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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

My baby is 9-months-old and I just found out that I have to go on a 2-week business trip. Will this separation impact our relationship? - Your worry is understandable. It is very hard to leave a baby at such a young age, but it is something so many working parents are faced with these days. It’s hard to predict exactly how your baby will react because every baby is different. Some babies are more flexible and make changes easily. Other babies have a hard time with change and may have a bigger reaction. Either way, if your baby has developed strong, stable relationships with her Dad and her Nanny, the separation will likely be easier. Read More

My 9-month-old and I are in a Mommy and Me Music Class, but he’s scared to participate. - Stick with it. You’re making important progress. While some children naturally go-with-the-flow and jump right into new situations, others are slower to warm up. They tend to be more comfortable in one-on-one experiences and can feel easily overwhelmed in a group. Another factor may be your son’s sensitivity to sounds. He may love hearing music at home, but in a class, the noise and movement of the other children may at first be too much for him. Read More

I’m a stay at home mom and my husband works 60 hours a week. At night when he comes home to play with our 11-month-old, she rejects him. - This situation is actually fairly common. It can happen when one parent is the primary caregiver, or the one doing most of the diapering, feeding, bathing, and comforting. Children tend to stick close to the parent whom they know best. Read More

My 11-month-old daughter has been sucking on her fuzzy blanket at bedtime for about 2 months now. Is this normal behavior? - Yes, quite normal. Like all of us, young children need ways to soothe themselves. In fact, self-soothing is one of the most important skills we need to learn as we face the many stressors our daily lives. Read More

My 1-year old is very receptive to everyone in my family and happily plays with whomever. But there’s this one uncle I have and whenever we see him, my son cries and refuses to go to him. - Even very young children can have preferences about all kinds of things—food, toys and, yes, people. That’s part of what makes children so unique and delightful—they don’t cover up their feelings. It gets awkward, though, when a child reacts negatively to someone, especially someone close to you like a family member. Read More

I took my 14-month-old to a new playgroup last week. All the other children were running around and exploring happily. My son clung to me for dear life. - Children approach, take in, and react to the world around them in different ways. We call this their temperament. One aspect of temperament has to do with how a child approaches and reacts to new situations. Read More

I have a 15-month-old. Whenever he falls down or starts to cry because he wants to be picked up, my husband won't pick him up or comfort him because he says it will make him a "mama's boy." I disagree. - There is no one-size-fits-all approach for most parenting challenges, including the dilemma you’ve written about. Deciding how best to comfort a child who is upset requires that parents openly talk about their thoughts and feelings, and what their goals are for their child. Then they need to come to some agreement that respects where their child is developmentally and also takes into account both partners' perspectives. Read More

My sister's son is the same age as mine, 16 months, and I want them to be good friends. The only problem is my nephew is a more aggressive than my son. - Ah, the politics of family relationships; so challenging, even when it comes to the smallest members! These situations are best handled by open, respectful communication and collaboration between the adults—in this case, you and your sister. It's usually a disaster if one parent starts disciplining the other's child, unless there is a clear agreement that this is okay. Read More

My 18-month-old has loved up her stuffed bunny so much that it’s literally falling apart—and it smells bad! I want to get rid of it, but I’m worried about how my baby will react. - One of the biggest challenges of parenting is separating ourselves from our children’s behavior. Unfortunately, when we have a strong emotional reaction to our child’s behavior, we tend to react in ways that make the behavior escalate. Read More

My 19-month-old daughter and I go to a playgroup once a week. Last week my daughter grabbed a car out of her friend’s hands. How can you get little kids to share? - Just the other day I had a similar experience—not with toddlers, but with my own 12- and 10-year-olds! What this tells you is that learning to share is a process that can start now but that takes a long time to master. Read More

How do I wean my 20-month-old daughter off her pacifier? - First, consider why you want to wean your child from the pacifier. If it’s interfering with her ability to interact, talk, or play with others, then it may be a good idea to phase it out. But if she is using it only to fall asleep and to soothe herself, then she’s using it wisely and there is no need to give it up right now. Read More

My father died recently and I've been dealing with it okay, but I'm not sure what to do about my 21-month-old daughter who keeps asking for him. - I am very sorry for your loss. This must be a very difficult time as you need to take care of yourself and cope with your own feelings, and at the same time try and make sense of all this for your young child. Read More

My 22-month-old son is scared to death of people wearing masks or costumes that cover their faces. - For toddlers, masks and costumes challenge their understanding of appearance (what something looks like) and reality (what it is "really truly" underneath). Toddlers are not yet able to grasp that someone may look like a witch on the outside (the mask) but really be their Aunt Molly underneath. Read More

My two-year-old daughter developed an imaginary friend after her older brother started preschool. Should I worry? - It's clear that your children enjoy a wonderfully close and loving relationship. Nice job! With such a bond between them, it's probably no surprise to you that any change in this special relationship is likely to be distressing for your toddler. Read More

My 26-month-old is terrified of the doctor. - This is quite common as two important developments are taking place at this age. First, your daughter’s thinking skills are allowing her to not only remember the doctor’s office but also to anticipate what might happen there—like getting a shot or finger prick. She is also becoming more aware of her own body and focused on the fact that her body belongs to her. Naturally, she wants to be the boss of her body. Read More

My 2 1/2-year-old is suddenly insisting that I feed him all his meals. - This kind of behavior is actually fairly common. While it may seem like a contradiction at this age when most children want to be independent and do everything “by myself,” the ability to do more on their own can sometimes lead to regression and a desire to be taken care of in “babylike” ways. Read More

My 2-year-old son is suddenly afraid of the dark. - Fear of the dark is quite common, especially at this age. In order to understand why this is happening now and what you can do, consider where your child is developmentally. By 2 1/2, most children are very engaged in the world of pretend and imagination, and they don’t fully understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Read More

My son is 3 and has started to play with his penis. Not sure how to respond? - Have no fear—you are not alone. This is a very common phenomenon at this age and totally normal. Your son is exploring and learning about his body, and he is telling you what he thinks about it! This is a good thing. You want to make sure he has a positive body image, so how you deal this interaction is very important. Read More

Recently, my 3-year-old made the following comments in public: “Mommy, he is fat!” What do you do when your child makes embarrassing comments about people? - Ah, the joys of parenthood. We can’t wait until our little ones start to speak and can tell us what they are thinking and feeling. Then when they do, we are surprised to find ourselves wishing that they would just stop talking! But you’re not alone. An informal survey of parents on the embarrassing comments made by their toddlers included gems like: Is that a lady or a man? Mommy, your belly is sticking out—are you growing a baby? Why doesn’t that man have legs? Grammy smells bad! Read More

My toddler has been at home with me since he was born. Do you think it is necessary that he begin preschool or child care in order to develop social skills? - Learning social skills is certainly very important for young children. The more experience they have interacting with peers, the more they learn about how to get along with others, and the richer their world becomes as they develop new relationships. Read More




Focusing on Peers: The Importance of Relationships in the Early Years - This unique book presents a state-of-the-art research review on the development of infant and toddler relationships. More Details

Early Experiences Count: How Emotional Development Unfolds Starting at Birth
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My toddler has been at home with me since he was born. Do you think it is necessary that he begin preschool or child care in order to develop social skills?
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My 3-year-old son spends half his time with me and my wife, and the other half with his mother. When he is with my ex-wife, my son gets away with more than when he’s with me. I’m not sure how to handle that.
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Recently, my 3-year-old made the following comments in public: “Mommy, he is fat!” What do you do when your child makes embarrassing comments about people?
Read More

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