Expert Weighs in on Baby, Toddler Social Development During Pandemic

Expert Weighs in on Baby, Toddler Social Development During Pandemic

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CLEVELAND — You may have heard the saying “babies are like sponges.” For the most part, it’s true. During the first months and years of life babies take in everything. Learning things, like socialization and communication, is prime in those early months.

What You Need To Know

  • The first few months and years of life are vital for social development
  • As long as there is plenty of one-on-one interaction at home, development should be normal
  • Looking at development in children in cultures where mask wearing is more prevalent shows normal development

Dr. Nicole Beurkens is a psychologist and nutritionist who helps people nationwide. She wants to ease parents nerves during the pandemic.

“It’s a reasonable question to ask: If all adults around these kids are wearing masks all the time are children really missing out?”

She says the answer is probably not. Before you start to worry, Beurkens says you probably do a lot more for your child than you realize.

“The good news is that the vast majority of young children are being exposed to normal facial communication and all those pieces of nonverbal communication inside their homes and in an environment where adults aren’t masked,” said Beurkens.

She also says as long as children have a good amount of contact in their home environment or other safe places where they are around other people who aren’t masked, they’re going to benefit from the face-to-face and social interaction. However, if you’re still nervous, she says just carve out some time to make sure your child is getting what they need.

“One of the keys is making sure that the time that our young children,” said Beurkens. “All of our children, really, are in the home with us unmasked, … we’re spending time in good face to face interaction with them.”

While we don’t have any research yet on the impacts on social and communication development on our babies and toddlers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Beurkens says there is an easy way to stay hopeful when we look at places where mask wearing is more of a norm.

“What we know is that children in those cultures or children who have been exposed to mask wearing previous pandemics have developed appropriate communication and interaction skills so hopefully that helps to reassure parents,” said Beurkens.

She says the best thing to remember is children are resilient and as long as you continue that one-on-one interaction things should be just fine.

For more tips from Beurkens, click here.

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