A blog by Dr Lin Day

Toddler Sense and Father’s Day

Yabba Dabba Do!

Our Toddler Sense Father’s Day celebration is packed with champion entertainment from sporty warm-ups to fun ball games, a parachute bonanza, marching with Tod (our mascot), balloons and bubbles. And if you can’t bring Dad, Mum will have lots of fun too!

Father’s Day is just around the corner and Toddler Sense is getting ready to celebrate the important role that dads contribute to their children's lives. We have plenty of fun activities that dads and toddlers will enjoy and remember forever! 

The adventure play area is a great place to start and the equipment offers endless opportunities for exploration, problem-solving and imaginative thinking. You can encourage your toddler to crawl through tunnels, bounce, balance, climb or clamber over obstacles and teach important life skills at the same time.

When dads join in, toddlers know they are fun to be with!

Then it’s time for an adventure with your toddler starting with our ‘How do you do?’ song and then a champion warm up activity before we introduce a wonderful bonanza of sporty games to get dads as involved as possible!

Every week is different so if you can’t make ‘Father’s Day’, you can look forward to zooming to the moon, meeting aliens, putting the hatches down on Captain Tod’s yellow submarine, going ape at the African Zoo, digging for dinosaurs, crossing the high seas to Treasure Island, discovering the magic of the jungle (there’ll be monkey mayhem so wind up your windows and hide the sandwiches), and being a firefighter rescuing Tod from danger with your toddler.

When you join in with the fun, you add to your child’s development in unique and important ways. For example, encouraging physical skills supports the development of independence, confidence and achievement; making music fosters brain development; singing expands language and communication skills; playing fishing games develops imagination; helping your toddler post, sort, organize and deliver the daily mail encourages thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills; going on a nature trail fosters an understanding of the world.  It’s impossible to name all the activities and benefits, but you are sure to enjoy them all!


What the research says….

A large-scale study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies showed that fathers who engaged in fun play with toddlers had a far-reaching impact on their social skills and behaviours.

Research by the Fatherhood Institute showed that paternal interactions equipped children socially and psychologically and made a real difference to their lives.

Maureen Black, researcher and professor of paediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found that children with an actively involved father had improved language skills and fewer behavioural problems, even if he lived apart from them.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, concluded that children who benefitted from paternal involvement from an early age were more likely to get good grades in school.

W. Bradford Wilcox, associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, stated that girls and boys were much more likely to thrive when they had the benefit of the father’s interest, involvement and attention.

Numerus studies have shown that spending quality time with children makes fatherhood more rewarding and enjoyable. Dads also develop lifelong bonds with their children that cannot be formed in any other way.

Father’s Day celebrates the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives. Toddler Sense provides a wonderful opportunity for dads and children to spend quality time together.

By Dr Lin Day (http://www.babysensory.com/en/toddlersense)

Baby Sleep

Sleep problems are common in babies, but understanding and knowing how to deal with them enables parents to get a better night’s sleep for themselves, which in turn enables them to provide loving, patient and consistent care for their baby.


There are all sorts of reasons why babies experience sleep difficulties, but knowing something about the different stages of sleep, what to do if your baby wakes up in the night, how to establish a regular bedtime, and what to expect from your baby can be helpful.


Stages of sleep


Newborn sleep begins with REM sleep (dream sleep or active sleep), followed by non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (deep sleep or quiet sleep). By 3 months-old, babies enter NREM first, and then REM. The changed pattern reflects maturation of the central nervous system and its timing mechanisms, and increased production of melatonin, the ‘sleep’ hormone.


By 6 months-old, your baby may experience 5 cycles of sleep during the night. Each cycle consists of light (NREM), deep and active sleep (REM) and lasts about one hour.


During light sleep, your baby’s muscles relax, her eyelids flutter and she may twitch, grimace and suck intermittently. If you put your baby in her cot at this stage, she may wake up. Try waiting until her fists unfold and her breathing becomes shallow and regular. It is less likely that your baby will wake up once she has entered deep sleep.


After deep sleep, your baby will enter the frenzied period of active sleep. She may grimace and fuss, jerk involuntarily and breathe irregularly and wake up. If your baby is comfortable and the room is dark and quiet, she may drift back into the next cycle of sleep.


However, if your baby should need a feed or nappy change (most babies will tolerate a wet nappy), keep this as low-key as possible and put her in her cot as soon as her needs have been met.


If your baby is not hungry or uncomfortable, do not pick her up, speak to her, make eye contact, put on music or lights or interact with her in any way or she will expect the same treatment every time she wakes up. Simply place your hand on your baby to comfort her until she settles back to sleep again. If your baby is rewarded with too much attention, waking and play at odd hours may be prolonged into late childhood. Your baby may also cry more due to tiredness.


Sleep routine


The one thing that the sleep experts all agree on is the need for a consistent, regular bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what the routine consists of providing the same things happen every night.


Although it may be difficult to ensure that bedtime events happen in a regular sequence in the first 6 weeks, as your baby grows older, she will associate certain situations with bedtime. By 6 months-old, the bedtime routine should be well established. An occasional break is unlikely to cause too much disruption to the routine, but regular changes may unsettle your baby.


Here are a few tips that may help:


  • Allow a quiet wind-down period of about 20 minutes before bedtime.
  • Turn off the television and dim the lights.
  • Make the bedtime routine as calm and as relaxed as possible to reduce stress levels.
  • Help your baby relax and unwind in a warm bath. When she gets out, the surrounding cooler air will lower her temperature, which will help trigger the sleep mechanism.
  • Put baby in special clothes that are only used at night.
  • Snuggle up quietly with your baby and massage her feet (stimulates melatonin production) or read a story, but avoid over-stimulating her or she will still be fizzing at bedtime.
  • Use key words such as ‘Bedtime’ or ‘Night-night’ which are associated with sleep.


A reduction in parent-infant interactions before bedtime can dramatically improve your baby’s sleep. If your baby is over-tired or over-stimulated, she may find it difficult to settle.


Signs of tiredness


Look out for signs of tiredness. For example, an intermittent ‘Owh’ sound means that baby is sleepy. Other signs include fussing, gaze aversion, unfocused glazed eyes and yawning.


Tips for promoting sleep


Research shows that going outside in the fresh air and sunshine for 15 minutes a day can improve sleep patterns. Exposure to sunlight also regulates the secretion of melatonin. Being held close or carried for 3 or more hours during the day can also help your baby settle more readily at night.


  • Let your baby have a daytime nap when she needs it or she may become over-tired and difficult to settle at bedtime.
  • Avoid putting your baby down on a very full tummy, as this will increase core body temperature and keep her awake.
  • Wind your baby fully before bedtime.
  • If breastfeeding, avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners and excess caffeine, which can have a negative effect on your baby’s ability to sleep.
  • Ensure that the room temperature is not too hot. The optimal room temperature for sleep is between 16 and 18 °C.
  • Avoid warming baby’s bed with cot bumpers or too many soft toys. They can raise core body temperature and keep your baby awake.
  • Make sure that the room is dark and quiet to help your baby learn the difference between night and day.
  • Provide a dummy or comforter to help your baby to fall asleep (if breastfeeding, ensure that milk supply is established first).
  • Put your baby on her back on a firm surface to keep her spine as flat as possible and to allow her lungs to expand fully.


Everyone has a period of latency before going to sleep, so don’t expect your baby to fall asleep the moment she is in her cot.  Some babies take twice as long as adults to fall asleep.


Your baby will also sleep better if the room is completely dark. Keeping the house bright during the day, dimming the lights in the evening, and putting your baby to bed in complete darkness at night will help regulate wakefulness and sleep over a 24-hour period. Although a night light with a dimmer can aid night time feeds and nappy changes, it can increase wakefulness.




Although some newborns sleep longer than others at night, most wake up every 2 to 3 hours at the end of a sleep cycle at night for a feed, regardless of whether they are breast or bottle fed. As your baby’s stomach increases its capacity to take in greater quantities of milk at each feed, she may sleep longer periods between feeds.


Research suggests waking up every 2 to 3 hours to be a survival mechanism. If the sleep state was so deep, that hunger needs, extremes of temperature, and breathing difficulties could not be communicated to the parent, the baby’s well-being could be threatened. This is why parents should not expect too much from a young baby in the early days or feel pressured to get their new baby to sleep too long, too deeply, too soon. 


3 – 6 months


Three to 6 month-old babies may sleep 5 or more hours once a sleep pattern has been established. However, if your baby is teething, unwell, going through a growth spurt or has been recently immunized, she may experience a temporary disturbance in her sleep pattern.


6 months


By 6 months-old, your baby will become more active during the day and may sleep 5 to 6 hours or longer without a feed at night. Sometimes, older babies who have learned to sleep through the night will begin waking up again for no obvious reason. If waking up continues for more than a few days, putting your baby to bed half an hour earlier than normal may solve the problem.


If sleep problems persist, then you may need help to keep going. Health visitors are a good source of advice and support.



By Dr Lin Day www.babysensory.com



For more information on sleep behaviours and patterns in young babies, visit http://www.babysensory.com/en/parentclasses for details of parent workshops.


Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be

Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be
When temperatures soar, mums-to-be will feel the heat more than average, but how do you stay cool?
Here are some tips from pregnant mums that will help you stay cool and remain hydrated. We’ve also included advice from the experts to keep you and your growing baby safe, healthy and well.
What the experts say
During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to the sun and more likely to burn, so you need to be extra careful. Mums-to-be should stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.
Excessive UV radiation in the early stages of pregnancy can interfere with the synthesis of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which is especially important to foetal cell division and growth. The best advice is to stay indoors during peak UV hours. However, sun avoidance can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends a daily vitamin D supplement during pregnancy.
Melt down
· Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a ventilated or air-conditioned area.
· Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home.
· Rest or move about more slowly than normal - don’t rush to appointments.
· Keep the bedroom temperature between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F) - you will sleep more comfortably.
· Wet towels and bottles of frozen water will help reduce room temperature.
· To prevent the sun heating up the house, keep the blinds/curtains drawn.
· Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and   generate more body heat.
Anna from Winchester says “Avoid using the oven - it heats up the house.”
Out and about
If you do need to venture out in hot weather, try scheduling activities earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
 It also helps if you:
· Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton.
· Avoid synthetic fibres such as polyester that can make you sweat.
· Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.
·  Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.
Sarah from Figheldean says “Dust your skin lightly with corn flour – it absorbs sweat and makes you feel more comfortable.”
Avoid sunscreen - it may contain harmful toxic ingredients, which can cause serious problems in the growth and sexual development of your growing baby. Check out the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) guide to sunscreens that are chemical-free.
Stay hydrated
Due to hormonal changes, an increase in blood supply to the skin, and a slightly higher temperature in pregnancy, you are likely to sweat more and lose vital fluids. It is important to stay hydrated.
· Drink more water than usual so that you never become thirsty. A glass of water every 30 minutes or so   will prevent dehydration.
·  Avoid salty foods, which retain water and increase blood pressure.
· Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
·  Eat ice cubes and keep trays stocked up in the freezer.
· Avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks.
Restrict caffeine intake to 200mg or less daily during pregnancy. High levels of caffeine can lead to low birth weight and may even cause miscarriage. Some ingredients in energy drinks are considered safe in moderation, while others are potentially harmful to your growing baby. Energy drinks can have as much as 200mg of caffeine per serving.
Stay cool
A fan can cool you down and circulate air around the room, but don’t rely on it as your primary cooling device during a heatwave. A cool shower, bath or sponge bath is a much better way to keep cool.
· Wash frequently to help you feel fresh.
· Sit in a cold paddling pool.
· Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.
· Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet at night.
· Mist yourself with cold water or spray from a garden hose.
Vicky from Salisbury says “I stick my feet in a bowl of cold water. It is so refreshing!”
Stay safe
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
·         Strong, rapid pulse.
·         Extreme weakness or fatigue
·         Throbbing headache.
·         Dizziness.
·         Nausea.
·         Confusion.
·         Muscle cramps.
·         Elevated body temperature.
·         Fast and shallow breathing.
Your growing baby
The sun itself will not hurt your growing baby, but it may cause problems if your body temperature rises or you become dehydrated. If you become uncomfortable in the sun, find a cool area or seek an air-conditioned environment, rehydrate, and rest.
Want to learn something new and share ideas?
Come along to our Baby Foundations summer talks at Bluewater (near the food court, M&S and Disney Shop). Informative talks run from 26th July to 23rd August.
By Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Celebrating Father’s Day

In the UK this year, Father’s Day falls on Sunday 18th June. It provides a wonderful opportunity to honour dads and express gratitude for their love, care and support.


Fathers Make a Difference

Dads can add so much to their child’s development. For example, they can:

  • Encourage exploratory skills, which support the development of independence.
  • Engage in activities such as tickling, teasing, bouncing, wrestling and rough and tumble play, which increases confidence and self-control.
  • Add variety and dimension to their child’s experience of the world.
  • Expand their child’s horizons by playing with toys in non-traditional ways.
  • Challenge children to find different ways of doing things.
  • Influence development through direct teaching and daily interaction.
  • Encourage competition and independence.
  • Expand vocabulary and language skills through brief and directive talking.
  • Bring different strengths and styles to their teaching role than mum.


Girls who grow up with a loving, involved father are more likely to have healthy, emotionally balanced relationships with males in later life. Boys who grow up with a loving, involved father are less likely to be aggressive and more likely to make friends at school because they have learned how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways. 

Studies have repeatedly highlighted the positive role that dads can have in their children’s learning and development. As a result, many schools are pioneering ways to involve them in projects such as cookery, computing, reading, craft, sports, games, maths and other classroom work. Fathers are also being encouraged to contribute to their children’s out-of-school learning. In a world where television and computers often dominate children’s lives, showing an interest in what they do, and helping with homework and reading are more important than ever before.


Absent fathers

 Even if the father is unable to spend regular time with his children, they will still benefit from his attention, warmth and affection. He can take them on outings, attend school activities and spend quality time with them.

Giving children love, attention and richness of care is something that all dads can do regardless of whether they are in a committed relationship, single or non-resident. Children grow up so quickly and missed opportunities are lost forever.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is celebrated all over the world. In the USA, Canada, Southern Ireland and Mexico, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In Italy and Spain, Father’s Day is celebrated in the third week of March. In Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.

In the UK, Sunday 19th June provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives.


Happy Father’s Day!


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Safe Swaddling

Baby swaddling is a controversial subject. Read on to find out how to keep your baby safe. Peer reviewed article published in the Journal of Health Visiting (April 2015). 

Archaeological records show that babies have been swaddled since 4000 BC. Swaddling involved wrapping pieces of cloth and a band tightly around the baby’s body from the shoulders to the feet to in the belief that it helped them to develop a strong, straight back before they were able to walk. The swaddled baby was then placed horizontally in a cradle or cot, or strapped firmly vertically to a cradleboard to support the spine.
Due to the effect of tight swaddling on limb restriction, the practice fell out of favour in the mid-1960s, as new theories in baby development took hold. However, following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign in the 1990s, and popularisation in parenting guides, swaddling has made a comeback.
Some healthcare professionals recommend swaddling while others speak out against it. Advocates believe that swaddling replicates the confined conditions of the womb, and helps the newborn adjust to life in the outside world. Some studies (Gerard et al. 2002; Thach 2009) have shown that swaddled babies startle less, have a lower heart rate, sleep more deeply, and wake less spontaneously than when not swaddled. Swaddling also prevents babies from rolling over on to their tummies, which is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Gerard et al. 2002).
Work by Blair et al. (2009) has linked swaddling to respiratory complications, prolonged deep sleep, and overheating, which are risk factors for SIDS. Other concerns include tight swaddling of the legs, which can lead to developmental dysplasia of the hip. There is also disagreement among healthcare professionals about the benefits of restricting the protective startle reflex in newborns. When the limbs are confined, babies are unable to startle themselves awake.
The effects of swaddling on SIDS are controversial. Until there is conclusive evidence that swaddling is unsafe, the practice is unlikely to become less common.
History of swaddling
Egyptian tomb reliefs from 2500 BC show babies swaddled with cloths and tied to the mother's back or hip. Sacred statuettes of infants in swaddling clothes have also been found in Ancient Greek and Roman tombs. History shows that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were all swaddled as babies. The practice of swaddling has been known for centuries over most of Europe, Asia, Canada, South and North America.
The most famous record of swaddling is found in the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7).
After the birth, the newborn was washed, rubbed with salt and oil to thicken and firm the skin. To prevent cold air from touching the skin and to ensure that the limbs grew straight, the baby was wrapped in linen or cotton and over-wrapped with six metre long bandage-like strips or bands. Swaddling and salting became the model of infant care practice for some 1,500 years or more.
During the Tudor period (1485 to 1603), newborns were ‘salted’ and wrapped in linen bands from head to foot for up to nine months to ensure that they grew up without physical deformity. The legs were placed closely together, the arms were placed at the sides, and the swaddling cloth was then folded over the baby’s body, feet and arms. A swaddle band was wrapped under the baby's chin and over the forehead to secure the head, and then around the body all the way down to the ankles. The weight and heat of the swaddle wrap and band restricted movement, cramped the bowels, and increased body temperature.
In Medieval times, it was traditional practice to immobilise babies for up to nine months without washing or regular human contact. They were unable to reach out for objects or suck their fingers or toes for comfort. Infants were also left in their own excrement for days on end. Crawling, an important developmental milestone was often delayed or absent (Frenken 2011).
In parts of Canada, North America, and South America, babies were traditionally swaddled and attached to portable cradleboards constructed of dogwood or willow sticks, which supported the spine and constricted movement. However, studies (Chisholm & Cary 2009) demonstrated a very high prevalence of hip dysplasia. The frequency of hip dislocation decreased dramatically when cloth nappies, which slightly flexed and abducted the hips, were introduced in the 1950s (American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011a).
In the 1800s, the medical profession recommended a less containing form of swaddling, which kept the arms and legs free. Nevertheless, most mothers continued to use traditional swaddling bands until the early 1930s. Swaddling eventually fell out of favour following concerns that it could overheat the baby, restrict growth, and displace the hips.
In recent years, swaddling has become increasingly popular as a settling technique in the Netherlands, some parts of the United States, and the United Kingdom (Frenken 2011). In the UK, about 19 percent of babies are swaddled in the first four weeks of life (Clarke 2013). However, modern swaddling allows ample room for hip and knee flexion.
Benefits of swaddling
Many parents say that swaddling provides comfort and security, limits the startle reflex, and helps their babies get to sleep and stay asleep. Gerard et al. (2002) found that babies were just as likely to startle when swaddled as when unswaddled, but returned to sleep more quickly. Longer sleep duration in swaddled infants is believed to be important for brain development.
Additional benefits include:
·         Helps babies to stay on their backs, which reduces the risk of SIDS.
·         Prevents the baby moving into dangerous situations.
·         Helps to settle an overstimulated or distressed baby.
·         Makes the baby feel secure.
·         Prevents uncontrollable flailing of the baby’s arms and legs.
·         Reduces crying, fussiness, and distress.
·         Helps babies sleep more deeply.
·         Promotes brain development by reducing stress.
When the baby sleeps better in the supine position, parents are less likely to use the prone position for sleep. Improved sleep means that mother is less likely to suffer from exhaustion, postpartum depression or stress.
Safe swaddling
Swaddling is standard practice in many neonatal intensive care units for premature and/or low birth weight infants. However, swaddling takes place very loosely. The arms and legs are held weakly against the baby’s body so that movement is possible. This form of swaddling is very different to traditional tight swaddling in the stretched position.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP 2011b) recommends swaddling, when done correctly, to be an effective technique to help calm infants, promote sleep, and reduce SIDS. Mothers who swaddle are twice as likely to put their babies in the supine position, which reduces the likelihood of SIDS. Safe swaddling also prevents the baby rolling into the prone position or moving into a dangerous situation (Gerard et al. 2002). Additionally, swaddling reduces the chances of bedding covering the baby’s face and head, which can cause overheating or asphyxia. The baby’s hands can also be left free to self-comfort by sucking on the fingers or hand.
Most modern swaddle wraps are produced in a triangular, ‘T’ or ‘Y’ shape, which may include ‘wings’ that fold around the baby's body and arms, and a pouch that allows the baby’s hips to move and the legs to spread apart naturally. Swaddle wraps are made from cotton, muslin, silk or a lightweight breathable fabric to prevent overheating. Some swaddle wraps are made from cotton spandex to reduce the risk of chest wall compression.
Swaddling should be stopped at three months-old (the peak age of SIDS risk) or when the baby shows signs of rolling over. Older babies may use a baby sleeping bag, which is less restrictive than a swaddle wrap. The sleeping bag keeps the baby warm, and it offers plenty of room for the legs and feet to move freely during the night. It is also sleeveless and without a hood to prevent overheating or asphyxiation.
Potential risks of swaddling:
·         Placing the swaddled baby in the prone position.
·         Reduced ability to arouse from deep sleep.
·         Overheating, if a heavy blanket is used.
·         Suffocation if the swaddle wrap covers the baby’s face.
·         Inhibited breathing if the wrap is too tight across the chest.
·         Developmental dysplasia of the hip if movement of the hips or knees is restricted.
·         Increased risk of SIDS if continued over the age of 3 months-old.
Blair et al. (2009) found that one in 4 SIDS babies had been swaddled. However, the sample used for the study was small and the risk was branded 'unreliable' by the National Health Service. Other studies (e.g. Thach 2009) have shown that swaddling increased the risk of SIDS when babies slept in the prone position, but not when they slept on their backs. 
Some studies (Thach 2009; Clarke 2013) found that swaddling babies slept more soundly. However this may not be a desirable outcome, as the pathogenesis of SIDS is thought to involve an impaired ability to arouse from sleep in response to a life threatening respiratory or cardiovascular challenge. Although newborns have an inborn survival mechanism, which enables them to wake up if the airway is obstructed; in deep sleep their well-being could be threatened.
The Royal College of Midwives (Clark 2013) advised against tight swaddling and heavy blankets in fear of overheating the newborn. Other concerns included restriction of the chest wall resulting in breathing difficulties or secondary complications such as pneumonia.
Hip dysplasia
If the baby is swaddled too tightly, developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) may occur (Mahan & Kasser 2008; Chisholm & Cary 2009; AAP 2011a). The risk is elevated in babies with:
·         A family history of DDH.
·         Breech positioning.
·         Congenital foot deformity.
·         Torticollis (asymmetrical head or neck position).
DDH occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies. About 80 percent of cases are female. This is due to oestrogen produced by the female foetus, which increases elasticity of ligaments and causes the femoral head to move out of position. Treatment, which involves fitting a harness to keep the legs in a flexed, widespread position day and night for six weeks, is successful in about 85 percent of cases.
About 17 percent of newborns have some degree of hip dysplasia. Although the condition resolves untreated by 2 to 3 months-old, traditional tight swaddling may lead to late onset hip dysplasia and early arthritis (Clark 2013).
There is a significant difference between traditional tight wrapping and safe swaddling. If babies are placed on their backs to sleep, and they are loosely wrapped without hip or limb constriction, swaddling may be safe. However, swaddling could become a safety issue if blankets are used or when the baby becomes mobile. Care should be taken to ensure that the swaddle wrap does not restrict blood flow or breathing, or cover the baby’s face or head.
The association between swaddling and SIDS has been mainly limited to babies lying in the prone position. The risk of SIDS in supine swaddled babies needs more in-depth research.
Further information
Information covering all aspects of baby care, health and safety can be found in our Baby Sensory new baby course ‘Baby Foundations’. Please visit www.babyfoundations.com
By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

This article appeared in the Journal of Health Visiting April 2015 Volume 3 Issue 4 and has been subject to peer review.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011a) Improper swaddling a risk factor for developmental dysplasia of hip. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.1 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011b) Practice safe swaddling to protect baby’s hips. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.2 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
Blair PS, Sidebotham P, Evason-Coombe C, Edmonds M, Heckstall-Smith EM and Fleming P (2009) Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. BMJ 339: b3666
Chisholm JS and Cary MC (2009) Navajo Infancy: An Ethological Study of Child Development. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p.187
Clarke NMP (2013) Swaddling and hip dysplasia: an orthopaedic perspective. Archives of Disease in Childhood 99 (1): 5-6
Frenken R (2011) Psychology and history of swaddling: Part two - The abolishment of swaddling from the 16th century until today. The Journal of Psychohistory 39 (3): 219-245
Gerard CM, Harris KA and Thach BT (2002) During rapid eye movement and quiet sleep spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled. Pediatrics 110: e70
Mahan ST and Kasser JR (2008) Does swaddling influence developmental dysplasia of the hip? Pediatrics 121: 177-178
Thach BT (2009) Does swaddling decrease or increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome?  The Journal of Pediatrics 155: 461-462

Top Easter Tips for You and Your Baby

Your baby may be too young to decorate a hard-boiled egg or go on an egg hunt, but there are still plenty of ways to make Easter an educational and enjoyable event. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Hide and seek

One of the best games to play with your baby is ‘peek-a-boo’ or ‘hide-and-seek’. It’s traditional, simple to organise, educational and lots of fun. 

To develop your baby’s thinking, memory and hand-eye coordination skills, hide a plastic egg under a cloth or cup. Say “Where’s the egg?” If your baby is at the reaching and grasping stage, she will look for it, even though it is out of sight.  When your baby is a little older, she may deliberately prolong the fun by hiding the object for you to discover.

If you have a spare tissue box, fill it with Easter ribbons or brightly coloured fabrics. Your baby will delight in pulling out the materials one by one. She will also discover that when you put the materials back in the box, they continue to exist even though they are hidden from view. 

To encourage logical thinking, problem-solving and exploratory skills, hide behind the sofa and call out your baby’s name. When your baby discovers your hiding place, she will learn that you haven’t just vanished because you are out of sight. This teaches your baby about object permanence and stability. Psychologist Jean Piaget suggested that this awareness was typically achieved at about 6-months-old. However, recent studies show that if peek-a-boo games are played regularly, babies understand these concepts from about 2 months-old.

Easter puppets

A rabbit puppet and a pop-up frog are wonderful hide and seek toys. They provide a wealth of learning opportunities from visual stimulation to speech and language development. They also encourage rich parent-baby interactions and the element of surprise that babies love so much. 

Easter Books

Three-dimensional books with large, brightly coloured illustrations, textured materials and hide-and-seek pictures that encourage interaction make great Easter presents for babies. Your baby may investigate the properties of a texture with her finger tips or turn the pages to discover something new. Your voice and facial expressions will capture your baby’s interest and attention and liven up her experience of the world. Best of all, your baby will enjoy cuddling up to you, which has a huge impact on her future learning and development. Research shows that babies who are regularly cuddled have bigger brains than babies who are deprived of close loving physical contact. 

Easter Treasure Basket 

Line a shallow basket and fill it up with Easter-themed objects such as a textured book, a soft toy rabbit or lamb, a plastic bath duck, a shaker (a must-have for every baby), and a toy your baby can safely chew on (see www.thebabysensoryshop.co.uk for ideas). 

 When your baby can sit up with or without support, a treasure basket filled with interesting and engaging objects will develop her sense of curiosity. When your baby explores the objects, she will find out about weight, size, shape, taste, smell, sound and temperature. Every time a new object is explored, highly sensitive nerve endings in the skin will send messages to her brain. In this way, information is collected that will lead to the later recognition of objects. 

Easter Songs

Focus on Easter songs such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘5 little Ducks’. Even if your baby cannot understand the words, she will enjoy the sound of your voice and your facial gestures and body movements. These time-honoured songs have a repetitive theme, which help to establish a sense of order (mathematical reasoning) and a sense of security. They also provide a powerful stimulus in terms of language and social development. 

Easter Games

A simple activity such as rolling a plastic egg across the floor will encourage a whole range of mobility skills as well as hand-eye coordination and sensory exploration. When your baby is a little older, you can sit on the floor and roll the egg back and forth or roll it down a slope for your baby to catch. Best of all, your quality interactions will make a huge difference to your baby’s emotional development and learning.

Nesting Set

Towards the end of the first year, your baby will enjoy activities that encourage use of the pincer grip. A multi-coloured nesting set for example, provides a wonderful, educational opportunity. When your baby tries to nest the cups, she will learn about size and space, which forms the foundation for mathematical and spatial awareness. These skills will stand her in good stead for the future.

Easter Outing

The spring air provides the perfect opportunity to tantalise your baby’s sense of smell. The fragrance of flowers, cut grass, new leaves growing and the smell of rain will help your baby learn about the world. Fresh air contains high levels of negative ions that can have a positive impact on your baby’s health and brain function. Sunlight provides Vitamin D that your baby needs to grow strong, healthy bones and offers protection from a number of common ailments and disorders. 

Activities that the whole family can enjoy together might include a visit to the river or pond to see the ducklings, a trip to a farm to see the baby animals or the excitement of an Easter party, which involves relatives and close friends. Avoid dressing up as the ‘Easter Bunny’ since the costume might unsettle or even frighten your baby. 

Capture the Occasion

To mark the occasion, dress your baby in an Easter-themed outfit. Your baby will look adorable in a bunny costume. Capture the moment on camera. A photograph will provide a fond memory of your baby’s first Easter for many years to come.

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com) 

Mother’s Day –Top Tips

In the UK, Mother’s Day traditionally falls three weeks before Easter Sunday. It is an occasion to thank Mums for their love, care and support throughout the year.


Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 40 countries. Although there may be cultural variations, mothers are usually honoured with flowers, cards, gifts and special gestures of attention. Dads may cook, clean and look after the children, allowing mums to relax and enjoy the day as a special ‘Thank you’.



Mother’s Day origins


Mother’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honour the goddess Isis, the ‘Mother of the pharaohs’. In Rome and many other societies, honey cakes were eaten and flowers were given in honour of the ‘Great Mother’ goddess Cybele.


With the development of Christianity, people honoured the Virgin Mary by returning to the church in which they were baptized on the fourth Sunday in Lent. In the late 15th century, the practice became ‘Mothering Sunday’. It was later widened to enable working mothers to be reunited with their families. The tradition of celebrating motherhood eventually blossomed into what we now know as ‘Mother’s Day’.


Here are a few ideas that can make Mother’s Day enjoyable for Mums and the whole family.





To ensure that the occasion is an enjoyable and memorable one, planning and preparation are vital. According to retailers, Mother’s Day is the second busiest period after Christmas, so allow plenty of time for shopping. Mother’s Day is also a busy time for amusement parks and restaurants and advance booking is therefore essential. Long distance calls also peak on Mother’s Day, so keep the telephone handy.


Breakfast in bed


Start Mum's day with breakfast in bed served with a bunch of spring flowers. Smiley pancakes, heart-shaped toast, or a slice of Simnel cake, accompanied by a cup of tea, her favourite book or magazine will give Mum the chance to relax, or maybe open her cards and gifts.


Babies and toddlers won’t feel left out if they have their own pretend food, dishes and cups. Besides being good fun, pretend play develops imagination and it encourages problem-solving and exploratory skills. Young children will happily fill up the dishes with food, match lids to pots and pretend to feed their teddy bears. They may even end up feeding Mum while she relaxes in bed.



Household Chores


On Mother’s Day, the whole family can help with the chores. Young children love dusting, but if Dad tickles them with a feather duster, it is even more fun. Mums will appreciate the quality time that Dad spends with the family, even if he does things his own way.


Junior chefs may be able to prepare a meal and wash up the dishes, but leave the knives and glasses for Dad to clean. Babies can help by sorting out the measuring cups, pots, pans and spoons. If it turns into a noisy musical activity, Dads are going to want to join in.


School-age children may be ready for more difficult chores under Dad's supervision. Having a ‘job card’ can motivate them and if they are praised for being so helpful, they will want to help again. This gives the family more time to play and have fun together.


Giving Mum the day off will show her how special she is. Whether it involves emptying the washing machine, putting away toys, preparing lunch boxes for school the next day, brushing teeth, making the beds or doing homework without being asked, Mum will enjoy the break. It will also give the children the chance to model adult behaviour, which is good for their development, and it will give the whole family more time to have fun together.




It is traditional to thank Mums for their love and care with a gift. There is nothing that mums like more than a creation that has been lovingly made. This could be a paper bracelet decorated with hearts and flowers, dried lavender or soap wrapped in muslin and tied with a ribbon, a family photograph in a homemade frame, a friendship bracelet or a hand decorated mug that Mum can use everyday. Young children will be inspired to try out some creative, imaginative ideas and mums will feel loved and valued. When the children see Mum smiling, they will know that their efforts have been worthwhile.


A box filled with paper and ribbons and balloons make an original gift on Mother’s Day. The box, and its contents, will keep babies and young children happily entertained for hours. When the box is transformed into a pirate ship, a train or a robot costume, Mum and Dad get to see the world from their child's point of view.




Mum may like a gift card so that she can select the perfume or jewellery that she wants. However, a ‘help’ voucher, which includes promises to wash up on Monday, a foot rub on Tuesday, setting the table on Wednesday, or good behaviour all week, will be appreciated even more.




In the UK, a bunch of spring flowers, violets, carnations or roses are traditional Mother’s Day gifts. Other popular flowers include orchids, which come in different colours, shapes and sizes. Alternatively, a bouquet of paper or tissue flowers will encourage the children to try out their creative skills and provide a lasting reminder of the occasion. Whichever flowers or plants Mum receives, she is sure to love them.


For an unforgettable experience, take Mum to a romantic flower garden or to a garden fair or nursery, where she can choose her own arrangements or plants. Stroll around the lawns and finish off with afternoon tea. Everyone will enjoy the sounds, colours and scents of spring. The fresh air, exercise and sunlight will also ensure that the children sleep soundly at the end of the day.




One of the best Mother’s Day gifts is spending quality time with the family. Ideas might include a trip to the zoo or beach, a nature ramble, a cycle ride through the countryside or a walk through a wild-flower meadow. End the outing with lunch or afternoon tea in Mum’s favourite pub or restaurant. If the outing is carefully planned and packed with entertaining things to do, it can be a wonderful experience for the whole family.


If it rains, visit a museum. Children will enjoy looking inside an Egyptian mummy or finding out how mothers did things in the ‘old’ days. Most museums offer activities for children of all ages from interactive games and puzzles to quizzes and touch screens. While young minds are happily occupied, Mum and Dad can spend some quality time together.


Older children will enjoy indoor skydiving and bungee jumping or being orbited around in a giant plastic ball. If Mum and Dad join in with the activities, children will know that their parents are fun to be with.




A picnic hamper filled with mouth-watering food from smoked salmon to gourmet cheeses and chocolate truffles will be a special treat for Mum. The children can prepare heart-shaped biscuits and sandwiches and Mum will enjoy sampling the finished products. Dad can supervise the preparation to ensure that the play is safe.


Take Mum on a woodland picnic. The sun filtering through the trees will be a memorable sight. The children will enjoy exploring and they will burn off excess energy and sleep better at night, which gives Mum and Dad a chance to enjoy quality time together. If it rains, lay out the picnic on the living room floor.


Family photograph


Have the camera charged and ready to capture the occasion. Mum will keep the photographs along with special cards, homemade gifts and other Mother’s Day mementos. When Mum looks through the memories, she will reminisce about the day when she felt so special.


A special treat


Although it may not be possible to take Mum to Paris, pamper her with an evening meal complete with French food, twinkling lights and French music playing in the background. The children can make the decorations, set out the table and help with the washing up. Themed bunting, plates and table decorations will add to the ambience, and Mum will appreciate and treasure the occasion.




At home, Mum and daughter can indulge in a make-over followed by hair styling. A relaxing foot massage will make Mum feel really pampered, but the children may want one too.  Touch is good for their physical and emotional well-being and for healthy brain function. Children usually feel very relaxed after a massage and it makes them sleepy.


Bubble bath


Treat Mum to an anti-stress bubble bath complete with scented candles or LED T-lights, and put on her favourite music. An inflatable bath pillow will provide the ultimate in comfort, although Mum may not want to come out of the bathroom.


Children will also find bath time to be a fun experience. They will enjoy tasting the water, making bubbles and listening to the sounds that they make when they pop. Make sure that the bath water is not too hot. A temperature of 38 degrees centigrade is ideal for babies and young children.


At the end of the day


At the end of the day, cuddle up with Mum under a quilt and watch her favourite DVD together. Chocolate-covered strawberries and popcorn will go down well with the whole family. Simply giving up time to be with her will make Mum feel loved and valued.


Snuggling up with a book provides a perfect opportunity for parent-child bonding. Babies and children will enjoy the closeness and warmth that naturally occurs during the activity. They will love listening to the sound of Mum or Dad’s voice, which has a positive effect on language development. 


Put on a calming piece of music or a lullaby. It will help babies and children to relax and drift into peaceful sleep at the end of a busy day. Mum and Dad can then put their feet up and enjoy the evening together.




If you are looking for great books, music, bubbles and fun toys to keep your baby or toddler entertained on Mother’s Day, visit www.babysensoryshop.co.uk




With a little planning, Mums will feel loved and appreciated on Mother’s Day. Best of all, the whole family will enjoy quality time together, which has a positive impact on relationships and all aspects of development.


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)






Christmas Bow

 And when she snuggles close to me,

Her nose against my cheek,

 The world she means to me,

 Far more than words can speak.


At 8 weeks-old, Bow bounced into my life and I fell in love with her. But she wasn’t meant for me. Bow was to be Howard’s new friend and companion.


Howard has always had dogs downsizing from elegant Great Danes to a fun-loving family Labrador, and intelligent, working collies. And then Katie had her own dog, ‘Tug the terrier’, who simply bulged with character. After we lost Tug, work took us away from home and we decided to wait a few years before bringing another dog into our lives. Four years later, Howard found Bow. But as she nestled into my arms on the homeward journey from Manchester to Salisbury, we bonded forever.


The puppy stage doesn’t last very long so we made the most if it. During Bow’s critical learning period (8 to 19 weeks), we went to puppy school together. Bow learned good manners, how to play with adults, children and other dogs, and how to respond to commands. Only patience and kind techniques were used to train her. I am sure this is why Bow is so gentle and loving and likes nothing more than being part of our family.

Bow is capable of intense feelings. Although I rarely leave her, our reunion lasts 20 minutes and she cries with emotion. Right now, she is curled up on my lap knowing that I am writing her blog. Her waggly tail gives everything away. She is also licking my hand furiously.


We have celebrated 2 Bow birthdays and each year, she has a new red collar. The one that Bow is wearing now is decorated with sparkly bows and her name. To celebrate Christmas this year, Bow has a new red and gold starred bow!


Bow’s résumé:

•Age: 2 years, 10 months (next birthday: 12 February).

•Mother: Jack Russell (white, tan and black).

•Father: Border terrier (tan).

•Distinguishing characteristics: tricolour with white chest, white right paw, silky soft ears and liquid eyes.

•Command words: over 100 including ‘Go play’, ‘Wait’, ‘Leave’, ‘Drop’ and ‘Stop’ (useful), plus the names of her favourite toys.

•Best friends: Charlie, Owen, Stanley, Dan, Ellie, Lyla, Eva, Leo and Arthur.

•Best doggy friend: Buster.

•Favourite toys: ball, Bear and Fox (soft toys).

•Favourite games: playing hide-and-seek with Charlie, Dan and Owen, and tug-of-war with Snake (soft toy) and Ellie.

•Responsibilities: looking after my grandchildren - Arthur (18 months) and Stanley (23 months). Checking they are entertained and happy.

•Interests: walking along grassy tracks, sitting in my bike basket, swimming (river or sea), and watching Paul O’ Grady: For the Love of Dogs.

•Special talents: sniffing out lost toys, and waiting patiently for ‘Mr. Taupe’ to appear from his French molehill.

•Places travelled: all over the UK and France.

•Fears: loud bangs (fireworks), and objects that are out of context. For example, a man carrying a fishing rod or an empty car seat sitting on the pavement.


The love and fear of losing Bow makes me think that she should have puppies. One I shall keep, but then there’s the worry of finding loving homes for the others. I already have names for her puppy - Bear or maybe Fox?


When I asked our 9 year-old granddaughter Ellie to sum up Bow, she said:


“I love Bow so much because she is very pretty, has silky, floppy ears, loves kissing and she is very cute. She is a joy to have in our family!”


Bow means the world to me and I wanted her to look her best for the photograph. It was well worth the three hour trip to see our expert Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense photographer, Mark Fletcher, who was very sensitive, caring and kind. You can contact Mark at mark@photo-sensory.com  or 07714 797730 or www.photo-sensory.com


Bow’s red and gold starred Christmas bow arrived in a beautiful box from Tracy at the Distinguished Dog Co (www.theddcompany.com). Bow loves it and so do I!


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)


Happy Christmas Bow!



Your Baby’s First Christmas - 10 Top Tips

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.


Christmas is a special time of the year for parents and an even more magical one for babies. The Christmas tree, presents, shiny decorations, colourful lights, smells, tastes and sounds make Christmas Day a complete sensory delight. Unfortunately, the celebrations can be both exhausting and stressful, so it is important to keep in mind that your baby still needs your love and warmth and the security of a familiar routine. It is also worth considering the safety aspects of anything that can be harmful to your baby.


Here are 10 top tips to ensure that your baby enjoys the celebrations:



Christmas provides the perfect excuse for relatives and friends to have fun together. To ensure that your baby does not become too overwhelmed from the excitement, limit guests to family and close friends (if possible). If they want to hold or play with your baby, keep the changeovers to a minimum and make sure you are available for a cuddle when needed. Nothing is more important to your baby’s emotional well-being than your reassuring presence.



Make your baby’s first Christmas as enjoyable as possible by keeping his or her routine the same. Too much change can raise your baby’s stress levels. To avoid emotional insecurity, give presents when your baby is alert and ready to play and stick to the normal schedule for eating and sleeping. If you are nursing your baby, find a quiet place away from the action. Both of you will appreciate the chance to relax and spend some peaceful time together.


Christmas Day provides a wealth of sensory stimulation for your baby, but look out for signs of over stimulation and tiredness. Too much excitement can make your baby grumpy or miserable. A favourite blanket or toy can provide the emotional comfort and security that your baby needs, but stay close by to provide a reassuring touch.



Age and stage appropriate toys will stimulate your baby’s senses and offer a wealth of learning opportunities for discovery and exploration. Black and white objects, bright, colourful toys that make soft, gentle sounds will stimulate the interest of a newborn or very young baby. Favourite toys for babies aged 3 to 6 months include objects that can be brought to the mouth and play gyms that can be biffed and kicked. From 6 to 9 months of age, pop-up toys, musical instruments, tea sets and activity centres with buttons to press will provide an endless source of amusement. Large plastic bricks, wooden puzzles with handles, shape sorters, drums and push along toys are fun and educational for babies aged 9 to 12 months. However, giving your baby too many toys on Christmas Day can be overwhelming. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest. If your baby becomes irritable, take a break.



Books are one of the best toys for babies and it is never too early to introduce them. Books that contain textured or sparkly materials, large, brightly coloured pictures and hide-and-seek surprises encourage adult interaction and make great Christmas presents. Snuggling up close and talking about the pictures is a wonderful way to introduce new words and sounds. For relatives or friends who find it difficult to know what to say to your baby, reading a story makes talking much easier.


Creative presents

Creative presents can brighten up your baby's first Christmas. A treasure basket containing interesting objects or a cardboard box filled with paper or fabric offers endless learning possibilities. However, safety is an important consideration. Christmas tags with sharp edges, long ribbons and homemade creations that contain small parts can present a serious hazard. Never give plastic wrap or Styrofoam products to your baby. If swallowed, they may adhere to the lining of the gut causing blockage or infection. Toys designed for older children such as electronic games and singing Christmas cards may contain magnets or batteries, which if ingested, can adhere to internal tissues or leak dangerous chemicals. Always err on the side of safety and put the item out of reach.



Play with relatives and friends can be very enriching for your baby on Christmas Day. For example, they can show your baby how a new toy works, or get involved in turn-taking activities such as rolling a ball back and forth. Time-honoured games such as peek-a-boo, blowing ‘raspberries’ and being tickled with a soft brush are lovely ways to stimulate smiles and giggles. Adult interaction is vital for healthy social and emotional development because it spells love and warmth, and because it shows your baby that he or she is fun to be with.



Pine needles, scented potpourri, cinnamon, spices, herbs and Christmas cooking smells offer your baby a multi-sensory experience and may be associated with fond memories in years to come. Good smells can enhance your baby’s mood and behaviour, but it will be trial and error finding out which ones appeal the most. Your baby’s facial expressions should indicate if one scent is preferred to another. Avoid essential oils, since these may contain a high phenol content, which can irritate your baby’s skin. Other scents that can cause an allergic reaction include Arum lilies, mustard and horseradish.



Babies are very attracted to coloured lights, shiny decorations, tinsel and glitter. All these things will stimulate your baby’s senses and accelerate learning. Again, safety is all-important. Putting presents under the Christmas tree provides a tactile experience for your baby, but place gifts of perfume and aftershave out of reach. They may contain chemicals that could be harmful if swallowed. Your baby will love the shiny decorations, but make sure that they are shatterproof and do not present a choking hazard. Avoid using mistletoe or holly as decorations. Ingested berries can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea and drowsiness. Use low voltage LED tree lights that meet current safety standards or better still, use LED battery-operated fairy lights, which do not get hot. The best option is to pick your baby up and look at the Christmas tree together from a safe distance. This will help your baby to feel a part of what is going on.


At the end of a busy day

Christmas carols, songs and music bring warmth and happiness to Christmas Day and they set the tone for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. Music is one of most beneficial learning resources for your baby and its effect on intellectual development is far-reaching. Music can also help your baby to relax and drift into peaceful sleep at the end of a busy day. There is nothing more important to your baby than snuggling up in your arms and hearing you sing a favourite lullaby. This is the best way to end a wonderful Christmas Day!

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)


Visit The Baby Sensory Shop (www.babysensoryshop.co.uk) where you’ll find exquisite books to share with your baby, music and songs, bouncy balls, instruments, activity centres, shape sorters, toys, and other fun gift ideas and stocking fillers.

16 Interesting Christmas Facts

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Toys in ev'ry store,

But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be

On your own front door.

In the Western world, Christmas Day is generally celebrated on 25 December. Some historians believe the date was chosen to correspond with the Roman winter solstice or the birthday of the Persian god Mithras, who was born in a cave on 25 December long before the appearance of Christianity.

Many traditions, such as the giving of presents, are linked to the Nativity. Pagan traditions, such as decorating the home with evergreen, were adopted by early Christians to celebrate Christmas. Non-Christian traditions, such as crackers and cards, were added much later.


Read on to find out more……..

1.            Cards

The first Christmas card was produced in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole, director of the Victoria and Albert museum. With the introduction of the ’halfpenny post’ in 1870, Christmas cards were produced for the mass market.

2.            Carols

It is thought that Saint Francis of Assisi brought carols into the church during Midnight Mass in Italy in 1223. However carols did not become Christmas songs until the 16th century. The custom of carol-singing in the streets dates mainly from the 19th century.

3.            Crackers

Christmas crackers were invented by an enterprising baker, in the late 19th century. To encourage children to have a tug-of-war over his confectionery, sweets were wrapped in coloured papers, which contained a miniature explosive charge. Miniature toys, riddles and hats were incorporated later on.

4.            Christmas pudding

The Christmas pudding originated in Roman times as a mix of meat and vegetables. In medieval times, the savoury content was replaced by 13 ingredients, which included dried fruit (known as plums), sugar and spices, which represented Jesus and the 12 Apostles. To honour the Wise Men, every family member stirred the ingredients from east to west. Christmas pudding in its current form was introduced to the table by Prince Albert.

5.            Christmas star

Astronomers know that there was no supernova star at the possible time of Jesus’s birth. However, in 6 BC the planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were close enough to form a triangle in the group of stars known as Pisces. If the Wise Men had studied the stars and planets, they would have interpreted the event as a great sign.

6.            Christmas tree

The Christmas tree originated in Germany and was associated with a legend about a Devon monk (Saint Boniface), who used its triangular shape to describe the Holy Trinity.

The first decorated tree appeared in Riga (Latvia) in 1510 and was strewn with paper flowers and then burnt on a bonfire as part of a religious ceremony. In the 16th century, Martin Luther decorated a small fir tree with candles to show his children how the stars twinkled in the night. In the 18th century, Christmas trees arrived in England with the Georgian kings, but they did not become popular until the Victorian era. After Victoria’s death, Christmas trees became traditional in almost every British and American household.  

7.            Evergreens

In the pre-Christian era, homes were decorated with evergreens to ward off evil spirits, witches and disease and to encourage the return of Saturn, the harvest god.

The practice of removing greenery from the home on the twelfth night of Christmas (5 January) originated from the belief that tree spirits were released back into the countryside to regenerate the vegetation. According to superstition, it is unlucky to leave decorations in the home after the twelfth night.

8.            Gifts

The giving and receiving of gifts originated in ancient Rome, and northern Europe, as part of the year-end celebrations, but started in earnest in the late 1800s. Today, the exchanging of presents is central to most cultures.

In the Western world, the traditional time for giving presents is Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, in some countries, gifts are exchanged on 6 December, which is Saint Nicholas Day. 

9.            Holly

The Druids believed that holly protected the home from evil spirits. In later times, holly was placed around beehives to encourage bees to hum in the honour of baby Jesus. Decking the halls with ‘boughs of holly’ was thought to cure coughs and other ailments. Today, the plant signifies peace and joy.

10.         Mince pies

Mince pies filled with meat, fruit and spices were brought from the Middle East in the 13th century by European crusaders. During the English Civil War, Cromwell banned them as indulgent foods, but they were later restored by the English monarchy in 1660. In the Victorian era, mince pies became sweeter. They have continued to be a popular Christmas tradition ever since.

11.         Mistletoe

Mistletoe was revered by the Druids, who used a gold sickle to cut it from an oak tree. The plant was hung in homes to ward off evil spirits. In later times, kissing under the mistletoe signified friendship and goodwill.

12.         Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop who lived in Myra (near the city of Anatolia in present-day Turkey) in the 4th century. After his death, Saint Nicholas became best known as the protector of small children. In many countries, Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated as a feast for children and without any religious overtones.

13.         Santa Claus

In 1868, Thomas Nast combined Saint Nicholas with a merry-making medieval figure to create the traditional image of Santa. Although an American invention, similar likenesses also evolved in France and Italy. The traditional sleigh and reindeers came from Scandinavian Christmas myths.

In many Latin American countries, Santa makes the toys, but they are delivered to the children’s homes by Baby Jesus. This helps to reconcile religious beliefs with modern ones.

14.         Santa’s home

Santa’s residence was originally established at the North Pole following the publication of a sketch in ‘Harper’s Weekly’ in 1886, which showed two children tracing his journey from the North Pole to the United States. However, in 1952 newspapers revealed that he actually lived in Finnish Lapland. Today, Santa receives thousands of letters from children all over the world.

15.         Stockings

The Christmas stocking can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas. One version tells of three sisters who could not marry because they were so poor. Saint Nicholas took pity on them and threw gold coins down the chimney. The coins landed in stockings hung over the embers to dry.

The first mention of stockings being hung by the chimney was made by Clement Moore in his story about a visit from Saint Nicholas.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Saint Nicolas soon would be there.

Today, children all over the world hang up their stockings in the hope that they will be filled with small gifts while they sleep.

16.         Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas date back to the pagan feast of Yuletide, which lasted 12 days. The religious significance lies in the story of the Wise Men who arrived from the East with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to attend the infant Jesus on the 12th day, which is traditionally 5 January.

Throughout history, celebrating the birth of Jesus has been an important part of Christmas. However, the Christmas that we celebrate today is largely a secular event that contains Christian, pagan and cultural elements. Whatever beliefs are held, Christmas is a special time for children and for families, who will be immersed in it, whether at home, preschool or church.


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)


Step into Christmas at The Baby Sensory Shop (www.babysensoryshop.co.uk) where you’ll find exquisite nativity figures, Christmas puppets, sparkly lights and other innovative gift ideas and stocking fillers.