Childhood Development

A Social Newborn?!

You get home from the hospital with your new bundle of joy and are so excited (anxious/happy/terrified?!)….to do a lot of feeding, diaper changes, and watching them sleep. It’s a whirlwind of emotions.

If you’re like me, you TRIED to create structure in your day by reading, doing tummy time, and singing/walking/etc. between all of the naps and feedings. But did you feel like you got no reciprocation from that bundle of joy in those first days? Well mama- YOU ARE! During those first months you are helping your child lay the foundation for social communication.

Let’s take a look at the “4th Trimester”/first few months of a child’s life and find those mini-milestones:

THE FIRST MONTH: Visual Attention

What is this?

In the first month of your child’s life they are learning to attend and respond to the things they see, hear, and feel. While their senses continue to develop, they are slowly beginning to pay attention and focus. First they will attend to what they see (keep in mind- this will only be objects/people close to their face at this age) but will also begin searching for what they hear (especially your voice).

Why is it important to play?

Children have to be able to identify and respond to people and sounds in order to have a conversation. If a person isn’t aware you are in the room how will you begin a conversation? If they can’t hear what you are saying how will you continue that conversation?

How to encourage:

  • Provide high contrast visuals- black and white pictures
  • Use a rattle (I love wooden ones that they can also use for teething later on!)
  • During feedings, take advantage of the closeness and watch them, make faces, and sing/talk to them
  • Read to them- alternate between facing them and cuddling while reading. It will help them to learn to localize sounds and to shift focus from the voice/tone/rhythm of the reader to the pictures in the book.
B at 1 month old. I have her facing me so she can work on shifting her head from me (reader) to the book.

BY FOUR MONTHS: Social Engagement

What is this?

Social engagement is simply when your child begins laughing/smiling/vocalizing while you play with them. Here’s is a great example of social engagement when my daughter was 3 months old:

Another one of my favorite examples of this is when my daughter learned the “fake cough”. We were regulars at a local mommy-and-me that was well attended. While sitting in the group my child began fake coughing (and smiling). Everyone began giving me the death stare (you know those early days- terrified of sickness). Now we laugh about it but back then I was mortified and sure everyone was mad I brought a “sick” child!

Why is it important to play?

You can’t have a conversation or play group with only one person. If a child doesn’t respond to you (even at this nonverbal stage), it’s a one-sided conversation. A child has to PRACTICE taking turns in conversation- from starting, responding, and ending talking turns.

How to encourage:

  • Spend time playing with your child- even at this young age!
  • Talk to them- tell them about your day, what the schedule is, describe toys, ANYTHING
  • Smile and make funny faces- they love seeing emotions on your face (and hearing them)
  • Talk, Pause, Wait- give them a chance to coo or smile at what you say/do
  • Repeat what they do/say (coos, laughter, facial expressions)
Mommy & Baby Yoga was great for Social Engagement

So mamma/dadda/care giver- I hope you are reading this and feeling confident in what you are doing. Chances are you are already doing most of these things! But isn’t it cool to think of this time a truly being the beginning of social communication?!

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