One of the very best things about becoming a parent is watching your baby learn and grow, going through the first stages of becoming an independent person. This causes some parents a lot of worry when they become concerned that development isn’t taking place as fast as it should, but in fact individual babies vary a great deal, and most of the time this isn’t cause for concern. Just like adults, they have different interests and different natural abilities, so they may sometimes focus on one set of skills at the (temporary) expense of another. The important thing is that they continue to make progress, and you can help them to do so.
Large muscle control
As soon as they’re born, babies try to move around. They want to be able to make themselves more comfortable, and often they get frustrated when an adult doesn’t instantly assist. However, becoming more independent like this requires building up the big muscles in the arms, legs, and torso, and that takes time. You can help by doing exercises with your baby and making sure that they’re fun. Babies who spent enough time on their tummies should be able to raise their heads by their second month of life. The next stage is rolling over, which happens at around five months, though it can take a little longer to learn to roll back again. You can help by rolling them as part of a game. Within a couple months of mastering this, they should be able to move around a room, and from there they will go on to stand and walk, which usually happens around the age of one. Help them by letting them grip your thumbs and lifting them upright. Standing like this will help to them build strength and learn how to balance.
Fine muscle control
Often, babies find fine motor control a bigger challenge than building up strength. This is the kind of movement that enables them to grip, use their thumbs properly, and manipulate objects. In the early stages, one of the best things that you can do is to let them watch how your hands move. As they get older, playing clapping games or encouraging them to grab a dangling object will help to refine their skills. A good baby activity center will provide lots of challenges of this sort and allow them to have fun learning while you’re busy with other things, and it can be entertaining for infants and toddlers alike.
Perception and concentration
When they’re newborn, babies need a few weeks for their eyes to adjust to the world around them and start to focus properly. It takes still longer for them to learn which things it’s important to pay attention to, and how to keep track of them as they move. You can help by providing babies with stimuli that assist with special awareness, such as shiny mobiles and posters featuring geometric shapes. Making lots of eye contact also helps, and as they get older, you can encourage them to focus on books and toys. Meanwhile, presenting them with interesting textures, smells, and sounds – not too many at once – will help their other senses to develop.
The first stage of social engagement is imitation. At first, your baby will pay close attention to your expressions and gestures but have no way of interpreting them. Over time, when you smile, your baby will smile back. You can help with this kind of communication by making your expressions big and bold. As your baby gains the ability to manipulate objects, imitation can extend to things such as using a phone or a TV remote control. You will also be able to start playing more complex games such as pushing a ball back and forth between you, or covering your face and getting your baby used to the idea that you’re still there.
Most parents are eager to hear their children start to talk, but this may not happen until after the first year. Even if a baby is really keen to communicate through sound, it’s hard to master the fine tongue control necessary to form words. You can help by letting your baby watch as you form repeated sounds, making your movements big and clear. Games like this can begin in the first few weeks as long as they don’t last too long and become boring. Always give your baby lots of praise for successful imitation of a sound, and words will soon follow
Babies have incredible learning skills and strong motives for improving what they can do. Give them the right tools and the right support, and they’ll amaze you.