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SLEEP - Snug as a "bug in a rug"

September brings the start of school as well as the end of Summer. If we think back to the Septembers of our childhood, one of the constants was the return to a "normal" bedtime. Most of us can surely remember having "to go to bed by day" in anticipation of the school day ahead.

We see a lot in the media recently about American adults being sleep deprived. Each of us NEEDS (8) eight hours of sleep each night in order to live our lives most efficiently. Most of us fall short. What we fail to realize is that our own lack of sleep affects our children's sleep (not to mention our own attitude towards them and all the other people with whom we come into contact). Children NEED their sleep in order to grow and develop to the potential. That is their right! "The vast majority of sleep problems are caused by parents unintentionally not allowing children to get the sleep they need," asserts Mare Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Ballantine, 1999). She blames the high number of activities - both parents' and child's - for interfering with early bedtimes. We need to all adapt to the Central American Indian philosophy that believes sleep is sacred and should never be interrupted.

The average amount of daily sleep required by children of different ages is surprising when we compare it to what actually occurs.

Child's AgeHours of Sleep
1-3 months15
6 months14
12 months13-14
2 years13
5 years11
6-11 years9.5 - 11

Dr. Weissbluth tells us that if your toddler is cranky toward the end of the day, it may be a sign that he needs to go to bed earlier. "Well-rested children don't behave like that."

In many Eastern European countries, preschool children and infants are bathed at 6 P.M. ritually. There is a gentle cartoon on TV at 7:15 P.M. which is often called "The Bedtime Story". Then, all small children in the country are put to bed. A ritual of this nature is certainly unrealistic in a country as large as ours (U.S.A.). However, the sense of a bedtime routine is learned and practiced from infancy throughout the early years of childhood in those countries. We need to give our children the "gift of sleep" and September seems like a logical time to begin.

"SLEEP" REFERENCES (Alphabetical, by author)
(Note: "Colored" titles are Links to that item's review. Use "BACK" button to return.)
Brazelton, T. Berry, M.D. Touchpoints Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. 1992
Ferber, Richard, M.D. Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems Fireside 1985
Kase, Lori Miller ("Good Night, Sleep Tight") Parents Magazine
(August 1999)
Mindell, Jodi, Ph.D. Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep Harper Collins 1997
Weissbluth, Mare, M.D. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child Ballantine 1999

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Self-Development: (Excerpt From a Newsletter)

floor-baby with ball Since we again have so many small babies in our group, I thought I would highlight some of the thoughts I presented at the ACEI World Conference in Hungary in 1997. The physical growth and development of infants follows two principles. The cephalocaudal means that the body develops from its top to bottom and the proximodistal means it develops from its center to the outer parts. Babies can "see" objects before they can "act on" them. The head and upper torso develop first, followed by the arms and upper back muscles, and so the progression goes. Placing infants on their backs and letting them "self-develop" aids this proper course of development, resulting in strong, secure children. By placing infants into "CONTAINERS* ", their development, according to these two principles, is inhibited. This is the basis of the philosophy we use in our Infant Room. We encourage our babies to work through each phase of development by themselves, and then we enjoy the looks of "pure pride" that are so evident when they achieve.

Recently, research has indicated that infants should be seated in "container-type" seats for not more than 20 minutes each day! . . . (preferably not at all, except for "Safety in Travel" reasons). This includes car-seats. We all know that infants spend a lot of time in car-seats, and therefore, these infants should not spend any additional time in any other kind of "container". Babies placed in "exer-saucers" before they can stand by themselves, are developing their leg muscles and lower back muscles out of sequence. This causes poor posture later in life. Doctors in New York have correlated infant swings to scoliosis (notice this is a correlation, not a cause/effect).

If we work by the motto of

“First,   do NO HARM”,

then we must be wary of how we care for babies. The two questions we need to ask ourselves concerning items for our infant:

1. "Will this piece of equipment cause damage, now or in later years of life?"
2. "Do I / we, as Caregivers, have the right to expose babies to this possible danger?"

You will notice that in our Infant Room, there are NO swings, NO highchairs,
NO exer-saucers, NO jump-ups, or other such containers. We DO USE "bouncy" seats with small infants after they have eaten because they are designed for optimal movement and they aid digestion. Placing babies in these seats, however, is NOT an alternative to holding babies when they need or want to be held.

Recently there has been much in the news media about infants sleeping on their backs. We always place babies on their backs to sleep unless instructed otherwise by the parents' doctor. Our mattresses are firm and there are no soft cushions near the babies.

*CONTAINERS - Term "coined" by Phyllis Porter.

Copyright 1999 - 2000 by Phyllis Porter, The "Educarer World of Infants" Website at
All Rights Reserved.

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Driving Lessons for Babies?!

Reproduced on this website
with the permission of Bil Keane as a Public Service.

Reproduced on this website with the permission of Bil Keane as a Public Service.
"FAMILY CIRCUS"  -  by Bil Keane
Much commentary has been in the media lately about "road rage". You might wonder what this has to do with infants. I have read in several publications about how Driver's Training begins in infancy and I have thus considered this idea in depth. This was brought home recently when a three year old was often using a particularly bad word in preschool. His teacher asked if the child knew the meaning of the word. He said, "Yes, it's a car that cuts in front of Daddy."

A child learns an attitude toward driving from years of experience as a passenger. How strictly she is required to use her own seat belts and follow other passenger safety rules as a child, determines how steadfastly she follows safety rules as an adult driver. We can firmly tell a teenager how to drive safely, but if she has observed Mom and Dad doing otherwise, you can count on a poor driver. This is all just food for thought.

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What to Wear

The term "developmentally appropriate" often is heard in connection with Child Care. This term applies to programs, toys, equipment and just about anything else related to daycare. We, in the Infant Room, also think that "developmentally appropriate" can apply to clothing.

So often, we watch an infant who is striving to accomplish a new skill being foiled by a too-large piece of clothing. The frustration is very difficult to handle. We ask that parents try to put themselves into the place of their infant and consider how each item of clothing will affect movement and development. Pants legs that are too long cause considerable problems for babies learning to stand up as well as for beginning walkers. Clothes that are too tight through the crotch are uncomfortable and make movement (as well as diapering) difficult. Little girls look lovely in dresses but crawling becomes very frustrating.

Clothes that are decorated with dangling items (e.g., bows, beads, buttons, hooks, etc.) might be fine at home but we look at them as sources of DANGER for other infants in the room. If a button drops off during play, another baby might pick it up and choke before we notice. Babies who lie on their backs all day do not want large bows in the middle of their clothing. Do any of you remember the story of
"The Princess and the Pea"? Enough said!

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Biting: WHY, OH WHY!?!?

I have found this to be such an emotional subject amongst some parents (and of course the infants, too), that I have indulged in a few colors of my own to (hopefully helpfully) give a more quickly recognizable connotation to the words. The RED words are used for those words representing actions we should NOT take (as well as the negative side of the issue). The GREEN words indicate the appropriate response by the caregiver, (as well as the more positive viewpoint). I truly hope to impart more understanding in place of the emotions.

Biting is just one form of aggression expressed by infants and toddlers. It seems to cause the most distress among adults however, because it so "animalistic". When we stop to consider the biting, it is perfectly logical. Who are our "most primitive" people? - INFANTS! (Blue indicates NEUTRAL, and aren't all infants really neutral to begin with?) Infants are learning how to conform to civilization and biting is one of the first modes of "striking out at others" when needed.

Biting in late infancy and during the second year of life is pretty universal according to the experts. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton assures us that hitting, biting and scratching will happen. Hair pulling also occurs at this stage. These behaviors often happen when an infant or toddler is out of control due to an overload of emotions. It will only frighten a child if we, the caregivers, also lose control. Brazelton advises caregivers to gather up the biter, contain him/her (biting is not gender correlated) and say calmly, "I don't like that and neither does anyone else. You just can't do it. I'll stop you each time until you can stop yourself."

Adele Faber, author of Siblings Without Rivalry, further says that biting is a way for the pre-verbal child to vent emotions. There seems to be a drastic drop in biting when a child becomes verbal.

There seem to be different levels of biting:

  1. Babies who explore the world with their mouths - even expressing love.
  2. In the 5-6 yr. old - biting is a sign of stress and that something is bothering him/her. (This "Tidbit" does not concern itself with this age group.)
  3. For most children, biting is a dissatisfaction with the way their world is going.

What to do:

  1. Don't punish! - Discipline and punishment are two separate things. Discipline - (teaching) - is needed.
  2. Let the child know that his/her action caused pain. Yell, "OUCH!!".
  3. Say "NO" in a firm, no-nonsense voice.
  4. Supply a substitute to bite on.
Prevention is very important with biting. We, as caregivers, try to recognize when a child is reaching emotional overload. (We know that some of our babies don't like others in "their space", so we try to divert other children who are "moving in" on them). We supply cool teethers to help soothe sore gums. We also try to supply the necessary words to help both the biter and the bitee. (e.g., "Stop that", or "I want that", or simply "Don't bite!") We may have to say, "No biting" many times as children don't learn once and for all, but rather "little by little". We can also supply a list of alternative things to bite: apples (for older children), teethers, lunch crackers. Be sure to offer praise when the child stops herself from biting someone. Recognize that they are working on this. After the biting has occurred, calmly say "You can't be around other people if you bite", and then gently relocate the child to another part of the room. Once the environment and the individuals involved in the biting have again become peaceful, it can occasionally be constructive (and a learning experience) for the biter (with supervision) to assist the caregiver in the consolation of the bitee.

Frequently I have inquired of the parents of the biting child whether any of the more major life transitions are presently going on in the family's life. Not surprisingly, the parent's answer is occasionally, "yes". (These words are also BLUE because the life transitions themselves are NEUTRAL.) Our emotions, (RED or GREEN), are determined by

how we react

to our life's transitions. As adult caregivers, we are creating the infant's transitions. As a result, her emotional state likewise depends on her observation of, not only our reactions, but all the rest of her environment as well. Transitions such as moving to a new home, loss of a beloved pet or family member, marital disharmony etc., all of which are difficult enough for an adult to confront, can be equally, and more upsetting to an infant or toddler. So, when the biting behavior occurs, look for recent modifications in family events.

As for the AIDS virus issue - there is NO evidence of this being transmitted by children's bites. The saliva of a non-HIV infected person will kill the virus if the bitee was infected. I have read about 30 articles on this issue and have found NO cause for alarm. We always wash the bite area with soap and water.

Biting is not something to blame on children, parents or teachers. A child who bites is not on the way to being a "discipline problem" or a "bad person". It is not an anti-social act at this stage, but an act of an individual who is not yet ready to be fully social - just beginning life as a citizen.

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On the Surface of Things

Autumn is here and school has begun. This means that colds and flu are around the corner. There are some things that we, as a community, can do to decrease the outbreak of illness in our midst. Many of these steps can be learned by our children and practiced in school, church and at home.

The most important means of stopping the transfer of germs is by washing your hands frequently. Always wash hands with your fingers pointing downward into the sink under the stream of water. Soap your hands and scrub at least 20 seconds. Rinse under running water and dry with a one-use-only towel. Hands should be washed after using the toilet, diapering, blowing noses, sneezing, petting animals, before preparing food or eating, and whenever they are dirty. Infants should have their hands washed after every diaper change. They will quickly learn this important habit of washing their hands. By their first birthday, they should have no trouble washing their own hands with just a little help from an adult.

Cleanliness should be a high priority in infant environments. A good way to keep germs out of the house is to wash your hands every time you return home - from the grocery store, the doctor's office, the shopping mall, church and school. Teach your children to do this also.

The newest way to sneeze is into one's own elbow. This keeps the hands clean from germs and decreases the transfer of germs to other people. This habit is easily learned by all.

Whenever it is necessary for anyone to take an antibiotic, be sure to complete the dosage. Do not stop the medication because "you are feeling okay." If the prescription says "10 Days", then take the full 10 days supply of the medication as prescribed. By not doing so you are assisting any surviving germs to become immune to your prescribed antibiotic in the future. Try to schedule your medication for the same time each day.

When children are ill, they are best cared for at home. Not only will this prevent the spread of germs, but it will hasten the speed of recovery. Become aware of your community's guidelines for required absence from school due to illness. Start now to find alternative day care for ill children and thus avoid the panic on the morning your child becomes ill.

Additional tips:

Submitted by Phyllis Porter, M.A. in Human Development, to the "Nativity Health Newsletter"

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Sanitizing Toys

At the daycare center we spend much time sanitizing toys and would like to stress the importance of doing this at home. Germs that can cause illness enter the home from many sources, and toys can easily become contaminated. Most infant toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher. (Note: You may wish to "turn off" the HEAT DRYING feature of many dishwashers, thus allowing plastic toys on the upper rack to "air dry" within the dishwasher.) Be sure they are adequately rinsed and completely dry before putting them back into use. For larger toys, spraying them with a mixture of one and one half (1 1/2) teaspoons of bleach to one pint of water will do an excellent sanitizing job. This mixture needs to be mixed daily due to its short shelf-life. Pacifiers, teethers and transition toys also need constant cleaning.

There has been a recent study that showed the largest cause of choking death to children was the inhalation of balloons. Balloons are not appropriate toys for infants, but if you must use balloons for decorating, the mylar type balloons are recommended because they are less likely to seal off the throat's air passages if swallowed. (They also last longer.) Another potential choking hazard is the seasonally decorative window stick-ons.

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separations are tough for everyone Separations can be the most trying part of daycare. Dr. Brazelton talks about this issue in his book Touchpoints. He says that babies will learn their own ways of coping if left with a nurturing person. Protests when Mom or Dad leave are normal and healthy. At the same time, it is important for babies to develop a caring relationship with their caregiver. It has been found that babies in daycare do not play as vigorously as they do for Mom and Dad. They nap but don't sleep as deeply. They seem to store up powerful reactions for reunions at the end of the day. When parents return, babies often turn away from them as they try to control their powerful emotions. After all, Moms and Dads are all-important people!

separations are tough for everyone Some tips to help with separations:

  1. Get up early enough to provide cuddling time and a little play.
  2. Let baby express negativism she/he might not feel free at daycare to express.
  3. Develop a routine of talking about leaving.
  4. Work out a separation routine at the center. Always say, "I'll be back."
  5. Don't prolong the parting.
  6. When picking up baby, always say, "I missed you so much and I'm back like I said I would be."

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Feeding: Dinner Time News

Feeding is always a major concern with parents of infants. Here we will discuss some important issues:

Developmentally, the stomach does not produce hydrochloric acid (necessary for digestion) until the eruption of the first tooth. Babies who are not fed solids until that tooth appears seem to suffer less indigestion (spitting up and tummy aches) than those who are fed solids early. There is no reason to rush the introduction of solids and this seems like a very real reason to hold off until the first tooth arrives. We suggest that new foods be introduced in the morning. If food reactions do occur, the fussiness will happen during the day and won't keep the family up all night.

weaning tables help babies grow in many ways
We hold babies on our laps while feeding them until they are able to get into a sit by themselves. At that point, they sit on little chairs at our weaning table. This is the time to introduce simple finger foods such as Cheerios. We offer two or three at a time so the baby can work on necessary finger dexterity for picking up small objects. Regular table foods, cut into small pieces, can be introduced after eight months of age or when the child is ready.

The appetite of one infant varies greatly during the first two years of life. Don't be surprised if your hearty eater suddenly becomes picky at about 12 months. The growth rate slows considerably during the second year and babies don't need as much food. Infants at this age are also working at becoming independent. Be understanding and supportive but try not to make food a control issue. Remember, it often takes up to ten exposures to a new food before a taste (positive or negative) develops. This is true for all ages. Babies love the social aspect of meals so include them at the family dinner table with their own plate when they are ready.

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BAREFOOT is BEST! This advice is given by many orthopedic and pediatric sources. This is also the philosophy we follow in our infant room. "Young children need to have free foot movement in order to develop foot muscles." An article in a pediatric newsletter says that shoes are completely unnecessary for infants. Socks and booties will allow freedom for movement and are only necessary in cold weather. Shoes can be introduced when children go outside.

Canvas or leather is the best material for children's shoes because these materials "breathe". High-tops are not necessary for support. Shoe backs should be sturdy. Early walkers are not steady enough to use thick, rubber soles. Rubber soles, in general, tend to cause new walkers to stumble.

When purchasing shoes, be sure to have your child's feet measured by a trained salesperson. The child should be standing for this measurement and both feet need to be measured to insure a good fit. Proper shoe fit should leave about 1/2 inch between the longest toe and the tip of the shoe. Feet should be refitted every two to three months due to rapid growth at this age. Remember, research has shown that an infant can grow one shoe size overnight.

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Routines & Weaning From Bottles

Now that the hustle of summer is over, we can all settle back down into our routines. It is important to remember that infants need clearly demarcated routines. We often see them anticipating events in a sequential order. "Routine" refers to the order of life and activities. This is not the same as "schedule", which refers to time. By observation we learn which of our infants needs special cuddling upon awakening from a nap and which ones can immediately begin play on the floor.

Since some of our infants are giving up the bottle, I thought the issue of "weaning" needed to be addressed. We have found that the first birthday is a good time to start this process. At that time, cow's milk (whole milk for its fat content) is introduced, and it should only be offered in a cup. The daytime formula bottles can be eliminated 'COLD TURKEY' except the first morning bottle and the evening bottle. It is very difficult to wean infants while they are in attendance at daycare. Seeing other infants drinking from bottles provides a constant reminder to YOUR baby of what he/she is giving up. Therefore, we recommend that when you want to tackle this AT HOME, it should begin on a Friday afternoon and continue through the weekend. By Monday, the infant should be able to go without the daytime bottles. This process requires a commitment by the parent(s) to be firm and not give in by providing bottles. It is a good time to talk to the child about being a "big girl" or "big boy" now and providing lots of praise.

When you decide to eliminate the evening bottle, give a CUP of milk before bed. Then, cuddle and sing to the baby before putting him/her into the crib. This will continue the feeling of warmth and comfort to which the baby is accustomed.

Before children are weaned, they will often use the bottle to help them get through transitions, such as separation. It is important that you help them become attached to a different transitional object, one that will not have to be eliminated, such as a toy rabbit, small blanket or pillow.

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A Healthy Brain

We are being daily bombarded from all the media with information about the brain. This "Tidbit" will mention some environmental influences on cognitive functions that appeared in the May/June issue of "Child Care Information Exchange" (a magazine for Child Care Directors).

  1. Several small meals each day (not 3 big meals) will optimize the brain's functioning.

  2. Water enhances brain alertness. Each person needs 8-10 glasses of water each day. The sugar content in fruit juice is received by the body as a food. Digestion of food requires water. Therefore, drinking fruit juice dehydrates the brain, as does drinking anything containing caffeine. Children need to have water readily available to them all day long. However, young infants should not drink water as their kidneys are not ready to process it. Formula or breast milk is all they need to drink.

  3. Mental alertness and memory can be stimulated by certain aromas:

    • Peppermint, basil, cinnamon, rosemary and lemon enhance alertness.
    • Lavender, orange and chamomile regulate stress.

  4. Colors help the brain to function:

    • Yellow, beige and off-white are optimal for learning. (Note that the background color of this page and our Library page is "beige".)
    • Brighter colors stimulate energy and creativity.

  5. Plants in a room will increase productivity. Be certain to check for toxicity.

  6. Lighting is important for alertness and responsiveness.

  7. Certain activities help the brain's wiring to become strong:

    • Sequencing (putting things in sequential order: ABACABACA)
    • Patterning (calling attention to patterns in sound and visuals)
    • Fine and gross motor activities
    • Making choices and decisions (helps children understand the thinking behind their actions and see the logic)
    • Sensory experiences (95% of the information we receive comes through the senses)
    • Asking "why" questions helps children make connections between patterns and relationships
    • Reading aloud
    • Cause and effect (provide opportunities for children to see cause/effect relationships)
Also see our full article on "Early Brain Development: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know!".

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Educarer's Practices Founded on Brain Research

An article by Dr. Pam Schiller in "Child Care Information Exchange" magazine (a magazine for Child Care Directors) connects the findings from research on brain development to the Educarer's "developmentally appropriate" practices.

  1. Because it is clear from research that nature sets down a complex system of brain circuitry which is dependent on such external forces as nutrition, surroundings and stimulation:

    • Children need sound nutrition and sufficient rest.
    • Children respond to a warm, stimulating, safe environment.

  2. Because the quality, quantity and consistency of early experiences will determine, to a large extent, the number of brain synapses that are formed and how those connections will function. Researchers now know that:

    Some of the ways children learn are as follows:

    • through active exploration
    •     "     sensual experience
    •     "     repetition
    • within meaningful context
    • by trial and error and problem solving
    • from elaboration of experience as opposed to acceleration of experience.

  3. Because early interaction directly affects the way the brain is wired and children learn in the context of important relationships, children who interact with warm, caring, responsive adults tend to thrive and show more resilience in later life.

  4. Because brain development is non-linear with windows of opportunity for each specific type of learning, all children follow the same course of development, each in their own time and in their own way.

  5. Because the brain of a three-year old is two and a half times more active than that of an adult, investing in children between birth and eight is a cost effective strategy. (For every dollar we invest in preschool children, we save $7.61 in welfare costs, prison reform and education remediation.)

This information helps us plan our days in Infant Care to be the best possible for your child. We welcome your input.

Also see our full article on "Early Brain Development: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know!".

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Gift of "Limits"

December is the time of year when we speak of GIFTS. As parents, we know that the greatest GIFT we give our children is the gift of LOVE. However, how we present that gift is often a puzzle to us. One of the most difficult and yet most necessary ways for us to show love for our children is to set limits for them.

Infants who are still immobile develop trust in their Caregiver by being responded to quickly and having all their needs answered in a gentle manner. Once a baby begins to move around independently, he or she relies on the Caregiver to set limits. A newly mobile infant will "test" adults constantly because he or she has not yet fully associated outcomes with behavior. An infant needs to know what IS allowed and what IS NOT allowed. This repetitive "testing" cycle (the nature of a baby's learning) requires the Caregiver to redirect the baby to a different activity, usually many times before he or she learns "the limit".

The child's Mother (or the Caregiver), in context with the situation, can generally correctly relate to what the child is communicating. Some additional behavior examples that warrant limit setting are:

  * When a baby performs an antisocial act, such as hitting a Caregiver in the face, it is (always) important to take the baby's hand and gently (but firmly) say . . "We don't hit".

  * (The following example assumes the baby is physically healthy, uninjured, and not hungry or experiencing fatigue.) If a baby older than one year is screaming for attention (and continues to scream after being picked up), it is all right for the Caregiver to say . . . "I won't hold you if you don't stop screaming."

It is amazing how quickly a young child understands these phrases. Some phrases we use daily begin with the words:

"We don't . . ."
"It is not okay to . . ."
"You may not . . ."
"We must be gentle with . . ."

Instead of saying

"Stop that!" . . . . . . try saying, . . . "All done now".

Also, try to be specific when talking to babies and young children. They don't always know what the word "that" refers to.

It is important that the majority of redirection and limit setting be done with POSITIVES. Such positive phrases can include:

Let's play over here now.
Can you show me how you . . .
We sit on chairs. Can you show me how YOU do it?

Singing songs or phrases makes limit setting a fun experience for both the Caregiver and the child. Babies as young as 10 months respond to songs and follow the directions within them.

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