Forget the “Super-Baby” Syndrome: You Entertain Baby Best
Six simple ways to support your baby’s healthy development
As new parents, you want the best for your baby, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure his well-being. Therefore, you’ll buy all sorts of fancy gizmos, and pour through mountains of information about all of the products and resources that claim they can turn your infant into a “super-baby” who will be intellectually advanced, happier, or “improved” in some miraculous way. However, all of the gadgets and gizmos in the world can’t give your baby what he or she needs most – which is YOU!
In actuality, infant development experts have discovered that your behavior – how you interact and respond to your baby – is the key to stimulating your infant’s emotional and intellectual growth. During his first years, your baby’s brain will develop billions of pathways. Everything that your infant sees, hears, or touches during his earliest years of life will strengthen these pathways. As the pathways mature in your baby’s brain, they will enable your baby to think, learn and eventually talk.
To stimulate growth, infants don’t require expensive toys; they learn by doing. In addition to loving, nurturing care, what they most need are new things to try. Therefore, if you want to provide nourishment for your infant’s mind, offer experiences that stimulate your baby’s senses, as well as encourage his interaction with his surroundings. For example, holding, cuddling, playing, talking and other similar kinds of nurturing activities all stimulate brain development. And they are all free!
Here are six simple ways you can support your baby’s healthy development:
Talk to your baby to help him develop language skills. Long before babies begin to form words, they are learning language and creating “conversations.” Encourage your baby’s vocabulary to grow by repeating the sounds he makes back to him. Play a face-to-face game as you interact. Enunciate each word clearly so he can see how your mouth moves. Imitate your baby’s sounds and gestures, and add to them. When he makes a certain sound, tell him actual words that start with that sound. Then, pause for a moment and give him a chance to respond.
Touch is one of your baby’s most effective methods for exploring and learning about the world around her. Your baby’s hands are her first tools, and she will be fascinated by what they can do. Not only will she use her hands to explore new and interesting objects, she will use them to become aware of the boundaries of her own body. Let your baby touch and handle a variety of textured and smooth objects, as long as they are nontoxic and safe. Try materials that are gentle to the touch, such as velvet, fur, silk, or terry cloth. Wooden building blocks, plastic balls, rubber squeak toys, cloth books, or crumpled paper can also provide another set of interesting textures.
Introduce scents to your baby since pleasant aromas will enhance his sensory awareness. Try lotions, perfumes or after shave—any mild pleasing scents. Use everyday activities to explore the discovery of scents. For example, while you are cooking, let him smell the cinnamon, then the vanilla, or cut up pieces of fragrant fruit or fresh herbs and hold them under his nose. When you are outdoors, introduce him to the scents of nature. Let him feel the soft petals and smell the fragrance of fresh blossoms or cut grass.
Floor games offer a wide variety of play options, as well as the opportunity for your baby to perfect her new motor skills. Since babies are fascinated by objects that move, use brightly colored balls for bouncing and rolling fun. As your baby gains better physical control, try placing one or two colorful toys just out of her reach. Give her a few minutes, and see if she wiggles or scoots forward while trying to reach the toys.
Recite nursery rhymes. Rhymes and poems that demonstrate an up-and-down rhythm and tone emphasize the musical characteristics of language. Rhymes will help your infant link certain words with certain actions. In combination with gestures, rhymes will also aid in improving your child’s memory and anticipation skills. As your child grows older, these familiar nursery rhymes will also help in the beginning phases of reading. So, build a repertoire of songs and rhymes, and sing, say, or play them frequently.
Silly face games are great fun for you and your baby. Different facial expressions and sounds help develop your baby’s vision and hearing. Sing a song and use exaggerated facial movements and gestures. Smile wide, act surprised, blink your eyes, or wiggle your nose. Make different sounds—pop air through your cheeks, yawn, or sneeze. You can even make peek-a-boo toys out of cardboard toilet paper tubes and paper towel cylinders. The more animated you act the more delighted your baby will be.
Always celebrate and praise each little step your baby achieves as he develops. By recognizing his behavior, he will learn that his actions matter. Acknowledge his attempts as well as his accomplishments, since both are equally important. As you consistently validate his achievements, you will also help him to establish a positive self-image, which is critical to the development of his personality. If you give your baby the opportunity to develop this positive awareness of himself right from the earliest stages of his life, his feelings of success will further his incentive to achieve.
About the Author:
Susan Stelfox, mother of one, is the author of Baby Be Loved: Growing and Learning Together During the First 24 Weeks. To learn more about infant bonding and play visit http://www.BabyBeLoved.com
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