Influencing Your Child’s Cognitive Development
Babies are boring, right? They’re cute little balls of drool that coo at all the right times, but they don’t do anything, do they?
Sure they do! Those little baldies may look like they’re just staring off into space, kicking their feet, but from every glance around their new world, and from every interaction with you, your baby is learning.
The environment surrounding your baby and the interaction you provide to her is critical to his early development. In other words, you can make a difference in the way your child learns, even from birth! Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you play with your little one.
1. Do watch how you talk to your baby!
Many times, we’re tempted to speak to our babies in “baby talk.” The silly noises adults make when they’re addressing babies are fun, sure. But the nonsense words and gibberish that comes from our mouths sometimes may actually hinder a baby’s cognitive development.
Your baby loves to hear you talk. She loves it when you sing to her. And she loves it when your speaking voice sounds like singing! But, even as early as a month or so old, your baby is picking up on verbal cues from you and is learning her vocabulary.
Go ahead and giggle with your baby! Ask her about her day and tell her about yours. But avoid those ridiculous words like “schmoodle” and “gaga” because they’re not teaching your baby anything.
2. Do read to your baby!
Your two month old infant isn’t going to be able to read. In fact, there’s a good chance she won’t even understand the words you’re reading to her. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit down with a good book!
Early literacy is begun by understanding the most basics parts of books. The direction in which we turn the pages. The way the letters look on the page. Even the way a book opens and closes.
Aside from that, the words you read to your child will help to improve her vocabulary tremendously! Make it a habit to read with your baby, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day.
3. Do decide if you feel comfortable “wearing’ your baby.
“Babywearing” is considered trendy, but women have been carrying their babies close for thousands upon thousands of years. From the earliest eras of humanity, women have “worn” their babies, allowing them to hunt, gather, work and care for their infants simultaneously.
Keeping your child close as you go about your day is an incredible way to influence your child’s cognitive development. She’ll feel safe and secure as she snuggles next to you, while being able to take in the sights, sounds and scents of her new world.
If you feel comfortable doing so, try babywearing to help influence your child’s learning. There are a great number of carriers available in all sorts of styles. Try this Portable Baby Chair Pouch for a safe, comfy way to carry your little one.
4. Don’t rely on media!
There are oodles of programs on television which advertise themselves as “learning” programs for infants and young children. And it’s been calculated that 40% of three-month old babies are regular viewers of television.
The jury’s still out on the effect of television on the cognitive development of babies. But what we do know is that meaningful interaction with adults and even other babies gives 100% of the cognitive support your child needs.
Don’t rely on television to educate your baby. It’s so easy to influence your child’s development without a screen. Try finger puppets to interact with your infant. Or splash with your baby and some tub toys at bath time.
5. Do be creative!
Babies are fun. They’re not as boring as they first let on once they’re imitation your facial expressions and making funny noises. But you can add to the fun by being creative with activities.
Take your infant on a “spice safari.” Let her sniff a few open jars of things you’ve got on hand in the spice cabinet – garlic and cinnamon always get a good reaction.
Or strap your baby into her carrier and go for a walk. Let her feel the roughness of tree bark, or the smoothness of leaves. Let her feel the heat of a log in the sun, or the coolness of the dirt underneath. Of course, be cautious of bugs and allergens!
Your baby learns from just about everything. She’ll file each bit of information away in her growing brain, and the things you teach her now through observation will be used later to read, solve problems and even make friends.
6. Do pay attention!
When you go to the doctor’s office, you’ll usually be given a list of milestones that your baby should master, depending on her age. These are pretty standard, and if we’re being honest, the skills on those sheets are a bare minimum.
If your baby has mastered all of the skills, great! Keep on going! If she is having trouble with a couple of them, keep an eye out. Talk to your doctor about whether your child’s development compares well with other babies her age.
Developmental milestones aren’t “one size fits all.” However, there are many parents who miss the opportunity to obtain help for their child’s learning differences, simply because they fear their child will be labeled.
If there are things your baby is struggling with, like rolling over and sitting up, or focusing attention and making eye contact, chat with your doc. There may be simple things you can do to help your baby hit those milestones.
Your Smart Baby
Like all parents, you want the best for your baby. And that includes the best education. Thankfully, the best education for an infant begins with you.
Raising a smart baby may seem like a daunting task. But parents have been doing it for millennia – you can, too. Talk to your baby, provide for her basic needs and interact with her in a positive, loving way. When it comes down to it, that’s all you need to do!