As any parent can attest, there is nothing more special or joyful than the moment you realize your baby is in love with you. at 2 to 4 months of age, your child seems to care more about you. She may look eagerly into your eyes, flash a big smile at the sound of your voice, or wiggle her body when she hears you approach.
At 5 months of age, she has developed a variety of ways to express her feelings, including:
Responding to your smile with a big smile of her own
Beginning interactions with loving expressions and smiles
Making sounds or moving her mouth, arms, legs or body in response to your movements
Relaxing or becoming less fussy as you hold or rock her
Coo when she is held, touched, looked at, or spoken to
Look at your face with full attention and look upset or sad when you flinch while playing with her
It is important to encourage such communication at any opportunity. The reasons for doing so go far beyond the need to build intimacy with your baby: those back and forth smiles, frowns, giggles and body movements are helping your baby develop a range of important qualities – from intellectual and verbal skills to developing a good sense of self.
The beginning of communication
Most parents consider their baby’s first words to be the first sign of developing language skills. In fact, your baby’s prophetic gestures reveal his growing ability to communicate. When you respond to these gestures, you are developing an important aspect of his personality. You build his self-esteem by welcoming his attempts to express his needs. You tell him that his feelings can be part of the conversation. By developing his ability to read others’ gestures and body language, you help him acquire some primal survival skills.
Honing these skills can help your child become more cooperative and attentive when he reaches school age. A child who is good at sending and receiving nonverbal signals may find it easier to sense when a classmate’s interest is not focused or when the teacher is losing patience. Such a child can follow rapid changes in vocal tone and speech patterns and make quick judgments about what she sees and hears.
How love boosts intelligence
Activities that make your baby feel safe and loved will also enhance his intelligence. By responding to his signals, you give meaning to his experiences and let him know that his actions have influence. If he can talk, he might say, “Hey – when I do this, she does that. The world can be purposeful and logical! “When he plays with you, he is taking the first steps toward creative and rational thinking. Mutual concession play (you offer one thing and he takes it) also helps him become more physically coordinated. He is learning that his skills of observation, listening and getting there can work together.
Two-way communication can also help your child empathize. As he learns that his actions and feelings have an impact on you, he begins to see you as an individual, separate from himself. He knows that you are a caring person, which will lead him to respond to you in a caring way. It is through mutual concern that a person’s moral consciousness evolves.
Learning from play
Most likely, you have been intuitively giving your baby smiles, meaningless noises, and funny faces. If you’ve been rewarded with laughter and smiles, then relax and enjoy them-try to coax your baby into more and longer states of joy. But if you’re not getting the desired results, then taking a more systematic approach may help.
All babies respond differently to stimuli, so follow your child’s lead. Is she more satisfied when you talk a lot or are quiet? Does she giggle to attract you to her, or does she wave and kick to show her love? Remember these cues —- and what makes her shy. Use those eyes, tones of voice and gestures that bring your baby the most joy.
The result will be richly rewarding for both of you. Your child’s mastery of these communication skills will enhance his sense of purpose and develop his understanding of the world. As his emotional response grows, your relationship will develop into a full-fledged romance. Your baby may not be able to talk yet, but his behavior speaks volumes.
The pleasure principle
The key to developing your baby’s pre-verbal communication skills is to make the process fun. Although each baby’s response to a parent’s offer is as unique as her fingerprints, try these pleasure-enhancing methods:
Talk and speak to her in a variety of high and low tones and from soft to loud.
Give her a range of different facial expressions while talking and speaking.
Massage her with gentle touch while telling her what you are doing.
Move her arms and legs gently while talking to her and looking at her.
Shake her, quickly and slowly, while bathing her in smiles, words and sounds.
If these methods don’t work, try your own methods. Remember not to exhaust your partner; if she seems overly excited, just relax a little. When you find a technique that works, add some variation to keep her focused. For example, if peekaboo is popular, try popping “Boo!” in a different spot each time.