ELLEN GALINSKY: PARENTING EXPERT
Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute, is one of the most noted experts on child development today. She has published more than 40 books, including the classics The Six Stages of Parenthood and Ask the Children: The Breakthrough Study The Breakhthrough Study That Reveals How to Succeed at Work and Parenting. She is a noted keynote speaker and recipient of numerous award and honorary degrees. Her book Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs is one of Galinsky’s most unique and valuable parenting books. We highly recommend it for the parents of our Stellar Caterpillars. For more info, visit mindinthemaking.org.
THE SEVEN ESSENTIAL LIFE SKILLS FOR CHILDREN
Galinsky examines how our interactions with children in conversation and play potentially cultivate seven valuable life skills. The book is organized with each chapter devoted to one of these seven skills. Tips for parents and specific activities for children are included in each chapter for play with children. These seven life skills are:
- Focus and Self-Control: Includes paying attention, remembering rules, and maintaining self-control. This is necessary for achieving goals in life.
- Perspective Taking: Learning to figure out what other people are thinking and intending. Children who learn this skill are less likely to engage in conflicts.
- Communicating: More than just speaking and writing, communicating is the ability to know what one would like to express and then figuring out how to make that understood by others.
- Making Connections: Sorting into categories what is the same, what is different, what is unusual, and then using this information. This skill is at the core of creativity.
- Critical Thinking: Learning to search for accurate or reliable information to guide decisions, beliefs, and actions.
- Taking On Challenges: Some children learn to avoid challenges and others learn to take them on. Accepting challenges and working with them is an important part of learning and development.
- Self-Directed, Engaged Learning: We will not always have someone like a teacher to direct us in life. As children learn to follow their own curiosity and learn they thrive in school and outside of school.
GUIDED PLAY WITH CHILDREN
Through several examples Galinsky teaches the concept of guided play with children. This means that parents can not be the boss and tell the child exactly what to do such as “put that block over here.” Instead they must guide the child to see more clearly what is in front of them. For example, if you explain to the child that a particular block in their hand does not fit because it is “too long,” then you can ask them to find a shorter one. They now learn the difference between short and long. Focus on describing the experience rather than telling them what to do. This is part of their learning process.
Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs: by Ellen Galinsky: (New York: Harper Collins, 2010).
SUMMERTIME BABY PLAY
Family holiday parties, afternoons at the beach, outings to the park, and pool parties are favorite family summertime activites. When spending time enjoying the summer weather and outdoor activities, plan some fun baby play time. If you are planning a picnic at the park, bring a large play mat for baby to explore and crawl around on. Include some swim lessons for baby in your weekly schedule to introduce baby to some play time in the pool which is fun and important water safety training. Then baby will enjoy spending time in the water with you at the pool. Wach a toddler swims across the pool using the same technique taught at several swim schools for babies. Remember that babies were in water before they were born and enjoy playing in the water at an early age.
TIPS FOR INTRODUCING BABY TO SWIMMING
One of the most important things to remember when you are ready to take baby swimming is to find an instructor who is trained in water safety and teaching infant swim lessons. It is important not to try and teach baby to swim without a trained instructor. Bring lots of simple toys to the pool for baby to play with such as the classic rubber duck. Pack some food because baby will be hungry after a short time in the water. They get a lot of exercise while in the water, which is why it is a recommended activity as part of an anti-obesity campaign. Swimming is also very strengthening and develops strong legs for early walking. Most important of all, make swim time a fun time for baby.
WATER SAFETY TIPS
Remember to practice safety at all times when at the pool, near a body of water such as the ocean or lake, or at a home where there is pool. Never take your eyes off of baby or allow her to go out of your arm’s reach when near water. If you have a pool at home consider installing a safety fence with an experienced baby proofing company such as Family First based in Los Angeles. Also, remember that babies need to be watched closely when in the smallest amount of water, including bathtubs at home. Of course, one of the best water safety tips is teaching baby to swim.
PIGGY BANKS AND FINE MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Babies love to put coins in a piggy bank. This is an advanced skill that falls into the motor skill of grasping and reaching. It actually grasping, reaching, and letting go. Baby learns to pick up a coin, reach it into the bank or coin slot, and then opens her fingers to let it go. Sometimes babies learn to put the coin into the slot but do not know yet how to let it go. When a baby reaches out to get a toy she must both reach with her arm and grasp with her hand. To place an object into a box or a coin into a slot she must take the object she is grasping (i.e., coin) and reach it into the slot and then let go of the grasp (open her fingers). The 13 month old baby in the above video from Jerry You’s youtube channel has learned this skill quite well. The baby tires at one point and asks the mother to do it for her. The mother gently tells the baby to go ahead and do it herself. The piggy bank provides babies such as the one in the video much time for baby play.
DIY PIGGY BANKS FOR BABIES
Simple piggy banks can be made at home with everyday objects. An empty water bottle is often used in large mommy and me classes. The opening fits a penny easily. Just place the coin in the narrow opening at the top and watch it fall down to the bottom. Another option is to use an empty carton from something such as milk. A lid can be made from a paper plate which is cut to size and has a large slot cut out of it. Tape this to the top of the carton and sit it on the ground while baby puts coins into the opening. When traveling, on vacation, at the museum, etc., show baby how to drop coins into a fountain or the donation box near the exit. Pay close attention so the coins do not go into her mouth!
WHAT IS “SOCIAL REFERENCING?”
As a baby develops motor skills of crawling and walking that allow her to move around and explore, she soon begins to look back at mom to see if it is OK to play with unfamiliar objects or to go around new corners. In child development this behavior of looking back to a parent to see if something new or unfamiliar is OK is called “social referencing.” Babies and children look to the adults they trust to provide them with clues to safely guide their explorations. The clues often come from the parent’s non-verbal behavior, in particular the facial expression.
THE VISUAL CLIFF EXPERIMENT
Joseph Campos of the University of California at Berkeley conducted the now classic baby experiment that investigated the role of facial expressions in providing infants with the clues of whether or not to proceed when faced with the unfamiliar. Using an experimental strategy developed in the 1950s called the Visual Cliff, he created a situation that was unfamiliar and somewhat frightening for the babies. Infants between 9 and 12 months are placed one at a time on a plexiglass table with a checkered pattern. In the middle of the table is a visual drop off which is created by replacing the checkered pattern table top with a strip of clear plexiglass. This created the appearance of a sudden drop in the table although the surface is completely uninterrupted. The baby is placed on one side of the table while the mother stands on the other side while holding an appealing toy. When the baby crawls to the center strip where the drop off appears, they sense they change and the potential danger. They look to their mother to see what to do.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS AND INFANT DEVELOPMENT
In the visual cliff experiment, the mother makes either a fear face or a smile/encouraging face as directed by the experimenter. In most cases the baby responded to the fear face by choosing not to cross the visual cliff. The mothers were trained to make the fear face by raising their eyebrows, widening their eyes, and opening their mouth. When the mother posed a smile or encouraging face the baby confidently crossed the visual cliff to reach the toy. Watch the above video from vooktv’s youtube channel to see the experiment in action.
PARENTING TIPS: BABY CONFIDENCE
Parenting tips learned from this experiment include being clear to make an encouraging face when you child is trying something new that is positive and safe and making a fear face when the child is considering an action not desired or dangerous. Spend some time looking in the mirror and exaggerating these facial expressions so they become very obvious. Observe your baby to see when she looks to you as if to ask, “Is this OK?” Provide clear clues for your baby as she explores the world around her. This gives baby confidence to explore, play with a new object, by held by an unfamiliar relative visiting from out of town, and more.
BABIES AND EMOTIONS
Motor skill development and emotional development occur in babies during their first year. Although we focus primarily on the development of motor milestones, it is important to discuss emotional development from time to time. We have habits of how we respond emotionally just like we have movement habits that exercise teachers try and change. Through a bit of education we can become aware of our habits and then improve them, whether it is our physical movement or expression of emotions. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting, by John Gottman, Ph.D., is a book for parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and anyone else interested in nurturing the capacity of young children to feel and express their true feelings. He introduces the concept of “emotion coaching” as he guides parents to the understanding that it is important to help a baby or child feel their true feeling in the moment rather than bury it.
MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT AND EMOTION COACHING
Emotions go hand in hand with learning movement. From the joy of learning to execute a new movement to the pain of falling down, babies and children move through a range of experiences on a daily basis in both emotions and motor skills. Parents can learn to react to these moments with baby through the simple steps outlined in Gottman’s easy-to-read book. By learning to see the disappointment on a child’s face when her favorite toy just fell apart in front of her, a parent can first identify the emotion first and then provide a solution. He also recommends a unique game for babies that allows parents to share the emotions of their day and invites baby to share her emotions in return.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN
One of the most valuable sections of this book is the list of books for babies and children that focus on emotions. Selected books from this list makes a wonderful baby shower gift. Adding books to baby’s first library that teach emotions makes a nice addition to a collection of books on colors, counting, and ABC’s. After all, aren’t emotions also the colors of our life?
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting: by John Gottman, Ph. D. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997).
A-B-C BOOKS FOR BABY
Toddlers learn their A-B-C’s through songs and books. One of the most popular songs taught in preschool or at home is the Alphabet Song. A popular baby book for learning the A-B-C’s is “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault. Reading and especially singing the A-B-C’s makes the letters of the alphabet familiar to baby through playful repetition. The playfulness packages the learning as fun. Think of singing as playful speech development. When parents sing the song to baby often, the child begins to learn the sequence of letters: “A, B, C, D, E, F, G, …” The more familiar the child is with the song the easier the learning may be. Babies enjoy listening to the Alphabet Song and would enjoy reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” Add this book to baby’s first library and learn the song in the above video.
Many parents remember the tale from their childhood with a smile on their face. The fun and energetic rhyme of alphabet letters climbing over each other to get to the top of the coconut tree is recanted through song in the above video from icnelly’s youtubc channel. We love this version of the rhyme because parents can learn it and sing it to baby. With its lullabye-like quality baby will enjoy it and soon will learn her A-B-C’s. Books for babies such as “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” make an entertaining break during a motor skill play session and are useful for wind-down time prior to a nap.