Parents: Expert eye

Could your child do with an extra hour's kip? In this study, one sample of 10- to 12-year-olds were sent to bed an hour earlier than usual, another sample an hour later. Remarkably, just this one-hour change led to significant improvements in memory, reaction times and brain function in the kids who had extra sleep. Implication: We might have been spared Mrs Thatcher had she slept more than four hours a night. - Child Development, 74, 2, 444-64 Blackwell-synergy

· Autonomy is vital to well-being: Teenagers who are primarily motivated by people-pleasing of parents, peers or teachers are unable to enjoy themselves. Already highly self-critical, they are liable to set themselves impossible standards and to be disconnected from their own ideas of what would be pleasurable (eg masturbation, pigging out on ice cream). Implication: If your kid is a people-pleaser, tell them to ignore your injunctions (except this one). - Developmental Psychology, 39, 3, 470-83

· Twins speak later: Twins are on average three months behind singletons in acquiring language. How mothers relate to offspring hugely influences when they talk. The increased demands on mothers with twins mean they relate less frequently and less fully to them, ergo, the speech delay. Implication: forget the idea that one of your twins will be a talkshow host. - Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 3, 342-355 Blackwell-synergy

· Why toddlers toddle: Practice makes perfect for learning to walk. When babies start out, they propel themselves forward by falling downward while they stand on one foot and then catch themselves with the moving foot.

Adults push upwards with the leg supporting the body rather than lurching forward. This study of 210 infants found that the more they practised, the quicker the relevant muscles and bits of brain developed for the upward push. Once they start walking, on average they spend six hours a day practising. They average between 500 and 1,500 steps per hour, walking the length of 29 football pitches a day. The more they do this, the quicker they get the hang of it. Implication: when they are crawling, hold them up by the hands and encourage walking. - Child Development, 74, 2, 475-97 Blackwell-synergy

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