Making connections with your baby or toddler
Hugging, smiling, singing and chatting with your baby or toddler is more than just enjoyable. These day-to-day moments strengthen the bond you share and help your child learn to connect and communicate with the wider world.
Bonding with your baby
When you bond with your baby, and give him or her lots of love, attention and interesting experiences, you create the best conditions for brain growth, learning and development. Here are some simple things you can do:
- Hold your baby. Babies can identify the smell of mum, dad or whoever looks after them and feels reassured. Try cuddling close to the left side of your chest so they can hear your heartbeat.
- Touch your baby. Gentle contact is pleasurable for most newborns and makes them feel secure. Babies often love warm skin-on-skin contact and soft reassuring stroking – try a baby massage using a few drops of an edible oil, like olive oil.
- Smile at your baby. When he or she sees you smiling, it releases chemicals in the body, making them feel good. The chemicals also helps brain growth.
- Talk, sing, and read to your baby. Your baby loves the sound and rhythm of your voice, and it can soothe them when they're upset. Listening and watching you talk helps them understand the basics of communicating.
Communicating with your baby
Babies communicate from birth through crying, eye contact and listening. If you watch what your baby does, it’ll help you understand their body language
. Then you can respond in a way that meets his or her needs and builds your relationship.
At about 7-8 weeks of age, your baby discovers something terrific – a voice. They'll start serenading you with coos and simple sounds. From 3 to 18 months, your baby’s speech develops dramatically. From cooing and babbling, they begin to put simple sounds together – for example, ‘baba’. Then they start to make more sounds, smile and wave their arms and feet around.
If you listen and respond to your baby’s babbles and gurgles, they are likely to keep trying to talk to you.
Leave a gap when it’s your baby’s turn to talk again. This teaches them about the pattern of conversation. And when you look into his or her eyes and use facial expressions as you talk, it helps them learn the connection between words and feelings.
Connecting with your toddler
Toddlers want to be independent, but fear being separated from you. They have big feelings, but can’t always control them or find the words to express them. They’re discovering that they can change the way the world works. If you can help your toddler with these things, you’ll be well on the way to a great relationship.
Here are some ideas:
- Support your child’s need for independence by letting him make simple choices, like choosing between a banana and an apple.
- Talk to your toddler about the times you need to be away from him. He’ll feel more secure if you tell him when you’re going, where you’ll both be, and when you’ll be back.
- Help your toddler deal with frustration and strong emotions by teaching him words that express big feelings. For example, ‘You’re upset because you ripped your picture’.
- Stimulate your toddler’s imagination and let him work through ideas by encouraging make-believe play – and play with him!
No matter how old your child, your praise and encouragement will help him feel good about himself or herself
. This boosts self-esteem and confidence.
Good family relationships help your child feel secure and loved. This is what children need to learn and grow. Even for the busiest parents, there are plenty of easy things you can do to develop good family relationships, including spending quality time together and communicating in positive ways.
This story was published courtesy of the Raising Children Network.