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Babies Are Master Learners: How Adults Can Stimulate Their Innate Learning Skills
Infants can learn a lot about the world—if adults know the right ways to encourage them.
Janet Lansbury's passion for parent education began when she became a mother and sought guidance from infant expert Magda Gerber. Deeply inspired and grateful for her wisdom, she began training with Magda professionally. For the last 20 years, Janet has taught RIE parenting classes in Los Angeles, been a presenter at numerous early childhood conferences, written parenting articles, and served on the board of directors of Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE).
Janet is privileged to now be supporting hundreds of thousands of parents across the globe through her website JanetLansbury.com, sharing insights gained through her parenting classes and personal experiences as a mother of three. Janet encourages parents and child care professionals to perceive babies as unique, capable human beings with natural abilities to learn without being taught; to develop motor and cognitive skills; communicate; face age appropriate struggles; initiate and direct independent play for extended periods; and much more.
She is the author of two books on parenting: Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. Her podcast, “Janet Lansbury Unruffled” is one of the most downloaded parenting podcasts on the web and recommended listening by "The Washington Post.” Her audio series "Sessions" is available on her website and features intimate recorded consultations with parents.
Janet Lansbury: When we’re considering offering young children technology and mobile devices or other kinds of screens when they’re very, very young we have to consider, first of all, the stimulation factor. These are brand-new people to the world that are very, very sensitive and highly aware, and all of this works to their great advantage as learners and absorbers of their environment and life.
We develop more in the first three years than the whole rest of our life put together, so they’re able to learn from an empty room, being at a position where they’re ideally free to move their bodies, so they’re able to turn their heads—we say start infants on their backs for that reason—and they could be fascinated by dust particles or the corner of the room or natural light coming in, a number of things, and they are learning something from that, they’re figuring something out. So when we offer technology it’s an onslaught on their senses basically. Not so much a phone but a larger screen. But even a mobile device or a small screen, it’s not something they’re going to be able to master, it’s not something they’re going to be able to understand how it all works.
Imagine an infant who, from the RIE approach, we believe wants to be capable, wants to be competent, wants to be able to do things and feel a sense of agency in the world right away rather than being passive to something that sort of takes over and you’re drawn into it because there’s so much going on there.
For young children it can be very over-stimulating and it can discourage them from being the active learners that we want them to be, that will help them throughout life and help them prosper and help them reach their full potential, make school easier, a lot of practical things like that, and make them be able to retain what they learn and be interested in knowing more.
So it’s interesting—screens are kind of the extreme on one end of things babies can’t understand. Just to give you an example, there are screens where babies are totally passive and it’s just coming at them and they can’t really get it, then there’s something like a toy where you push a button and it makes a sound. So that’s pretty hard for them to understand too, I mean, they have a little bit of agency there: they can figure out, “Well if I do this it makes a sound,” but they’re never going to really understand where the sound comes from in those early years, in the first year or two.
And then there’s a rattle. I mean, is a rattle a terrible thing? No. But with this approach we just try to be aware that a rattle is a mystery, there’s a mysterious element. Then there’s those rattles where you can see through them to the little thing that’s making the sound, the little bell or whatever, and so the child can feel a little more capable of mastering that and understanding that, so that’s a little more encouraging.
But then what about taking—one of the things we use as play objects in our classrooms where we teach parents, and we recommend this at home too, is little stainless steel cups or bowls. So let’s just say a child has a block and a little stainless steel cup and decides to take the block over here and make these sounds, now take it over here and make this sound. So now they’re making the sound, they’re deciding to make the sound, they’re creating the sound in a sense. So which do you think would be the most fulfilling for a child? Which do you think would really encourage them to be creative, to be learners, to analyze, to use these higher order learning skills?
Infants come equipped with higher learning skills—it's up to adults to encourage their development, and foster their natural sense of agency. So what's the best way to do that? Help them create their stimuli, not just consume it, says parenting expert Janet Lansbury. Screens are a fact of life for the modern infant, following them everywhere they go in their parents' hands or pockets. How does screen-based learning affect their development? Mobile devices aren't the devil, but understanding how an infant's mind is developing can help you choose the best toys for the kid in your life. Screens, even small ones, can be incredibly overstimulating. Babies are soaking in their environment constantly, and their senses are stimulated by the movement of hair, light coming through the window, a small noise—they are all mysteries a baby tries to solve. Screens are entertaining, but their mystery is too complex and it doesn't adequately demonstrate the cause and effect needed for learning. Lansbury explains how to choose the toys that will help kids become active learners—exercising their creativity and analytic mind— rather than being passive learners. Janet Lansbury is the author of No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame and Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.