If you are like many new parents, you want to give your baby the very best of everything, but you might not be sure how to go about it. First, consider that parents have been having babies and those babies have grown up to adulthood for thousands of years. In many cases, doing what comes naturally will work just fine. Your natural desire to interact with your child will promote activities that are good for both of you most of the time.
Respect Your Baby’s Growing Structure
New born infants are fragile creatures. They have the ability to sneeze, cough, cry and suckle. They can wave their hands and feet about, but have very little coordination. Their heads are large with soft sections called fontanelles. These soft areas allow the child’s head to compress and shape itself to the birth canal, making it easier for baby to be born. These are all things that will rapidly change as your child grows. Part of your job as a parent is to protect the head and neck, as well as the spine, from being injured. This is very important for your child’s appropriate motor development.
Ways to Protect Your Baby from Injury
Support your infant’s head when lifting your baby. Slide your forearm under the baby’s back, and cradle the head in your hand. Or you can use one arm to lift and the other hand to support your baby’s head. Avoid lifting any under the age of three by one arm or one leg. Never shake a child as the shaking action can damage the neck and nerves. If you want to promote good motor development as well as overall good health, shaken baby syndrome is to be avoided.
Good Nutrition and Motor Development
Motor development is sustained by good nutrition. Those basic metabolic functions of feeding, whether nursing at mother’s breast or from a bottle are more than just taking in nutrition. The nutrients are vital, of course, but so is the interaction while your baby is nursing. Many infants open and close their hands while nursing. This is a pleasure reaction that can also be seen in kittens and puppies as they nurse. Their little paws knead their mother’s stomach while they take nourishment. A mother cat will purr to the little ones, a mother dog will make encouraging sounds or groom the puppies while they nurse.
Pleasure Reaction Becomes Small Motor Practice
As your child opens and closed those tiny fingers, nothing is more natural than to place your finger in his hand. Nourishment, plus a caregiver’s finger, plus snuggling promotes baby’s first strength exercise: squeezing your finger.
Pleasure Becomes Fun
The next step in this developmental process is when you and your baby begin to have fun with holding fingers. Don’t worry. Neither of you will have to work at it. Talk to your baby or sing or recite silly rhymes. Make stuff up if you don’t know any traditional songs or rhymes. The important part is the talking. It doesn’t seem to matter all that much whether you talk “baby talk” or use ordinary conversation at this point; the important part is the interaction. There is a very good chance that you will soon be treated to your baby’s first smile.
Safe Room to Move
A very important part of your baby’s development will be accomplished just by providing space for your child to move. The first safe place might be his or her own crib. If you live in a warm climate or have a climate-controlled house, a thick blanket or sleeping bag on the floor can make an area for a baby that is just beginning to manage rolling over to practice this new skill. If the little one is already on the floor, he or she will be less likely to roll off something and fall.
Playing with Your Rolly-Bug Baby
Rolling over presages exciting new developmental stages. It is a good time for you to have fun with Baby. “Here Comes the Big Spider” is a fun game at this stage. Place the baby on his or her back. Hold your hand over the baby, making wiggly motions with your fingers. Say something like, “Here’s a big, tickly spider. He’s going to tickle, tickle.” Wave your hand around, bringing it lower and lower, then tickle baby gently all over ribs and tummy. This will usually create giggles as well as waving arms and legs.
Another fun game is to trace a line down baby’s tummy with a fuzzy cloth or feather. Wave it around for Baby to try to catch.
Bicycle and Push
Rolling over is just the beginning on that journey toward walking. Helping your baby strengthen leg muscles is important.
Bicycle exercise is just what you might expect from the name. Baby lies on his or her back. You place your hands against the soles of the feet. Gently push on one foot, then on the other as if your baby was pedaling a bike. Soon your infant will catch onto this game and start pushing back.
Once the pushing back has started, you can encourage your baby to push on your hand. Cheer your little one on by saying, “Push! Push hard!” Allow your hand to be pushed away. Sound tame? Once the two of you get into this game, it will be the most fun around – at least until your baby starts pulling up and trying to stand.
Constant parental playtime would not be good for you or for your baby. Your little one needs some time to work on things on his or her own. A good way to encourage this is to provide an activity gym to go with your baby’s free play time. In addition to providing stimulus for reaching and even an opportunity for safely catching the overhead toy, an activity gym might allow you a few free moments to study for that exam, do a little cleaning or even just catch your breath for a few moments.
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