There are so many everyday ways you can impact your baby’s development. In fact, no one has more influence on your baby than you. Along with providing good nutrition, here are some simple things you can do to encourage how he grows and learns.
Hang a mobile, if you haven’t already. Choose one with interesting shapes and strong contrasts (for example, black, white, and red) for your baby to study.
Add a mirror. Hang an unbreakable, baby-safe mirror in your baby’s line of vision, near his changing table or crib, so he can look at it while lying on his back.
Schedule playtime. Note the times of day when your baby is awake and alert. Your baby’s attention is better when he’s not tired or hungry.
Continue frequent eye contact. Your baby is still near-sighted and sees best at a distance of 8 to 12 inches—just about the space between his face and yours when he’s in your arms.
Ham it up. Try using exaggerated facial expressions when you talk to your baby. For example, open your mouth wide, smile broadly, or raise your eyebrows. These movements will engage his attention.
Try tummy time. When your baby is awake and alert, place him on his stomach for a few minutes. Lie next to him and talk, so he turns his head to look at you. This activity encourages the development of his neck muscles. (3, p. 236) Babies who spend time on their stomachs typically gain head control faster than those who spend most of their awake time on their backs.
Engage with toys. Hold a rattle or another toy above your baby’s head but still in his line of vision when he’s lying on his back, and encourage him to reach for it.
Be your baby’s biggest fan. Show enthusiasm and excitement when your baby coos or makes other sounds. Respond to him by either imitating his sound or using actual words. Your reply encourages him to talk more to you.
Talk to your baby often. A perfect time is when you’re feeding him. Tell him about your day, make up a story, or sing a song. What you say doesn’t really matter, as long as you use a cheerful and loving tone. (3, p. 229) Use “parent-ese” (also called baby language) if it comes naturally to you. Babies are particularly responsive to this speech pattern: extra stress at the start of words and a raised ending as in a question (“HEL-lo, SWEET-ie! HOW ARE you this MORN-ing?”). Your baby may also respond more to Mom’s voice because of its higher pitch.
Read anything and everything. At this age, the type of book doesn’t matter as much as hearing the cadence of the language and your voice.
Decode his cries. Try to notice a difference between your baby’s insistent hunger cry and other types of crying, such as tiredness or overstimulation. Crying is his main way of talking to you right now, and the more you listen, the more appropriately you can respond.
Let him hear other languages. If you speak a second language, go ahead and use it around your baby. Babies have a remarkable ability to pick up more than one language. So there’s no need to worry about confusing him or causing speech delays.
Return his smiles. Not only does this encourage further smiles, it begins to teach about a give-and-take relationship, as well as back-and-forth conversation.
Allow him to self-comfort. There’s no need to discourage your baby from sucking his fingers or a pacifier. The sucking reflex is calming; your baby may have even sucked his thumb in the womb.
Gently massage your baby. Use a bit of unscented baby oil and make sure he stays warm. This activity promotes bonding and strengthens his sense of security.
Look for easy ways to connect. Kiss your baby’s stomach or blow a little raspberry there during diaper changes to connect with him.