Darling baby is home…now what?
Baby now seems to be more alert, sleeping less and just wants to be held!
Now’s the chance to interact one on one, while your baby stays put where you set him!
Yes, babies get bored, irritated, startled, amazed, angry, happy etc. These little beings have emerging feelings, not as we adults, but as each baby grows, their environment and experiences help them develop responses to their world.
For example, at first babies have no idea when they cry, their immediate needs are met, fed when hungry, changed when uncomfortable etc. It sure doesn’t take them long to use these cues to communicate with their caregivers!
Some babies figure out the faster, harder they cry, the faster the response, some, give subtle cues, become fidgety, whimper a bit, grimace, before they begin the shrieking.
We all wish we could communicate to our infants, wishing they could tell us exactly what they need, so we wouldn’t have to guess. Then before long we discover, through this subtle cue exchange, and through trial and error, we begin to figure out what baby needs by the expressions, sounds and different levels of crying.
So, now we see our wonderful baby is able to respond to us, not through words but by reacting to our responses and stimuli.
Nature has it's own way of making sure our precious helpless bundles are taken care of.
The faster we respond to baby’s needs the easier on our ears! And as parents we want our children to feel cared for and happy, no matter the age!
Newborns are like natural sponges, as are older children, but newborns have their own way of learning and developing and each one is unique. Sure, so called ‘milestones’ may be met when ‘expected’, some may not, then we, as parents begin to worry, our baby may not be ‘normal’!
Some newborns accept stimuli readily, others may respond with anxiety and become ‘over stimulated’ in a short time. Each infant absorbs that stimuli and learns from it, perhaps not the way we ‘think’ they should, but, we come to find the best ways of learning for each individual infant.
Perhaps baby only seems comfortable after feeding and diapering, and then is able to accept forms of stimulation; some babies feel their best right after waking as stimulation may tire them quickly. Others seem to explode with anticipation once they learn that some forms of stimulation are fun and exciting, they lose their anxiety after repeated exposure to the stimulation.
They show their excitement by wide eyes, heavy breathing, waving of their arms and legs and perhaps communicating verbally, however primitive it may be. We, as parents read these cues and tend to repeat the same actions each time we see a positive response. As does baby, they soon learn as positive response can bring back a pleasant sensation or action.
This brings us to the topic of this article, all parents want to be able to entertain, teach and react with their newborns. And some parents find it difficult to know what to do once baby reaches the stage of longer alert periods of time and begins to explore with their hands and mouths.
Of course baby is always learning about their environment on their own, in many different ways, by hearing the sounds, trying to mouth everything, smelling the odors, feeling the air, seeing different sights, learning to recognize repeated events and so forth.
We, as parents can augment the learning experiences with many different types of stimulation, via experiences and play!
Playing Baby games:
Peek-a-boo/over and under; Simple forms of stimulation may seem a bit boring to us, but to an infant they can be surprisingly exciting!
Such as the game of peek-a-boo, by just placing your hands over your face and reappearing, or just by opening and closing your eyes, may tend to be shocking to a newborn a first, some may not even respond, outwardly that is.
Even to a non physically responsive baby, having a caregiver’s facial features distorted or absent, for however the shortest of time, can be puzzling, interesting or not effectual at all.
Some newborns may take longer than others to use facial features to get their cues from. Especially those they have not learned to recognize yet.
You may find your own baby may show he is puzzled, by the look on his face, sending you the cue he needs more information to work out the problem of recognition, that you are still.. you, behind the hands.
This game also helps reinforce an infant’s trust, that you may disappear, but then you come back, most helpful for those older infants that tend to have separation issues.
Fun games of peek-a-boo that involve the parent disappearing around a corner, only to reappear again, help enhance the trust response. As baby becomes more comfortable with this game enhancing it in different ways helps keep the baby interested. Such as using the baby’s teddy or blankie to hide behind for example, being sure that your baby is secure with you disappearing and isn’t startled upon you swift return, if the game becomes not enjoyable, then perhaps go back to a simpler form.
As the baby gets older they can join in on this all time favorite game, even allowing a small blanket to be positioned on his head, allowing him to pull it off, and helping learn a sense of self awareness.
Placing a toy under a small box or washcloth, then bringing out on top, or turning over a box and have a small bear hide inside then popping out to sit on top helps baby solve the problem of ‘where did it go, will it be back’….they soon realize the bear is still there and enjoy hiding the toy themselves!
Anyone that has been around young children will have had some sort of experience with this game. Though seemingly ‘accidental’ at first, on the baby’s part, when the result is, the item gets returned, thus the ‘drop it game is born’!
Young newborns work on the closing and opening of their hand almost continually, watch as baby manipulates their hand, sometimes watching intently as if to say “How did I do that?”
The baby is still learning about the sense of self and does not realize, at first, that they, themselves have control over their body.
Placing a light weight rattle in baby’s open hand encourage them to grasp the rattle, first for a short time, then as they grow the grasp becomes firmer and lasts longer. Baby then realizes they can move the rattle causing a pleasing sound and is able to bring the rattle to their mouth for extra sensory experiences.
Then as baby drops the rattle, a caregiver picking it up and handing back to them, soon encourages the baby to intentionally open the hand to allow the rattle to fall once again.
How funny mommy or daddy is when they laugh and coo at the baby while returning the dropped rattle, only to repeat the activity over and over!
As the baby grows they learn this game with other items, dropping things from the highchair, car seat and stroller certainly makes the parents scramble…how fun!
Cause and effect is a wonderful learning tool, however simple it seems to us adults!
In and out/up and down;
Once baby is more alert for a longer periods, even young babies can enjoy watching items such as hand sized toys, get placed into things such as boxes or bowls.
Learning hand-eye coordination is a skill that takes time to acquire and even just watching as a caregiver places the item in and takes the item out, helps the young baby become aware of space and aids in problem solving.
Yes even newborns can solve problems, well, what may seem to be a problem to a young baby seems silly and simple to us, learning about body control and becoming aware of surroundings and how to relate your own body to it, is a lifelong skill!
As the baby grows using many items for this game helps learn spacial awareness, how many balls can fit in the small box, how many in the large ect…..beginning math!
The baby is learning to use their hand to pick a toy up and bring it over to place inside a box, knowing how high to lift their hand and when to let go is quite a sequence for a young baby. Watching as the caregiver lifts favorite teddy up and places it down, helps baby learn control, first they may be haphazard, flopping the bear up and down, then becoming more purposeful lifting teddy up with a laugh and setting it down beside them.
Babies are so smart!
I’m gonna get you/chase me;
Even small babies who aren’t actually crawling enjoy the game of “I'm gonna get you”, of course the more gentler version of light tickling, a raspberry on the belly, the quiet ‘roaring’ noise of the funny animal mom or dad pretends to be.
Even using teddy to come in close and tickle baby’s belly, then going away, back and forth, helps the baby again, interact with his environment and objects.
Baby seems to enjoy this for awhile but learn their cues of when to stop, the turning away, the grimacing, arching the back ect. This game can be easily over stimulating.
Along with “I’m gonna eat your toes/fingers” the game of ‘get you’ as well as the game of ‘chase me’, for older babies, can be quite fun.
Though best when not before bed or after a full meal, even babies in walkers soon learn to scoot around to chase or escape from mom and dad!
Yes, even babies can play catch! Using a soft ball, block or even balled up cloth, propping baby up and gently placing the ball on their belly will invoke the reflex of clutching quite quickly.
Baby will use both arms to hug the toy and soon learns to open them to let the toy go. Sometimes closing the arms just as the toy is placed on their tummy, seemingly ‘catching’ the toy.
However accidental, the concept quickly grows into the baby waiting with outstretched arms for a gently tossed toy and quickly scooping the toy in, therefore, playing catch!
Along with catch the baby will learn the throwing concept by watching the caregiver hold the toy and push it forward, letting go of the toy at some point.
It is quite fascinating to watch a baby problem solve this process, again body and spacial awareness comes into play, knowing how to hold the toy and purposely use the arm to project the toy by motion and opening the hand, and realizing where the toy will end up is a bit of a task to master.
Truly a favorite of many parents and caregivers!
The first time a newborn seemingly mimics a facial expression brings such excitement to everyone around!
Baby soon learns to enjoy this attention and begins to mimic on cue! Even as some behaviors and expressions are results from reflexes at first, for example, stroking a newborns cheek induces the rooting reflex and the baby may even smile, the baby learns body control and watches the caregivers face so intently.
From fluttering eyes, to sticking out the tongue. Having the young baby about a foot away helps them keep focus and the baby will begin to experiment with expression. Some may even look so serious, and will even try to illicit a response from the caregiver, by attempting to coo, moving around, waving the arms or grimacing. Just try keeping a stoic face while looking at a newborn who is trying to communicate, just see if you don’t break into a big smile!
As baby grows the game of ‘copy me’ becomes broader, from facial expressions, to clapping hands to pronouncing single and double syllables, ‘ba, ga ‘mama and dada’ over and over, and waving.
All simple tasks for us, but for baby quite an achievement, so much so we celebrate and write such milestones down in the baby books!
Many interactions we adults have with newborns come from our own experiences as we were growing up. Some we learned from our parents and grandparents, many we learned just from watching how others interacted with babies.
Perhaps we babysat for young children as children ourselves. Knowing some fun games to share with your young baby can help establish that trusting bond that encourages growth, not only for the young baby but even as a caregiver.
Watching a young life brighten and flourish even in the smallest of ways will be a long lasting memory, for everyone!
This article was written by Robin Gilbert of The Classic Baby Closet.
The information and statements are purely from her own life experiences having worked with young children for several years. As well as knowledge gained through Eductational courses and experiences with educators of young children.
And the raising of her own son!
Please visit The Classic Baby Closet for great selections of young baby clothing, toys and accessories!
Use of this article is encouraged along with the author bio and without manipulation of the wording!