Oh, Baby!

The arrival of a new baby into the home can bring so many emotions, including joy, anticipation, worry, and delight. These emotions may stem from realizing that as parents, keeping the newborn safe, alive, and well-cared for is essential. Parents will monitor a new baby’s growth; they will watch how much a new one eats or sleeps, or even coo’s and cries. Each of these actions can produce a reaction on the part of the caregiver. Infants rely on their caregivers to provide so much of their daily care. This is a time when the attachment bond is securely formed. A child who cries and their needs are met will learn to rely on someone to provide for their needs.

Infants are discovering movement through head control and noticing their hands and fingers. As they grow, they learn to roll over, sit up, and eventually crawl. Brain development is efficiently creating neural pathways that are critical windows of opportunity. As parents take the time to talk to their babies, this enhances the brain’s development. A child hearing more words in the first years of life benefits the child when they begin school.

A few great ways to engage with your infant in the early stages of development include:

  • Talking and reading to your baby.
  • Repeating your words and responding to the baby talk and sounds your infant makes will provide reassurance to your little one.
  • Give lots of attention and stimulation to your baby.
  • When they begin noticing their hands and fingers, be sure to provide toys and sound makers that will encourage their use of their newfound hands.
  • Keep the baby safe by taking a close look at the environment and removing any hazards that could be potential trouble.
  • Children are naturally curious and will put most items in their mouth. Be sure to check for small items that could cause a choking hazard and remove those toys.
  • Wash and clean mouthed toys often.
  • Most of all, show love and affection to your baby and enjoy this stage of development. 

For additional information on your child’s growth and development, please explore a free series of electronic newsletters delivered to your email inbox based on your child’s birthday. They are called the Just In Time Parenting newsletters. Delivered once a month, the newsletter is filled with information about what you can expect of your child’s development, tips for how you can support your babies growth and progress toward their next milestones, tips for handling those common challenging moments, and some great suggestions for you, as a parent, to practice self-care.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Infants learn more vocabulary words from parental interactions than from watching commercial DVD’s

A recent study revealed that babies learn vocabulary words better from interactions with their parents than from watching commercial DVDs which claim to enhance infants’ vocabularies. Researchers tested infants’ (12-18 months old) acquisition of new vocabulary words by comparing infants’ experiences with a commercial DVD designed and promoted for building vocabulary in infants.

To test the infants’ learning of vocabulary words, researchers constructed four learning environments. One learning environment included infants who watched a commercial DVD (designed and promoted to enhance infants’ vocabularies) with their parents at least 5 times per week for 4 weeks, for at least 10 or more hours of viewing time. Parents were asked to engage with their infants in a manner similar to what they would normally do when watching an educational video with their infant. The second learning environment consisted of infants who watched the video for the same amounts of time as the prior condition, but the infants did not engage in any parental interactions. The third learning environment was comprised of parents who were asked to interact with their infants by teaching them a list of 25 words that were shown in the video; infants in this scenario did not watch any videos. Finally, infants in the last condition were considered the “control” group—their parents did not receive any instructions and the infants and parents conducted their normal every day activities.

Interestingly, only the infants who did not watch any videos and only had their parents teaching them new vocabulary words (third learning environment) showed statistically significant increases in their vocabularies. Infants had the highest level of learning when their parents made a concerted effort to teach their children the same words during everyday activities without the aid of any videos. These findings are also consistent with prior research.

In conclusion, the researchers hypothesize that some parents may be overestimating the usefulness of videos to teach infants vocabulary words; in fact, it appears more likely that increases in infants’ vocabularies are the result of normal child development…not the videos infants are watching. Thus, parents who wish to boost their infant’s vocabulary should interact with their infant and concentrate on teaching them vocabulary words through their everyday interactions, as opposed to having their child watch DVD’s.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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