3 Things That Every Parent Does Naturally
Even people who say they have “no clue what to do with babies” will instinctively do exactly what’s necessary to enhance development as they singsong talk, make faces and gaze at their face as they hold them. We act differently with infants than we do with adults or older children.
The facial expressions we use with babies are exaggerated – both in the way they look and in how long we hold those expressions. Think about what you do when you want to get your baby to look at you. You may say something or shake a toy. Then when they look at you, you put a mock-surprise expression on your face. Eyes open wide, eyebrows up, mouth open wide with your head raised and tilted up slightly. At the same time you say “oooooh” or “aaaah”. Along with this exaggerated facial expression, there’s also an exaggeration in time, in the length of time you hold the expression. Compared to the facial expressions that you use with other adults, this interaction with your baby is different!
Ways parents naturally play with words in a way that supports language development:
- The speed at which we talk
- Exaggeration of sounds, most commonly vowel sounds
- Change in pitch and loudness is slower, creating dramatic inflections that capture attention
- Pauses between the speech sounds the you make to your baby, giving him time to process
Parent: “Aren’t you so cute?”
This imagined give-and-take conversation models how your baby will one day talk with you. You naturally modify as your baby begins to participate with sounds of their own – you’ll just insert your imagined interpretation of their coo. As time goes by the conversation changes. But in these first months as you speak to your tiny baby, you are the speech teacher! Not only that, the combination of this sweet conversation, along with facial expressions and eye contact, forms a strong attachment that’s the foundation of healthy emotional development.
How we look at babies
There are certain cultural ‘rules’ that we follow regarding eye contact with others in social interaction. If you’re out shopping and someone is staring at you, your first response is to walk the other direction! Likewise, if you’re eating dinner with a friend or your partner and they stare at you as they eat, you’d probably say something like, “What??? Stop looking at me!”
So even though you may worry about being a “perfect parent”, you’re perfectly equipped to do exactly what your baby needs! You naturally use big facial expressions, slow, sing-song speech and eye contact that lingers. All these work together to build a bond of attachment and trust that creates a foundation for healthy social-emotional development.
You are exactly what YOUR child needs. And we’re here to help you understand that little one. 😍
Reference: The First Relationship, Daniel N. Stern