Best Way to Help Your Baby Learn

Each time you pick him up, play with him, talk or sing to him, cuddle him, smile at him, or soothe him, you are giving your baby information about his world and what it means to be a human being. Above all, you are teaching him that he is loved. This security gives him confidence to explore his environment, developing new skills on the way, mainly by watching and copying you.

As the weeks and months pass, your baby will enthral and impress you with a dazzling array of new skills. He will gain control over his own body, and learn that he can control his environment (by picking op toys, or kicking at his mobile to make it move, for example). He will respond to you with real excitement, communicate his needs and desires, and know just how to make you laugh. He will become well attuned to the sounds, rhythms, and tones of language and will love to practise his own. He will be fascinated by his environment, and actively participate in everything going on around him. Best of all, your baby will become adept at expressing real pleasure in life – smiling, gurgling, cooing – and he will know just how to make you feel this pleasure, too.

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How to help him learn

Being your baby’s “teacher” doesn’t mean you have to give him constant stimulation and surround him with bits of coloured plastic. “Playing” with your baby during these early months is aboul giving him your attention when he wants it. Research shows that parents tend to do this naturally, but here are some pointers on how to help him get the best out of his developing awareness.

  •  Stimulate his senses. Before he can move about independently, your baby explores the world with his five senses – sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell.
  •  Face up to him. He needs lots of eye-to-eye contact to learn to communicate effectively and to feel secure.
  •  Get him involved. Point out things, describe them, and talk to him all the time. By doing this, you are helping him pick up language as well as stimulating his curiosity.
  •  Repeat yourself. Babies learn by repetition, and you’ll help him by repeating words to promote recognition.
  •  Take his lead. Don’t push your baby to play if he’s not in the mood – learn to read his cues.
  •  Act it out. Describe and demonstrate whatever you are saying or doing. Babies really respond to exaggerated expressions.
  • Entertain him. Play new games, think of new songs, and give him new experiences when you can, so he doesn’t get bored
  •  Respond to him. If he cries, cuddle him. If he laughs, laugh with him. Acknowledge how he’s feeling.
  •  Tell him he’s fantastic. Just like adults, babies love to be encouraged and told how clever they are.

0 to 6 months: your baby’s milestones

The following is a very rough guide to which skills your baby is likely to develop, and when. Remember that there is a wide variation of what’s normal for each month.

The first month

  •  recognizes your voice and smell
  •  may try to lift his head when on his tummy
  •  sticks his tongue out in response to you doing it
  • The second month
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  •  moves his head from side to side
  •  smiles for the first time
  •  coos in response to you
  •  loses some newborn reflexes
  •  makes smoother movements
  •  shows excitement when he knows you are near
  •  can see things further away
  •  opens and closes mouth in imitation of you when you talk to him

The third month

  •  becomes more interested in people around him
  •  starts to notice his hands
  •  can open and close his hands and play with his fingers
  •  may hold his head for a few seconds
  •  may push himself up on his arms briefly when lying on his tummy
  •  clasps ii toy in his hand
  •  swipes at toys
  •  reaches out and grabs at things
  •  experiments with vowel sounds
  •  may gurgle

The fourth month

  •  head control becomes steady
  • uses hands to explore his own face and objects of interest
  •  may make recognizable sounds
  •  can remember some things – for example, that a rattle makes a noise

The fifth month

  •  grabs his toes and puts them in his mouth
  • may try to take bis weight on his legs when held upright
  •  starts rolling over from fronl to back
  •  turns his head away when he doesn’t want any more food
  •  reaches for toys he wants
  •  concentrates for short periods
  •  puts everything in his mouth
  •  raises his arms to be picked up
  •  wants to be included in everything
  •  becomes excited at the prospect of food
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The sixth month

  •  holds head steady
  •  grasps objects
  •  enjoys sitting up with support
  •  starts to chuckle
  •  blows bubbles and raspberries
  •  changes tone of voice to express himself
  •  initiates interaction by getting your attention by making sounds and banging objects

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