Dad’s Involvement and Early Learning
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Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist practicing in the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatric out-patient at Central Pennsylvania Rehab Services (CPRS) at the Heart of Lancaster Hospital. Also certified in newborn massage and instructing yoga to children with special needs, Ketchum is the owner/operator of Aimee’s Babies LLC, a child development company. Through Aimee’s Babies, Ketchum has published 3 DVDs and 9 apps which have been featured on the Rachael Ray Show and Iphone Essentials Magazine. Ketchum is one of the five finalists in the National Word Gap Challenge through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She will compete against 4 other large organizations and Universities in March 2017 in the finals of the Word Gap Challenge.
Ketchum has been working in pediatrics for 18 years and is currently pursuing her doctorate at Philadelphia University. Ketchum lives in Lititz, PA with her husband and two daughters and enjoys running marathons and half-marathons and directing elementary school musicals in her spare time.
Don’t be offended mommies, but research shows us that dad’s involvement and early interactions with your baby are a higher predictor of your baby’s future language and academic skills than mommy’s early interactions. In other words, the more daddy reads to your baby, sings to your baby, and talks to your baby, the smarter your baby will be!
Studies show us that moms read books to babies and sing to babies more often than dads, but dads typically use higher quality language and are better at engaging the baby.
Studies also show that moms and dads are equally playful with babies and small children, but dad’s playfulness is more predictive of future language skills. This is an important statistic when thinking about avoiding the word gap. The word gap is the words that babies do not hear in their first three years, the critical period of early development when 85% of their brain is formed. Because babies develop their vocabulary from their parents’ and caregivers’ vocabulary, when they do not hear words spoken to them, they fall behind in their own language development and start school at a disadvantage compared to their peers.
Some parents do not realize that babies are listening and taking in information even when they are not talking back yet and other parents just aren’t talkative. Or they are dealing with toxic stress, or just feel too busy to talk to their baby.
Research is showing us that we need to talk to babies all day long and by daddy talking to the baby, she is retaining more than when mommy talks to her.
Daddies, read to your babies! Don’t be shy about singing to her as you put her to sleep, saying nursery rhymes as you change diapers and making up stories as you feed him lunch. Use high quality language, not baby talk, encourage eye contact and pause between sentences to give your baby a chance to respond. Babies start to understand the pause and flow of a conversation as early as three weeks. When you pause they understand that it is their turn to make noises. Respond to her noises and have an exchange back and forth. This is so good for the language centers of the brain.
Maybe results are higher with daddies because they are often more engaging than mommies.
Daddies tend to focus 100% on the baby when they are playing, while moms might be multitasking at the same time. Daddies are more likely to be physical with the babies, which might alarm mom, but fully engage the baby on a higher level.
Last year, Zero to Three conducted a survey about parent’s perspectives about development and the findings from daddies might surprise you. 90% of dads report that being a parent is their greatest joy. 85% of dads say being a father is the best job in the world. 73% of dads say their lives began when they became a dad and 62% of dads want more information on how to be a good dad. 84% of parents believe that children are better off when both parents are involved, but 64% of moms and dads agree that dads don’t get enough credit for their involvement in raising and caring for young children.
This study showed us that dads do see the value of reading to their children as 46% of dads report that they read to their children more than their dads read to them. 40% of dads would like to be more involved with raising their children but feel their partner interferes with their involvement. So, dad is ready and willing, mom. Hand that board book over! Have a glass of wine and let daddy do the bedtime routine tonight!