Saturday, July 08, 2006

Day 138 - Raising a Smarter Baby Part 4 - Social Skills

Part 4 of the Raising a Smarter Baby series

Today's Tip - Learning to be social doesn't just mean playing well with others

Babies are almost pre-programmed to be social. Studies show they prefer human faces and voices over inanimate objects. The first thing that made my son smile wasn't a toy that made noise or lit up. It was my wife and I sticking our tongues out at him so that he could stick his right back at us. Thanks for the sass, kid.

Group Play
Rather than just setting your baby down on a play mat or throwing him in his car seat with a few rattles, it's critical for his social development for you to be right down there with him. Play by himself is good too, but before he learns to play on his own, he learns to play with you. Things like tickling, running conversation, peek-a-boo, making faces at each other and playing with the toys you have for him together are great ways to bond and teach him about interacting with other people.

What's Your Mood
Babies know early on that there are differences between happy, sad, mad, etc. They might not know what they mean until later on, but you'll find that your baby smiles when you smile, cries when you cry, gets stressed when you're stressed. It's impossible, not to mention inhuman to be happy all the time around your baby, but if you make an extra effort to put on a happy face around them, chances are they'll grow up to be happier as well.

Talk to strangers
Before the age of eight months or so, babies love to play with anyone. You might feel bad that he smiles from ear to ear at the meter reader, something he usually only does for you, but his reaction is a natural baby fascination with faces. When we pass our son around at family parties, he's in heaven, smiling and getting excited at each new face he sees. But don't fear, babies can tell the difference between their mom and a stranger from birth, and he'll always have a special place in his heart for you.

Don't talk to strangers
Once your baby is old enough to be shy as doesn't want to be passed around, you can make it easier on him so he continues to feel comfortable in social situations like day care or family parties. He's beginning to discover he's an independent person...which can be scary. So naturally he's going to turn to you, his biggest source of comfort. To help him through this transition, let him crawl or walk away from you rather than be taken. Leave him with some familiar objects like a blanket or pacifier or toy, and encourage strangers to get down to his level rather than towering over him.

Another key to teaching your baby about interaction is to respond to his attempts at communication. Get him what he needs when he cries. Chat back at him when he's spouting jibberish. If he reaches for something, and it's safe, let him explore it with you.

Part 5 Tomorrow - Baby Toys

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