Babies begin learning from the moment of birth. The most important keys to promoting your baby’s optimum brain development are being attentive to his needs and providing a stimulating environment within an atmosphere of love. Here are some simple ways you can stimulate your baby’s development during your routine daily care and activities.
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- Interacting With Your Baby. Your consistent, warm, tender, loving responses to your baby’s cries tell her that you are glad she is here, that she is worthy and loved, and that you will meet all her needs. Diapering, feeding, dressing and bathing provide intimate social experiences that build essential trust between you and your baby. Through your daily interactions, your baby learns to recognize your face, voice, smell and touch. Touch (carrying, cuddling, caressing, rocking) is one of the first ways your baby learns about the world, and the bonding fostered by human touch is essential for social and emotional development. Your baby is most attentive when she is in a quiet, alert state—calm and focused. Take advantage of these precious moments when she is most receptive to learning about you and her environment.
- Movement. Carrying your baby in your arms, a safe baby carrier, or backpack provides comforting physical contact, while helping him strengthen his trunk muscles and practice balance. Give your baby opportunities to move his body and view the world from different perspectives. Provide ample time each day for him to stretch out on a blanket on the floor and freely exercise his arms and legs. Let him kick and splash and enjoy the sensation of water on his body during bath time. Place him on his tummy for at least 10 minutes each day to help strengthen his upper body and prepare him for rolling over and crawling. Get down on the floor with him face to face to keep him interested while in the prone position.
- Play. Your newborn will be fascinated by gazing at your facial movements and hearing the inflections of your voice as you look at, talk to, sing to, and interact with her. As your baby grows and learns to play with toys, she will develop fine motor skills, learn eye-hand coordination, and gain increased competence. Choose interesting toys that are age appropriate and safe, including nesting objects, blocks and building toys, and toys that require your baby’s active participation. Play time promotes the most learning and confidence when you remain nearby and lovingly share your baby’s delight in her new discoveries. As she gets older, interactive games, like pat-a-cake and bye-bye, begin to teach your baby about reciprocal social skills, and playing peek-a-boo helps her remember that something out of sight still exists.
- Language. Talk to your baby as if he can understand you. Most parents naturally find themselves using “parent-ese,” a form of speech in which you exaggerate your words and facial expressions when talking to your baby in a high-pitched voice. Describe what you are doing as you feed, diaper, bathe, and dress him. By two months, your baby will reward your efforts by smiling and attempting to “talk back,” using cooing sounds. Such “dialogue” and “conversations” encourage reciprocal interactions, as you begin a communication dance. When you imitate your baby’s vocalizations, you are affirming his efforts and encouraging him to keep talking back. Align your speech pattern with your baby’s emotional state to show that you understand the feelings he is trying to convey. Express empathy, in your words and tone of voice, whenever your baby is upset, “There, there, I know you are hungry. I am going to feed you now.” Reflect his excitement when he laughs or squeals, “Yes, you are a very happy boy!”