A blog by Dr Lin Day



What are the benefits of signing?

When parents first hear about signing, they may wonder if this means forcing or rushing their baby to grow up before they are ready. This may be why many parents wait until their toddler begins to speak before focusing on two-way communication. They may also think that learning to sign is hard work-it isn’t. Parents do not need to be accomplished signers to communicate with their baby. Baby sign language is about using natural gestures alongside normal speech from the shake of the head for ‘No’ and the wave of the hand for ‘Goodbye’ to conventional signals that are easily understood. There is no need to put time aside for signing if it is naturally incorporated into normal day-to-day routines. 

 

Babies develop hand-eye coordination long before they can talk. This is because the motor areas of the brain develop faster than the speech centres. Signing strengthens the motor pathways, which ultimately increases brain power. Signing also enhances visual development and social skills. Best of all, it encourages communication and fun interactions between the parent and the baby, which increases the bond between them.

 

Who is signing for and why is it so important?

Parents who sign to their babies have a distinct advantage in responding fully to their baby’s needs. This strengthens the parent's confidence, pleasure, and responsiveness.  Signing empowers babies to communicate what they can’t say to get their basic needs met. This reduces stress and frustration and makes for a happier, calmer baby-and parent. Signing facilitates a foundation of trust and understanding between the parent and the baby and enhances the special and intimate relationship between them. All these things make signing a very worthwhile activity.

 

How can the app make life easier for people? 

The app provides quick and easy accessibility for users wanting to introduce baby signs to their little one. The app allows instant access when at home or when out and about, so the learning can continue where ever the location. The Baby Sensory sign system was developed after years of research in early years settings. It was found that babies did not have the manual dexterity to perform signs developed for deaf children. As a result, the Baby Sensory sign system was based on natural hand movements that could be performed by hearing babies alongside normal speech.

 

How do I sign? 

Signs must come across clearly if babies are to understand their message. They must be crisp and sharp and difficult to confuse with other signals. They must be performed with strength and amplitude each time they are brought into action. Signs must be accompanied by eye contact, facial expressions and clear speech and lip movements to reinforce the baby’s understanding of how language works. They must never be used in silence.

 

How does it tie into BS classes? 

The Baby Sensory Signbook app demonstrates over 150 signs and will help to reinforce the signs introduced during the Baby Sensory classes to aid essential repetitious learning. We know babies love expressive speech and movement and enjoy imitating actions exposed to them, so not only will they be able to enjoy this fun interaction within the class, but it can be enhanced by parent use (of the app) in between the weekly classes.

 

Each baby will sign differently depending on motor development and manual dexterity. Some babies will sign a few days after seeing the sign, while others start weeks or months later. If signs are used regularly from birth, babies can communicate their needs and wants long before the development of speech. This reduces stress and frustration and makes for a happier, calmer baby.

 

The drive to communicate is very powerful and babies develop many different ways of expressing themselves before they utter their first words. Body language is one way in which babies communicate before the development of speech. Some studies have shown that teaching babies to sign enhances communication and enables them to develop a better grasp of language in general.  Parents feel overwhelmed with joy when babies sign that they are wet, thirsty, hungry, tired or in pain.


The Baby Sensory Signbook App

In the past few months, Baby Sensory has been working with the company Kwebl, who are from the Netherlands, to create a new Baby Signing app for mobile. With the Baby Sensory Signbook App, you can learn to communicate with your baby before talking starts with these simple baby signs.


The app features:

•    Official Baby Sensory signs right in your pocket!
•    Our very own class leaders to teach you the signs
•    Easy to use app 
•    View videos at your own speed with the ability to slow down or speed up videos
•    Compatible with our ‘The ABC of Baby Signing’ book!

You, family and friends are now able to download the Baby Sensory Signbook App! Available on both Android and iOS in the links below. Happy signing!




Stay Cool Top Tips

Here are some tips to help you, and your baby or toddler, stay cool when temperatures soar:

 

Indoors

 

·      Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a well-ventilated room.

·      Close the blinds to prevent your home becoming a mini greenhouse.

·      A fan won’t make the room cooler, but moving air over your skin can make you feel more comfortable (check it has a finger guard).  Better still; put a bowl of ice in front of it.

·      Place wet towels and bottles of frozen water around the room to help reduce air temperature.

·      Take a cool bath or shower with your toddler (not recommended for babies) or wet your hair.

·      Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.

·      Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet.

·      Turn on the oven and bathroom extractor fans to help remove warm or steamy air from the room.

·      Avoid using the oven - it will heat up the house.

·      Cool down with a cold water bottle on your tummy.

·      Wear as little clothing as possible and go barefoot.

·      Sit or play on the floor where the air is cooler.

·      Reduce bedtime clothing and bedding to a minimum and keep the bedroom well ventilated.

·      Light dust your skin with corn flour to absorb sweat and make you feel more comfortable.

·      Slightly dampen your bed sheets to help you cool you down.

 

You and your child will sleep more comfortably when the room is between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F).

 

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 or silk. Cover your child’s arms and legs. Avoid synthetic fibres, which increase sweating.

·      Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.

·      Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.

·      Stay in the shade especially between 11 am and 3 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.

·      A sun tent can provide shade, but make sure that it doesn’t get too hot inside.

·      Mist yourself or your child with cold water or spray from a garden hose.

·      Sit in a cold, shaded paddling pool or refresh your feet in a bowl of cold water. Make sure your child is closely supervised at all times.

·      Attach a sunshade to the pushchair to protect your child from the sun. Check that there are no metal parts on the pushchair that can get hot and cause burns.

·      A lamb’s wool fleece is an ideal way to keep your child cool in the pushchair when you’re out and about (although you may get a few strange glances). The fleece absorbs moisture and helps to disperse heat.

·      When travelling, place a portable blackout blind or sunscreen in the side window to reduce temperature and glare, and to help shield your child’s skin and eyes from the sun.

·      Consider travelling at night when the temperature is cooler.

 

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 (mums and dads!).

·      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.

·      Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and generate more body heat.

 

Stay safe

 

Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experience one or more of the following symptoms during the heatwave:

 

·      Strong, rapid pulse.

·      Extreme weakness or fatigue

·      Throbbing headache.

·      Dizziness.

·      Nausea.

·      Confusion.

·      Muscle cramps.

·      Fast and shallow breathing.

 

Excessive heat may cause problems if you become dehydrated. Find a cool area where you can rehydrate and rest.

 

By Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com

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

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.

 

 

Planning

 

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.

 

Gifts

 

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.

 

Voucher

 

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.

 

Flowers

 

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.

 

Outings

 

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.

 

Picnic

 

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.

 

Pampering

 

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.

 

Shopping

 

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

 

Finally….

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

Cuddles

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.

 

Routine

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.


Comforter

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.

 

Toys

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

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.

 

Games

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.

 

Smells

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.

 

Decorations

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.


Essential Travel Tips for Families

The school holidays are almost here, but how do you ensure that the journey to your holiday destination is stress-free for everyone?

Here’s how to make your baby or toddler drowsy:

  • Start the journey an hour before normal nap time. Allow time to run about and let off steam before getting in the car. The chances are that your toddler will play for the first part of the journey, and then fall asleep for the rest of it.
  • If your child is likely to be restless, a foot massage before setting off can trigger the sleep reflex.
  • Leave on time. There is nothing worse than being late. Your child will soon pick up on stress levels, which can increase wakefulness and anxiety.
  • Travel at night so that your child sleeps through most of the journey. Pyjamas and a duvet will help your child to settle when put in the car.
  • Clothes made from natural fibres are more comfortable than synthetic ones. A natural lamb’s wool fleece can relieve stiffness and provide a warm and cosy place to sleep. A folded blanket placed under bent knees can make a car seat more comfortable for your baby or toddler.
  • Ensure that comfort objects are available when needed. They will make the journey less stressful and help your child fall asleep more easily.
  • Use motorways whenever possible. The steady movement of the car will increase drowsiness and reduce the likelihood of motion sickness.
  • To promote sleepiness, keep the car cool (not warmer than 70°F). If travelling in the day, put up a portable blackout blind or sunscreen in the passenger window to reduce temperature and glare and to shield your child’s skin and eyes from the sun.
  • Offer slices of fruit, cucumber, carrot sticks and grapes to promote drowsiness. Avoid sugary snacks or caffeine-based drinks such as cola, which increase energy levels and the need to urinate.

What to do if your child refuses to sleep on a long journey:

  • Ensure that favourite soft toys and books are available, but offer new ones to provide interest and excitement.
  • Favourite travel toys for babies include activity centres with wheels to turn, a toy telephone, a book filled with textured, sparkly surprises or a box or bag containing safe, interesting objects. Objects wrapped in paper will also keep little hands busy. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest.
  • A sticker book is ideal for entertaining toddlers. Stickers can be stuck on the window or the seat without any harm being done. A toy catalogue is great fun to look at and your toddler can colour in the things they would like to have. Action figures and magnetic boards with letters or numbers are also good choices.
  • Colouring and activity books are great distraction tools for toddlers, but if crayons are a problem, try an ‘Etch-A-Sketch’. Your child can draw on the wipe off-mat with the magic pencil and start again without having to change the paper. Be sure to have a collection of favourite sing-along songs on the car stereo system.
  • Older children enjoy ‘I Spy’, picking out letters or numbers on car number plates and classic travel games such as connect the dots, hangman and tic-tac-toe. Magnetic or electronic games such as chess and snakes and ladders can also make the journey zoom by. But, if you are looking for peace and quiet, an MP3 player with headphones or a portable DVD player may provide the answer.
  • Books about the geography, history, animals and plant life of the destination will also keep older children busy, but if car sickness is a problem, avoid books with small print.
  • If fidgetiness becomes a problem, dispensing healthy snacks at regular intervals or picking out picnic areas can give your child something to look forward to as well as the opportunity to stretch legs, get some fresh air, and enjoy a change of scenery before setting out on the road again.

Alternating seats can also break up the monotony of the journey and prevent arguments between siblings. A sponsored silence can work wonders when the squabbling starts and help everyone reach their destination in a more relaxed and happy frame of mind!

By Dr Lin Day, Baby Sensory (www.babysensory.com)

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’trely 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.

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

20 Vital Facts for Mums-to-be

From the moment of conception through to the birth, the following may help you maximise your chances of having a brilliant pregnancy.

For example, did you know that?

  1. Food aversions in early pregnancy may prevent you from eating foods that contain harmful bacterial toxins, which can cross the placenta and affect the health of your developing baby.
  2. You are less likely to get morning sickness if you eat corn-based foods, which have low levels of potentially harmful toxins.
  3. Craving for chocolate may signal the need to consume more calcium or fat in your diet, whereas craving for sweet foods may suggest the need for glucose.
  4. Tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks contain caffeine. High levels (above 200 mg) can lead to low birth weight, and may even cause miscarriage.
  5. Alcohol consumption can damage your baby’s brain and organs at any time during pregnancy. No amount is considered to be safe.
  6. Skincare products (including sunscreen) may contain harmful ingredients, which can enter your baby’s body through the amniotic fluid, and affect brain, organ and reproductive development.
  7. Organic coconut oil, which is completely safe for you and your growing baby, can reduce the occurrence and appearance of stretch marks.
  8. Recent studies suggest that the pain-killer Paracetamol may increase the risk of reproductive disorders in male babies if taken regularly during pregnancy.
  9. When painting your nails, use water-based, non-toxic nail colour. It is much safer than polish that contains fixing agents and solvents, which can cause birth defects.
  10. Powerful hormonal shifts during pregnancy can intensify the sense of smell and heavily influence your taste preferences and food choices.
  11. If you want to paint your baby’s nursery before the birth, avoid exposure to oil-based, enamel, latex and spray paints, which may contain lead. Even small amounts can severely damage the development of your baby’s brain.
  12. Regular hand washing, not sharing eating or drinking utensils or kissing infected individuals with cytomegalovirus, the virus that causes cold sores, can protect against stillbirth during the early stages of pregnancy.
  13. Most fat is deposited on the hips and thighs in weeks 14 to 28 to provide energy for labour and your developing baby, but almost no fat is stored in weeks 29 to 40.
  14. Extra calories are not needed for the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. It is only in the last 12 weeks that you need an extra 200 calories a day.
  15. In the later stages of pregnancy, your body retains more fluid, which can lead to swollen ankles and feet, and an increase in shoe size.
  16. The veins in your nose may swell in response to increased blood flow causing nasal congestion and nose bleeds, particularly in cold, dry weather.
  17. Fluid retention and downward pressure of the uterus compresses your bladder, leading to the need to use the loo more often.
  18. Omega-3 from oily fish is important to your baby’s brain development. If your diet is deficient in Omega-3, the essential fatty acid will be derived from your brain, which may account for memory loss and vagueness in your third trimester and after the birth (‘Baby brain syndrome’).
  19. Numerous studies show that contractions usually begin somewhere between midnight and 4 am in the morning. Estriol (oestrogen produced by the placenta) and oxytocin hormones peak at night causing the uterus to contract and the cervix to dilate.
  20. When labour starts, continuous walking or moving around may dilate the cervix and decrease the total amount of time spent in childbirth.

Whether you are expecting your first or your first baby, you will have lots of questions. Whatever the question, Baby Foundations (www.babysensory.com) can help you learn as much as possible about your pregnancy so that you are better prepared for the challenges ahead.

Cost-cutting Tips for New Parents

xpectant parents can spend thousands of pounds on baby clothes, toys and other essentials before the birth. However, as many experienced parents will know, most items can be obtained at little or no expense and without depriving babies of anything that they really need.

With help from friends and family, and a little creativity, new parents can get by on even the strictest budget. The following 20 top tips may save you a fortune:

  • Don’t buy a bigger car. All that you need is a back seat for your baby.
  • Aim to breast feed your baby. This is not only good for your baby, but it also saves money on formula milk and other sterilising gear.
  • Before buying baby clothes, toys and other items, invite your friends around for a baby shower. Keep the tags and receipts so that you can exchange unwanted gifts for things that you want or need.
  • Borrow the cot, pram, baby bath and other essential items from friends who have had babies.  Most will be more than willing to free up space in their homes. There is no need to buy a cot or high chair until your baby needs them.
  • Search out classified advertisements, car boot and NCT sales, charity shops and eBay.co.uk for toys, cots, prams and other large items. Most are in pristine condition and will cost a fraction of their original price.
  • Buy second-hand baby clothes. Because babies grow out of them so quickly, they are usually in mint condition.
  • Invest in reusable nappies. They are better for the environment and washing them in a machine is easy. If you decide not to use cloth nappies, chose biodegradable, sustainable disposables made from naturally derived materials such as maize. They are free from dyes and chemicals, and manufactured in a responsible manner that is mindful of the environment. Look out for the Nordic Eco-label. Buying them in bulk can save money and you may gain a few extras free.
  • There is no need to spend money on decorating your baby’s nursery. Within the next year or so, you will be redecorating it again. If you don’t want to miss out on the fun, choose a neutral colour and put up some bright pictures to visually stimulate your baby.
  • Cut and hem bed sheets for cot and pram bedding. As a general guide, a cot is half the size of a single bed and a pram is about a quarter the size.
  • Avoid buying things that you don’t need straight away. You could end up with items that you never use. Once your baby has arrived, you will probably find that friends and family have bought most of the things that you need anyway.
  • Look out for special offers, competitions and coupons online. There are plenty of sites that offer free baby things.
  • Avoid spending money on expensive baby toys. Safe household objects such as plastic measuring cups and spoons or a plastic spatula will provide just as much interest.
  • Draw black outlines of faces on white paper and laminate family photographs. After the birth, they will keep your baby stimulated, happy and entertained.
  • Use a dressing table as a changing area for your new baby. A soft blanket will serve as a changing pad and rubber underlay will keep it in place.
  • Make your own sling or baby pouch. There are plenty of sewing instructions that can be downloaded from the Internet.
  • There is no need to buy a baby bouncer or support seat. Your newborn baby will gain more benefit from lying face down on a soft blanket or quilt during supervised waking hours. Toys can be sewn along the sides for extra interest.
  • Make full use of the library for music and books and free story time for babies. The free Bookstart ‘Babies pack’ is available to babies in their first year, and can be obtained from healthcare professionals or local libraries.
  • Share your favourite music with your baby before and after the birth. It is well known that newborn babies are soothed by the sounds that they heard in utero.
  • To keep your baby clean, all that you need is a good supply of cotton wool and warm water. A large bowl or sink will be ideal for bathing your baby.

Safety

It is worth investing in a good quality car seat and cot mattress. You need to be completely sure that a second hand car seat has not been damaged in an accident and that the fixtures and inside are safe. If you know the history of a second hand cot mattress, and you are sure that it has been stored well, that it is firm and without marks or stains, it might be safe to use. However, if you are in any doubt, buy a new one.

A new breast pump is an essential purchase. A second hand pump may contain dangerous organisms from the previous user.

Check that the brakes on a second hand pushchair or pram work properly. They must meet the latest safety standards.

Check that second hand toys bear the CE or Lion mark and that they do not have finger traps, magnets, buttons, beads, small parts or sharp points that could present a serious hazard.  If the toy fits through a kitchen roll cylinder then it is not safe. Toys that have long cords should also be avoided, since they can cause strangulation.

Avoid buying second hand mains powered electrical items or clothes with a drawstring neck.
If you do have doubts about the safety of a second hand item, carry out an online search to be sure that it is not a recalled product.