Cincinnati Family Magazine

Your # 1 Hometown Family Resource

May 29, 2024

The Apple of Her Eye

You entertain baby best. Here are six simple ways to support her healthy development.

So you’ve shelled out for all the fancy gizmos and gadgets, right? Hey, you’re a new parent, and you want the best for your baby. You’ve also poured over mountains of information 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. But look, all of the gadgets and gizmos in the world can’t give your baby what he needs most: YOU!

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, and everything that your infant sees, hears or touches will strengthen these pathways. As the pathways mature, 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 his 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’re all free. Here are six simple ways you can support your baby’s healthy development:

1. Talk it Up

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. You can even tell your baby what to say. Say, “cold!” when you take her outside in cool air, for example.

2. Give Him a Hand

Touch is one of your baby’s most effective methods for exploring and learning about the world around him. Your baby’s hands are his first tools, and he will be fascinated by what they can do. Not only will he use his hands to explore new and interesting objects, he will use them to become aware of the boundaries of his 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.

3. What’s That Smell?

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.

4. Play

Floor games offer a wide variety of play options, as well as the opportunity for your baby to perfect his 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 his reach. Give him a few minutes, and see if he wiggles or scoots forward while trying to reach the toys.

5. Rhyme Time

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.

6. Get Silly

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.

Susan Stelfox is a writer, author and mother of one.


fun and games

The next time you and Baby have nothing to do, give some of these classics a whirl:

  • This Little Piggy
  • Patty-Cake
  • Peekaboo
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

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