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Babies and Intelligence: The Latest Findings

Not so long ago the conventional wisdom was that babies only wanted food, warmth and to be kept dry. Many thought babies incapable of learning until they were at least five to six months old.Today, doctors and scientists believe babies begin learning on their first day of life.

Researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a federal agency whose goal is to identify which experiences can influence healthy development, note that babies are strongly influenced by their environment. A baby will smile if her mother does something the baby likes. A baby learns to get the best care possible by smiling to please her mother or other caregiver. This is how babies learn to connect and communicate with other people.

Scientists say the ability to learn exists in babies even before birth. A recent study from the Netherlands found evidence that unborn babies can remember sounds. Dutch researchers studied almost one hundred pregnant women. They played sounds to the fetus and watched its movements with ultrasound equipment . They found that by thirty weeks of development the fetus could remember a sound for ten minutes. By the thirty-fourth week, it could remember the sound for four weeks.

Many experts say the first years of a child’s life are important for all later development. This is supported by a study which shows how mothers can strongly influence social development and language skills in their children.

Study Shows The More You Talk To A Baby The Smarter They Become

The amount of talk a baby hears from birth through age three has been shown by the research of Dr. Betty Hart and Dr. Todd R. Risley to have a profound effect on a child's IQ, academic success and language abilities.

More than a decade ago Dr. Hart was tasked with improving the vocabularies of 4 -year-old pre-schoolers in one of Kansas' more impoverished and troubled neighborhoods. Her directive was to "get the kids to speak the way 4-year-old children of college professors speak". Everything she tried failed.

She concluded that age 4 was too late to start and, along with Dr. Risley, began a decade long study which recorded how much parents of varying socio-economic status talk to their children.

In their study Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, their longitudinal study of parent-child talk in families in Kansas, a team of researchers recorded one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families over a three year period, with children from seven months to 36 months of age. The team then spent six additional years typing, coding, and analyzing 30,000 pages of transcripts.

Education Experts Warn Against Pre-K Testing

In all of the United States, only Oklahoma offers prekindergarten to every child. Now officials there want to test the children to see how well the program is working.

Seems reasonable, doesn't it? The catch is recent research by early learning experts casts doubt on not only how to best test young children, but if tests, as we have come to know them, are useful at this age.

At the recent International Infant Toddler Conference in Tulsa, Samuel Meisels, president of Chicago's Erikson Institute and a leading expert on early learning had much to say to the gathered early childhood advocates, teachers and professionals. Namely, that results obtained using tests that have recently been called into question could result in unfounded setbacks to Oklahoma's program. http://http://illinoisearlylearning.org/interviews/meisels.htm

The Screen Time Debate

Much has been made lately about limiting children's screen time (time spent watching television or playing on the computer). The conventional wisdom being "the less time, the better", but is this really the case?

Lisa Guernsey of the New America Foundation offers us some insights into current research on the matter in her book Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age 5.

Guernsey tells us that we can not just focus on the amount of time spent in front of the screen, but on what she and other researchers refer to as the three C's; content, context and the individual child.

The content—what is portrayed on screen—makes a significant difference in whether children learn from what they see. according to numerous studies on toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school children.

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