From the moment we brought our tiny little delicate angel home from the hospital we have been so excited to share the world with her and want nothing but to watch her grow and thrive. And it's so crazy how much newborns are learning and changing by the minute. I am flabbergasted that our baby girl joined us only nine short months ago because it feels like forever. She has changed SO freaking much already. HOW?!
Fresh out of the womb newborns are adapting to their new surroundings and soaking in all the new sights, smells and sounds. As infants they are trying to hone their gross motor skills and, as babies, they begin to express their personalities.
As parents, it's our job to support and foster their development. So today I wanted to share a few ways on how we have been trying to help to promote our baby's development. Of course, consult your pediatrician on what's best for you and your baby, but these are just things I have been trying to be mindful of myself.
Provide Visual Stimulation
When your baby is born she can barely see further than eight to twelve inches. Her sight is still developing but it's important to stay within their field of vision and help her get to know you (babies love studying designs that resemble the human face). A perfect excuse to hold your baby close.
While their vision is still pretty fuzzy, you can help her find focus on bold colors, like black and white. I bought this book for Luna and it was so cool watching her eyes widen as she stared in wonderment at the pages. It was honestly the first time I had ever seen her zero in on something like that. So cool to watch.
As your baby takes in all the sights around her, her optic nerves grow, the retina thrives and the visual part of your baby's brain develops tremendously. That's why visual stimulation for your little one is so crucial.
Other ways I've read to stimulate your baby's vision is to change their crib position frequently, hang a mobile, talk to them as you walk around the room, play hide and seek with toys and show her bright, primary colors rather than pastels.
The American Optometric Association recommends you get your babies eyes checked at birth, six months, three years and then again before first grade in order to detect any problems and address them early on in development. I actually already took Luna in and I am glad to report her eyes are healthy and developing perfectly. But summertime is the perfect time to take your children in for an annual comprehensive eye exam while they are out of school and have more free time from busy schedules. You can easily find a doctor by using this handy Find a Doctor Tool on thinkaboutyoureyes.com/locator.
Have a Conversation with your Baby
From day one I have always tried to talk to Luna, explaining to her what I am doing and telling her about the world around her. For example, 'right now I am changing your diaper,' 'look at the beautiful blue sky today with the glimmering white clouds.'
I had read a study that showed a link between the child's academic performance and the number of words spoken in their home. And one of the most important times for your child to hear a large number of words spoken is during the first year of life. I have taken this to heart and really try to talk with Luna and tell her what I am doing.
But I read that not only does the number of words spoken to your baby in a day matters, but the way a parent speaks to their child matters too. Rich, complex conversations that are face-to-face are the best for cognitive development. So, I try to talk to Luna in conversations that invite her to think deeply. One great way to do this is speak in 'if's.' For example, 'if I put your bottle in the bottle warmer, do you think it will get hot?'
I try to avoid 'business words' like 'pick up the ball' or 'don't do that' and instead say, 'wow, look at this ball, what if you picked it up?'
I also love to make eye contact with Luna, ask her questions and wait for a response. Starting around two months she started to babble and verbally express herself. So to teach her how conversation works, I love to ask her something, wait for her to respond, and then ask something else, as if we are having a conversation. You may have seen me do this from time to time on my Instagram stories (see my highlights). This teaches her important verbal communication skills and sets her up for healthy communication habits.
It's incredible that such a tiny investment can have such beneficial lifetime returns. So don't forget to sing, read lots of books and just talk to your baby.
Introduce Age-Appropriate Developmental Toys
Once Luna was old enough to start grasping things and retrieve objects, I couldn't wait to start to introduce more age-appropriate developmental toys. She has so much fun spending hours exploring and enjoying her fun toys. Some of my favorites include interactive toys that facilitate her development like musical toys (like her ride-or-die maracas (you will hardly ever see her without one in hand) and this all-in-one musical toy, as well as colorful, sensory stimulating toys like these wooden beads (both made with a child-safe water-based paint). We also love pop up toys that encourage her to move and chase after them.
Encourage Your Baby's Hand-Eye Coordination
Hand-Eye coordination is actually a complex neurological process that should be encouraged from an early age. It works in conjunction with both our fine-motor skills (needed for doing up buttons) to gross-motor skills (needed for doing things like hitting a tennis ball).
Some ways to encourage your baby's hand-eye coordination include placing toys just out of her grasp and encouraging her to reach for them, letting your baby feed herself (baby-led weaning), letting her swipe at colorful objects hanging from her activity gym and alternating arm and leg movement during tummy time.
Help Your Baby Develop a Strong Body
You only get one body in this life, so I want to make sure it lasts Luna a lifetime. It's important to help your baby develop a strong body through encouraging movement. When Luna was a newborn we would make floor time fun by turning on some music and dancing to the beat as I would wriggle her arms and legs and basically make her do the 'stayin' alive' dance haha. But I'd make her arms go out as if she's reaching for a hug and then in as she gives herself a big bear hug. Then I would tap her left foot to her right hand and vice versa. Not only was she developing a strong body, but also stimulating her brain. We learned this in our mommy-and-me singing/baby exercise class.
We also did ample tummy time as a newborn. Even though she hated it at first and sometimes it would only last a minute or two, I aimed to do tummy time at least three times a day in some capacity. Then, once she got bigger and gained more interest in her toys, she started loving her tummy time. Soon thereafter she was scooting at five and a half months, standing at six months, crawling at seven months, and I've seen her try to start standing on her own lately without holding onto anything at eight months. Mama might be in for trouble, but I love watching her grow so strong and thrive and learn as she goes. It's so cool to literally watch her brain at work and watch the lightbulb turn on so-to-speak when she's working through something.
There is nothing quite like watching your little angel grow and learn and develop. It has truly been a year of firsts for both Luna and I, and it's like seeing the world through rose colored glasses as if I am seeing it all again for the first time. She is so smart and so loved. I hope you guys found this post helpful. Again, this is just what we have done but I love learning new ideas from other moms, so please, share your tips in the comments below!