What Baby Learns:
Cause and effect
“Me do it!”
These three little words demonstrate your tot’s independence, her newly acquired skills, and most importantly her belief in herself. She knows she’s a can-do kid, and she’s ready to announce it to the world!
Having a can-do attitude sets your baby up for success as she grows. She’ll have the confidence to try new things and face new situations, which is the best way to learn. Some babies seem to be born fearless and eager to try anything, while others are timid. But all can learn to have faith in their own abilities and to face fear and frustration head-on.
Of course, babies need help developing this attitude. Believe it or not, it starts with your being responsive, attentive parents. What’s the connection? Baby cries or fusses because he needs something (a clean diaper, a snuggle, a meal). Mom and Dad reassure him and give him what he needs. Baby starts to learn: I’m communicating. I’m sending a message, and I’m getting an answer; I must be a valuable person. Who knew a diaper change could do so much?
As your baby grows, you can build on this developing sense of self-esteem with everyday play and activities. If your baby was born with a confident temperament, you’ll play to his strengths. If your baby is more cautious by nature, you’ll help him master that quality and make it work for him.
5 Everyday Ways to Raise a Can-Do Baby
You don’t need any special activities or toys to build your baby’s confident spirit. It’s all about how you talk, play, and interact with her each day.
- Make meals meaningful.
Start by letting your baby try to help herself to small bits of fruit, O-shaped cereal, and so on. Then offer her a sturdy spoon and a bowl that won’t slide around on her tray. When she succeeds, offer specific praise: “You used your fingers to get that cereal right into your mouth. Yum!” If she gets frustrated, be reassuring but don’t take over. Show her what to do (you might put your hand over hers, and guide the spoon from bowl to mouth) and encourage her to try again.
- Play together.
Just about any toy you have helps your baby gain confidence, especially if you play with him. While solo, independent play is also important, your presence and attention during playtime can give your baby the courage to keep trying—to stack a block on top of another, or to press a button hard enough to make a sound. He’s not only learning about cause and effect (if this, then that!). He’s also realizing his own power: I made that happen! That means he has to do it on his own, so let him figure it out as much as he can while you offer gentle suggestions and demonstrations.
- Take dressing step-by-step.
Babies and young toddlers don’t yet have the motor skills to grip a zipper pull or fasten a button. But little ones can help choose which T-shirt or pants to wear (given a few weather-appropriate choices). And they can help dress themselves by stretching out their arms, lifting up their feet, and so on. As they do, point out how they are learning to do a big-kid task and that someday they’ll put on their clothes all by themselves.
- Get creative.
Set your toddler up with a piece of paper and a few fat crayons or some non-toxic, washable finger paints. Or try these messy sensory activities. The key is to avoid hovering or discouraging. Yes, she’ll make a mess, but she can’t hurt herself, so let her experiment. There’s no wrong way to play and create, so she can feel proud of whatever she produces.
- Climb, baby, climb!
OK, you need to stand guard when your little one is experimenting with crawling, walking, and climbing. But he still needs to learn those skills and work those muscles. So make sure he has the time and space to do it. A huge, empty playroom isn’t necessary; just clear a modest space of sharp corners and hard objects and let your baby go. If he falls, don’t swoop in to save him. If he gets stuck, remind him that you believe in him and that he can try again. After all, he is a can-do kid!