As a new parent, you’ve got tons of questions. There’s so much you need to know, like how to deal with separation anxiety as a working mom or how exactly to travel with a newborn. Sure, you read dozens of books about how to parent while pregnant, but now that your babe is here, you don’t have time to read the millions of parenting books out there. You want to spend quality time with your kiddo, but beyond bath time, you’re wondering what you can do to squeeze the most learning and fun into every minute. We chatted with Randy McCoy, the curriculum director at The Little Gym, about seven simple ways to engage your baby in some developmental learning that’s fun for both of you.
- Divide and conquer. With the many responsibilities that come with parenthood — diaper changes, baths and meal time — chores such as doing the dishes and sweeping suddenly seem like Herculean tasks. Split the household duties with your partner so that one of you is with the baby and the other is taking care of the little things that keep your house running. “If moms and dads make a concerted effort to divide up and share these responsibilities, then some dads might find themselves with more quality time with their children,” says Randy. If you’re a parent of multiples, consider hiring a housekeeper so you can spend more time with your little ones. It’s totally okay to have a messy house too!
- Class it up. It can be tough those first few months without another adult to talk to other than your partner. Look for Mommy, Daddy + Me classes in your area that are age appropriate to socialize with other new parents who are going through the same joys and fears as you. “Not only do Parent/Child programs offer activities that parents can do with their child at home, they also provide valuable developmental information too,” says Randy. Plus, you can bond with other parents about milestones like crawling, eating first foods and rolling over.
- Get chatty. From newborns through the first year of their lives, babies are adorable little sponges who absorb every detail, sight and sound around them. So the best thing you can do to boost their language skills is talk to them often, even if it feels a little silly. “Playful speech — higher pitched with inflections — helps develop language skills in babies,” says Randy. “Your baby is listening, watching and taking it all in. They are hearing the sound of your voice, watching the movements of your mouth and tongue and hearing the individual sounds of the words you speak.” Pick up board books to read out loud to your baby. Narrate throughout their diaper change. Talk about your day. Have fun and don’t be afraid to bust out some silly voices too.
- Give ’em a song. Music for babies doesn’t have to be limited to nursery rhymes. You can make a playlist of your favorite tunes and sing while giving them a bath. Make up songs about anything and everything. Your baby isn’t judging your not-so-American-Idol voice. They just enjoy the sound of your voice, since they’ve been listening to you since day one from the womb.
- Get down on the floor. Play time is learning time for your kiddo and is a great way for some quality one-on-one time. “Putting your baby on the floor with a variety of colorful and interesting things to reach for and look at accomplishes two things. One, it’s a great way to exercise the muscles of their back and core. Two, it stimulates their sense of touch and sight,” says Randy. Randy suggests cuddling, rocking them back and forth and trying out different movements and motions. In short, play like you’re a kid!
- Cuddle up. If you’re a working parent, you might be stressing out how to squeeze in all of this quality time before and after your full-time job. Randy says that at least one hour every day will go a long way. Daily activities like diaper changes, getting your baby ready for bed and story time are all times to focus solely on your baby with plenty of kisses and cuddles afterward. “Holding, cuddling, kissing and hugging are all quality moments that allow for maximum parent-child bonding,” says Randy. Those sweet baby cheeks are practically begging for unlimited smooches from Mom and Dad.
- Feast for the senses. Your baby’s brain is developing every single day. Provide them with lots of sensory input to get their five senses working. “Make their environment interesting and stimulating. It’s one of the best things you can do with your baby,” says Randy. Let them hang out in their high chair while you cook dinner to engage their sense of smell. Play different types of music or offer musical toys. Give them different textures to feel. Offer colorful toys that make sounds when shaken. Talk about your day with them. Even if they don’t respond to every single thing you’re doing, just know that they’re taking it all in.
Even with a busy schedule and a messy house, you can still make quality time with your baby productive and fun. To learn more about The Little Gym or to find a class near you, visit www.sofia.thelittlegym.eu