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Peek-a-boo! Playtime Helps Baby Develop an Optimistic Outlook On Life

By Karen Millard

A baby’s unselfconscious laughter is one of the happiest sounds you’ll ever hear. But did you know that by playing with your baby, you’re doing much more than simply having fun?

peek-a-boo-baby-playtime.jpgThose adoring gazes you share; all those games of patty-cake; the suspense-filled moments waiting for the jack-in-the-box to appear and the excited laughter when it does, are all helping baby develop an optimistic outlook on life and an ability to regulate his own moods.

Newborn babies are helpless in more ways than one. Unable to affect their own circumstances in even the smallest of ways, they’re also unable to control their own feelings. When they’re sad, they’re sad. There’s nothing they can do on their own to change their emotional state. They depend entirely on mom, or other caregivers, to soothe and comfort them; to help them navigate out of a sea of unpleasant sensation into calmer waters.

In fact, experts say, the job of regulating a baby’s inner state is one of the most important tasks of early parenthood. A mom who is responsive to her baby’s cries is teaching him that it is possible to move from a state of distress to one of contentment.

Of course, before many months have passed, baby will have to learn how to accomplish the feat for himself.

And this is where playtime comes in.

When you spend time playing with baby, making him coo and smile and laugh, you’re initiating and – most important – sharing his pleasurable experiences.

All this sharing, or what experts call “positive amplification” of baby’s emotions, helps baby learn to invoke pleasurable sensations in himself and to tolerate greater intensity of sensation before becoming overwhelmed.

And you thought you were just playing peek-a-boo!

About the Author:
Karen Millard is writer-in-residence at Give your optimism a boost and learn how you can make a difference in this world!

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