I wrote today’s newsletter for me. This is the day I will meet my two grandchildren who are going to be born later today. They are all I can think about at this time so I decided to remind myself about the value of play with infants and remember the fun times I had with my kids when they were newborns. So here we go.
Play is the essence of childhood.
Your newborn is the centre of your universe. He sees his primary caregivers (generally his parents) as his universe. At first it can seem that all your interactions with this wonderful young person have to do with physical care. You are changing diapers, breastfeeding, or dressing him. It’s easy to forget to play but play is the way children learn. Through play they discover the universe outside of themselves, the discover how to manipulate things, and how to relate to you and others.
Sometimes playing with babies can seem sort of weird but go for it. From the first diaper change start talking to him. Tell him stories, let him know the plan for the day or let him know how special he is. At this age it is the sound of your voice and the movement of your face that will matter.
And sing to him. It’s wonderful, he doesn’t care whether you have a great voice, and he doesn’t know whether you’re on key all he cares about is the rhythm of the sound.
One of the first playthings your baby will discover is his own fingers and toes. You can introduce him to his body and what it can do by paying ‘this little piggy went to market’ when you change his diaper. He’ll love it and soon become aware that he can control his body parts.
Smile and laugh. It’s easy to get so busy with the day-to-day needs of baby that we get distracted and don’t look at them, smile at them and play with them.
We know that babies like to be rocked. But did you know that they love to dance? Put on some music and start to move. You will soon learn what music she likes best. If your arms get tired or you have twins, lie them down and rock them to the music. Figure out what works for you and your infant. I figure this a role that this old grandmother can take. I can dance with one while Mom dances with the other. It will be silly but I bet we’ll have a blast.
Peek-a-boo is a popular game with babies. It’s not just fun, it actually has an important role is helping them learn that things can disappear and then re-appear. So they learn that Mommy or Daddy can go away to work but that they will return.
Babies love movement but it’s important to remember to never shake a baby and to keep his head supported at all times. Babies’ heads are too heavy for their young necks and any play or activity that caused the baby’s head to shake back and forth may lead to brain injury or death. Shaking, tossing or jerking a baby is extremely dangerous.
Babies also like to look at things in the house. When my children were infants I looked at the pictures on our walls and realized that their placement made no sense. My baby was down on the floor and the art they could look at was up high.
So I went out and bought some inexpensive posters with big pictures and pinned them to the bottom of the wall. The poster touched the baseboard. And because they didn’t cost much I was fine when they got past looking wanted to touch which usually meant the poster was eventually crumpled and ripped.
Babies learn through their senses. They don’t just look; they taste, they touch and they listen.
Their first books should be ones that can be abused in these ways. If they can’t handle their books, they will avoid them. But if they can touch and maybe rip the pages (old magazines work very well for this!) they will learn to love the printed word and books.
Babies are too young for screens. Ipads and computers can wait until they are preschoolers. As infants they need to total experience of things they can really manipulate and play with.
Have fun with your babies. Remember a baby that is smiling and laughing will not be crying and will be learning about his world.
Bringing Parenting Today to You.
Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.
I’ll be in Toronto September 8 to 10 and in Winnipeg from December 2 to 4. I am happy to extend these trips if you wish to book an event. I will also be in Calgary and can coordinate that trip to meet your scheduling needs.