Infants and Toddlers
Tips From Your Baby with Love
Dear Mom, Dad, (and others who care for me),
- Be aware of how you touch me. The primary way I experience you is through your hands. When you are gentle and slow, I feel relaxed and secure.
- Tell me what you’re going to do. Tell me what’s happening now, and what’s coming next. Speak softly and slowly. I will be a great listener. Even though I can’t speak, I understand you more and more each day. So if you’re going to pick me up, change my diaper, or interact with me in any way, let me know first, and give me time to respond before you take action. Then I’m a part of it, too.
- Allow me to move without restraint. I don’t need walkers, bouncers, saucers, or swings. Also, when you prop me up with pillows behind me, or put me on my tummy before I can get there myself, I feel trapped because I can’t move. Instead, put me on my back in a safe space so I can twist and turn and reach and kick.
- Don’t push me to do more than I can do. If I could roll over, sit up, crawl or walk I would do it-I really would. Take pleasure in what I can do today; it makes me feel proud of myself, capable and confident. When you ask me to do something I’m not ready for, I feel like what I can do now is not good enough for you, and I really want to please you.
- Keep my toys simple. My world is complicated enough. Don’t feel as if you have to entertain me, or buy toys to entertain me. Try to keep the television off when I’m around. I’d rather be active and create my own play with simple toys, like scarves, balls and blocks, kitchen colanders and measuring cups. Be wary of toys labeled “educational,” and anything that flashes or makes noise. What I need is simplicity, so I can make my own fun.
- Allow me to control my own play. Make sure I have ample time each day to play, uninterrupted, with toys I can use however I like, without there being a “right” or “wrong” way to play. I learn through play, and the more I get to choose what to do and how to do it, the more I learn and the more focused and aware I become.
- Watch and wait, then help me if I need it. I grow through solving my own problems. If I get a toy stuck, wait to see if I can get it out for myself. If I can’t, maybe you could nudge it a little bit so I can? Sometimes there are situations I get into that I can’t get out of, but most of the time, with a little help and encouragement from you, I can do it! When you encourage me to find solutions on my own, it tells me that you have confidence in my abilities. I know you are proud of me, and I am proud of me too.
- Give me choices so I can help in my own care. Ask me things like: Do you want to wear the blue jeans or the brown pants? Do you want peaches or bananas with your lunch? Wait patiently for me to do things, like feed myself the peaches (or bananas) or put my arm in my sleeve. It may take longer, but my accomplishments, and my choices, will make me feel good and capable.
- Make only nutritious food available to me, but never force me to eat anything. I know you want what is best for me, and sometimes it is hard for you when I choose not to eat, because you worry. Have faith. If you make good food available regularly, I will get what I need over the course of time. And remember, when you offer me something new, you may need to offer it to me on a number of different occasions before I will try it!
- Watch me when I play, and just be there for me. Don’t feel like you have to do anything, or entertain me in any way. Enjoy being with me and I’ll enjoy being with you. If I look at you and you smile at me, I may smile back. Or say something simple, like, “You bounced the green ball. It rolled away!” If you are “there” for me, a little bit every day, this lets me know that what I choose to do is important to you and that you are paying attention. When you give me this quality attention, it helps me to play by myself at other times and feel secure in knowing you are there if I need you.
- Spend time with me each day outdoors. I like experiencing nature firsthand! I need outdoor places where I can get fresh air and exercise. The outdoors is also full of amazing “free toys” you can help me explore, like leaves, bugs, trees, and grass. Being outdoors each day helps me sleep better each night, so try to make it a part of my daily routine. (And don’t forget sunscreen!)
- When you care for me-whether it be diapering, feeding, or bathing-be with me and only me. If you can, take the phone off of the hook, turn off the TV, and let other members of the family know that you are now with me. Take your time with me. Speak some of your thoughts out loud. Tell me what you’re doing. Wait for my response. If I get 100 percent of your attention some of the time, I will be less clingy and needy all of the time.
Keri Schouten, M.A. Intern, COCOKIDS