Babies are busy little wonders, constantly on the move, learning new things. Sometimes, we, as adults, wonder where they get their energy. Their desire to learn is almost contagious. They will probably never be so determined to learn as they do when they are babies, and if you are the parent of an infant, you have so many of your child's milestones to look forward to.
Babies begin learning and discovering even before they are born. Many parents today read to their unborn children, and some of them play various types of music, especially classical. Studies have shown that a newborn can recognize her mother's voice simply because she heard it so often while she was in the womb.
Once your baby is born, her learning experiences will intensify. While too much stimulation can cause a baby to become fussy and irritable, you can help your child reach her milestones as she continues to grow and develop.
One of the most important things you can do for your baby is to read to him, and you shouldn't wait till he is a toddler to do so. Although a newborn can't actually understand what you are saying, and of course, he won't be focusing too intently on the book that you hold in front of him, he will be learning simply by listening to you pronounce the words.
You may find that your infant focuses more intently on books and other objects that are mainly red, black, and white. Once your child's eyesight becomes more developed, her color preferences will change. Until they do, however, you should offer her books and toys that consist of these colors. Infants also love faces, and you can stimulate her eyesight by holding pictures of faces and other objects six to eight inches from her own face. Her favorite item to look at, however, will be your face, so be sure and talk to her often.
As your child becomes a three to six month old, you will notice that he becomes more intent on trying to grasp items that are in reach. You can help your baby become more adept at grasping these items by holding objects, such as rattles, balls, and small stuffed or rubber toys within his grasp. He may only bat at them in the beginning, but eventually he will be able to wrap his tiny fingers around them. His whole face will light up with joy when he accomplishes this small task, and he will probably continue to grab any and everything within his reach, including your face and hair!
As your child gets closer to the six month stage, he may be sitting up with support. You can help him to become more agile by placing several colorful toys within his reach. He may lean forward and to the side to try and grasp these toys, and this is strengthening many of his muscles.
Don't forget to give your baby plenty of tummy time. When she is only a newborn, you should plan on laying her on her tummy for a few moments every day. She will start trying to raise her head, and this will strengthen her neck, arm, and chest muscles. As she continues to grow, place her on her tummy several times during the day. Eventually, when she is around six or seven months, you will probably notice her raise up on her hands and knees. She may rock back and forth or flop forward or backward. This is the preface to crawling, although some babies may skip crawling altogether and begin walking instead.
Your little one may have rolled from her tummy to her back when she was younger, and now that she is seven or eight months old, she may have learned to roll from her back to her front. This may become her mode of movement, and you may discover that she can travel great distances simply by rolling over and over. Remember-you should always put your infant to bed on her back, however, to lessen the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Once your baby is able to freely roll from her back to her front and vice versa, you shouldn't worry as much about keeping her on her back. In fact, it may be virtually impossible!
When your baby is close to a year old, he may be pulling up and cruising around the furniture. Look out! Now that he has become this mobile, there isn't any stopping him! This type of movement usually precludes a baby's actual first steps. Most pediatricians caution parents against putting their children into walkers because of the possibility of injury due to a fall. Instead, there are many wonderful push toys that your child can hold on to and push as he walks. You can encourage your child to take a few steps by standing in front of him, so that he may come to you, or by placing a favorite toy a few feet out of reach and helping him begin walking towards it.
At about the same time that your baby is learning to walk, she may also be uttering her first words. She may have already been repeating "mama" and "dada", and even if she doesn't quite associate those words with the people they represent, they will still be music to your ears. As she becomes a year old, she will actually be able to understand a few words that you repeat daily to her, including her own name. You can help expand your child's vocabulary by continuing to read to her, and by pointing out various objects inside and outside of your home.
Your baby will enjoy learning and experiencing new things, even if those things are mundane chores to you, such as yard work and grocery shopping. Remember- this is how he learns about the world around him! As your child continues to grow and develop, you should look for ways to stimulate him and help him reach the many milestones that he has yet to reach. Learning is exciting for him, and watching him learn can be almost as exciting for you, too!
By Susie McGee