Want to help your newborn blossom into a unique toddler? Then put away the abacus, it’s time to roll on the floor (yes, really)
Your little one may seem to spend most of his first year sleeping, feeding and filling his nappy, but blink and you’ll miss all sorts of breathtaking developmental leaps. From dependent newborn, he’ll soon be en route to chaos-causing toddler.
Tummy time’s on you
It’s one thing knowing that your baby should spend time lying on his front to strengthen his back and neck muscles, but it’s another to actually get him to do it. ‘Colicky babies often react badly to tummy time because it can make their abdomen sore,’ says psychologist Sandra Wheatley. A great way to get around this is to lay your baby on top of you, instead of on the floor. ‘This will give him all the physical benefits, but make him more comfortable and secure,’ says Sandra. ‘You can help him be sociable by playing mirroring games, like poking your tongue out and watching him copy you.
Rev up the baby talk
It may feel a bit weird announcing to your newborn that you’re changing his nappy in a sing-song voice. But this kind of talk can help his language develop. ‘Don’t feel self-conscious,’ says Caroline Deacon, author of Boost Your Baby’s Development (£8.99, Teach Yourself). ‘It helps babies understand, particularly if you’re enunciating clearly. Singing nursery rhymes to your baby is another good way of engaging with him. He’ll be absorbing the sounds, as well as the rhythms of the language.’
It’s over there
When you see an interesting picture in a book, point it out to your little one. ‘Pointing is a valuable skill,’ says Dr Penelope Leach, author of The Essential First Year (£13.99, Dorling Kindersley). ‘It’s a way of calling attention to things and sharing. Sitting and looking through a book with your baby demonstrates a way to communicate.’ It’s showing him that you can both share what you see – an aeroplane in the sky or a cat in the garden – whether you do it by looking or talking. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself saying ‘choo choo’ every time you see a train (even when your baby’s not there).
Rock and roll
Over the first few months, your baby will be developing head control and starting to build the muscles he needs to get on the move. And you can help him practise by getting down on the floor with him. Lay on the carpet and show him some moves – we’re talking swimming strokes and sideways rolls, not street-dance. ‘Your baby will want to imitate you,’ says Penelope. ‘And, just as importantly, you’ll be having fun with him.’ Any excuse…
Much of your baby’s development happens while he’s asleep. Growth hormones are at work, brain wiring is going on and experiences are being processed. That means helping your baby sleep well won’t just give you a break, it will help him flourish, too. ‘You don’t want your baby to rely on you to fall asleep, as it’ll hinder his ability to sleep well,’ says Caroline. ‘You want him to be able to soothe himself. A good bedtime routine helps with that – warm bath, milk, story, cuddle and cot. Your baby will come to associate that routine with sleep and it will help him feel drowsy.’
Do it his way
Turn off your phone, sit on the floor beside him, watch what he does and comment on it. Don’t interfere or try to change the way he’s playing (even if it means a major clear up afterwards). ‘By doing this, you’re showing your baby that the way he wants to interact with the world is good,’ says Sandra. ‘It will allow him to feel confident in his abilities.’
Here’s looking at you
You know those brief moments when your newborn’s eyes are actually open? Well, make the most of them by looking right into them. Each time your baby stares at you, he’s building his memory. And, when he does make eye contact, it’s also a sign he’s feeling alert, so you can use that cue to interact. As well as staring (which might be a bit off-putting after a while), remember to smile, talk and sing, too.