babyandboyYour baby is here and you probably can’t stop looking at her. You wonder what she knows about you, how much she sees, hears, how she feels your touch, and more. How can you best connect with your baby and make those first conversations count?

There are three building blocks that are critical nutrients for a baby to grow, learn, feel safe and loved at the same time.

1.  YOUR FACE: Get up close and show your face. Face time helps to bond, builds security and knowledge.

Babies love faces and especially those of people familiar to them. You may notice that your baby sometimes just stares at your face and scans it. There’s a lot to see in your face, especially if you talk, sing, read or smile because your mouth and lips move and babies love anything that moves.

Since babies don’t see far at first, getting up close to about 8-12 inches is important so she can see you well. Fortunately, this is the usual distance during breast-feeding which means that your baby can get a close look at you then. Anything beyond that range will be blurry in the first few weeks.

Face Activities:

Zoom in, Zoom out: When your baby is quiet and alert, move your baby or yourself close so you’re looking at each other within that 8-12 inch distance. Then zoom out and see what your baby does. Then zoom back in, then out again. Move slowly and pause in between. Watch what happens as you zoom out and then back in.

Copy me: When your baby is alert, make some funny and simple face movements. Stick out your tongue real long while saying ‘aaaa’; stick out your tongue and wiggle it clearly from left to right; open your mouth wide and say ‘aaaa’ or ‘oooo’. Repeat each gesture several times, so your baby gets a clear picture of it. Does your baby copy you?

What do babies notice when they look at a face?

At first, they go for high contrast areas such as the transition from the hairline to the forehead. They are also interested in your eyes and around 3-4 months, babies get really interested in watching your mouth. Amazingly, this is also the time when they start learning about sounds and so by getting up close, your baby can see how you form sounds as you talk.

2.  YOUR VOICE. Get up close and have your baby listen and watch you as you talk, sing and read.

Newborns’ hearing is much better developed than their vision. Your voice is a perfect magnet to get and hold your baby’s attention. That’s why talking, reading and singing are powerful ways to connect and bond, especially so when you’re face to face. Newborns and babies prefer listening to baby talk or also called parentese: You talk in a higher, and more varied pitch, exaggerate and clearly articulate your words.

Voice Activities:

High, Low: When your baby is alert, sing or talk in a high pitched voice. Then alternate and sing or talk in a lower pitch. Keep alternating higher and lower pitch as you engage. How does your baby react?

Left, Right: When your baby is alert, call or sing her name from the left side. Then move to the middle. Next, call or sing her name from the right side. See if your baby follows your voice – with her eyes, head, or both. Repeat left, right, left, right. See if your baby learns to anticipate your moves as she gets older. It may take some time for your baby to reliably orient but she’ll get the hang of it.

Kitchen Tour: Introduce your baby to your home. Hold her securely on your arms, walk through your kitchen and tell her what’s hidden in those cabinets. Knock on the cabinets, saying Knock Knock before you open each one to provide some structure to your kitchen tour.

Caution: A baby’s hearing is very sensitive. Avoid loud music and never put headphones on your baby’s ears. Constant exposure to loud noises and music may damage hearing.

3. YOUR TOUCH. Be hands-on. Let your baby feel your gentle fingers and hands.

Touch is the first sense to develop and is another critical nutrient for babies. Babies need and love to be caressed – through gentle strokes, touches and massages. Long before babies understand words, they understand that they are loved and safe through your gentle, hands-on touch that is relaxing and soothing. Massaging an infant likely helps to reduce crying, it lessens pain, reduces stress, and helps to gain weight and sleep more easily. Premature infants who got regular massages 3 times a day over 10 days, gained more weight than their peers not getting touch therapy.

Touch Activities:

Skin-Time: With your baby only wearing a diaper, put him on your bare chest with the head close to your heart so he can hear its beat. Your heart beat and skin are a powerful way to make the baby feel safe and connected.

Plate-Kicks: Take a plastic plate and put some soft cloth over it. Hold the plate against the baby’s legs so when he kicks, he can feel the texture. Change the texture over time, so he gets new experiences.

What are activities that get your baby engaged?

Play when your baby is alert. Hold her upright which makes her more alert and ready to play. Be expressive in your face and voice. Smile big, open your eyes wide, talk clearly and use an animated voice. Make funny noises, sing, talk and read together.

I’d love to hear from you.

Share your experiences with other parents and young children by submitting pictures, videos or stories on Parent Share.

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Looking for a resource to more closely tune in to your child and foster learning all around as you build a strong foundation together, check out my new book: Raising A Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.

Click here to find out more about it and read excerpts.

More information – Gryphon House