Contrary to what your Great Grandmother might have believed, babies do more than just eat, sleep, and poop! From birth, most babies are well-equipped to socialize with others and, in fact, are eager to do so. Warm, playful interactions can really help your baby learn about themselves and about those around them from a very early age; especially Mommies and Daddies. It helps to strengthen their bond with you and gives them a solid foundation for being able to socialize and communicate effectively with you and others early on. The following activities are meant to be easy, engaging, and fun for both you and your baby. If you or your baby don’t seem to be enjoying an activity, please feel free to stop and try something more enjoyable for the both of you. As always, I’m here as a resource for you if something doesn’t feel quite right or if you have any questions or concerns about how your baby is handling an activity. (Denise@SpecialAdvantage.com)
1) Sit in a chair with your baby lying on your legs, feet towards your stomach. Cradle his head in your hands and gently rock your body side to side while you sing or talk to him. Gaze into his eyes while smiling at him. Newborns can reflexively smile at you from a very early age so watch for those. Eventually, around 3 months of age, he’ll start to socially smile back at you while cooing playfully in return. Babies enjoy looking at human faces more than any other visually stimulating objects including rattles, geometric shapes or drawings of human faces. This one-on-one time really helps your baby know there is an extra special bond between you and that you are always there for him.
2) Hold and support your baby face to face while smiling quietly at her. Allow her time to scan your face from top to bottom. Providing her time to explore your face visually (and later, using her hands) helps build her attachment to you. Studies have shown that parents who are more animated in their facial expressions and add pleasurable vocalizations to their playtime have babies who are more securely attached and expressive, so don’t forget to socially engage them in this way.
3) Singing songs to your baby is a great way to help calm him down and sooth him to sleep, very important for social-emotional development. Try singing the following favorites or simply make up your own in the moment!
Hush, Little Baby
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat
And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull
And if that cart and bull turn over,
Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart
And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all.
Ok, I don’t write em’ I just list out the lyrics! 😀 You can also sing a modified version like this one if you prefer:
Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
The wind rocks the cradle, to and fro
Sometimes real high, and sometimes real low. 😀
Lullaby and Goodnight
Lullaby and goodnight
Go to sleep, little ___(baby’s name)___
Time to drift off into dream land
I will keep you safe and warm.
Lullaby and goodnight
There is nothing to fear now
Go to sleep, sweet dreams
When you wake I will be near.
Ok, I admit it. This one I DID modify a bit. I hope you enjoy it! 😀
1) Place an unbreakable mirror in your baby’s crib or next to the diaper changing table. Your baby will enjoy looking at his or her own face in the mirror. She won’t be able to recognize herself until about 15 months old, but she’ll be fascinated by her own tiny reflection and it will help her learn to smile.
2) Whisper your baby’s name in his right ear until he turns towards your voice. Then go near his other ear and whisper his name again until he turns to your voice again. Use his name often when you talk to him throughout your day.
3) Introduce your baby to a wide range of faces and many emotions by creating a baby photo album that you can use for a long while. You can use your own pictures, which is always best if you have them or use pictures from a magazine if you don’t. Simply put them in a small, child-sized photo album or you can create your own “book” by pasting or gluing the pictures on cardboard and covering them with clear contact paper or Ziploc bags. Anything that makes it drool-proof! You can attach these “pages” together by using string or metal rings; something you feel comfortable with that won’t hurt your baby. When you look at the book together with your little one, point to and name the people in the pictures. Also be sure to label the emotions you see on their faces. Not only does this help your baby learn in the area of social-emotional development, but it is a lot of fun and helps build a solid foundation for reading books later on and building communication skills.
1) Where’s Baby?
Hold a washcloth or small, soft blanket above (not touching) your baby’s face and ask, “Where’s (baby’s name)?” Quickly remove the cloth and happily exclaim, “There’s (baby’s name)!” Give her a kiss. Repeat the activity as long as she seems interested. You can also vary it a bit by putting the cloth on your own head while saying, “Where’s (Mommy/Daddy)? Where’s (Mommy/Daddy)? Peek-a-Boo!” or something to that effect.
2) Social Tickle Game
Tickle your baby on different parts of his body. Say, “Now I’m going to tickle your tummy!” Laugh with him and kiss the body part that you tickle. Like everything you do with him, watch for his cues that he is enjoying the game or not enjoying the game. Try slowing the pace down a bit or stopping altogether if he is clearly not having fun. Don’t take it personally, sometimes babies get over-stimulated. You want to respect their limits and help acknowledge their communication attempts – crying is a form of communication and it is important to respond to the message he is trying to tell you. Maybe he’ll be ready to play again another day. 😀
Back and Forth: Sit on the floor with your feet wide apart in a “V” with your baby sitting supported just in front of you between your legs. Have a friend or family member sit across from you, feet apart, touching your feet. Take turns slowly rolling a ball or car to each other. Your baby will enjoy watching the ball roll towards you both and enjoy helping push it away. You might find that your partner can roll the ball back to you and baby a lot faster than she can send it back. It’s helpful to select a partner that understands that your baby will need time to explore the ball (using her mouth, her eyes, her fingers/hands) before she is ready to let go of it and push it back for her “turn.” If she begins crying when the ball is pushed away from her, have your partner send it over quickly so she gets back the object of her attention. She is learning a lot with this game (much more than just social-emotional skills) but in this particular area it helps her develop early turn-taking/back and forth skills! Have fun! 😀
If you have a concern about your child’s social or emotional skills or how your Little Hero is handling these or other social interactions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be honored to hear your story and concerns. I’m here to help, but the first step is yours. 😀