Anne H. Zachry
During the early weeks and months of life, your infant is constantly growing and developing, and as a parent, you play a pivotal role in supporting that development. It’s important to know that expensive equipment and fancy toys are not required to foster your child’s development. Instead, go back to the basics and carry out a variety of simple, retro activities with your little one. You and your infant will have loads of fun and you’ll be fostering your child’s attachment to you, while also his promoting brain development and confidence.
A is for Attachment
From the first days of life, it’s important that you and your baby have a healthy bond. When a baby is securely attached to his mother, he feels safe and knows that he can rely on you to meet his needs. Attachment is important because it a key predictor of your baby’s ability to socially adjust as he gets older. A significant bond between mother and child helps the child cope appropriately in stressful situations and unfamiliar environments leading to a confident, socially-adjusted adult.
As a parent, how can you ensure your infant develops a healthy sense of attachment and security? Start engaging with your baby early! From the first days of life, hold your baby and talk to him constantly. Smile at him, sing to him, and respond when he cries. These actions let your baby know you are always there for him. Through your love and affection, your infant will learn how to be an emotionally responsive, well-adjusted child.
Retro Attachment Activity: Face-to-Face Tummy Time
Tummy time is the perfect opportunity to bond with your baby. You can begin exposing your infant to tummy time from the first days of life. Starting early ensures your baby will accept being tummy down as a natural position. Position your newborn on your stomach or chest while you lie in a reclined position on a chair, bed, or the floor—face-to-face with baby. Making eye contact, speaking in an animated voice, and exaggerating your expressions will bring a smile to your baby’s face and foster bonding. Enjoy this special time with your infant.
B is for Brain Development
As a parent, you can promote optimal brain development in your infant in a variety of ways. Your newborn’s brain is constantly forming new nerve connections, and the richness of her life experiences directly impacts the number of connections that form. Imagine your baby’s brain is like a computer with a wide variety of interconnections: more enriched life experiences lead to the formation of more connections, which means learning is taking place. That’s why it is critical to expose your infant to a balanced, yet stimulating environment.
Language exposure plays a critical role in brain development. The more words your child hears as an infant, the greater her vocabulary will be when she’s a toddler. That is why it is important to spend time talking to and playing with your baby during the early weeks and months of life.
Retro Brain Development Activity: Chatting It Up
It sounds so simple, but carrying on a conversation with your baby is a wonderful way to promote brain development. Take every opportunity to model language, speaking to your baby in complete, meaningful sentences. For example, point to different body parts as you name them, saying “This is your ear! You listen with your ears,” or “Here are your eyes! You see Mommy with your eyes!”
As you carry out your daily routines, explain what you are doing to your infant. “I’m folding laundry. Look, this is Daddy’s blue shirt, or here are Mommy’s pink socks. There are two socks: one, two!” The more language your baby hears, the better!
C is for Confidence
Early life experiences influence your child’s self-confidence. By meeting your infant’s basic needs, making frequent eye contact, and spending time with your baby, you provide a solid foundation for her self-esteem. You can also build her confidence by providing plenty of opportunities for exploration and social interaction.
Additionally, every time your little one successfully completes a task, she feels a sense of pride and competence, and her self-confidence gets a boost. Always use positive language and praise your baby for her accomplishments. Research tells us that early self-esteem is related to emotional stability in adults, and individuals with self-confidence are more resilient.
Retro Confidence Building Activity: Mimic Mommy
From a very early age, your infant can successfully imitate simple actions, such as sticking out his tongue, clapping his hands, and making noises. While positioned directly in front of your baby, lean in close to his face and stick out your tongue. Allow him plenty of time to copy your action, and as soon as he succeeds, say “Good job! You stuck out your tongue!” Continue the activity, encouraging your baby to imitate various facial expressions, actions, and sounds. Every time your baby is successful, her self-confidence is boosted.
Dr. Anne Zachry is a pediatric occupational therapist and Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and author of the parenting book “Retro Baby, Cut Back on all the Gear and Boost Your Baby’s Development with over 100 Time-Tested Activities.” Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.