The Lessons This Grandma learned from Watching Parents Walk With and Engage Their Babies, Toddlers, and Children On the Streets of New York City and the Studies to Show How Wonderful That Is

walkSpending a month in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I was surprised to see so many strollers and so few tourists. This is clearly New York family territory and so much to observe and learn about what I had heard about—the sophistication, culture, and extensive vocabulary of the children growing up in New York City.


I passed a Mother with her approximately six and nine year old boys as we were all close to the entrance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She pointed at a beautiful building across the street and said, “Look at those beautiful sculptures on the front of this renaissance revival building.”

I passed a Father with a toddler playing in the dirt of a street planter in front of their stoop, talking about the type of plants and flowers, and touching and smelling each.

I passed a Mother talking to her approximately six month old baby boy (he was barely sitting in the stroller) telling him, as if speaking to another adult in sophisticated vocabulary, that they were walking to Central Park and what they were going to be doing for the day. A loud police car roared by. She immediately stopped the stroller and put her hands over his ears. The baby seemed unaffected. She said, “You seem to becoming immune to the deafening and ear-piercing emergency vehicles. You are getting so big.”

I passed a Father walking a close to newborn in a stroller. Even before they reached me on the street, I could tell the baby was new as it sounded like a cat when it was crying. The Father was rocking the stroller and leaned in singing lullabies out loud on the New York Street.

I passed a Mother stopped at a construction site, pointing out to her preschooler all of the different types of machinery by name, and what each was doing.

Everywhere along the streets of New York, parents were constantly repeating babbles, singing, talking, pointing out the marvelous sights, sounds, and smells, along their routes. The miraculous ability to have so much available to expose children to in the visible world everywhere around them gave the parents and children much to explore and discuss, and teach vocabulary.

This Grandma loves ScienceDaily, and has introduced this resource in a previous post. Within just a few days two studies were released that directly impact what we know the New York parents are doing well.

Heather Kirkorian, associate professor of human development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains in her article, “Young toddlers may learn more from interactive than noninteractive media.” It is a review of studies published in Child Development Perspectives, a journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. The article talked about the differences in the way preschoolers and toddlers learn. This Grandma’s take away is how personal interaction where a parent can react and respond to a child’s facial expressions and questions is better than media and media alone. Of course, we grandparents know that.

Not all of our grandchildren can have access to what New York has to offer, but their access to media can be more beneficial if it is interactive, the best being with a parent or grandparent with the child, rather than just handing the I pad to them alone.  I have started to try to have my grandson explain Roblox and Mindcraft to me as he plays.  It is challenging for me and I am amazed at his abilities.  He is of the media generation and it seems effortless on his part.

Another Science Daily release talked about “The secret to honing kids’ language and literacy,” which the New York parents I observed seem to have mastered.

“Research from Michigan State University found that a child’s ability to self-regulate is a critical element in childhood language and literacy development, and that the earlier they can hone these skills, the faster language and literacy skills develop leading to better skills in the long run.”

“Self-regulation is an umbrella term to define children’s abilities to keep information in their working memories, pay attention to tasks and even to inhibit behaviors that might prevent them from accomplishing tasks,” said Lori Skibbe, associate professor in the human development and family studies department and lead author of the study.”

The researcher explains how self regulation was tested in the study, and it is apparent that walking the streets of New York and outstanding parents do what is needed to develop outstanding vocabulary skills and self regulation.

“When assessing self-regulation, the children were asked to play a game that required them to follow prompts from the researchers. . . .When assessing academic development, Skibbe looked at four language and literacy skills: comprehension; vocabulary; early decoding, or the ability to identify letters of the alphabet and read short words; and phonological awareness, or understanding the sound structure of language.”

We all do not have the advantages of New York City stimulation and access, but even the environment we have can provide learning the names of trees, plants, and flowers, and long walks singing and talking together.

And the earlier we engage the babies, the better. The New York parents of newborns and babies I observed had it right. Another study reported in ScienceDaily discusses that three month old babies cannot understand words and are just learning to roll over, yet they are already capable of learning abstract relations. The Northwestern University researchers “show for the first time that 3-month-old infants can learn same and different relations and “humans’ fluency in relational learning — [is] our ability to make comparisons between objects, events or ideas. . . ,”said Dedre Gentner, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and a senior author of the study, “Three-month-old infants can learn abstract relations before language comprehension.

We know babies prefer people to things. People power works at all ages. Seeing it at work in New York makes me a believer—the exposure by parent and child together to such a varied and stimulating environment is wonderful. And, there is an additional benefit, positive emotion toward the parent. Yes, another Science Daily study finding.

Babble with babies! Sing and keep singing! Talk and keep talking! Use vocabulary that challenges! Expose and explore! Take advantage of museums and other places around you! All of this was clearly visible on the streets of New York. Yes, I am a believer. Children raised in New York City have reason to become more sophisticated and cultured, and develop an extensive vocabulary.

It is time to take the grandchildren on an annual trip to New York City.






Previous posts to take a look at:

Top Eight Tips for Visiting New York City With Toddlers and Preschoolers

Top Eight Tips for Visiting New York City With Toddlers and Preschoolers


Perfect New York City Vacation for Grandchildren with Grandma and Grandpa

Perfect New York City Vacation for Grandchildren with Grandma and Grandpa


New York Broadway Plays for Grandchildren

New York Broadway Plays for Grandchildren


Exploring the MET: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a Hidden Treasure Destination for Grandchildren

Exploring the MET: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a Hidden Treasure Destination for Grandchildren

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