Nature vs. Nurture


The Nature vs. Nurture argument is an age-old discussion that has occupied many academics in the field of child development and beyond. Are we born with our intelligence, ability to learn, and personality traits pre-destined?  Or does our environment, the method in which we are raised and educated, have the ability to make drastic changes?

The underlying question of this debate is, whether genetic factors (nature) or environmental factors (nurture) are more important in determining child development. Nature refers to biological or hereditary information that affects child development and learning. Nurture refers to the day to day interactions children encounter in their environment.

Whether one sides with “nature” or “nurture” makes a tremendous difference in the way we, both as parents and a society, raise our children

During large parts of the 20th century “behavourism“ dominated the field of psychology.  It proposed that all our actions, from the simplest smile to the most sophisticated chess move, are learned through reward and punishment, trial-and-error interactions with other people and objects in the world. Babies, according to this view, are born as “blank slates,” without predispositions, and infinitely malleable through parental feedback and tutoring.

Towards the latter part of the century huge leaps were made in the field of molecular biology and these advances have led many to believe that parents and society make little difference. A child’s fate, according to this view, is largely determined by heredity, leaving little we can do to improve matters.

Neuroscientists find it hard to fully accept this position. Of course genes are important, but anyone who has ever studied nerve cells can tell you how remarkably plastic they are. The brain itself is literally molded by experience: every sight, sound, and thought leaves an imprint on specific neural circuits, modifying the way future sights, sounds, and thoughts will be registered. Brain hardware is not fixed, but living, dynamic tissue that is constantly updating itself to meet the sensory, motor, emotional, and intellectual demands at hand.

The effect of nature and nurture working together is most critically important in the earliest years of the child’s life when the growth of the brain is at its highest. The brain’s plasticity and the child’s predisposition to learn are shaped by environmental influences and stimulation of physical, emotional, social, cultural and cognitive nature in creating new pathways in learning and development. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge that nature is inseparable from nurture and that both nature and nurture are sources of human potential and growth.

That is why attachment and how parents/caregivers respond to the child play such an essential part in building firm and positive foundations for the child’s success in life.

At Baby College we believe in the importance of early experiences and environment and the influence they will have throughout a child’s life.  If parents or caregivers agree then they will also be keen to provide stimulating activities for their children at this early age.



Why is Tummy Time Important?

Alistair Walker 10 weeks old

Here at Baby College we love to welcome new parents to our classes.  Although the classes are filled with lots of different activities and games that parents can play with their babies at home, we always stress the importance of tummy time for their baby’s all round neurological and physical development. In fact, if there’s only one aspect of Baby College that parents take away with them it would, for Infants, be tummy time.

Tummy time is important as it helps develop muscle strength, vision, hand-eye coordination, learning about the world (360º) and integration of the left/right brain (as it should lead to crawling). It may also help prevent early motor delays and conditions such as flat head syndrome and twisted neck (positional torticollis).

Back to Sleep was the campaign launched by Anne Diamond in the 1980s. It has been incredibly successful in reducing cot death but it had the unexpected knock-on effect of also reducing the time that babies play on their tummies. We completely endorse the Back to Sleep Campaign but in class we encourage mums/caregivers to play with babies (both of them on tummies) and suggest that this is consolidated at home.

Babies are active from birth and can start having a small amount of tummy time from as early as one month old.  Start by giving your baby just a couple of minutes on their front at a time, repeat this two or three times a day and gradually build up to a total of about an hour a day by around three months old.  This hour shouldn’t be all at once but made up of short bursts across the day.  Your baby will naturally try to lift their head to see what’s going on but won’t be able to hold their head up for long periods of time until around three or four months old.

Tummy Time Activities:

Under 3 months:

  • Lie baby face down on your lap (you could do this when winding your baby)
  • Lie your baby on your chest or stomach with their face near yours
  • Lay your baby down on the floor and then you lie down in front of them and use a rattle to distract them and to encourage visual development.
  • When standing hold your baby on their tummy (lying flat on your hand/arm, holding them securely round one arm and one leg)

BC Witney March 2012 025

Over 3 months:

  • Practice Tummy Time in small time increments
  • Use toys to encourage head turning and visual tracking.


  • Encourage baby to practice rolling and moving while on their tummy: – use toys to motivate baby to reach and rotate on their tummy to get the toys
  • Play peek a boo under a scarf or a blanket
  • Use mirrors as babies love them

Always make tummy time a fun activity with smiles, songs, praise and lots of interaction.

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Guest Blog: How to get the best holiday deals in School Holidays.

blue-summer-woman-mom-41003.jpegYou may have started thinking about booking your summer holidays, especially with the rubbish Easter Holiday weather we have been having. We are featuring this week a guest blog from Oxford-based mumpreneur Stevie with some tips on how to get the best deals…(of course before you book a holiday don’t forget to check next term’s Baby College dates…!)


click2travelClick2Travel by Stevie Waterton @ Independent Travel Experts

January is the most popular time for many holidays to get booked up, we are now in April.. So what are the best tips to book up early how can YOU save money?

The main point is to remember to book as early as you can to get the better deals, the closer you get to your chosen departure date the more expensive it becomes especially in term time. So when should YOU book a summer family holiday…


Package deals from the operator, the likes of Thomas Cook, Thomson, Jet2 etc start to release FREE child places, discounts and low deposits anything up to 16 months before departure. This is the best time to book as the deposits and prices are low, so look out for deals its never to early to book!

Trips Packaged together by Click2Travel, this is known as dynamic packaging and means that the flight can be booked with a low cost carrier and hotel booked through a bedbank. Low cost flights tend to be out later in the year, keep your eyes pealed as these prices don’t stay low for long.  This type of trip is a much cheaper way of travelling and more customers are booking online themselves more often to keep the cost down. The only problem with doing this yourself is you are probably not covered by Atol or Abta and a call center as point of contact. This means if anything happens to the supplier once you have booked your trip,  you will not be covered if anything was to happen and will have to source another holiday at an extra cost. When you book with Click2Travel your holiday is 100% covered financially so if anything is to happen with any part of your holiday you will be rebooked on an alternative flight/holiday straight away and of course free of charge.

All Inclusive, Many families are stuck when it comes to older children and always tend to book All Inclusive which is great when they have such a large appetite. Remember if you have younger children it can be just as cheap to go self catering. I find this so much easier with apartments, the mornings you can have a bowl of cereal or some toast (easy and lower cost). For lunch why not invest in a cool box, make your own sandwiches etc another low cost option and little effort needed.

Being a mum of 3 I know how hard it can be to find a good deal for term time, so if you have found something you like or would even just like some advice please feel free to call or email me, it’s what I’m here for. Plus my services are one to one, friendly and most of all FREE.

Thank you for reading my blog post and I hope to help you soon.

Bye for now

Stevie @ Click2Travel

08000465119 / 07498033331 (Text & whatsapp)

The Joys of being a Baby College Teacher

Parachute fun
playing peek a boo under the parachute

The spring term at Baby College is coming to an end and we hope that all our customers have had as much fun as we have.

Baby College is growing and new franchisees opened their classes in January in Colchester, Derby and East Nottinghamshire. Aready the new franchisees are building up a loyal fan base and fantastic reviews:

“I can’t recommend it strongly enough…so insightful. Excellent hints and tips… Rebecca was a teacher and she now uses her skills and knowledge to help teach us about our babies! She is a mummy herself too so she completely understands if you need to sit out to feed, change or comfort your baby. This makes me feel much more relaxed especially as I did have to feed Poppy part way through the first class!” Sarah at #derbydaysout

Customers love it but what is it about Baby College that makes it such a good career choice?

Rebecca @babycollegederby says “I really love teaching Baby College classes, I love all the mums and the babies and I get a buzz at the end of every session.  It’s just a great work-life balance as well as being a lot of fun to do”

Rebecca and her demo doll, Peach, getting ready for class

Rebecca, who lives in Long Eaton, has a year-old baby daughter, Amelie, and is excited about her new venture.

“Baby College is addressing issues that I feel very passionate about,” says Rebecca, who began teaching Year 2’s but switched to foundation stage because she was more interested in working with a younger age group, “but even then, it’s often too late.” she explains. “We were seeing foundation stage pupils with lower and lower attainment levels, children who don’t know their own name, can’t sit still and listen, and have poor social skills.”

Rebecca became part of a team looking at what children need to be doing in the crucial first three years, part of a government implemented base line trial exploring age related expectations. Rebecca’s school was shown to be 50% below accepted levels, and, inspired by the studies carried out by teacher Paul Young, on ‘container babies’ who spend time in baby chairs and bouncers and are not given enough opportunity to move freely, she became fascinated by the importance of vestibular reflexes, for instance, which need to be stimulated before children start school.

Rebecca returned to school after maternity leave, but then saw an advertisement for a Baby College franchisee and the rest is history!

It’s not only Rebecca…

Vanessa, who runs Baby College classes in the Wokingham and Reading area, first discovered Baby College thirteen years ago when her eldest child was a baby. “I came along with my NCT group and fell in love with it, we had a really good time and enjoyed spending time together.”

Jumping forward ten years, Vanessa was looking to rejoin the workforce. She considered different franchise options and decided that Baby College was the one for her.

“I wanted a job that was flexible and fitted into family life… and it had to be something that I wanted to do. So, I thought why not Baby College, I loved coming along with my two boys so why not share my experiences with other parents!”

Now a well-established franchisee, Vanessa @babycollegewokingham, says “I love running Baby College classes, its so much fun and I sometimes forget that I am teaching and feel like I am just playing with the children and their parents!  Being a franchisee is so flexible: you can choose when and where you run the classes, which days of the week and how many”


If you are looking for a fun, flexible job which fits around your family, you are passionate about baby development, and would relish the challenge of running your own business, then being a Baby College franchisee could be the perfect move for you. For more information about becoming a Baby College franchisee have a look at our website

Brain Development

Brain Development

At birth your baby’s brain is approximately 25% of the size of an adult’s brain and by the age of three your child’s brain will be 80% of its full size.  As you can see there is a large and rapid brain growth in those precious first few years.

Brain development starts within the womb.  Just two weeks after conception a baby’s brain will start to develop and by four months a baby will be able to suck, swallow, “breathe,” stretch, and even suck their thumb! By about the 28th week in utero the nervous system is mature enough to support life. During the 29th-38th week interconnections between each individual nerve cell (neurones) develop rapidly. However, a baby is born with a brain that is hard-wired just for survival, i.e. respiration, digestion and excretion.

How the Brain Develops

The brain develops from the inside outwards. The outer layer, the cortex develops last. This is the part of the brain that makes us human. This is the “thinking brain”.  At seven months’ gestation neurones begin to develop branches known as dendrites. Each neurone is connected to another at points called synapses. They continue to develop rapidly during the first few years after birth, particularly in the first two years. Every new experience (sight, touch, smell, sound, taste and movement) will create a new brain connection within your growing baby.

The brain has been described as having three levels and these can be associated with our evolutionary development (MacLean 1979)

Brain Developemt

First Level Reptilian Brain:

  • Brain Stem (including the medulla oblongata and the pons) and Reticular formation
  • Control basic need of life (breathing, heart rate, body temperature, suckling and muscle tone) plus maintaining consciousness and arousal
  • Tiny babies’ movements can be seen to be quite reptilian when they are first born
  • Brain stem is thought to be the most ancient part of our brain

Second Level Mammalian Brain

  • Mid brain which includes the pons, the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, and the thalamus and hypothalamus (these last two form the limbic system)
  • Connects the brain stem to the thinking part of the brain the cortex
  • Babies during this stage will exhibit many mammalian movements and will learn these new skills in order: rolling, crawling, sitting, creeping and pulling up to standing
  • Midbrain controls emotions and instincts (limbic system), organization of activities (basal ganglion), control of huger, thirst, temperature (hypothalamus) and the cerebellum controls our movement.

Third Level Human Brain

  • Cortical brain which allows us to be able to stand and move independently, to use our hands and learn to assimilate information and memories, and eventually learn to organise and act upon them.
  • Eventually we become the rational, logical and linguistic animals called homosapiens.
  • The cerebral cortex includes two cerebral hemispheres (sometimes referred to as the “right brain” and “left brain”) connected by the corpus callosum. Each hemisphere is divided into four lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe.
  • The right hemisphere is responsible for the sensing and control of movement on the left handside of the body and the left hemisphere controls the senses and movement on the right. The corpus callosum acts as a telephone exchange allowing information from both sides of the brain to be analysed and acted upon.
  • The cortical brain is responsible for all voluntary functions of the brain. When you solve a maths problem, remember someone’s name, or shake someone’s hand, this is the part of the brain you are using. Movement, memory, sensory processing, and language are all controlled by the cerebrum – it is the intellectual part
  • It is the least developed at birth.

Why does it grow so rapidly?

Within the first three years of a child’s life the brain does the majority of its growing. A study by the University of Chicago’s Benjamin Bloom concluded that by four most of the IQ is in place and that “general intelligence appears to develop as much from conception to age four as it does during the 14 years from 4-18”

During this period major developmental hurdles will be achieved in a young child’s life:

  • Visual Development: a new born baby has limited vision but by three their vision is almost as sophisticated as an adult’s. This process will see huge brain growth with the development of billions of brain connections.
  • Gross Motor Development: a reflexive new born baby with no control over their own body will be running and jumping happily by the time they are three. Their vestibular system will be more mature and their muscle tone well developed.
  • Fine Motor Skills: the ability to use their hands to manipulate objects is being refined daily
  • Language Development – basic biological noises will have been replaced with over 1000 words by the age of three.
  • Thinking, logic and problem solving are being developed throughout these three years. This is the process by which the baby begins to become the independent human being. Every day there is something new to be learnt and enjoyed and life is one long adventure.

Baby College classes offer a well balanced mix of activities which stimulate all aspects of a baby’s development and have been meticulously researched and structured to allow progression through the age groups which allows appropriate, fun and gently challenging exercises to enjoyed by all.

Ten Touching Truths For New Parents


New parents can literally give their babies a magic touch to help them develop, grow and be happy and healthy.

There are many benefits of human touch to infant growth and development. In modern western society do we touch enough? Or do we need, as a society, to promote additional activities like infant massage to encourage parents to touch their babies more for healthy growth and development. There’s a wealth of scientific evidence proving how beneficial, and indeed vital, it is for babies to experience gentle, loving touch. It’s one of the easiest and loveliest ways to bond with your baby, and here are ten reasons why:

  1. Touch and Grow: Touch can directly stimulate growth because massage sends a message to the pituitary gland to release growth hormones. This improves intellectual and motor development, and also helps regulate your baby’s temperature, heart rate and sleep/wake patterns.
  2. Touch and Glow: Endorphins are the feel good, happy hormones released when we exercise, when we relax and when we experience skin-to-skin contact. The high level of endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin and low levels of cortisol that your baby will feel when touched or during a massage will contribute to feelings of well-being.
  3. Touching Nerves: Newborn babies have underdeveloped circulatory systems and it takes a while for their bodies to get acclimatised to life outside the womb. During this transitional period, their fingers and toes don’t get a full flow of blood. Massage strengthens the circulatory system, therefore helping a baby’s blood flow to promote the healthy growth and development of their bones, muscles, nervous system and brain.
  4. Touch Down: The world is a stressful place, not just for adults but for babies too. No matter how much we try to protect them, babies inevitably suffer from stress. The process of birth itself is traumatic enough, and then there’s the noise and bustle of modern life to cope with. When stress occurs, the body releases a hormone called cortisol which reduces the flow of oxygen and nutrients around the body. In infants and children, this can be particularly damaging, affecting growth and reducing brain development. After a busy day, we might reach for a glass of wine, or a comforting cup of tea to unwind, but babies don’t have many ways to help them calm down. Just as massage can help us to feel relaxed, so too for babies. It reduces the base amount of cortisol in the blood and therefore reduces the level of toxic stress.
  5. Soft Touch: Babies are learning to work their muscles which makes them tense up, as does emotion demonstrated by crying, which babies inevitably do at some point during the day! So your baby’s little body can become a tangle of tight muscles. Touch, in the form of regular baby massage, is a highly effective way to ease this.
  6. Natural Touch: The importance of touch for premature babies was recognised back in 1979 in Colombia, where neonatal wards had a shortage of incubators for babies with severe hospital infections. Doctors turned to nature for inspiration, specifically kangaroos, which hold their young as soon as they’re born. They sent mothers home with the instruction to regularly hold their infants bare-chested between their breasts in an upright position, feeding them only breast milk. What the doctors, who coined the term ‘Kangaroo Care’, found was that this skin-to-skin contact decreased the babies’ dependency on incubators. Astonishingly, mortality rates plunged from 70 percent to 30 percent.
  7. Out of Touch: The importance of touch for a baby’s growth and development is also demonstrated by studying what happens when touch is denied. Many studies have been carried out since the 1930’s to look at the importance of touch and care. These centered around old fashioned orphanages where it was believed that babies, like plants, would grow and develop normally purely through being kept warm and fed! Failure to Thrive is a medical condition where an infant or child fails to grow or gain appropriate weight over a length of time. They’re prone to infections and heal slowly. The child may appear thin, sad, weak and pale and withdrawn, losing the motivation even to eat. This is similar to a deep depression where the baby seems to give up on living. Or they may be jumpy, irritable and angry. In orphanages, the number one cause of Failure to Thrive is simply a lack of touch, stimulation and love, and a child may even die due to missing these essential requirements for growth.
  8. Losing Touch: Research has shown a direct relationship between children’s bone growth and amount of loving touch received. A three year old child deprived of maternal affection, had half the growth in his bone size than the average three year old (Montagu, 1986: 244).
  9. Touch Off: Human beings evolved to expect to be carried 100% of the time as babies, but since the invention of the baby carriage in 1848, the majority of babies are transported in prams and buggies. Distracting technology and forward facing pushchairs are exacerbating this ‘hands off’ style of modern parenting. It’s a ticking time bomb, with sensory deprivation starting to affect visual, social and language development. There are worrying reports that up to 1 in 5 children in the UK are starting school with some sort of developmental delay.
  10. Keep in Touch: Massage is one of the best ways for your baby to experience the benefits of touch. Massage therapy for children has been found to improve medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, cancer, autism, skin problems, juvenile arthritis, eating disorders and other psychiatric syndromes. In general, children show lower anxiety and stress levels, better mood, improved sleep patterns and higher levels of attentiveness when treated to a daily massage by their parents.

“Normal” parenting levels of touch and interaction should be enough for healthy growth as suggested by Underdown, Barlow and Stewart-Brown, but in the modern western world we touch our babies more infrequently than ever before and are possibly at risk of dropping to levels where infants may not receive enough touch for “normal” development. In extreme cases this may lead to failure to thrive but may also prevent our children from achieving their potential for growth and development physically and emotionally.

Activities that promote increased human touch such as infant massage may be one way of providing the antidote and making sure that our babies from infanthood through to childhood are indeed receiving the “normal” or indeed the “required” levels of touch and interaction to achieve healthy growth and development of body and brain.


Baby Signing

Baby Waving

Most babies and toddlers don’t start using their first words until they are at least one year old and it is not until they are somewhere between 18 months and 2 years before they start putting together 2 words to form very simple sentences. Their understanding of their world develops much quicker than their language skills and this can lead to frustration and tantrums

Giving your baby a few baby signs to learn will allow them to be able to communicate with you and help reduce down these frustrations for you both.  As a parent it’s just as frustrating for you as it is for your baby – you know they are trying to tell you something but they don’t know how to and you can’t understand them.

As your baby becomes a more effective communicator you will start to understand them more easily and will be able to be more responsive and sensitive to their needs and so increasing your bond with them.

Baby signing is simply an extension of normal gesturing that your baby will start to develop from about a year old: pointing, clapping, waving, putting their arms up to be picked up.

At Baby College we use the Makaton sign language. Makaton is designed to support spoken language – signs are used with speech, in spoken word order to help children and adults to communicate.  In class you learn a few new signs each week and we also have a sign rhyme to help you remember a few more.

At home it is recommended that you:

  • Use the sign or symbol for the important word in the sentence (only use one sign per sentence)
  • Always remember to speak and sign at the same time
  • Use clear, short sentences
  • Remember to make eye contact and use facial expression, body language and gestures
  • Use real objects and mime to give reference and meaning (sign ‘ball’ show them the ball and sign ‘ball’ again)
  • You may need to guide your child’s hands to help them to make the sign
  • Reward any attempt at communication and use the sign and symbol for ‘Good’ to give praise (thumbs up!)
  • Babies’ fine motor skills are not as good as adults so be aware that your baby’s attempt at signing will not be as clear as yours so make sure you are alert for their hand gestures

Baby College posts weekly Sign of the Week videos so that you can practice your signing at home and if you are interested you can find them @babycollegeuk on Facebook or book online into our infant or toddler classes at