When a baby is born, everything that happens is a new experience. Your little one is taking things in and learning about the world all the time. Your baby is learning to understand sights and sounds and smells and touches. Eventually, your little one will learn to sit up, crawl, and then walk. What can you do to help your baby develop?
Understanding Baby Brains And Senses
Babies’ brains are like tiny sponges, soaking up all the experiences around them. Those sights and sounds get woven into the baby’s identity and steer the baby’s development.
Baby senses are as acute as ours – babies can see and hear as well as adults. However, they don’t have the mental architecture to make sense of what they’re seeing and hearing. They also don’t have the control to focus their eyes on objects farther than about a foot away. For the first few weeks, the baby’s whole world is just a few feet wide. Of course, that’s a lot bigger than the womb the baby just left!
As they grow and develop, their world will get a whole lot bigger and they’ll be able to explore it. Remember that every child is different and will develop at a different pace. This is just a general guide to what to expect. If you’re worried that your child is developing too slowly, you can always contact your doctor to ask for advice.
The First Months
When you bring a new baby home, there will be a lot of crying and feeding and diapers and not a lot of sleep. Your baby won’t be able to sit up or move around without help. However, even newborns can lift and turn their heads when they’re lying on their tummies. Your baby will learn to recognize your voice quickly and may be able to turn and look at you when you speak.
Even at this early stage, your baby is taking in new experiences and developing a sense of the world. It’s important to get lots of physical contact with your little one to help reinforce the strong emotional bonds between parents and children and to make the baby feel safe and protected. Give your child “tummy time” – time lying face down – to help strengthen the neck and back muscles.
You should start talking, reading, and singing to your baby right away. You don’t need to use baby talk; some experts even recommend against it. Even though your baby can’t understand everything you’re saying, you’re building an emotional bond and helping your baby get used to hearing language. You might be able to start playing simple game like peekaboo.
Your baby is now able to smile and mimic some of the facial expressions and sounds you make. Over this time period, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up, and pick up objects. Your little one is learning to see better and can recognize objects and faces.
This is a crucial time for your baby’s development. Spend lots of time cuddling and interacting. Keep talking and reading to your child. Point out what you’re talking about and point at pictures in books as you read them to help your child learn the connection between words and the world. When your baby babbles and mimics your sounds, show excitement to encourage the behavior. Give your little one toys to help improve coordination and fine motor skills.
As your child becomes more mobile, you’ll need to baby-proof your home to make sure there aren’t any dangerous objects or sharp edges within reach.
7 Months – 1 Year
Your little one is fast becoming mobile. It starts with sitting up without help and progresses to scooting and crawling. Those precious first steps may even happen before your baby’s first birthday. Keep a close eye on your baby-proofing – you’ll be surprised what they can get into!
The baby’s mental and emotional development is happening just as fast as the physical development. During this time, you’ll probably hear baby’s first words. The baby will learn to point and make other gestures and sounds to get your attention. This time is especially important for the development of language, so keep talking and reading! Talk about what you’re doing when you’re with the baby, even if it’s just narrating a recipe or pointing out things that are happening when you take a walk.
Babies at this age may start to show interest in stacking toys and containers as they learn more about the space around them. Make sure to provide plenty of play time!
Happy First Birthday!
Your little one is now a year old and still growing fast. Over this year, your baby will learn to walk, climb stairs, kick, climb the furniture, and even run around. While teenagers usually get the bad rap for demanding independence, it really starts here. Your little one will want to learn to do everything, from picking up utensils to getting dressed. Offer choices of food or clothing to foster independence and self esteem.
At this age, your baby will be able to understand and follow simple instructions and respond with simple words and phrases. As ever, keep talking and reading to your little one to increase verbal skills. Practice identifying shapes, colors, and familiar objects and answer any questions your baby asks. You may even be able to start identifying numbers and letters. When you read together, ask your toddler questions about the book as you go. All of these habits will help your baby develop strong language skills, which are linked to higher intelligence and better performance at school.
Your baby may enjoy imitating you, pretending to cook or drive or talk on the phone. Encourage this type of play and participate by asking questions about what your baby is doing. Imaginative play is important for healthy mental development.
This year can be a frustrating one – more independence means more opportunities to get into trouble. Set simple boundaries with clear consequences and always follow through with them calmly. Your little one is just learning self-control and won’t master it for a long time (decades, for some us). Try not to get angry or yell and remember to reinforce positive behavior with praise and encouragement.
Are You Ready?
These first few years of your child’s life are exciting and exhausting and sometimes a little nerve-wracking. It’s ok to be confused and uncertain about how to be a parent and it’s ok to ask for advice. It’s also ok to turn down advice – you need to make the choices that are right for your child and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do what other people think is best.
Being a parent isn’t easy, but we know you’ll be great at it!