The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Language Development in Toddlers

Over the past year and a half or so, families have dealt with varying degrees of lockdowns, which included school closures and stay at home orders, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing researchers have now been able to investigate is the effects of lockdowns on childhood language development. Here we’ll review the new science and discuss how you can improve your toddler’s language development any time—pandemic or not. In early March, an international team of researchers posted a preprint—a type of scientific paper that has not yet been officially peer reviewed—on the website PsyArXiv. Since it has The post The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Language Development in Toddlers appeared first on The Pulse.

The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Language Development in Toddlers

Over the past year and a half or so, families have dealt with varying degrees of lockdowns, which included school closures and stay at home orders, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing researchers have now been able to investigate is the effects of lockdowns on childhood language development. Here we’ll review the new science and discuss how you can improve your toddler’s language development any time—pandemic or not.

In early March, an international team of researchers posted a preprint—a type of scientific paper that has not yet been officially peer reviewed—on the website PsyArXiv. [1] Since it has not yet been reviewed officially by other scientists, the findings should be interpreted cautiously, but what the team of researchers found is that what happened during COVID-19 lockdowns had a large impact on child language development.

For the study, more than 70 developmental psychologists, linguists, and other researchers analyzed language development in 1,742 8 to 36 months old children from 13 countries and across 12 languages. The team recruited caregivers (mostly parents) from around the world to take an online survey about their children’s vocabulary at the beginning of daycare closures (around March 2020) and another survey when daycares reopened (as late as September 2020).

In addition to asking about the children’s receptive and expressive language—that is, how much they understand and how much they speak—the initial questionnaire also included demographic information about child age, family income, and parent education level. The follow up questionnaire solicited information about what activities children and parents participated in during lockdown.

The interpretation of the questionnaires revealed that children who watched less TV, including cartoons and baby shows, and whose parents read to them more showed larger improvements in their vocabularies than children who were read to less and had more passive screen time. Interestingly, most children showed some degree of vocabulary improvement during lockdown.

In a Twitter thread describing the work, senior author Julien Mayor, a developmental psychologist at the University of Oslo, explained that there are a couple of possible explanations of this general phenomenon of children learning more words. “Were caregivers more aware of their child’s language during lockdown? Did vocabulary development benefit from this unprecedented period of interaction between caregivers & their children?” he asked. “These two interpretations are not mutually exclusive: greater knowledge of children’s vocabulary allows caregivers to fine-tune their input to the child, in turn potentially leading to better outcomes.” [2]

In the PsyArXiv study, the researchers excluded participants in bi- or multilingual households, instead focusing on families where the primary language was spoken at least 90 percent of the time. In another study, published in Frontiers in Psychology in July, a group of researchers based at the University of Delaware and San Jose State University in California tested language acquisition in young children in bilingual households, where both Mandarin and English are spoken. [3]

The researchers in the Frontiers study used parent questionnaires and visual and audio child comprehension activities to compare language acquisition in two groups of 38 children, specifically four- to eight-year-olds, one during, when stay-at-home orders were likely to be in place, and one before the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that children during the pandemic experienced a Mandarin language environment that was richer and also were more likely to use Mandarin themselves, compared to their peers before the pandemic, whose environment and language use was weighted toward English.

What does all this mean? Basically, regardless of whether your family speaks one language or more and the age of your babies, it helps to speak and read to your children, early and often. As this blog post from The Pulse makes clear, early reading has a variety of benefits for your child, including fostering language development.

  1. Kartushina et al., “COVID-19 first lockdown as a unique window into language acquisition: What you do (with your child) matters,” PsyArXiv. doi:10.31234/osf.io/5ejwu, 2021.
  2. Mayor (@julien__mayor), “A year after launching the project, it is a great pleasure to announce that we have a preprint…” Twitter, 8 March 2021, twitter.com/julien__mayor/status/1368948372971913216.
  3. Li et al., “The Bilingual Home Language Boost Through the Lens of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Frontiers in Psychology, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.667836, 2021.

The post The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdowns on Language Development in Toddlers appeared first on The Pulse.

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Preparing for an Out-of-State Baby Shower

It’s common these days for family and friends to be scattered across the country or around the world. And it’s great to keep in touch via the phone and virtual methods of communication, but sometimes—like during a loved one’s baby shower—you just really want to be there in person. If you’re planning or have been invited to a baby shower for an out-of-town friend or you’re traveling to your own baby shower in a place where you don’t typically live, read on for ideas about how to prepare. Traveling to Your Own Baby Shower  If someone is throwing you a The post Preparing for an Out-of-State Baby Shower appeared first on The Pulse.

Preparing for an Out-of-State Baby Shower

It’s common these days for family and friends to be scattered across the country or around the world. And it’s great to keep in touch via the phone and virtual methods of communication, but sometimes—like during a loved one’s baby shower—you just really want to be there in person. If you’re planning or have been invited to a baby shower for an out-of-town friend or you’re traveling to your own baby shower in a place where you don’t typically live, read on for ideas about how to prepare.

Traveling to Your Own Baby Shower 

If someone is throwing you a baby shower away from home, there are several things to keep in mind. Up first: timing. It’s not usually recommended to go too far from home after week 36 or so of pregnancy. If you’re traveling a short distance, it might be okay, but a plane flight later in your third trimester is likely not the best plan. Talk to your doctor or midwife about their recommendations for travel and then let whoever is planning your shower know what timing works for you.

There are likely to be presents at a party for you and your baby-to-be—yay! The trouble with having an out-of-town baby shower is getting all of those presents back home so you and your baby can use them. If you are driving to your baby shower, you might be able to get away with some creative packing, but if you have a small car or are flying, getting everything home may be tricky. This is another point at which to speak with your baby shower’s host. Can this person include a registry link in the invite through which guests can send the gifts directly to your house? Is a registry that includes non-traditional gifts, such as gift cards, an option? If someone else is traveling from where you live to your shower—another relative or friend, for instance—can you share the load of bringing the gifts back?

Finally, how will you travel to the shower and where will you stay? Pregnancy is no time to feel annoyed about logistics or finances when people are trying to celebrate you and your family, so ask for help if you need it with travel and lodging.

Planning an Out-of-Town Baby Shower 

If you have a dear friend or relative who is pregnant, you may want to celebrate this person with a baby shower, but if they live in a different place, it can be challenging to work out the details. First, check in with your pregnant loved one about what would work best for them. If you’re set on throwing a shower, but they’re overwhelmed at the thought of traveling, consider alternatives. Virtual baby showers are a good option, and helping out with a shower that’s local to your pregnant friend might be another option. You can do lots of things to coordinate and plan a shower from far away, including making and sending invitations, making decorations, and planning games. You can also help think through logistics, such as the schedule of the shower, where it will be held, and what sort of activities or food make the most sense. It’s possible to contribute, even if you live far away.

Attending an Out-of-Town Baby Shower 

If you’ve been invited to attend a baby shower that’s not where you live, lovely! You can decide to go or not to—it’s up to you. If you do attend, you’ll want to coordinate travel and lodging, as well as getting a gift for the expectant family. If you do not attend, it might make sense to send a gift, but you don’t have to do that if it doesn’t work for you. Regardless, make sure that you give plenty of notice to the host of whether to expect you or not. If you’re not able to make it, but are close to the expectant parents, it’s generally appreciated to check in with them and offer good wishes and regrets, perhaps with a phone call or by sending a card or email.

A word about COVID-19 

During a pandemic—especially one caused by a virus that’s more likely to cause severe disease in pregnant people—it’s important to be cautious whether you’re attending, hosting, or being honored at an in-person shower. Ways to make in-person baby showers safer include: getting vaccinated, wearing masks, having the shower outside, and making the guest list small. If you’re at all concerned about your risk or the risk of the pregnant person at a shower, don’t go.

The post Preparing for an Out-of-State Baby Shower appeared first on The Pulse.

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