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Some Educational Research References
(more to come!)

Scand J Psychol. 2009 Oct;50(5):457-62.

Journal article (from the nih.gov website): "Perspectives on multisensory experience and cognitive development in infants with cochlear implants." by Fagan MK, Pisoni DB., Indiana University, USA. faganmk@missouri.edu

"Infants learn about their environment through sensory exploration, acquiring knowledge that is important for cognitive development." ...

Texas Child Care, v23 n4 p2-8 Spr 2000.

Infant brain development: Making the research work for early childhood programs by Paula Wiggins

This is an excellent article. I quote some of the items important to Educational Baby Quilts, but there is a lot of practical and worthwhile material for parents. Ask Eric gives the following abstract: "Surveys early brain development research. Discusses the importance of attachment, windows of opportunity, and the importance of quality in care. Suggests 6 ways to promote healthy development, lists 10 things every child needs, and poses 12 questions to ask about early brain development. (DLH)"

Early brain development focuses on children from the prenatal period to age 3. Current research shows that the quality of children’s interactions and experiences determine their emotional, social, and intellectual development. Those early years are key in predicting ultimate success in school and life (Texas Kids Count, 1999). Researchers agree that we can support healthy development of the brain in three ways: 1) good prenatal care, 2) warm and loving attachments between young children and adults, and 3) positive stimulation from the time of birth.

At birth, the child’s brain contains 100 billion brain cells, or neurons. Few of these are connected, like those that govern involuntary reflexes such as startling and sucking. These neuron connections are made through life experiences and attachments with adults during a baby’s first few years. These connections are called synapses. As more and more connections are formed, the brain becomes a complex network of synapses (Gramann, 1998). This is referred to as the wiring of the brain. The number of synapses develops rapidly during early childhood (Stephens, 1999). A 3-year-old has twice as many connections as an adult. The synapses that are not nurtured and used repeatedly are pruned back and lost (Shore, 1997).

In order for these connections to remain active and become permanent, they must be strengthened through repetition (Stephens, 1999). These experiences in the early years interact with each child’s genetic makeup to determine not only how they think, but whether they become mentally retarded, sick, aggressive, or violent. Intellectual, emotional, social, and physical experiences are laid down on the trillions of connections between brain cells that make learning and memory possible (Kotulak, 1996).

Research shows us that young children’s brains have optimal periods of development for each function. We know that the number of connections the child’s brain makes depends on the variety and richness of learning experiences the child is exposed to (Oregon’s Child, 1997). Children learn certain skills most easily during particular windows of opportunity. These are the few weeks or months when a part of the brain absorbs new information more easily than at any other time in life. These windows are so important because each part of the brain actually grows a little larger, and a lot more active, in response to what the five senses absorb. During these first few years of life, these windows open and close quickly, making your interactions vitally important (Bower, 1998).

The optimal age for visual development is from birth to 4 years. During this time, children need to see shapes, colors, objects at varying distances, and movement. All these images help shape the brain’s ability to recognize and organize visual information. The brain actually learns to see (Bower, 1998). Caregivers can provide a variety of opportunities to enhance visual development by putting attractive things, like mobiles and pictures, in the baby’s line of sight. Make sure that the baby’s eyes are always looking at something interesting. Be sure that babies older than 6 months have something near the crib that they can look at and touch, like busy boxes and baby-safe mirrors. This will also help to develop eye-hand coordination (American Association for Gifted Children, 1997).

You can do a number of things to promote children’s healthy development and school readiness. Review these criteria and evaluate your practices.

1. Be warm, caring, and responsive with each child. Infants will cry when they are trying to communicate with you. Respond to each cry in a way that tells the child, “I’m here for you.” Your responses to an infant’s cues help to build trust and security.
2. Talk, sing, and read to children. You can make up stories and songs and talk about daily activities, describing what is going on and what will happen next. Avoid television and videos with infants and toddlers. Television can’t teach a child language or communication. Instead use the time to interact face-to-face with babies—playing games, talking, reading, and singing together.
3. Encourage safe exploration and play. Children need opportunities to develop motor skills and to gain a sense of the environment around them.

Infants must have a consistent, comfortable sleep location. Cribs, mats, or cots are acceptable sleep arrangements for infants depending on their developmental level (Zero to Three, 1999).

StartingSmart: How Early Experiences Affect Brain Development, 2nd Edition, from Zero to Three (R) and THE OUNCE OF PREVENTION FUND

Infants and children who are rarely spoken to, who are exposed to few toys, and who have little opportunity to explore and experiment with their environment may fail to fully develop the neural connections and pathways that facilitate later learning.

Often parents don’t know about the many little things they can do to foster their children’s healthy cognitive and emotional development, like talking to the children beginning in infancy, reading to them from a very early age, and helping them play simple games.

Toddler lesson plans

Getting an early start with educational development is a great gift to offer to your children. Here are some toddler and preschool lesson ideas.

1. Teach with games. Any game you can think of that will help with counting and number recognition or learning colors and shapes will be a good choice. This may be a game where you walk around the house with the child while asking him or her to find "the blue chair" or "the square mirror" or "bring me three books, please." Incorporate these identification games into other things you do with the child. For instance, part of this particular lesson plan could be carried into cooking (will you get two eggs for me?), math, and science lessons (how many robins are in the yard? What color are they?)

The first two tips for helping children to read from an article by Jas Ng are:

Tips #1 Decorate your home with colorful posters

Display lots of strong colorful posters or cards, striking color is the best. This is to train the observation and focusing at home.

Tips #2 Flash at least 100 pcs of colorful flash card everyday

Plan a fix schedule of the day to flash at least 100 pcs of flash cards to your toddler. The best timing is after the child having milk or meal,and happy to play any games with you. This is to train the brain to be sensitive to different color.

How to Use Your To-Do's To Boost Baby's IQ by Dorothy P. Dougherty MA, CCC-SLP

Beginning shortly after birth, a baby's brain begins to undergo magnificent changes. It will actually double in weight and use twice as much energy as an adult brain as trillions of connections or pathways develop between cells.

These pathways will enable your baby to learn and think. Babies simply do not receive enough genes from their mother and father to make all of these pure, un-programmed connections work. Scientists now know that what a child sees, hears, touches, and feels during the early years of life strengthens and shapes these brain pathways. ...

Talk, Talk, Talk. All children listen to learn. The more words they hear, the greater their vocabulary, and the greater their IQ. One researcher from Chicago found that two-year-old children of talkative mothers said twice as many words as the children of mothers who silently cared for their babies.

However, only live language, not television, helps children develop language skills. Experts feel this is because children need to hear language in relation to what is happening around them or it just becomes noise. It must be delivered by an engaged human being, and the child must focus on the speaker and environment.

Even though your baby may be surrounded by conversation from birth on, it is important that you talk directly to him long before he can talk back to you.

Educational Baby Quilts

I have just begun finding the primary references for many of these ideas, but it seems clear that those who study brain development believe that the first few years are critical in developing the neuron connections that will allow children to learn, remember, and be able to figure things out when they are older.

As suggested by some of the articles on the left (and others that I have read), exposing infants and toddlers to a variety of colors and shapes is a great way to help get those neurons connected. One of the articles suggests that you walk around the house and point out different objects, shapes, shades of color and intensities of the colors around your home. It can be a game of finding different things or describing what they see.

In many quilts Ramona purposely uses a variety of colors and patterns so that exactly what was described above can happen. You can ask questions like: "Can you find a soccer ball?", "Where is a red flower?", "How many different colors can you find in this quilt?", etc.

When the child is still an infant much of the benefit is tactile. The baby is feeling the quilt with its hands and feet. Playing with the baby by pulling an edge of the blanket over the baby to push with its hands and feet allows an interaction with the environment. The bright colors also stimulate the eyes and help development of color vision, which is naturally somewhat slower to come along. Playing "peek-a-boo" is a great stimulus for these very young children.

As they get older the more sophisticated games can begin. Of course, if there are older siblings, they can benefit from these games with the baby and they can make up their own games as well.

If some siblings are old enough to count, they can count squares and objects on the quilt. Many of these quilts could be used as a giant tic-tac-toe board. If you are really adventurous you might try some kind of modified checkers or even an "Aggravation" type game. Only your imagination limits you in this regard.

Some summaries and references are given on this page. More information can be obtained from the following links that will be summarized at a later date. They will open in a separate tab or window.

  1. Parents’ Guide to Sleep

  2. The Importance of the Senses for Infants
  3. Sensory activities for babies
  4. Toddler Sensory Exploration: ExCL Recycling Center | Boston Central
  5. What's On 4 Little Ones - Activities for Children and Babies
  6. Sensory Integration Activities: Turning Therapy Into Play
  7. Sensory Play for Babies and Young Children: Learning and Exploring ...
  8. Abstracts: The power of play: in a baby's first year, learning ...
  9. Sleep and Pregnancy
  10. A Parent's Guide to Kids' Sleep Habits
  11. Are Some Bedding Products Better for Pregnancy?