Menu

Clear masks allow young children to keep learning from adults' faces

Transparent face masks are something for parents to consider.

Clear masks allow young children to keep learning from adults' faces
@ddhmaskproject Ashley Lawrence

[Editor's note: Dr. Lisa S. Scott an expert in developmental psychology, learning, and neuroscience and a Professor in Psychology at the University of Florida. This article was first published on The Conversation.]

As daycare centers and pre-kindergartens begin to reopen around the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks be worn by teachers, care workers and children over two years of age.

Important as they are for helping minimize the spread of the coronavirus, masks come with a potential downside when worn around little kids. Decades of research has shown faces are an important tool for learning. With caregivers' faces covered, infants and young children will miss out on some of the visual cues they'd normally get from faces.

FEATURED VIDEO

I study visual learning and recommend that policymakers and educators consider transparent face masks for use around infants and young children.


Faces are key for little learners

When infants and children come to my research lab (with their families, of course), we show them pictures of faces on a computer screen, sometimes paired with sounds or words. Using tools like eye tracking technology and EEG, which measures electrical activity in the brain, we are able to observe what they're paying attention to and learn more about how their brains are developing. These methods allow us to measure learning even before infants can talk.

Our work shows that infants pay close attention to eyes and mouths on faces. Infants also learn that two eyes are usually above a nose which is above a mouth, and they learn to combine these features into one whole. Babies use faces as a tool for learning from familiar people, like mom, dad or a care worker.

Infant brain responses change when faces are altered, turned upside down or presented with conflicting information, like a happy face paired with a crying sound. These changes in brain responses suggest that infants can tell when there is something different about a face.

Although they cannot yet speak, infants as young as six months of age learn and understand names for new faces. When similar-looking faces are presented in a book and paired with names, babies are able to differentiate them. Learning to match a name with a face may be more difficult when faces are masked.


Faces foster language development

Research shows infants and children pay close attention to mouths during important periods of language learning.

Young babies shift their visual focus from looking primarily at the eyes of talking faces to looking at the mouths between 4 and 8 months of age. Infants begin to understand the meaning of familiar words between 6 and 9 months of age. Looking toward the mouth increases as infant speaking skills increase. Although this focus on the mouth decreases around 9 to 12 months of age, it increases again around 14 months of age during word learning. Even 5-year-olds show increased interest in the mouths of talking faces compared to adults.

While it is unknown how covering the mouth will directly affect development at every age, these studies suggest that infants and children use the mouths of faces as a tool for learning to produce speech sounds and for learning new words.

What should care workers and educators do?

Wearing masks around infants and children during the first five years of life may reduce their ability to learn from auditory and visual cues – and this may negatively influence speech and language learning. Covering faces could also limit children's ability to recognize familiar people and determine when someone is happy, sad or angry.

Of course, it's crucially important to protect children and workers from the spread of the coronavirus. But there are ways to keep everyone safe while also allowing little ones to see adults' faces.

If possible, care workers and educators spending long hours with infants and young children should consider clear masks or transparent face shields to reduce potential negative impacts on early learning. And, certainly, parents should continue to play, sing, read and talk face to face with their infants and children.

Luckily, infants and young children often spend just as much time at home, where healthy caregivers don't need to wear masks. Developing children are also very resilient, so if transparent masks are not available, it is still important for caretakers to wear masks until public health authorities recommend otherwise.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

[For instructions on how to make a clear mask, courtesy the @ddhmaskproject, click here.]

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

Report: President Trump plans to choose Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court

What you need to know about this mom of 7.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died on Friday her spot on the Supreme Court was vacated and on Monday President Trump said he is prepared to make his third U.S. Supreme Court nomination this week. "I will announce it either Friday or Saturday," Trump said on Fox News, adding, "We should wait until the services are over for Justice Ginsburg."

Now, CNN reports President Trump plans to choose Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court Nomination. He is expected to make the announcement on Saturday.

According to CNN, senior Republican sources are "indicating that Barrett is the intended nominee... All sources cautioned that until it is announced by the President, there is always the possibility that Trump makes a last-minute change but the expectation is Barrett is the choice."

President Trump says a vote on this Supreme Court nominee should come before the upcoming presidential election (a move that goes against Ginsberg's last wishes—and the precedent set by the senate in 2016). The President previously said he was looking seriously at five candidates for the spot, but during his Fox News interview on Monday, he only mentioned two: Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa.

Here's what you need to know about Amy Coney Barrett

Keep reading Show less
News