New Parents Should Be Taught How To Smile, Sing And Recite Nursery Rhymes To Children

14/08/2014 16:52 | Updated 22 May 2015

New parents should be taught how to smile, sing and recite nursery rhymes to children, say MPs

New parents should be offered lessons in smiling, singing and reciting nursery rhymes to their babies, say MPs.

Some parents are so lacking in the basics that they don't even know how to speak affectionately to their kids.

The MPs believe that offering parents support with activities such as reciting nursery rhymes, or reading stories to their children or even simply praising and cuddling them to help them bond could dramatically improve those children's life chances.

The call comes in a report by the All party Parliamentary Sure Start Group which calls for services such as community midwives, health visitors and children's centres to be made to work more closely together.

The committee, which has spent a year examining the operation of state-run children's centres, is calling for a national programme to make basic activities designed to help parents bond with their babies universally available.

They are also calling for fathers to be treated as an 'equal party' alongside mothers at parent and toddler groups and similar services to encourage them to play a more active part in their children's upbringing.

It follows growing evidence that children who form 'secure attachments' in the first two years of their life are less likely to fail at school, become involved in crime and ultimately fail in their own relationships.

It also draws attention to a string of reports showing that children whose parents do not interact with them and are not exposed to language are less likely to succeed in life.

One recent study estimated that children from the poorest households have heard 23 million fewer words by the time they start school than those from the wealthiest homes.

"Despite considerable investment in early education and early childhood services there is still a shocking and unacceptable gap between the poorest children and their better off peers when they reach school age," the report says.

It calls for all children's centres – the council run advice and support centres for parents – to be required to offer activities, already in place in some areas, to boost children's early brain development.

The report recommends making 'singing and story sessions' universally available and including training on how to speak to children in 'affectionate tones' to be made a core part of all antenatal classes.

"They should help parents overcome any sense of shyness or embarrassment about doing so, particularly in public," the report adds.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity 4Children, which supports the report, said: "It sounds very basic but we know that the failure to bond with your baby and develop attachment and indeed, as time goes on, develop communication skills are absolutely are the epicentre of the ability to succeed in life.

"We know that communication skills and language skills are the things that hold most people back later on."

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