Smart Play

A common fear among new parents is that their child is not developing mentally and physically at the proper rate. Some worry that they are doing all the wrong things when it comes to promoting healthy development in their child. Before you start to panic, keep in mind that simply playing and interacting with your child helps to encourage different facets of their development. Just because it doesn't seem like your child is learning something, doesn't mean that they aren't.

In normal baby development, your baby will start learning from day one. Even though their brains might not be developed enough to understand everything they take in, a baby's senses never stop working to figure out what is good and what is bad; what they like and what they don't like.

As a parent, it is important that you create the ideal environment for your child to learn in. This environment should be filled with love and involvement, not pressure. Talk and sing to your child often. This helps to stimulate her and also helps towards understanding language. It will eventually also lead to your baby's ability to talk. Reading is especially important for language development in babies, so read to them often. When your baby is five- to six-months old, it is a good idea to have at least one reading session everyday.

It can be easy to think that, since babies are so young, that they don't have any opinions. This is far from true. Babies have very definite ideas about what they do and don't like, so pay attention. This will help you figure out just what kind of stimulation is best suited to your baby. They also know how long something interests them for. If you haven't even gotten through the first page in storybook before they turn away, don't try to keep them with you. Babies don't have long attention spans and it is better to move on to the next thing that interests them in order to keep them stimulated.

While it is certainly important to interact with your baby, you should also give your little one some space to be independent. Let them explore and play on their own. This will help them later on to play and learn independently.

Regardless of your child's age, don't pressure them to learn. Pressuring a child to walk, talk, write or do math equations takes all the fun out of learning and can be harmful. A child who is under constant pressure to be the best will likely suffer from self-esteem issues. Remember, people learn best when it is fun and it doesn't seem like a lesson.

The Senses
A baby does a lot of learning and exploring in the first few months through its senses. Smells let the baby know about its environment while taste is explored at every meal and, once they get the coordination, by everything they can get their hands on to put into their mouth.

Your baby's sight is important because they learn about the world around them from what they see. You can encourage development of sight and understanding, along with abilities such as tracking movement, by giving them mobiles and dragging brightly colored objects through their line of vision. Also, point out people and items to them so that they can slowly begin to associate names with things.

Sound is another important sense that alerts babies to what's going on around them. Talking often to your child will help them get to know you better as well as aid them in their language development. Using visuals with sound will help your baby's development of coordination between sight and sound. A basic toy that is great for sight and sound development is a rattle.

Touch is an especially important part of child development. The different textures of items help your child learn about its surrounding. And if you need another reason to shower your baby with kisses, hugs and tickles, here is a good one. Babies that were born prematurely and underweight have been shown to gain weight faster when they were massaged for 20 minutes a day, every day. Babies that were not touched at all had an abnormal growth rate. So, hug, kiss and caress your baby to health.

Social Skills
Your baby's social development starts well before she or he begins playing with other children. It starts even before she or he can talk. Your baby starts to understand social relationships by observing you and how you interact with others in everyday life. This is why it is so important to set a good example now.

Simple toys, like stuffed animals and dolls, can also help with your child's social development skills. You might not be able to understand the babble of your child at six months, but their stuffed toys can.

Motor Skills
Encourage your baby's developing ability to move their hands by allowing them to remain free most of the time. Also, have some baby-friendly items that can easily be grasped in those tiny hands. Again, rattles are a great choice. Other fun items for your baby to play with are cradle gyms (as long as the can't sit up) and activity boards that have lots of pulls, dials, buttons, and things to push or poke. Activity boards will also help you baby start to understand the idea of cause and effect.

Putting your baby in a swing or baby seat may be convenient for you, since you know they're not going anywhere, but it doesn't help them move around and stay fit. Put your baby on the floor or prop her or him up against a pillow on the carpet for a change of scenery. This will encourage them to move around, support their heads, and turn over. Just make sure you keep an eye on them.

Making Baby Smart
All parents would like to do everything they can to ensure having a smart baby. While you may be tempted to break out the flash cards so you can start teaching your two-month-old to read, don't. The only thing you will achieve is placing unnecessary pressure and expectations on your child.

Allowing your baby to mature at their own pace with lots of love and encouragement are the main ingredients in developing their intellect. Reading to your child, pointing out names of objects and taking them out with you will also encourage their intellectual growth. And if your child cannot read Shakespeare by age two, don't worry. That's normal.

Also, don't be too obsessed with average ages of development. All babies develop differently and your baby might be a late bloomer. Instead, make note of the cut-off age for milestones in development. This is the age at which the vast majority of babies (at least 90%) have achieved a particular milestone. If your child is still off the milestone list, then make an appointment with their health care provider. While your little one is most likely just taking their time with their development, having an assessment by their health care provider will help to rule out any problems that may be hindering your child's development.