A Baby’s First Five Years

Baby Learning

What occurs during the first five years of a baby’s life can have an enormous impact on how well a baby develops throughout its lifetime. A portion of a baby’s brain cells are prewired at birth, however much of a baby’s development is based on learning that takes place during the important first five years.  According to a recent WebMD article by Colette Bouchez (http://tinyurl.com/m673joe) one-on-one parent-to-baby contact is the key to successful growth and development of a baby during this critical initial period of the child’s life.

There have been many toys, books, videos and other learning tools that are promoted to be able to help an infant develop its intelligence during the initial years of its life. The article by Colette Bouchez, however, points out that all the baby really needs to boost its brainpower is its parents.  Paying close personal attention to the baby is its best learning tool.  This includes talking to the baby, playing with the baby and paying attention to what interests the baby.  This is really the best way to stimulate the baby’s brain to grow and develop. Bouchez suggests while reading to the baby the parent should point to pictures and then use them to identify shapes, animals and other things that engages their interest.  This is much better than sitting the baby in front of a television and assuming he or she is happy.

Photo by Thomas – http://tinyurl.com/n6g6525

Sponsor – This article on a baby’s growth and development is sponsored by Zodiacals™ Baby, a line of soft and cuddly t-shirts, body suits and coveralls for infants in sizes 3-24 months available in supermarkets and online at www.zodiacals.com.

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Picking a Name for an Asian Baby

Asian Baby III

Many Asians, when having babies after coming to the United States, begin a search to find the right name for the baby. Some prospective parents choose to give the baby an Asian name.  For many, picking an Asian name is easier because the Asian parents are often familiar with appropriate names and the meaning of these names.  Others, however, search for an appropriate western name in English.  This can be much more difficult because the meaning and popularity of these names is less clear.  The popularity of names for babies in the Western world changes over time and a great name 50 years ago may no longer be popular.

There are some names like James and Emma that have been around for centuries and are still popular in the western world. According to a recent article in AARP’s Home & Family online magazine (http://tinyurl.com/leglz7u) however, there are many names for babies that are quickly dying out.  The following is a list of 36 names that, according to AARP, are in danger of becoming extinct:  Angela, Bertram, Beverly, Carol, Cecil, Clarence, Clive, Cyril, Debra, Diane, Donna, Dean, Doris, Dennis, Derek, Duncan, Elaine, Ernest, Geoffrey, Horace, Joanne, Leonard, Maureen, Malcolm, Nigel, Neville, Paula, Roy, Sally, Sandra, Sharon, Sheila, Tracey, Wendy, Yvonne, Wayne.

The AARP article reports that 50 years ago the most popular girls’ names were Lisa, Kimberly, Michelle, Mary and Susan, while the most popular boys’ names were Michael, David, James, John and Robert. Names that are now starting to rise in popularity, however, are quite different.  They include names such as Tahiti, Koa, Calista, Alizeh and Ines.  These new trends in western names make picking a name for the new bundle of joy particularly difficult for prospective Asian parents.

Photo by Sodanie Chea – http://tinyurl.com/kg4c3dr

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Chinatown in Havana Cuba

Chinatown in Cuba

As I passed through the dramatic Chinese-style gate to Barrio Chino de La Habana (Chinatown in Havana) I was shocked to find a lack of any Chinese people on the streets. I expected to see small stores selling things like scallion pancakes and tons of people speaking various dialects of the Chinese language.  There were a few Cuban style Chinese restaurants but nothing like what you would find in the Chinatowns of New York, Houston or San Francisco.  The only language I heard people speaking was Spanish and I saw no Asian faces.

I was told that at one time Havana’s Chinatown was one of the largest in all of Latin America. Starting in 1847, hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in to replace the labor of African slaves. After completing 8-year contracts, the Chinese immigrants generally settled permanently in Cuba, where their descendants have since intermarried with local Cubans.  After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, however, most of the Chinese Cuban entrepreneurs fled the country for the United States. Since that time Cuba has not attracted Chinese immigrants.  The redevelopment of Havana’s Chinatown would require huge investments and the current political conditions in Cuba are not favorable to this.

As I walked around Barrio Chino I ran into a Chinese Language School that was mainly teaching Cuban children to speak Chinese and learn about the Chinese culture. Although all of the staff personnel I met were Cubans they were doing a good job of exposing Cuban children to Chinese traditions and language.  The school also introduced me to a magnificent Chinese martial arts school located within the gates of  Barrio Chino de La Habana.  This became one of the highlights of my visit to Cuba.

Photo by Laura – http://tinyurl.com/lkuja56

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Tai Chi in Havana Cuba

Cuba Tai Chi

This week I had an amazing experience practicing tai chi in Havana Cuba. There is an incredible Chinese martial arts school in Havana’s China Town where many locals gather in the mornings to practice tai chi. The name of the school is Escuela Cubana de Wushu and it is headed by Master Roberto Vargas Lee.  Master Lee is an accomplished martial artist who received a 4th degree black belt in karate before he began studying Chinese martial arts in China  He is now a world-class master of wushu and tai chi and heads one of the largest martial arts schools in the western world.

We arrived at Escuela Cubana de Wushu at 7:15 AM and were greeted by around 20 locals who had also arrived early to stretch and get ready for tai chi. Within the next 15 minutes there were at least 60 people filling the practice area.  Their ages ranged from their mid-thirties to their seventies and eighties.  One of the women told me she was 92 years old and had been practicing tai chi regularly for many years.  Around a third of the participants were male.  Everybody was wearing a silk Chinese jacket of various colors and several were wearing a complete silk tai chi uniform.

The Escuela Cubana de Wushu complex is one of the best martial arts training schools I have seen anywhere in the world. There is a huge outside courtyard that comfortably held the 60 plus people in our morning tai chi group.  In addition, there is an indoor training hall with Chinese decorations and martial arts weapons tastefully displayed on the walls.  Each training hall has a raised stage where the instructors are located so everyone can clearly see them.  An excellent speaker system broadcasts music and instructions, making it easy and fun to perform the tai chi forms.  With a large ying yang painted on the floor, the beautiful Chinese decorations and the Chinese flag flying next to the Cuban flag I felt like I was in an authentic martial arts school somewhere in China.

Photo by Tiffany Chang.  All Rights Reserved

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Chinese American Artist Featured At Sterling Oaks

Shaolin Monkey

Award-winning Chinese American artist Tiffany Chang is being featured this month in the Sterling Oaks clubhouse in Naples Florida. Her art encompasses a variety of different bodies of work and includes a collection of oil paintings based on the animals of the Chinese zodiac.  Two of these animals, the Shaolin Monkey and the Tai Chi Rabbit will be on display during the Sterling Oaks exhibition.  Selections from her Garden collection will also be on display including a series of large oil paintings of exotic flowers found in Naples.  Using her unique style she has dramatized these flowers to maximize their impact to the viewer.  Her entire garden collection can be seen on her website www.tiffanychang.us.

Artist Tiffany Chang was born in Shanghai, China and raised in Taipei, Taiwan where she started her training as an artist at the age of 10. She now lives in Naples, Florida during the winter months.  She initially trained in Chinese calligraphy and brush painting.  In her early 20’s she transitioned to western art while she studied oil painting.  She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California and a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.

Artwork © Tiffany Chang.  All Rights Reserved

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Kung Fu Granny

Kung Fu Granny III

I have long believed that continuous practice of kung fu and/or tai chi would help one maintain a healthy long life. The article Kung Fu Granny by Chieu Luu and Nanlin Fang published by CNN on February 19, 2017 reinforced this belief.  Zhang Hexian, a 93-year-old grandmother started practicing kung fu when she was four and still wakes up at 5 a.m. to practice each morning.  She has been practicing kung fu for 89 years.  Kung fu has been a tradition in her family for more than 300 years.

Ms. Zhang says “to have good body you need to exercise and keep a positive attitude”. She credits kung fu, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet for keeping her healthy.  She has never had to go to a hospital.  Zhang, who lives in China’s southeastern Zhejiang province says all of her family members have learned kung fu.  She believes it instills discipline and strength.  She also feels it is a good way to learn self defense.  I personally have been practicing either tai chi or kung fu several times a week for over 25 years and I feel great.  Hopefully I can also keep doing it until I am 93.

Photo by CNN – http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/19/asia/china-kung-fu-granny-trnd/index.html

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Children and the Chinese Spring Festival

Spring Festival

The Chinese Spring Festival is the most important period in the Chinese calendar. It begins on Chinese New Year with the new moon and ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival on the next full moon.  In 2017 the Chinese New Year falls on January 28th on the Western calendar.  This is the Year of the Rooster according to the Chinese zodiac.  The Spring Festival is the longest public holiday in China.  Most employees take at least seven days off work and many students take off a whole month.  It is a time for the whole family to get together, similar to the Christmas holidays for westerners.

This is a great time to get kids involved in the spirit of the Chinese New Year celebrations by making their own crafts and wearing clothing that celebrates the event. In China children spend months making crafts for the New Year celebrations.  You can get your kids into the spirit by having them make their own Chinese dragons or their own Rooster masks to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.  Even babies can participate by wearing t-shirts, body suits and coveralls featuring the rooster.  There is a whole variety of such clothing for children and babies available in online stores such as www.amazon.com and www.zodiacals.com.

Photo by Emran Kassim – http://tinyurl.com/jv8gh4o

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Predicting Your Baby’s Personality

zodiacals-header-sign-tc-drawing-12-26-16

The Chinese believe that each baby starts life with an inherited set of personality traits. Some traits are obvious almost from birth; others will become apparent by 3 or 4 months. Parents can have a tremendous influence on how a baby develops but you cannot change your baby’s inborn personality. To gain insight into what your baby will become there are a number of things you can look for. Does your baby smile at just about anyone who scoops him up or does he seem to have been born with stranger anxiety?  Does your baby typically go with the flow or does she refuse to sleep anywhere but in her own crib? Does your baby fuss at the slightest provocation or is she seldom set off by changes in her environment or routine?

Many Asians believe much of a baby’s inborn personality is based on the 2,000 year old Chinese zodiac. It is felt that babies born in certain years will have personality traits that will follow them throughout their lives.  There are many sources that provide insight into the personality traits of the different signs of the Chinese zodiac.  The infants’ wear brand Zodiacals™, for example, prints the characteristics of the three most recent signs right on their labels. Babies born in the year of the rooster tend to be trustworthy, sociable, sharp and very accomplished.  Babies born in the year of the monkey tend to be clever, curious, charismatic and extremely inventive.  Babies born in the year of the goat tend to be artistic, sensitive, sweet and charming.

Artwork by Tiffany Chang, All Rights Reservedwww.tiffanychang.us 

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Why You Should Practice Tai Chi

world-tai-chi-day

If you are looking for a relaxing way to stay physically active and vital, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be the answer. I practice tai chi several times each week and find it a great way to improve my flexibility and balance.  Whether you practice tai chi at home, in a formal class or outside in a park with a group the same benefits apply.  The slow deliberate movements and breathing exercises can help your circulation, improve your balance and restore your energy.

The slow graceful movements of tai chi flow together without pause putting minimal stress on your joints and muscles. As you flow from move to move you use your entire body including your core muscles, your arms, your legs and even the muscles in your back.  These movements help improve your flexibility and even in a subtle way increase your strength. Tai chi is not intended to provide aerobic exercise and you should supplement tai chi with some type of aerobic exercise like walking.  I combine my tai chi exercise with kung fu and tae kwon do, which I find gives me the best of both worlds.

Photo by Brian Robinson – http://tinyurl.com/jm86zhd 

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Which Rooster Artwork Should Be Featured on Baby Clothes?

body-suit-with-rooster-headbody-suit-with-multiple-roosters

All babies born next year (Chinese calendar) will be born in the Year of the Rooster. The Chinese believe this is a good thing because these babies will grow up to be hard working and resourceful adults. Because of this there will be many baby products available next year that will feature images of the rooster.  One of these products will be baby body suits by Zodiacals™.  The company is considering two versions of the rooster for next year’s baby body suits.  The first is a body suit with only the rooster’s head and the second is one large and several small rooster heads.  The decision as to which version to go with has not yet been made.  Which of these do you prefer?  Should the Zodiacals body suits feature one head or multiple heads?

Artwork by Tiffany Chang, All Rights Reservedwww.tiffanychang.us 

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