Advertising Works

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests toddlers are more likely to demand specific breakfast cereals after viewing television advertisements for these products.

This naturalistic study demonstrates that child-directed high-sugar breakfast cereal TV advertising was prospectively associated with brand-specific high-sugar breakfast cereal intake among preschoolers. Findings indicate that child-directed advertising influences begin earlier and last longer than previously demonstrated, highlighting limitations of current industry guidelines regarding the marketing of high-sugar foods to children under age 6 years.

Toddlers Understand Social Pecking Order

Even toddlers as young as 17 months old can perceive social dominance, say researchers, and also anticipate that dominant people will receive more rewards.

“This tells us that babies are sorting through things at a higher level than we thought. They’re attending to and taking into consideration fairly sophisticated concepts,” says study co-leader Jessica Sommerville, a psychology professor at the University of Washington.

Here’s the original study.

Put Down Your Phone

This mother wrote a piece about her children, and her screens.

“Put… down… your phone,” sputtered my ruddy-cheeked, then 20-month-old toddler, tightly clutching her Dr Seuss’ Mr Brown Can Moo board-book.

It was one of her first complete sentences.

Friends who are parents of older children tell us unanimously to delay the introduction of personal digital devices and to regulate screen usage thereafter. Children will have no problems mastering them later, they say.

Of course not. They’re large market consumer devices. They’re easy enough for anyone to use. They’re not challenging. That’s the point — easy, habitual use.

My three children, now in kindergarten and nursery, neither watched television nor played with personal digital devices the first two years of their lives. The screen embargo was lifted temporarily on only two occasions: for the National Day Parade live telecast and for FaceTime when my husband travelled abroad.

Our television set was a white elephant. I consider this a feat, given how we used to eagerly catch the latest programmes in our once child-free life. (Game Of Thrones in recent years? BBC’s Sherlock? Forget it.)

But I suppose these efforts were well worth it. We enjoyed our children climbing onto our laps and clamouring to be read to, embarking on “good old-fashioned” pursuits like climbing at the playgrounds, doodling, dancing and simply goofing around – activities we loved for growing their imaginations.

I high-fived my husband when my elder twins hit the age of two, before which the American Academy of Paediatrics recommended no screen exposure (although this guideline has recently been changed to 18 months).

If You Take A Nap, You Might Not Sleep At Night

Things my nana said are being proven by science again. If you take a nap now, you won’t sleep later.

The researchers used activity monitors to record a week’s worth of babies’ daytime naps, nighttime sleep and activity patterns. The results, published June 9, 2016, in Scientific Reports, showed a trade-off between naps and night sleep. Naps came at the expense of night sleep: The longer the nap, the shorter the night sleep, the researchers found. And naps that stretched late into the afternoon seemed to push back bedtime.

Prejudice Is Learned

Children younger than three have already acquired the specific prejudices of their parents.

Monash University’s Associate Professor Kerry O’Brien said the findings indicate anti-fat prejudices are socially learned and children are picking up on them at a younger age than previously thought.

The anti-fat sentiments of the children studied had a “high correlation” to their mothers expressing those attitudes in a questionnaire carried out with the research.

“…the child’s mind can acquire culture at a much earlier age than has been generally supposed.” Attitudes, dispositions, preferences, everything that is culture is absorbed by the child from her environment.

The Babies Are Listening

Wah Wah.

When the researchers examined the children three years later, they found that children who had a larger oral vocabulary at age 2 were better prepared academically and behaviourally for kindergarten, with greater reading and maths achievement, better behavioural self-regulation, and fewer acting out or anxiety-related problem behaviours.

And if the child has a vocabulary at age two, they must have absorbed all these words before they were two.

“Externally he seems to be making no progress, but all of a sudden he says a word. Then for a long time he uses only two words, and seems discouragingly slow to go any further… Within a space of three months, the child who was almost dumb, learns to use easily all the varied forms of the noun, suffixes, prefixes and verbs. And, in every child, all this occurs at the end of the second year of his life.” — Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind