There is plenty of frenetic activity during the holidays—baking, wrapping, picking up in-laws at far-flung airports—but the holiday season is also a time when our regular routines grind to a halt. Kids stay home from school, appointments are put off until after the New Year, and cold weather drives even the most driven among us to hunker down inside.
How did we, as humans, come to dominate the earth? I fundamentally believe that the core reason our species is top dog, so to speak, is our ability to communicate complex thought processes with one another very efficiently. We are not the fastest species on earth; we are certainly not the strongest; and the pets we have in our homes generally have more acute senses than we do. Yet we have this ability, unique in nature, to speak. This has allowed us to master the art of cooperation and in turn, to exploit natural economies of scale. From an evolutionary standpoint, these complementary skills for communication — one a cognitive skill (language) and the other a motor skill (speech) — are a tour-de-force of coordinated systems. Speech evolution and the origin of language may not be something you think about everyday, but read on to understand why you are even more awesome than you realized.
Parents will always worry about the effects of peer pressure on their children. For example, can you remember a time when you dated someone who ate more than you did, and you ended up inadvertently overindulging? Researchers studying the relationship between eating habits and peer pressure have actually found that when you’re in a group, you subconsciously change your eating habits to match those of others in the group. Now, research has also shown that a similar effect applies to preschool education. Apparently, dieting and special education have more in common than you might think.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have long known that a language-rich home lends itself to speech and language development in young children. This is why they urge parents to maintain a steady flow of conversation around babies, even before the youngsters begin to babble and say their first words. Now, two separate studies support the idea that a child’s preschool education is critical to his language development. More specifically, the other preschoolers around the child can have an impact on that child’s progress.