Parenting in the First Year of Life

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What parents can learn to help their child

Learning in Infancy

Everyone has the desire to learn. A child’s future life’s work, his style of living, his attitudes, and his whole adult life is greatly determined by what he learns. Many times, wanting to learn does not insure that learning will be accomplished. When a baby has lots of different kinds of things to see, to hear, to feel, and to do, his mind will grow faster and better than it would if he had only a few things to see, hear, feel and do. The baby’s mind needs things to make it grow just as much as his body does. Why do we think so? First, let’s think about how the body grows. Everyone knows that children who are not fed at all will not grow – and nearly everyone knows that if a child is fed only a couple of things – like, say, grits and candy – without milk, vegetables and other foods he will not grow as strong and well as he could if he had a variety of foods. Of course he won’t grow to be a giant no matter how much or how well we feed him, but the way he is fed makes quite a difference in how healthy and strong he will be. Now let’s think again about the mind and how it works. If a baby has very little to see or feel or do his mind won’t grow much at all. We know this is true because some babies in poor orphanages who have no one to play with them, show them things, and move them about, do not learn to think very well. Their minds do not grow as well as those of other babies who have had many different kinds of things to see, hear, and do. From this we know that the mind does need something to make it grow just about in the same way the baby does.

Of course it would be just as bad for a baby’s mind to be all the time in a place where there is too much noise and activity as it would be for the baby’s body if we tried to feed him gallons of milk, boxes of cereal, and cartons of oranges all at one time. What a baby’s mind really needs to help it grow best are lots of different sights, sounds, things to feel and do – but it’s best if they can happen a few at a time so that the baby can learn as much as possible about each thing without getting it mixed up with a lot of other things.

What Can You Teach an Infant?

Many concepts can be taught to an infant. Verbal communication can be taught by using the very language he speaks. A mother speaking softly about anything while changing diapers, feeding the baby, or giving him baths will encourage him to respond with “gurgles.” He can learn to imitate hand-clapping, table tapping, and finding his toys in a game of hide and seek. Many games parents play with their children in the early stages of development also help the baby to build their bodies. The young child’s life is centered around his play activities. An infant’s world is baby talk, colorful objects, and simple toys which can keep his interest and entertain him for periods of time. Many of these games and toys, and infant sounds can be used as teaching techniques. Thus, he will not only learn, but become eager to learn and enjoy learning. This early type of training will also promote improved learning patterns which he will keep throughout his school years.

Who Do Babies Learn From?

Children learn from everyone around them. Infants, toddlers and preschoolers learn to imitate, communicate, create and enjoy the world around them from everyone. However, a child’s mother is still his main source of learning.

Our project was designed to combine the mother’s effort at home with a half day program at the Children Center. The mother will be aided by a Child Development Trainer who will visit the home and teach her the techniques of infant play.

How Can a Busy Mother Teach?

Almost every activity involving the mother and child can be turned into a learning situation, helpful to both. Learning is a full day activity with baby. There are everyday needs mother must do for the baby, such as changing, feeding and bathing. His learning day would start with his first morning contact with mother when she picks him up out of his crib saying, “baby wants to get up?”

As she changes his diapers she can touch his nose saying “this is baby’s nose, this is baby’s mouth,” etc. There are a number of affectionate ways mother can teach and communicate with her baby during the day when she fulfills his needs. In these few ways mentioned he learns that words stand for things, and he is able to recognize familiar objects by the names of labels in every day vocabulary.

How Can Your Child Care Teacher Help?

The natural learning experience young children have, occupy a great deal of time. A preschool center with its professional staff, trained to deal specifically with this age group, will give your child the opportunity for longer periods of structured play. In addition to the staff, your child will also get to see and play around other young children close to them in age and ability. This often helps a young child to learn, especially in the area of early voice experiences.

Therefore, as you see, your child learns from many people. The most important is still his mother and family but trained teachers and other children also help in his development. By combining all three, we hope to help you make your child’s learning experience as rich as they can be.

Ask Dr. Susan