Creating a Stimulating Environment for Your Baby
Optimum child development starts with a caring, responsive, safe, and highly stimulating home environment. Every parent knows that children, especially babies, are very dependent on our love and affection and the care and attention that we provide. In fact, babies below one year of age only require two very important things – a loving, highly responsive, and consistently tender care from their respective parents and a highly enriching or stimulating home environment. If you are able to ensure these two things, you are guaranteed to have children grow to their full potential.
Babies and Parents – The Irreplaceable Pair
Did you know that you are the most precious and most important thing in the lives of your babies? There can be no substitute for good old loving especially the one from a parent to his or her child. No school curriculum, no matter how special it is, can ever replace the value of the relationship between parents and their children. It is for this reason that the first year of life is devoted primarily to the establishment of an unbreakable and irreplaceable bond between you and your precious little baby.
By the end of the 1st week of life, they already recognize your voice. Your baby surely cannot understand what you are saying yet but he or she does somehow feel that he or she can trust you. By age 2 weeks your baby can already focus on your face especially if you bring him or her close to you while breastfeeding. He or she will be memorizing every contour and blemish on your face. To the young baby’s mind, what is registering is the face of the person who loves the baby the most. By the third week, your baby will already attempt to snuggle with you. Another week and he or she already knows the power of his or her voice. Infants cannot talk yet. However, they do have a way of communicating their needs to their parents. They cry. They coo and create lovable sounds. By 5 to 6 months you can already see them smiling whenever they see your face.
Up until they reach their first year of life, your baby’s world will be focused on you and his or her other primary caregivers. You see, you are the most important person in your baby’s life. Whatever you are going to do in his or her first year will have a significant effect on his or her physical, emotional, and psychosocial development.
Fostering the Parent-Baby Relationship
Before you can begin creating a stimulating environment for your baby, you need to make sure that you have covered the fundamentals first. This includes providing loving, consistent, and responsive care.
It is very important for babies to know and feel that you love them. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways like the sound and tone of your voice, the way you touch them, and the way you maintain eye contact with your baby. You can engage your baby in some “baby talk” and he or she will feel how much he or she is loved.
It is equally important for babies to have their needs attended to. While some child psychologists will tell you to resist the temptation of waking up in the middle of the night to give your baby his or her bottle, personally we prefer responding to the cries of our babies even in the middle of the night. Some say this is spoiling the child but we also believe in several research results saying that infants who are cared for or held more often cry less. We believe their cries are their way of telling us they need something. If we don’t respond, then they begin to distrust us and this is clearly what we don’t want to happen.
Lastly, establishing a routine for your baby is largely considered counterproductive especially if you are so strict about following a certain routine. Nevertheless, you will still have to show consistency in your care for your baby which can mean doing the same things over and over every single day until such time that your baby learns to understand that it is a daily routine, not an hourly routine.
Creating a Stimulating Environment for Babies
The fourth element after loving, consistent, and responsive caring is creating a stimulating home environment. The point that you need to understand is that, you have to integrate the core concepts of love, consistency, and responsiveness in the creation of an environment that is developmentally stimulating for your baby.
Here are some tips for you to consider.
Baby-Proof Your Home
In order for you to create a more meaningful stimulating environment for your baby, it is equally important to childproof your home. This means that you have to think about your baby’s safety all the time. You may have to check whether you have certain elements in your house that is not considered safe your kids especially the younger ones.
Organize Your Baby’s Room
Try to look at your baby’s room. If he or she doesn’t have his or her own room yet, try to look at the room where your baby will be spending most of his or her time. Try to organize the room in such a way that your baby will be surrounded with a lot of things for the senses. Painting your baby’s room with lovely and cute characters can be a very interesting way to stimulate your baby’s senses. You can place mobiles, quilts, and colorful bedspreads as well as pictures of smiling babies. You can add glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling while placing letters, numbers, and shapes on your baby’s wall. You can also place your baby’s own sound system that will play soft lullabies during bedtime or classical melodies during playtime.
Make Sure Your Baby’s Toy Boxes are Accessible
By the age of 4 to 7 months, your baby will already be sitting up independently. Now is the perfect time for him or her to start exploring. Make sure to put his or her toy boxes near your baby’s play area so he or she can simply choose which ones he or she likes. This helps stimulate your baby’s ability to choose. Just make sure that the toy box is not deep that he or she will have difficulty getting the toy your baby wants. By the time they reach 1 year old and they are already standing and ready to walk, then you can start placing toy boxes at different distances from his or her play area.
Provide Safe Access to the Outside World
If you have a full-length glass door or window, make sure to place your baby’s play mat or even crib near these fixtures. Early on, your baby will also need to see and begin to appreciate the world outside his or her home. If your baby can already start crawling, just make sure that the doors and windows are closed but the curtains are drawn.
Create Variety in Playing Surfaces
If you have to create your own baby playing area, make sure that the surfaces come in different textures. If you are skilled in creating quilts, you can take this wonderful opportunity to create fantastic multi-textured and multi-colored play mat for your baby. This is especially important if your baby is already beginning to crawl and starting to pull himself or herself up to a standing position.
Plan for Living Spaces where Your Baby can Play in Plain Sight of His or Her Caregiver
If you have to leave your baby to play while you tend to some household chores, make sure that his or her play area is not obstructed from view. You must still have absolute control of any situation that may endanger the safety of your baby.
Provide Age- and Developmentally- Appropriate Playthings and Toys
To optimize the full growth and development potential of your baby, you also need to provide him or her age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate toys. It is one thing to create a stimulating environment. It is another thing to choose items, especially playthings, which will help realize the aims of child development.
For newborns, you can give them toys with bright colors and high-contrast patterns as well as slow-moving toys that produce soft and gentle sounds. For this, you can provide handheld toys, mobiles, music boxes, unbreakable mirrors, wrist and sock rattles, wind chimes, soft books that contain high-contrast patterns, and wind chimes, just to name a few.
For your older baby, he or she will already have great control over his or her body movements including rocking, sitting, crawling, and standing. You can already start giving them activity bars, squeaky rubber toys, soft and cuddly stuffed dolls and animals, lightweight rattles, playmats, activity quilts, colorful yet safe teething rings, stationary activity centers, and any toy that they can manipulate.
(Hey! You May Also Want To Read: Choosing Age Appropriate Toys For Kids)
The Bottom Line
You are your baby’s hero. Your baby wants to hear your voice, feel your presence, and see you as his or her most important and most precious person. So, take time to really play with your child, sing him or her a song, or even read him or her a story. You are essentially the most stimulating person your baby will ever encounter.