Enhancing Your Baby's Development

 

Babies all develop at their own individual rate and in their own good time. While some babies reach the “milestones” just as described in textbooks, many perfectly healthy babies will either be early or a little later than the “average” in different aspects of development. From an early age, parents can promote their baby’s development by playing with them.

 

As babies grow, they become more interested in the world around them. They respond to sounds in their environment, their attention is captured by moving shapes, and they start to move their bodies. But babies respond most to the human face, in particular the faces of their parents. So the best toy for any baby is their parents interacting with them.

 

Playtime is not something that has to be timetabled into the day. Instead, play can be a part of everything you do together. Nappy-changing is a perfect time for talking to your baby with close face-to-face contact. Bathtime is great for your baby to freely move around, waving their arms and legs around and learning how they can control the movement. And baby massage increases her sensory awareness and reinforces the bond between baby and parents.

 

Even while you are doing other chores, you can have a conversation with your baby. This is how babies learn the flow of human speech. Your baby loves to hear your voice and is learning different sounds and non-verbal messages.

 

Babies love to hear the rhythm of speech when you play games such as “Round and round the garden” or “This little piggy”. Babies quickly learn to expect the tickle at the end, and can get very excited about these. They particularly enjoy songs and action rhymes, so find your inner “Kylie” and start singing!

 

When you carry your baby around, she is developing her proprioceptive skills, which are important for later balance and co-ordination. As your baby grows, you can enhance this by gently rolling her over a beach ball or fitball; flying her around like an aeroplane; or giving her “horsey rides” on your legs when you are sitting down.

 

It is important to provide some “tummy time” for your baby every day. Choose times when she is awake and you are free to supervise closely. By placing your baby on her tummy, she will strengthen the muscles in her back and neck. This helps to give her more head control. To start with, you may like to place her across your lap for tummy time, or else on a bed or lounge so you can sit on the floor and be face to face.  Soon she will be able to push up on her arms. This is the first step towards learning how to crawl. To encourage her co-ordination, you can provide some toys within reach. As she gains strength, you can place the toys just out of her reach, to motivate her to move. To encourage physical skills, you can play games with your baby, such as cycling her legs in the air, “dancing” her arms, helping her to clap, and gently rolling her over.  

 

Moving objects will capture your baby’s attention. Perhaps you can hang a mobile above the change table or cot so your baby can practice following a moving object with her eyes. A baby gym placed above her on a mat is another idea. A plastic mirror propped up beside her provides an endless source of moving images. A simple change of scene, such as moving the pram outside near the washing line, or under a tree, provides new opportunities for your baby to develop their visual skills.

 

When choosing toys for your baby, find ones that can be easily grasped by tiny fingers, but avoid any with detachable bits that may be a choking hazard. Expect that toys will go in your baby’s mouth, as that is how they explore their environment. Before your baby is moving around, make sure you make the house child-friendly. Put child-gates on stairs and locks on cupboard doors and whatever else you need to do. Because before you know it this tiny baby of yours will be as fast as lightning and getting into all sorts of mischief!

 

 

 

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“I still remember the first time Gina came to my house and the relief I felt as soon as she walked in the door.  With no family in Brisbane I had no support to call on in those early sleep deprived weeks and was lacking confidence in my role as a new mum.  Gina was a listening ear, someone to ask questions to and hand my bundle of (screaming) joy over to so I could have some, much needed, time to myself.  She is such a warm, caring and knowledgeable person who just makes you breathe easier when there; she is not only a baby carer but also a mum carer.

It was through having the support of Gina that got me through the tough times and helped me be a better mum for taking care of myself; my only regret is not calling her sooner.  I now understand the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"... we are not meant to struggle on our own.”

Hayley from Bardon QLD     


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