Are you wondering how you can best help your baby or toddler to grow and develop? How to encourage their brain, intelligence, language and physical skills? Perhaps you’re looking at the best developmental toys or activities to buy or do? Actually, it’s a lot simpler (and cheaper) thank you think! Here are the top 5 ways to grow and nurture your child to reach their full potential:
1. Hug them lots!
The best way to help to support your child’s development is to be responsive to their needs. When they cry, pick them up and try to avoid leaving them to cry alone. Babies and toddlers can’t self-settle. They need us to act as external regulators. Holding your baby in your arms helps to secrete hormones which grow the part of the brain responsible for emotion regulation. You can’t ever spoil a child with love or hold them too much!
2. Look after your own mental & physical health.
To be responsive to your baby’s needs, you need to meet your own needs too. This means that looking after your physical and mental health is a key part of helping your baby to develop. We live in a society that is not especially supportive of new parents, having a baby or toddler is hard work at the best of times – but with the pressures of life at the moment, it’s even tougher. If you are struggling you may find my book ‘How to be a Calm Parent‘ helpful.
3. Expose them to music.
Music has a wonderful effect on the developing brain, it can help babies and toddlers to feel calmer and also helps with the development of language. You don’t need to have any musical skill or talent though, your child is not that discerning! Singing nursery rhymes (however off key), humming along to a radio station swaying with your baby or toddler in your arms, or making up your own tunes are just perfect.
4. Read to them.
The more words a baby or toddler hears, the larger their vocabulary and their literacy skills will be as they grow. Reading is a lovely way for partners to bond, for instance taking the role of reading a bedtime story every night. Don’t worry if your baby or toddler never looks at the pages, doesn’t seem to pay attention, or would rather eat the book, your reading will still have an impact!
5. Play with them.
Play is the primary tool of learning. You don’t need expensive developmental toys though, simple games of pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo are more than enough. Pull funny faces, blow raspberries and have fun!
For more information on infant and child brain development, check out my new book ‘Beginnings: A guide to child psychology and development for parents of 0-5 yr olds‘.