Monday, April 8, 2013

Toddler Activities: Avoid Daytime Binkies for Boys and Play the Mimic Game

By Deborah Pace Rowley
Have you read any articles about the recent studies related to pacifier use? Apparently three separate studies confirmed that daytime binkie use in boys is harmful to their emotional development. Here are a few excerpts from an article that I read in the Christian Science Monitor: 

New studies "suggest frequent pacifier use during the day may disrupt the emotional development of baby boys because it limits their opportunity to mimic the facial expressions of others — a tool that may help them better understand emotions and learn empathy."

"Girls appear to make sufficient progress emotionally, despite pacifier use, suggests the research published in Tuesday’s issue of the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology."

"Humans of all ages read each other’s emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions, which helps them process what the person is thinking and feeling by creating some part of the feeling for themselves, says the study’s lead author, Paula Niedenthal, a University of Wisconsin psychology professor. A baby with a pacifier in his mouth is less able to mirror expressions and the emotions they represent, she said."

"Ruby Natale, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami school of Medicine, co-wrote the book “Pacifiers Anonymous: How to Kick the Pacifier or Thumb Sucking Habit.” The book notes that roughly 75 percent to 90 percent of all infants suck a pacifier or thumb. In the past, thumb-sucking was the No. 1 choice. But the latest estimates of pacifier use in the U.S. puts it at about 74 percent. One study found 20 percent of children sucked pacifiers beyond age 3. They’re affectionately referred to as “paddicts” (pacifier addicts)."

“There’s research that pacifier use can cause speech delays because they don’t mimic the parents’ speech,” Natale said in an interview Monday. “If a child can’t mimic the parents’ emotional expressions, it takes it one step further.” (Quoted from Baby Pacifier Study: Daytime use Blocks Key Facial Expression in the Christian Science Monitor)

I thought that this information was worth sharing. But maybe just limiting pacifier use during the day isn't enough.  Couldn't we increase the emotional development of baby boys (and baby girls) by encouraging them to mimic our facial expressions?

Having your child mimic your moods is a fun game to play with a toddler. It was our favorite game to play with Anniston when she was about 18 months old. We would say, "Anniston, make your mad face!" We would all make mad faces and Anniston would reward us with the cutest mad face of her own. Soon she was able to mimic several face expressions. Our favorites were her "happy" face and her "excited" face and her "scared" face. We all played this game with Anniston because the faces she made were so adorable. Little did we know that we were encouraging her emotional development at the same time.
I can't wait until we get to practice making the same faces with Declan!
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