangle 2 small right triangles 1 small square 1 parallelogram Arranged correctly, these tangram shapes can be fitted together as a large square, rectangle, or triangle. They can also be arranged in a vari..
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Nov 8, What happens when adults lie to children?

What happens when adults lie to children? © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Are children influenced by authority figures who tell self-serving lies? Does it set a bad example -- making kids more likely to tell lies of their own? There hasn't been much research on the question. But based on the limited evidence, the answer depends on a child's developmental level. Young children are capable of tracking the accuracy of your past statements. And by the age of four years, some kids show a preference for trusting individuals who have a proven history of telling the truth. But it's not clear that lying to young children will make them more deceitful. Perhaps that's because they lack the cognitive skills to fully grasp the concept of a lie. By contrast, school-aged kids react differently. When they discover we’ve lied to them, they become less truthful in their dealings with us. How do we know? Imagine this scenario. An adult meets a child, and says: “The..
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