Parents of small babies know that it is important to stimulate their children from an early age by providing opportunities for them to explore their environments.
By stimulation we mean all the things parents naturally do with young children — talk, sing, play with them, tickle them, and cuddle them.
Parents often wonder how much stimulation should be given to a baby. The answer is that giving more is not necessarily the best method. Each baby is unique and as such has his own unique needs, particularly in terms of stimulation.
Be careful not to overload your baby, because this can be very distressing for him. He does not require stimulation during his every waking moment, as he requires quiet times too. If he is over-stimulated he may tire easier and become distressed.
Babies are different
Each baby has his own unique personality. Some may be particularly interested in smells, whereas others may prefer noise. Babies have their own unique temperaments as well, and there can be huge differences in temperaments even between siblings.
A tired baby needs a rest
Launching into a play session with a tired baby is a recipe for failure. This can be difficult for parents who work outside the home and who may be looking forward to playing with their baby at the end of the day. It can be frustrating to find that baby is not interested and gets upset when disturbed from his quiet time.
Babies can be moody too
Babies can go through a wide variety of moods in all of three minutes. You need to judge when your baby wants to play — when he is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable is probably not an opportune time. Be aware of your baby’s mood before you launch into your play session.
Timing is important
Throughout the day your baby will need a mixture of quiet and active times. If your baby wakes during the night, things need to remain calm and quiet — playing just wakes him up further and makes it more difficult for him to get back to sleep.
Just before bedtime is also a good time to engage in quiet winding-down activities with your baby, in order to calm him down and help him get to sleep easier.
Stimulation does not equate to expensive toys
If you were to walk through the baby section of any toy shop you would think that babies would not grow and develop without all the educational toys on offer. But children do not need a room full of toys — the most important thing is a willing adult who will engage them in play.
Parents may get confused about how much stimulation to give their baby and often err on the side of caution by offering lots, even when their baby does not really need it.
The most important thing to do with a small baby is to get to know him, which will take time. Gradually you will begin to read your baby’s cues, and once you are in tune with your baby, you will automatically be able to judge what he needs, be it some quiet time, play time, feed, sleep, etc.
As you get to know him you may even begin to influence how he deals with stimulation, but this comes only after you have spent the time really getting to know him well.
For more information visit www.RollerCoaster.ie, Ireland’s No 1 website for pregnancy and parenting.