Jewels Lovely

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“The Beginning of Life” AKA The Documentary Every Parent Needs To See

I’m a self-professed self-improvement junkie. During my university days, I read books about how to read faster and take notes more efficiently. When I was a new graduate, I watched videos on how to interview well and make my resume shine. Before meeting my husband, I read books on the differences between men and women which referred to the sexes as planets (you know the one I’m talking about) and I also learned what the Love Languages were. Before having children, I soaked up everything I could about how to give birth naturally and what to expect that first year. Now that I’m deep into this parenting gig and realizing how little I know (about parenting and life in general), I look to reputable resources and wise people (parents of grown children) more than ever before to tell me what to do, or simply to tell me that my kids and I are going to be OKAY.  So when I stumbled on this gem of a resource on Netflix a few weeks ago, I knew this was something I had to review and share with my readers. Usually when I watch Netflix, it’s my time to decompress and do a whole lot of nothing except bring popcorn to my lips. But the fact that I was enthusiastically taking notes as I watched the whole series told me this documentary was special.

The Beginning of Life: The Series is a series of 6 x 45 minute episodes of discovering how babies learn, and how their environment affects knowledge and development. The exact description on Netflix says: “Using breakthroughs in technology and neuroscience, this series examines how environment affects infants — and how infants can affect our future.” The creators of this film are Brazilian, hence the many interviews feature baby experts throughout Brazil, as well as famous Supermodel and mom Gisele Bündchen. Many of the world’s most famous researchers and neuroscientists are also featured, making this one of the most informative and enlightening documentaries I have ever watched. But don’t worry, it’s not all figures and statistics. There are just as many “real parents” interviewed from all different ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds to really lend an air of authenticity and truth to what the researchers have discovered.

It was refreshing to hear of some of Gisele Bündchen’s own struggles as a mother. Even Supermodels aren’t immune 😉

Since I would rather you all watch the series yourselves, this blog post isn’t about going to feature all the research details and key findings from the documentary. Instead, I will highlight a few of the new things I learned, as well as good reminders for when I teach/play with my kids:

  • Babies for the first 6-8 months think of themselves and their mother as one in the same. Not as two distinct people.
  • Babies are able to learn from the emotional responses of another interaction, even if they are not involved directly in it. Animals on the other hand need direct responses to learn.
  • When babies were able to positively interact with a foreign language teacher getting to know them, play with them over 12 in person meetings, they were able to learn the language so much more than if they spent the same amount of time listening to the lessons on TV. In fact, they didn’t learn much at all. No interaction made it difficult to learn. Non experiential learning makes it so difficult to retain or gain information.
  • As tempting as it may be, it’s important to eat with your children and not have an iPad in front of them. They need to learn how to eat and how to have conversations by seeing your modeling. With an iPad, they can’t see it. They tune out.
  • As a teacher/parent, we need to engage in the things they are playing with by showing interest and letting them explore right alongside with them. Why do u think they want to play with the toy another child is playing with? When a child shows interest in a toy, suddenly everyone else wants to play with it too. If we show interest in what they’re playing with, then they may not grow so easily bored.
  • You can teach children via experiences and storytelling. For example, you can make your child a smoothie and then bring it out from the kitchen to give to them. Alternatively, you can sit them down and cut open the fruits and together to show them where their smoothie comes from. Ask them to make observations and use all their senses (including taste and feel). Use simple everyday moments to build a relationship with them by sharing the experience and telling stories. It might take longer than you doing it by yourself, but think of what could be gained when you involve them.
  • There are two different but important ways kids play. The first is with adults. They need adults to read, sing and laugh with them. The second is with objects/toys. Children should play with objects by themselves, or possibly with other kids. Kids need adult play but they also need their own play. When they are playing with toys and objects, their imaginations are running wild. When an adult meddles, this interrupts their playing. They bring their grown up rules into play. To play is to create; its not about the rules.
  • Someone once said kids are like video games. The next stage is much harder. (Amen to that! Just when you get the hang of your current stage, your child is onto a new one.)
  • Be careful of the words you use with our children. Words are life giving. The words we speak to our children should be encouraging, loving and full of hope.

    This film is a must-see for all parents and grandparents!

In the documentary, so many families from various ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds were featured. Some with the ability to hire personal nannies and chefs; others who are so poor, the children never go to school because they need to work. What is clear is that meeting a child’s needs isn’t necessarily the same thing as providing for them financially. Yes of course children need to have the basic necessities of food and shelter to reach their potential, but beyond the basics, they just need our time, love and nourishment. I could write so much more about what I learned in this documentary, and how my own parenting has succeeded or failed my kids at times, but I will save that for future posts. In the meantime, please do watch the series on Netflix, and let me know some of your takeaways!

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