Playing with your baby
‘Babies are boring’ how often have you heard that? Of course this is normally said by someone who doesn’t have a baby. They couldn’t be more wrong, babies are fascinating, beautiful and amazing little beings. But how do you play with a baby? There are many many things to do to make the most of this incredible development from tiny baby to enthusiastic toddler. I have listed a few suggestions below so I hope you and your gorgeous little one have fun!
Remember each baby develops at a different speed so don’t worry if your baby isn’t quite up for doing everything yet, they soon will be.
Conversing with baby.
Yes, it is completely possible to have a mutual enjoyable conversation with your tiny baby from only a few days old. They will love listening to your voice and get extreme pleasure from having your one on one attention. Look your baby directly in the eye and speak softly and warmly at a slower pace than you use with adults. Mothers often speak “motherese,” a rhythmic, animated, high-pitched speech pattern of short sentences. Linguists have found that motherese is a universal practice that helps babies learn about words and grammar in their own language. Don’t be embarrassed to use it! Your baby will respond, it may only be a gurgle or a head jiggle but they want you to know that you have their full attention and they are participating in your conversation. Once you have waited for their reply you can respond. They will wait for your response and when you give it to them they will experience waves of pleasure and this will encourage a close bond between the two of you.
According to research by Tronick and Cohn, babies are constantly trying to engage our attention and we miss these cues 70% of the time! By talking to our babies and including them in conversations they will know just how loved and valued they are.
Use mirrors with your play and see how many crazy facial expressions you can pull. Focus on your baby and try and catch their eye, start by slowing changing your expression, going from a smile to a surprised look to sticking your tongue out. Then move through the expressions again with a pause in between each one, and wait to see if your baby tries to mimic you. Use a hand mirror to show him his own expression, describing it as you do: "Oh, don't you look surprised! Look what a happy baby you are!" Or make one of your own faces in the mirror, tilting it so he can see both you and the mirror image. Babies love looking at faces and they will focus on a face longer than anything else.
Games to play
Finger puppets are a great source of fun. Pop your baby on their back safely on the floor and slowly bring a finger puppet in to their line of sight, try and aim to place the puppet within 8 to 10 inches from her face. Introduce them and move them around, in and out of baby’s vision. The puppet could even have a conversation with baby and remember to include all the suitable noises for the animal puppets, no matter who is watching you!
Peekaboo is a classic game that you can play and teach older sibling to play with their new baby brother or sister. Hold a cloth up and hide your face behind it but make sure to come out from hiding soon so as not to cause distress. You could try playing peekaboo with a toy too.
Sensation play is another game to help your brand new little one start discovering the world. You will need to have a variety of textured items such as a silk scarf, a feather, a fluffy toy and a piece of velvet or satin. Lie your baby down and take off their top, make sure you are somewhere warm so they don’t get cold and gently stroke their tummy with the different materials. Remember to talk your baby through what you are doing “can you feel this soft silky scarf on your tummy? It feels slippery on your tummy doesn’t it? What has mummy got here for you this time?” Your baby will enjoy the sensations and this will encourage their curiosity.
Hand Baby Games, new-borns have a strong grasp reflex and love to play hand games with you. Lay your baby on her back on the floor or on your lap, and let her grasp your fingers. Lift her arms gently, describing your motions in sing-song voice, “Up, Down. In, Out”. She loves your higher-pitched voice. She'll begin to associate the word with the motion as you play variations of this game over the next several months. You can even start gently pulling her up a few centimetres and then gently letting her down again.
Making nappy changes more fun. I have changed many nappies, some little ones don’t seem to mind it that much but others absolutely loathe it. There are games to play to make it more bearable however. The handosaur is a firm favourite of some of my little ones. Make your hand resemble an animal of sorts, it doesn’t have to be a recognisable one and ‘walk’ it over your little ones tummy so they can see it. Tell your baby what the handosaur is going to do and let it gently tickle your baby’s skin. Of course while this hand is occupied you may need the help of your partner to actually achieve a successful nappy change!
Another slightly bizarre game although oddly enough it does seem to work, is tube talking. Use an empty toilet or kitchen towel roll and hold it gently next to your little ones ear. Quietly whisper things, “I love you, you are the most beautiful baby in the world” are good places to start. Then you can move the tube to the other ear and do the same. Your baby will discover that they can hear independently out of each ear and this has worked at keeping my little ones entranced through many nappy changes.
I have many more fantastic games and ideas for interacting with your little one so keep checking and please feel free to add your feedback and suggestions.
Contributed by Beatrice Dalton
Sunday, 03 June 2012