Experiences during infancy set the stage for a lifetime. Literally. Here are six things every person should do for the babies in their lives:
1. Talk to them. The richer the language environment an infant experiences, the larger their vocabulary, the higher their intelligence, and the easier time they will have in school. Preschoolers growing up in poverty hear fewer than half as many words per day and essentially live in a language desert. It's one of the major barriers they experience blocking high achievement. There's no reason for it.
2. Play ping pong. Urie Bronfenbrenner, co-founder of Head Start, called the complicated interchange between babies and parents 'ping pong'. The baby smiles, the mother smiles back. The baby sticks out his tongue. So does mom. Those interchanges are the foundation of language (conversational turn-taking) and establish a pattern of coordinated behavior that provides a strong foundation for good attachment and sensitive caretaking.
3. Pick up your baby when they cry. Study after study shows that no sound is more aversive than a crying baby. Why does every fiber in your being want that baby to be quiet? Because evolution has designed us to pick up crying babies. And designed them to cry when they need us.
- The faster moms picked up infants, the less babies cried.
- Babies who were picked up fast grew up to be the most independent and curious toddlers.
- Competent babies know how to get people to fulfill their needs - they cry and then they smile when someone comes.
- Competent toddlers know how to explore the world - they use their loved ones as a safe base from which to explore.
4. Nurse your baby or help your partner or friend nurse.
5. Vaccinate your baby.
6. Enjoy your baby. It's one of the best things you can do for them and for yourself.
© 2011 Nancy Darling. All Rights Reserved
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