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January 12, 2015

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Essential first aid – choking baby

Would you know exactly what to do if your baby was choking?  

St John’s Ambulance came up with an ingenious plan to spread the message for the correct technique required to save a choking baby.  They enrolled the help of David Walliams, David Mitchell, Johnny Vegas, and Sir John Hurt to create an animated advert showing how to save a choking baby.

 

 

The most common cause of choking in babies is food, which cannot be avoided.  It is therefore of greatest importance that parents know the correct methods which could save their baby’s life.

The video created by St John Ambulance might just be what parents need.  It is short  - 40 seconds long – and the recognisable voices and funny characters will stick in parents’ minds.  Because when your baby chokes, you need to know what to do.

 

May 02, 2014

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How to turn your baby into a scientist

Baby scientist

As a scientist, I know one thing for sure.  You need tenacity.  You need to be able to solve complex problems.  And how do us scientists do that?  We look at a problem and we grapple with it.  We investigate it, turn it upside down and deconstruct it into small parts.  We find the tiny tangled up part, unravel it and put all the pieces back together again.  If everything fits, the problem is solved.  Sounds a lot like playing doesn’t it?

 

Let your baby explore

For babies and small children play is a lot more than the word suggests.  When babies play, they explore and they learn.

Allowing babies to explore their world is fundamentally important to their brain development.  It is ever so tempting to intervene when babies play and pass them the toy they are reaching for or taking the lid of the box when we see the baby struggle.  Often our best intentions are met with an angry response.

This isn’t really surprising.  Imagine you are just about to tackle the most perfect ski slope and some invisible hand picks you up and puts you at the bottom of the mountain.  You’d be a bit annoyed too.

 

Provide a rich environment

I see many websites that suggest giving your baby jelly to feel.  Or to give them rainbow spaghetti to play with.

Seriously, I don’t think any of this is necessary.  To your baby everything is new.  Things that you have long stopped thinking about can provide hours of fun and engagement for your baby.  Putting together a sensory basket with safe items from your home is likely to provide a lot more entertainment for your baby than most shop bought toys.  And playing with natural elements provides the richest experience of all.  Lying or sitting next to your baby and simply observing what he does, can give you the necessary clues to tell you when there is no need to interfere.

 

Allow self-directed play

Many child development experts believe you can never start the process of self-directed play too early. 

Self-directed play allows babies to choose what they want to investigate.  They can explore at their own pace. A baby which is allowed this freedom will often repeat a new activity over and over again until he decides that it is no longer fun and moves to the next thing.

Once your child starts school there will be few opportunities for him to be in control and make decisions over what he wants to learn.  Giving your baby the freedom now means he will be on the path for imaginative creative thinking.  And that is the prerequisite for being a scientist.

 

How a cosyplay mat can help

Magda Gerber used to say  “Do less; observe more; enjoy most."  The cosyplay mat allows you to do exactly that in great comfort.

When your baby is young and exploring his surrounding, don’t just leave him to get on with your own business.  It is incredibly reassuring for your baby to know you are there.   The time to watch your baby play happily will be gone before you know it.  Enjoy it whilst it lasts. 

April 02, 2014

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How and why to introduce books to your baby at 3 months

Mum and baby looking at a book

Reading is such a useful skill.  It is a fundamental building block for academic achievement, and many parents are keen to get their children to read early.  But is it too early to start introducing books at 3 months?

 

Why it's a good idea to introduce books early

At three months there are very few distractions in your baby's life.  Once your baby can crawl, walk and play with toys, books just aren’t as exciting in comparison.  This will make introducing books later more challenging.


At three months your baby can’t sit up unaided.  So any activities which are natural take place whilst you are holding your baby or whilst your baby is lying down.  To give your arms a rest, lie next to your baby on the floor or on a play mat.  This will give you an opportunity to relax and bond with your baby.


Looking at books is a low-stimulus activity, but it is of high value. Reading to your baby will engage the brain and it will also calm your baby.  It’s always useful to have the tools to calm a baby, be it at bedtime or whilst stuck in a traffic jam.

 

How to introduce books to your baby

If you are introducing books at three months, you can’t just start by picking up a story book and reading through 10 minutes of text.


Instead, first consider your baby’s limitations. Before he is two months old,  your baby’s eyes are not well coordinated and might appear to wander at times.  By three months, your baby can see much better and focus on things that are 8 to 10 inches away from their face.  But whilst your baby is able to see, that is not the whole truth.


There is evidence that babies do not see in the same way an adult does.  They do not see in a continuous way.  Instead, your baby will see pictures item by item.  A baby at three months has not yet the ability to move their focus from one image to another.


So when you are choosing a book, it’s best to find one that shows individual images on a white background.  The contrast helps your baby to interpret the images.
Ideally  the book will be a collection varied pictures.  A book showing a single character doing different activities on each page may be less interesting to your baby.  The images are too similar to hold attention.

Instead choose a book that shows brightly coloured simple objects with sharp edges.   Your baby is likely to be able to see them well. 

how images are perceived by babies

Babies love to hear the voice of their parent, even if they cannot yet understand spoken language.  Make your words sound interesting to make looking at books more engaging for your baby.


Animal books are particularly useful as first books, because you can name the animal and make the sounds.   This adds interest for your baby and allows him to associate animal and animal sound.  Often a baby’s first deliberate sound is a moo or a baah, because they are much easier to express than words.  You want to encourage these early attempts of communication.  

 

Listening to stories is different to reading

Getting your baby into books early is not meant as a shortcut to getting your child to read early.   There is considerable evidence to suggest that teaching a child to READ early might be detrimental to his brain development.  That’s because the ability to read comes at the expense of creative thinking.  Creativity allows your baby to make up stories and to interpreting the real world.  It is important for connecting the left and right brain hemispheres.

There are many training programs and flash cards aimed at getting your baby to learn to read early.  It is probably best to avoid these.  Instead, allow your baby to show you what he is interested in.  As your baby becomes used to looking at the same books over and over, craft stories around the pictures that he likes looking at.  This will increase your baby’s understanding and vocabulary.  You will notice over time, that his attention span and interest in stories will increase.  It is this state of mind, the curiosity in stories, which you want to nature.  The ability to read is certainly important at some point, but there is no benefit in rushing a child to read.     

    

March 02, 2014

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How to connect with your 2-month old baby

Mum and baby connecting

What do I mean by connect?

By connecting with your baby, I mean the activity that creates a bond between you and your baby.  Breast-feeding, baby wearing and co-sleeping are all activities that promote bonding, but when I talk about connecting, I mean the bonding that happens whilst you are both awake and alert.  Connecting with your baby happens mostly through talking, listening, singing, gesturing, pointing and exchanging facial expressions.  It is a proper two-way thing.

Connecting with your baby will create an emotional bond and trust.  There are many scientific studies which have looked at the mysterious bond that still affects us as adults even though it was formed in our first year of life when we were too young to remember any of it.  Psychologist call it attachment theory.  Most books and articles I have read on the topic explain what it is, but don’t say how to create this bond. 

My suggestion is to build it through play.

 

What does play mean for a two month old?

At two months, your baby can’t sit up.  Your baby won’t be able to hold a toy.  So, at this stage play is definitely not about toys.  Even as babies gets older, they will often prefer to play with you rather than a toy.  In early babyhood toys are just substitutes for interacting you. 

So what is play?  Play is anything that makes your baby laugh or smile or if he is too young for that, maybe he will show his delight by waving his arms or kicking his legs a bit faster.

 

Tuning into your baby

It really helps to understand your baby’s limitations.  Everyone knows that a baby can’t talk or walk, but fewer parents know for example that your baby’s eye sight is 8000 times weaker at birth than it is at 6 months.  Being equipped with such useful knowledge, means you can choose a way of connecting with your baby that relies less on sight and more on senses that are already fully developed.

At two months the senses that are best developed in your baby are touch and hearing (as well as taste and smell, but these are not helpful in this context).  So, the best way to connect with your baby is through touch and sound.

I will write a separate post on touch because it is so important, but for now I want to concentrate on sound.

 

Connecting through sound

To find the best way to connect with your baby through sound, think about how you can use your voice to make it more interesting for your baby to listen too. 

All babies respond to what I call uppy-downy talk (some psychologist call it parentese).  Or you could sing.  You might not think you have a great singing voice, but your baby is likely to love it when you sing.  Try singing short lullabies or nursery rhymes first, observe your baby and if he likes it do some more of the same.

The same goes for talking in an uppy-downy way.  Keep it short, observe and carry on if your baby responds to it.  If you baby joins in at any point with a gurgle or a grunt, that’s fantastic.  Stop talking and listen.  If your baby feels like you understand, despite the obvious limitations with language, he will want to do more of that.

Another important point about stopping and listening when your baby makes even the slightest deliberate noise is that this is the beginning of turn taking.  Listen so your baby talks.  After many months of doing this your baby will understand when he “talks” you listen and when you talk he will listen.   

Great communication with your baby is not something that just happens.  It is not simply a result of your baby getting older.  It doesn’t begin when your baby starts talking.  It starts much earlier than that.

 

How the cosyplay mat can help

Small babies have a limited ability to show their happiness.  Waving arms and kicking legs are signs of happiness you can easily observe when your baby is unrestricted next to you on a cosyplay mat.  The more comfortable and relaxed you are whilst playing with your baby the more likely you are to pick up every little sign your baby is sending you.  A great basis for connecting with your baby.

February 02, 2014

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Why parenting styles are like potatoes

Potato

Parenting styles

How we interact with our children has a profound effect on our children’s happiness, social skills and self-esteem.  There are four parenting styles: baked, boiled, fried,…oops no hold on, that’s potatoes… parenting styles are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. 

The thing is the terms are meaningless.  Look at the picture of the potato.  It’s a baked potato.  But simply calling it baked is meaningless.   With parenting - as with potatoes - the devil is in the detail. 

Jacket potatoes, oven chips and the delicious Hasselback potato in the picture are all baked potatoes.   Do they taste anything alike?  I don’t think so.

 

The devil is in the detail

Stopping a child from drawing on the wall by distracting her, works without punishment or great upset.  But does that stop the child from doing it next time your back is turned?  Probably not.  Explaining WHY we don’t draw on walls has better chance of success.  Both ways might be regarded as methods of authoritative parenting, but really only one works well in the long run. 

Over the next few weeks, I will give you many detailed recipes tips and ideas on how to play and interact with your baby whilst on a play mat.  I believe that play is THE best way to connect with your baby.  Playing is fun.  Babies learn everything through play.

 

Parenting through play

And the best thing about playing with your baby is that you can do all the parenting whilst having fun too.  The key to effective, stress-free parenting is understanding babies.  If you learn how to understand and communicate with your baby, it will make your life as a parent enjoyable and rewarding. 

There is no magic right formula to parent a child.  Or else we would all follow it – and all children would end up perfect.  Parenting consists of millions of little interactions that all come together to create your parenting style.  What I will try to do over the next few weeks is to give you some of the best baby play ideas I know, backed up with some knowledge I have accumulated over many years from reading child development books.

Our parenting styles have a huge effect on our children’s lives.  It all starts somewhere.  It all starts much earlier than you might think.   

 

How the cosyplay mat can help

Psychologists have shown many times, that the bond formed between a baby and his or her parent permeates all aspects of early life and provides a model for later social relationships.  The cosyplay mat will help you to tune into your baby.  This will set the path to finding the parenting style that suits you and your baby. 

January 02, 2014

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How to raise a clever baby and save money in the process

Clever baby

As a new mum you are busy.  You are tired.  You don’t have the energy for a serious conversation.

And yet for your baby having a conversation with you is the most important thing in his daily calendar.  Why?  Because your baby is trying to make sense of the world.  And you are his chosen teacher.  But my baby can’t even talk yet, you might say.  It doesn’t matter.  Your baby is born ready to connect and interact with you.  Learning to use proper language will take time, but in the meantime, spending time with your baby and figuring out what makes him happy is the best thing you can do to get your baby on a fast track to becoming super smart.

 

Educational toys don't deliver what they promise

Do you know how many educational toys for babies were developed by child psychologists?  None.  Yes, that’s right.  With all their decades of research and accumulated knowledge about how babies learn, they have not developed one single toy that boosts intelligence.  And do you know why?  Child psychologists understand this:  No toy could ever provide the richness that you as a loving parent can give to your child.

In 2009 the Disney Company was forced to offer refunds to all parents that had purchased Baby Einstein DVDs after they were threatened with a class-action lawsuit.  It was a blatant admission that Baby Einstein videos did not in fact increase infant intellect.

So now you never need to spend another penny on a gadget which promises to turn your baby into a genius.  As an aside, we will be posting simple play ideas not involving toys twice a week on facebook absolutely free.  Our simple play ideas require only your involvement and at most things you will find in any household.

 

It's all about you

How clever your baby turns out to be depends only on you.  Hang on you might say, I am not a rocket scientist, how can I make my baby clever.  You don’t have to be super smart to create a clever baby.  Your aim is to teach your baby to interact well.  The better you are at understanding what your baby is trying to tell you, the more your baby will want to interact with you, which ultimately leads to a child that is confident at talking, listening and learning.  And that is the basis for a clever child.

 

How the cosyplay mat can help

The cosyplay mat gives you a place where you can connect with your baby.  Your calm and responsive presence is all your baby needs.  You are your baby’s favourite toy and you play best when you are relaxed.  The cosyplay mat will give you that: a relaxing place to be with your baby.

September 02, 2013

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Why your cosyplay mat matters to everyone around you

Today is the third anniversary of my patent for the cosyplay mat.  Three years ago was when I decided to leave my well-paid job that I truly loved and throw myself headfirst into the unknown.  I am an inventor, always have been, so I had been itching to try myself at setting up my own company and see what happens anyway.

A major motivator in my decision to set up Cosyplay Ltd was, that I felt I had invented something that would really make a difference.  I have a little black book full of ideas, but up until that point, I had never felt so passionate about an invention, because I knew that what I had created was special.

So, what is so special about a play mat?  It’s a flat thing that lies on the floor and doesn’t do anything, right?  Wrong.  The cosyplay mat was made to connect people.  It was created so that a parent would be comfortable whilst playing with their baby.

I am a scientist by education and hence I like to have evidence for what I am saying is true.

Here are the facts: when you are physically close to your baby your body releases oxytocin.  Oxytocin is sometimes called the love chemical.  It is not the one, that gives you butterflies when you set your eyes on Mr or Mrs Perfect, but the chemical that is responsible for long-term attachment.  

Long-term attachment or bonding has all sorts of benefits for you and your baby.  It will make you more empathetic and in turn teach your child empathy.  It will create a proper connection between you and your child.  It will build trust.  It will lead to your child wanting to please you in the future, because having a connection means that if you are hurt, he gets hurt and he or she will want to avoid that. 

Having a deep connection with your child will mean you don’t have to reprimand your child in public, because your child will know from the look on your face, the tone of your voice and your posture that he needs to stop whatever he might be doing.  This is not about controlling your child.  I’m also not suggesting having a cosyplay mat will turn your child miraculously into an angel.

The cosyplay mat promotes understanding, it is for learning things together and about being physically close.

When a baby understands it is loved, and it turns into a child that understands that other people have feelings just like themselves, everyone benefits.  It absolutely believe that the more people give up “gadgets that entertain the baby” and instead sacrifice their time and engage physically and mentally with their child, the better we will be off as a society.