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Mothers Day Special – Is Science Catching Up With What Mums Really Do?

We’ve just passed Mother’s Day, a time when we sit back and reflect on everything the mothers in our lives do for us. At Head Held High, we interact with wonderful mums all the time, and we get to see just how much they do for their kids.

But so much of what mothers do goes uncelebrated, by so many parts of society. Including (not surprisingly really), science.

That’s slowly being corrected. Scientists are finding that almost everything a mother does with their child goes on to help them grow. Even the seemingly “little” things Mums do, help kids to become capable, happy adults.

So let’s celebrate the mothers of New Zealand and around the world with a dive into some of the exciting research in this field!

They Listen Early

Long-term memory is commonly believed to start somewhere around three years old. After all, that’s when our earliest memories form. But researchers have found that babies start remembering a lot earlier than that.

A study by DeCasper and colleagues at the University of North Carolina tried to figure out just how early. They had expecting mothers read a particular Dr. Seuss story to their baby in the third trimester.

Once the babies were born, they had people read a variety of stories to the infant. They found that the babies responded much more to the voice of their mother than any other. That is a heart-warming finding but not earth shattering.

But what they found next really surprised them. The babies also responded to the specific Dr. Seuss story they were read while in the womb! With this study, scientists could see the deep bond between mother and child beginning even before birth.

The Power of Baby Talk

When you see a baby looking up at the awe inspiring world around them, it’s hard not to use baby talk. But it turns out that way of speaking to an infant is incredibly important to their language development.

A team of Stanford researchers discovered this and dubbed the way mothers speak to their babies “Motherese” — a kind of talking that helps the infant’s mind get accustomed to language.

By stressing the musicality, rhythm, and common vowels of the language, babies pick up on lots of speaking and listening skills. It’s early training for all the many little language skills you need, and it’s critical for a child’s development.

What’s even more amazing is that baby talk changes depending on the primary language of the mother. It’s like DuoLingo for infants!

That might be why a little baby talk got your child smiling in those baby years — they were already excited to learn!

Teaching Safety

Teaching your child how to stay safe is a lifelong task. But it turns out that a common game mothers play with their toddler’s gets things started, early.

Hungarian psychoanalyst Margaret Mahler found that mothers and their toddlers play a similar game all over the world.

It begins with the baby crawling off away from the mother, and at some point, they hurry back while giggling.

If the mother gives them a smile or laughs at the child, the toddler ventures out again — this time a little bit further than before. It goes on like this until the toddler doesn’t get a positive response.

So what’s going on here? Mahler saw that this was a way for the toddler to figure out what makes an environment safe or unsafe. By checking in with mum, the child can begin to figure out what to look out for on their own – one of the first lessons of independence and self-reliance.

This simple game is a key element of any child’s development, done naturally by Mums all over the world every day.

The Science of Motherhood

From reading stories to talking Motherese to playing games, children are constantly learning and growing thanks to their mums.

There’s no doubt that scientists will continue to uncover “new” ways mothers help their children figure understand and enjoy world. That is, they’ll be “new” ways to science, but we all already know intuitively how amazing Mums are, and celebrate them!

If you are a mother, you want to raise your kids to be confident and respectful, capable and caring. We are with you, and through our speech and drama lessons we back you up, and teach those same traits and values.

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