The importance of interacting with babies
It’s most people’s natural response when they see a baby to ‘coo’ and to smile and to talk in that lovely high pitched voice we don’t even realise that we do! Reassuringly, interaction with babies, even this subconscious reaction is fantastic for their development and is highly encouraged.
We are all aware of the alarming rate that babies and young children change and develop over short periods of time, even sometimes on a daily basis! So it’s not unusual to recognise that a large proportion of development is carried out in the first few years of a child’s life. Interaction with babies helps them to learn about the world around them and to develop various skills.
With very young babies, an important interaction is skin-to-skin contact. Not only does this help a baby to recognise their primary caregivers, it allows them to begin to feel comfortable with physical interaction and can even have positive effects such as calming the baby. This is a lovely interaction to hold with a baby, especially your own child as it enables one-on-one time with your baby and helps to build and strengthen that everlasting bond.
It is a common response to talk to babies, even though they cannot hold a verbal conversation, it is important for caregivers to converse with babies or to narrate the baby’s surroundings to them. Talking to a baby helps to teach them early language skills. However, some adults may feel uncomfortable or ‘silly’ holding a conversation with a baby when it may feel like they are getting no response back. But this is not true! Engaging a baby in conversation, and holding eye contact all leads to responses from the baby. These responses may not be obvious, but the faces a baby will make back to you, or their murmurs or giggles are all in reaction to your voice!
As well as the joy caregivers will feel from receiving smiles and babbles from a baby in response to their voice, the baby is learning early language skills and early social skills. This positive interaction between babies and their caregivers leads to better social skills later in life, and helps the baby to begin to learn about emotions and relationships. Caregivers can develop these language and social skills through talking to their baby. These conversations do not need to make much sense, babies simply love the sound of a caregiver’s voice and engaging in these interactions themselves. Caregivers can simply narrate what is going on around the baby, talking them through what they are buying in a supermarket for example, this all helps language skills and helps the baby to become familiar with their surroundings and objects within. Don’t forget, communication and interactions don’t just have to be verbal! Caregivers can hold a conversation with babies simply through maintaining eye contact and pulling faces. Babies will respond to these faces through babbles, giggles and through facial expressions of their own! Even though no speech is involved, this is still a conversation, and caregivers will be strengthening their bond with the child.
Interaction with babies and young children can involve play and toys too! Play is a brilliant way for young children to explore their own bodies and the world around them in a way that is fun and exciting. Caregivers can pick colourful and tactile toys that stimulate the baby’s senses and hold interest to them. As the baby gets older, their play will start to become more imaginative and more complex. Through play and interaction, babies and young children can develop key skills and qualities such as independence, creativity and problem solving.
Caregivers interacting with babies, whether it be through verbal communication or through playing with toys, don’t forget to praise the baby! It is never too early to give praise, and the responses, which may seem small are all in response to your interaction. Praise will have a positive effect on a baby’s emotional development and praise from caregivers will encourage the baby to respond more and more as they will enjoy the positive response they receive.
Overall, positive forms of interaction with babies and young children are enjoyable for both the caregiver and the baby themselves. As well as being enjoyable, babies are learning essential life skills from these small forms of interaction that will benefit them greatly. So caregivers, don’t forget to engage with the babies in your care, not only are they learning valuable skills, they are enjoying the one-on-one attention and the chance to express themselves through responses to your voice!