So, you’ve brought all the age-appropriate toys, books and games, but sometimes the hardest part is, what do I actually do with my baby?
Some days you feel on top of the world and others exhaustion makes even making a cup of tea, that you’re not even going to get to drink, seem like pushing a rock uphill, but your baby will still want and need one to one attention and their number one communication method is crying!
“Babies need a variety of experiences and the key ingredient is one-to-one attention from you” says Jan Blaxall a Professor of Early Childhood studies. Now, we know that, but what can we do to provide that, particularly on days when you really need some peace?
We are constantly told, that every child is different and you know best what your baby needs, and that’s true, but sometimes a little bit of guidance wouldn’t go amiss. So here are some age-related ideas. Hopefully, some will be of use to you.
It’s all about the eye contact.
You are amazing. To your child, you are the most incredible being that has ever existed. They will be comforted just by hearing your voice. They are working so hard to be able to see you clearly and communicate with you. Experts will tell you it’s all about the tummy time, and this is so important for the development of their muscles. I can clearly remember my husband and I dutifully taking off our son’s nappy, lying him on a plastic mat covered in muslin cloths for the all-important nappy free tummy time. And then having to lie down staring at him because he was so unimpressed! Then he had a wee and that was tummy time over.
Instead, we found it much more enjoyable to lie him on our chest and talk to him (nappy off, fingers crossed). Still tummy time, just this time he was searching out our faces. We continued this alongside tummy time games.
We had the time toys, the rolling cylinder, prop up wedge thing, black and white pattern, of course, was he interested? Nope. But our sleep-deprived faces, babbling inane rubbish, amazing. Eye contact was the key.
So instead we began to tickle his nose, his ears, make silly clucky noises and talk in the parentese voice we all use. We began to try little games to see what he liked. Using parenting websites for inspiration we had a variety of success. Here are a few of those:
- You can get amazing mirrors, surrounded by beautiful patterns. Our children just liked their own faces, they still happily stare at themselves completely unselfconsciously! As babies, they were absolutely delighted with themselves. A few encouraging phrases about how clever, gorgeous, amazing they were and a drink and a chocolate bar could be consumed.
Black and white images.
- With our first child, we brought a series of books with different black and white images. They all loved them. I could have drawn them myself. The loved the faces, except the moustache man, he made them frown a lot! A pen and a piece of paper would work. It would probably be better as the books were quite small
- A lot of the time there isn’t anyone else to talk to and you can feel a bit silly having a conversation with a baby, but it is so important to help build their understanding. You often find well-meaning people who will tell you that they will never learn to ‘talk properly’ if you use baby talk, but they are wrong! There an increasing number of studies that show the importance of parentese.
‘The higher pitch, slower rhythm, simplified content, whimsical vocabulary, and compact length of infant-directed speech—commonly referred to as “baby talk” or “parentese”—is just what preverbal young children like to hear from the adults in their lives’
[summarised by the Centre for Early Literacy Learning, CELL]
So it’s not about what you say so much as the way you say it. Describe what you can see, hear and smell. Talk about your day, explain what’s happening around them, talk about relatives. We would show our children pictures of the people in their family and explain who they were, you can be a descriptive as you like (remember it’s all about the way you say it!). It doesn’t matter what you say just keeping talking and keep up the ‘baby talk’.
Sounds and singing
Babies, like sounds, all manner of sounds. Of course, this can be closely linked to parentese but babies enjoy different sounds and they love working out where sounds are coming from. The coos of delight when they identify where that rattle is coming from. Babies enjoy trying to make music too.
Drums-Our children have always enjoyed hitting ‘things’ to make sounds, from young ages they would bat at toys hanging above them and be delighted with the resulting sounds. As they gained more controlled they especially enjoyed hitting saucepans and Tupperware.
Shakers- these worked really well alongside tummy time. Bottles filled with different materials, rice, pasta, dried beans etc can easily be pushed and produce a soothing noise. The great thing about making them is you can vary how heavy they are.
Babies enjoy the rhythm and tempo of nursery rhymes, probably explains why they’ve lasted so long, so dig out some old favourites and see which ones your baby enjoys the most. If you’re not confident or prefer singing in a group, most libraries’ offer baby rhyme time sessions, they’re usually free and you get to meet other new mums too!