Babies are designed to learn. Their brains, loaded with as many neurons as there are stars in our galaxy, are primed to take in new sights, sounds, touches, tastes, smells, and feelings. Their brains are so busy during our babies’ first few years on the planet that they build trillions of neural synapses.
However, the learning ability of babies does not mean that we can just leave them alone to learn all on their own. No, we have got to help them so that they take full advantage of these wondrous first few years. This is how we can do so.
The ability to talk is of course of prime importance and the development of this ability is one in which parents play a very important role. The easiest way to go about this is by talking to your baby as much as you can during the day. Keep a running verbal narrative going about what you and your baby are doing such as, “I am now going to fix breakfast for you. We will eat mashed bananas and milk. Later we will bathe, dress, and go to the park.”
Going hand-in-hand with this speaking to your baby as much as possible is reading to your baby every chance you get. Of course, you will start with picture books, but soon you can move on to books with simple sentences. Reading to your child will pay dividends by teaching her that reading is something you do and is something that is enjoyable. Your child will tend to love doing what you love doing.
Don’t watch television or even videos that are geared for kids for at least the first couple years of your baby’s life. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than two should not watch any television whatsoever and children older than two should get no more than two hours of screen time a day. The problem with television is that it is not interactive and therefore does not actually help your baby improve his speaking ability.
Get Out and Explore
Bring your child everywhere it is appropriate. Kids need to explore libraries, children’s museums, zoos and aquariums, malls, and, of course, parks. Encouraging your baby or toddler to explore the world will strengthen his muscles, increase his independence, and help him create a desire to learn about new places, new activities, and new people and animals. And, since you will keep a running verbal narrative going during this excursions, your baby’s vocabulary will explode!
Your baby needs more than brain and body learning. Give her heart and her emotions some learning too. Hang out with her and touch her, rub her, and hug her. Let her know that you love her and that she is important to you. Show her that she is safe and cherished by cuddling with her.
Laugh with her. Gently tickle her. Let her know she makes you feel good and happy. In turn, she will learn how to share her emotions and feelings. She will learn how to be emotionally healthy.
Finally, have fun with your baby. Make up silly games using items such as hooded towels or actual toys. And, let him take the lead too and put the hooded towel on your head or a plush toy in your pocket. We all need to learn how to have fun.