You might not realize it but every moment you spend with baby can be an opportunity for her growth and development. And we’re not talking about bombarding her with books and activities — she might not even be able to fully understand it yet!
When it comes to babies, the little things count — and go a long way. Here are some of the things you may have overlooked but can create an impact in your child’s growth:
1. Laughter and a good sense of humor
Developing a good sense of humor makes children happier, healthier, more resilient, spontaneous, and even smarter. It develops optimism and boosts self-esteem, too.
A good way to start is by playing peek-a-boo with your child. According to a recent study, babies learn better with a jokey play partner. And, according to Caspar Addyman, a lecturer in psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, babies laugh when they want you to continue to interact with them. “That way, they learn more,” he says.
2. Sleep and a lot of it
Your baby needs as much snooze throughout the day without unnecessary interruptions if you want him to be more receptive to new experiences. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), benefits of a proper night’s sleep include better attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Basically, it’s everything a child needs to function well in school and at home.
So how much sleep does your baby need? According to the AASM, infants who are 4 to 12 months old should sleep 12 to 16 hours (including naps) per 24 hours to promote optimal health. (For a full list of guidelines on how much sleep your kids need from infancy to teen, click here.)
3. Swaddling (not just for the cuteness factor)
Wrapping infants in a warm blanket simulates the warmth and security of a mother’s womb. Keeping them snug, with arms straight down their sides, prevents flailing and excessive movement, helping them sleep longer.
But a word of caution: swaddling can cause heat exhaustion especially in our weather, so, make sure to check that your baby is comfortable and cool. “A rule of thumb is to check what you would be comfortable wearing. A baby younger than 3 months just needs one more extra layer than an adult, while you should dress an older baby the way you would yourself,” advises pediatrician Dr. Roman Araullo.
Lastly, stop swaddling when your baby’s already trying to learn how to turn on his own, which is at around the three-month mark. “Mobility – freedom to safely move and explore – is very important in your baby’s development,” says Araullo.
4. A good grooming regimen
Make them love bath-time even as babies! Even if they are to young to bathe on their own, you can start by explaining to them the importance of bathing. At age one, you can let them do simple tasks like pumping out product for the shampoo battle, or working up a lather with the soap using their hands. Keeping them clean and comfortable is a good habit to instill in childhood that will benefit their health in the long run.
5. A healthy eating habit
Children have many taste buds and are born with the ability to taste, smell, and discriminate among a variety of foods. If you want your baby to eat healthier, train your baby’s preferences when she reaches six months. By then, she is ready for solid food. Feed her a variety of vegetables with different textures and tastes. Teach her to accept vegetables and fruits even if they are bitter and sour. Make sure that they also come in different textures and flavors. (Read here for more tips on establishing healthy eating habits for your child.)
6. More playtime with Daddy
Studies have proven that babies reap lifelong benefits from having a hands-on dad. They can become less fussy, grow up well-behaved, and even become smarter and more successful. Most importantly, your babies will grow up happier!
To foster dad and baby’s special connection, moms need to trust that dad can take care of the babies, especially while they’re still newborns. Read here for ways that mom can help dad be closer to baby.
7. More chatter
Talking to babies jumpstarts their language development and establishes a strong foundation for a lasting intimate relationship between parent and child. Your baby picks up the cadence and tones of your voice and will know you are someone he can trust. Click here for age-by-age guidelines on specific conversations you can have with your baby at each age of growth.
8. Establish rules
Be firm when you say no, as you set safety guidelines for your baby. Establishing clear boundaries is important if you want to teach them how to stay within limits. Speak in a firm and serious tone when addressing misbehavior or when stressing a rule with your child. Remain firm even if he or she begins to whimper and cry; sometimes it’s the only way to get your message across.
Remember to discuss basic discipline strategies with your spouse and agree on appropriate consequences to give your child. You need to be consistent if you want your kids to respect and adhere to the rules you set.
9. Let them feel frustration
Recent research found that babies who watch an adult struggle with a task and then succeed afterward are more likely to show perseverance with their own baby-sized challenges. Even at a tender age, your babies can already learn grit, or the ability to withstand failure and keep trying. It’s one of the key predictors of a person’s success in life, even more than IQ. Curb your urge to rescue your child and let him solve tiny problems on his own. He’ll thank you later for it.
10. Some ‘me’ time
Yes, you read that right. Just like adults, babies need as much time to unwind and relax, and not have to deal and interact with anyone. From this downtime, they learn how to soothe and entertain themselves on their own. In fact, solo play builds confidence, critical thinking, and creativity, according to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist and author of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards. Another advantage? It leaves you to have time for yourself, too!