I am determined to give Harley the best shot at life, wanting to give her all the mental, physical and social advancements possible to help her in her later life. I already knew I wanted to read to her as part of my plan to hopefully raise her to be a book worm. However, at this extremely young age, reading is sort of difficult – her attention span is really short and she’s barely even able to focus on the pretty pictures. I still like to read to her, but it doesn’t feel like it’s doing much to help her develop.
Thankfully, the massage class I started going to with her actually gave me tons of other ideas for activities with her. That, combined with reading a bunch of articles about really early childhood development, means that I’ve sorta learned how to develop her various skills until she reaches the point of being able to grab her toys or focus on pictures when I read her books.
When babies are this small, most of their development is physical. The brain is making a ton of connections, but it’s mainly based on how they experience the world through physical inputs. As a result, baby massage is awesome. It helps with body awareness, and helps babies learn about the parts of the body – I always name every part of the body as I rub it so that Harley can learn which part is her left foot or her right hand.
Speaking of left foot and right hand, it’s important to help with movements that cross the mid-line to help boost left/right brain connections. So, I will touch opposing hands and feet, help her bicycle her legs and do other bending and stretching activities. Apparently, this will also help her when she’s ready to learn how to crawl as that also uses left hand with right leg movements.
When she’s upset, I automatically find myself bouncing her, walking with her or swaying. Movement is great for calming my little one, and is also great for her development. Swaying to music not only seems to tame the savage beast, but also teaches her movements, music and rhythm. Plus, it’s relaxing for both of us to listen to music.
Tummy time is also incredibly important. Tons of articles tell us this, but I’ve seen how helpful it can be for Harley. She likes spending some time on her tummy, and it’s also a time when she shows just how strong she is – lifting her head, supporting her weight and even kicking her legs at the same time. I try to always give her something interesting to look at while she’s on her tummy; whether it’s a colorful toy, an interesting book with a picture, or just my smiling face, giving her something to focus on when she lifts her head is a great incentive and helpful for her development, too.
Mental and social development
Obviously, Harley is still a long way from talking at this point. In fact, it’s hard to tell how much she understands in general when she’s still so small. However, I still try to talk to her when she’s awake. I explain what I’m doing when changing her nappies or clothes, or I talk to her about why I think she’s crying, or I just babble on about random other topics. I sometimes ask her questions, pausing as if to give her a chance to talk, and then responding to what I think she would say. This is important for her development as it starts to teach her speech patterns, as well as social norms about asking questions and having conversations.
Reading to her at this point feels a bit silly, although I do try. It’s more about creating a cuddle-filled time with her where she feels loved and cared for – if she can learn to associate that with reading, I’ve already made a huge step in the right direction. But really, I usually don’t manage to read more than a page to her at any given time before she starts crying or falls asleep or needs to nurse/burp, so reading at this age doesn’t really do that much yet.
The rest of her mental development is linked to the physical development. Naming her body parts, talking to her about how I’m moving her body for her, or swaying to music to help her learn and relax.
In the 0-3 month age, it seems like development is a bit ambitious. Sure, there are some things that I can do, and they are helpful and important, but it’s not like later on when she can appreciate and play with her awesome toys, or enjoy book time, or touch different textures. So far, her development is pretty passive, and only doable for a few minutes when she’s awake but not needing to eat, burp or cry. At least there is something that I can do – it makes me feel like I’m already raising a little genius, and it’s amazing for bonding with her, too.