Your cutie was born with her very own personality, needs, likes, and dislikes. And just as she’s finding out about the world around her from you, you’re getting to know the little person she is becoming. Read on to find out how to respond to your little explorer, how to help her understand (and appreciate!) who she is, and ways to start building the confidence she’ll need to become her best self.
1. Help your baby identify his feelings. Infants as young as two months start to smile for many reasons: they’re happy to see you, they’ve had a refreshing nap, and they love their time in the bathtub. It’s almost impossible not to smile back at them—and that’s good because they’re learning they can count on you to return those positive feelings and good vibes.
What to do next. When you see your baby emoting, try a simple comment like “Oh look! Little Noah is smiling! Is Noah happy?” That will help your child begin to understand that he has a name, it’s unique to him, and there’s a label for what he’s feeling.
As baby grows, he will begin to express other emotions, too, including frustration and anger. And while it can be hard to engage calmly with strong feelings like these, it’s important to do just that. Instead of flipping out when your sweet little angel throws a fit (because he wanted a red bowl and you gave him a yellow), you can respond like this to his frustration: “I can see you’re upset because you wanted a different bowl. But we don’t throw our food on the floor because we’re unhappy.” By doing this, you’re acknowledging his feelings while setting limits at the same time.
2. Play the name game—early and often. Helping your tot understand that she’s her own person is super important, so call her by her name as frequently as possible. We know, it’s hard not to resort to Sweet Pea, Bitsy Boo, or Hug-a-doodle, but do your best—at least in the beginning. If you must slip those terms of endearment when you’re talking directly to your baby, do it once in a while.
What to do next. When you hand your baby a bottle, a toy, or a snack, make eye contact and state, “Lucy, here are your bananas!” At around the six-month mark, babies begin to respond to their names by pausing what they’re doing to listen. At around 10 months, your cutie may even lock eyes or turn toward you when you call her name.
3. Show him who he is. Even young babies are drawn to mirrors—that’s why you’ll find the little plastic versions attached to play mats and plush toys. However, your child won’t realize he’s looking at himself in the mirror until he’s about 18 months old.
What to do next. Encourage baby’s “me time” by gazing into the mirror with him. In an excited tone, say, “Hey! Who is that baby over there? Look! It’s you, Robby!” all while pointing at him. Then point out yourself with a “Look! That’s Mommy!”
You also can help him don a hat to show him that he (or if he’s not quite there yet, the baby in the mirror) is wearing something new or doing something different.
Looking at family photos is another fun way to strengthen his sense of self. Haul out a photo album (or phone). Encourage him to point to different family members in the photos—or do that excitedly yourself. Then add, “That’s Grandma by the tree!” or “Look at you playing with your teddy!”
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