When they’re born, babies rely on their instincts and reflexes to make their way around the world, but as they grow, they turn more to us, and the world around them, to help in their development. You can support by upping her exposure to the things she loves.
Ever wondered why toy stores are lined with rainbow-coloured toys? The answer is simple – babies are attracted to bright colours. “Young children are drawn to bold, primary colours and they probably recognise reds and greens best, followed by blues and yellows,” says educational psychologist Danielle Forsyth. If you were thinking of a pastel-themed room for your little one, introduce bold colours to her field of vision elsewhere.
It isn’t only colours that demand your baby’s attention; patterns do as well. “At two weeks of age, your baby’s pupils enlarge, allowing her to experience a broader range of shades. As her retina develops, her ability to see and recognise patterns improves. The more contrast there is in a pattern, the more it will attract your baby’s attention,” says Danielle.
Your new-born baby spends a lot of the day staring at your face. This is because a new-born’s eyes focus best at 20 to 30 centimetres. This is usually the distance from your face to theirs when you cradle your baby or hold them, says Danielle. Nature is wise, as you can see.
At around two months, your baby is able to recognise your face and will begin to respond with a smile. Eye contact is important to establish a loving relationship because it means that you take an interest in your baby as a person. Look into her eyes – she will be fascinated by your face. So feel free to make animated expressions and see how your baby responds – they are likely to love it.
Power of touch
“All babies benefit from regular touch,” says Danielle. It can soothe, comfort, reassure and heal. With positive touch and massage your baby’s stress is reduced; they will cry less, sleep more and are generally easier to soothe. By touching your baby, you’re letting her know that you’re there for her, that you care and that you’ll protect her. Touch is critical for your baby’s physiological, psychological and emotional health.
While you touch your baby often during the day without realising, using touch intentionally (comforting or through massage) only increases the benefits. Touch stimulates and awakens a lot of processes in your baby’s body. In fact, your baby develops her sense of touch while she’s in your womb – at about five weeks’ gestation.
Touch also helps your baby to develop her kinaesthetic and proprioceptive senses. These are the senses that help her judge how far an object is and how deep it is. In the beginning your baby only has reflexes and her awareness of self has to be taught. By using intentional touch, you’re helping her to connect her movements with herself and teaching her to control them.
Move to the beat
While your baby can’t dance on her own, it doesn’t mean she isn’t enjoying the tune. “Music helps a baby express their emotions, develop a sense of rhythm (which will support her physical development), develop her communication skills and allows her to benefit from auditory and tactile stimulation (through the vibrations of the music),” says Danielle. It also works as a relaxation tool – playing a quiet lullaby to your baby can instantly calm her down.
As a parent, you should play lots of different types of music to your baby. But keep the volume moderate as loud music can damage a baby’s hearing.
Also try singing to your baby. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing well, just hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language,” explains Danielle. When she is older you can sing with your child. By adding words to the music, you help your child learn language and vocabulary quicker.