I’m sure you don’t go a day without hearing about the latest and best way to stimulate your baby, make them smart and turn them into baby Einsteins! From specialty classes to toys, gadgets and more, we are constantly being bombarded with information and “expert” advice on the latest and best way to help your baby thrive. Let me tell you now, it is really very simple and it does not require any money, gadgets or specialty classes. All it involves is you and your baby, and that’s it!
Lately, I have been seeing a lot about the importance of stimulating your baby – from sensory classes to specialty products. Remember, the world is brand new to a baby and everything they experience is engaging their senses and developing their brain. In fact, when we pile on too much sensory stimulation we are actually hindering our babies rather than helping them!! Our babies become overwhelmed, overstimulated, tired and just plain worn out ( see The Case for Quiet Time – How Sensory Overload Causes Stress in Babies). More often than not, the simpler things are the best things.
It is very easy to get caught up in the rush of life, to push our babies to do more faster, sooner and earlier. In this process, we forget to stop and marvel at all the amazing things they are ALREADY doing. We forget to appreciate the natural process of child development and mother nature. We forget to stop and enjoy all those little moments. We are always reaching for the next thing – when will they roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, etc, etc. Before you know it your little baby is in school and you are looking back wishing you could have that little squishy baby back in your arms.
Everything you need to help your baby thrive, grow and develop is right there at home, with you. No pressure, no specialty classes, no expensive products. So what are these magical things that baby needs?
Touch is the most fundamental aspect of child development. Without loving touch babies cannot thrive. Simple as that.
How you touch and handle your baby will determine how they react to the world and will affect their relationships with others. Touch your baby gently, hold them close, enjoy skin to skin contact, massage them, carry them, kiss them. All of these things, which are simple to do and free, will help your baby thrive, bond and develop healthy and happy relationships with others and with themselves. Loving touch helps lower stress, increase oxytocin, and creates feelings of happiness and comfort. When a baby is feeling happy, healthy, and loved they are in an optimal state to learn, develop and thrive.
Newborn babies eyes are still developing. They can see best when an object or face is 7 to 12 inches away. Over time you will notice your baby’s eyes start to focus and they will begin to make eye contact with you for longer periods of time.
When you make eye contact with your baby while communicating, your baby learns that you are communicating specifically with them. Eye contact helps your baby feel loved. It shows them that your attention is fully on them, that they are important and that they matter to you. Your baby can see your mouth moving and notice your facial features and expressions. This helps them begin to develop an understanding of language and communication. They begin to associate certain words with specific expressions, they learn that a smile is pleasant and loving, and a frown may mean something is wrong. Your baby’s language development will benefit from eye contact and face to face interactions much more than watching a TV program or staring at flash cards. It will also help them feel loved and secure and will strengthen the bond between you and your baby.
Talking to your baby throughout the day about everything and anything is a wonderful way to connect and engage your baby. Point out things you see, like birds, colours, lights, etc. Talk about how things feel (soft, rough, hard, smooth). Talk through what you are doing, for example when changing them, “I’m taking off your shirt now. Let’s put on your diaper (nappy).” Talking to your baby not only develops their language and communication but it also helps them discover more about the world around them. You don’t need fancy baby sensory toys to engage an infants sense, simply engaging them in all the sensory experiences around them is enough! (e.g. a soft blanket, the warmth of the sun, a hard wooden spoon, a bright light)
Reactions and Responses
How we react and respond to our babies plays a big role in their development. Responding to their cries, babbles, and other noises with interest and compassion encourages them to communicate, build relationships and engage others in their world. It also helps them to feel loved, respected and cared for.
Responding positively to your baby’s interests and communications will encourage them to continue to explore, engage, communicate, learn and thrive! If they feel safe and secure, they will have the confidence to engage in the world around them and soak up all the amazing learning opportunities that happen each day.
The most important things in a baby’s life are their main caregiver (whether that be a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, or someone else!) It is your daily interactions with baby that will benefit them the most! Your relationship with baby is more important than any class you can attend or gadget you can buy. The connection made between you and baby will stay with them throughout their life, it will help them thrive, learn, grow and develop. You are good enough! Don’t let the media try and tell you otherwise. Know that you can provide the best for your baby by just being there for them, being present and aware, loving and caring for them each day.
Questions, comments, concerns? I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below or get in touch. Have you found something that works wonders for you and your baby? Share in the comments below and help others just like you! We are here to support one another on this amazing journey of parenthood and childhood! Love and Kindness – Brittany