Many mothers-to-be and new mothers have questions about child development and how they can best interact with their baby.
Below, I address some of the most common questions I receive, from stimulating your baby’s senses to helping develop their language and curiosity.
How can I stimulate my newborn’s sense of sight and hearing?
Let’s begin by talking about babies’ hearing. Babies can hear before they are born, at around 23 weeks, so ideally you should think about starting in pregnancy to develop your child’s sense of hearing. The best way of doing this is to use your voice, singing and talking to your unborn baby. After birth your baby will recognise and turn to the sound of your voice. This can also be a powerful tool in soothing your baby when they are upset.
Regarding sight, from birth babies can see but their sight is still in the process of developing. Strong regular patterns, such as black and white mobiles, help the visual pathways in their brain to develop. But the best thing you can do is to use your face as your baby’s first toy. Newborns are programmed to look at faces and show preferences for their parents’ face. So you can combine stimulating their sense of hearing and sight by holding your infant so that they see your face while talking and singing to them. And then just watch as they respond with facial expressions that will mirror yours! As well as being helpful for your baby, it can be great fun for you.
How should I interact with my six-month-old to help her develop her language?
Six months old is a time when you can really see what your child’s temperament is like – active, quiet or somewhere in between. Keep this in mind when playing with her and look out for signs that say, ‘I’ve had enough’. There is also a burst in development of motor skills and understanding, so playing turn-taking games can become fun for both of you, especially involving sounds and words your child can copy. Making something fun is the best way to support development.
When out and about, ideally have a buggy that faces towards you. Research shows that this supports language development as you can share and point at things you see and this encourages your baby to communicate with you and you with her.
My son, who’s one, is very inquisitive, and is always touching things and trying to put things in his mouth.
How can I develop this positively?
This stage of development is about increasing independence and can lead to parents getting into situations of conflict with their child. Sometimes parents feel they are forever saying ‘no’. Your son is showing you his character and strength of curiosity in the world and this is to be celebrated. He is using his hands and mouth to taste and to feel these exciting new textures and tastes. This is something to support and encourage and can be an exciting time for you both. You can try to use this desire for knowing more about the world to encourage finger feeding and to explore new tastes and textures. Giving him finger-sized pieces of fruit and vegetables, and other sorts of food and things you don’t mind that he puts in his mouth, helps him to explore and to enjoy a sense of independence.
I’d like to build a great relationship with my child. Can you offer some general tips?
There are many things that you can do on an everyday basis to help your child enjoy play, explore, learn, feel good about themselves and notice your love and approval. A variety of ‘child-centred’ behaviours can be helpful. Praise – responding positively and expressing approval clearly – is valuable. Phrases including, “I like it when you…”, “That is lovely…” and “I’m pleased that you…” are all important. Eye contact is also effective. Establish eye contact, smile at them in a friendly way, and make sure you have eye contact when you are saying something important. Additionally, don’t underestimate the importance of touch. Reward your child with warm, affectionate touches such as a stroke on the arm or back, hugs and kisses. Remember, these are only rewarding and positive if your child enjoys them, so be sensitive to this. Some children like a gentle stroke on the arm but wouldn’t like a big hug! Combining these child-centred behaviours will make it more likely that your child will behave in ways that you like and help you build a great relationship.
Alison is a Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years of experience working with mothers, babies and families. Alison has particular expertise in helping women enjoy pregnancy and life with their child. She specialises in the wellbeing of mums-to-be, parent-infant bonding, and providing infant and child development advice. With extensive training and experience, Alison can help you to understand your baby’s unique personality so you have a positive experience of pregnancy and the postnatal period. For individual advice you can contact Alison direct at: Greatvine.com/alison-knights
Speak to me on 0800 063 1532.
Consultations priced from £15 for 10 minutes