The first few months after delivery can be challenging for parents - learning to breastfeed, dealing with sleep deprivation, worrying about baby's proper development, thinking about going back to work, etc. One of the best things educators and nurses can do is reassure new parents that they have all the resources they need to foster their baby's development. As perinatal educators teach new parents about baby care, they have the unique opportunity to strengthen parental confidence by reminding them all their baby really needs is his/her parents. The simple ways parents intuitively interact with their baby promotes baby's early development.
Remind parents of special, bonding 'everyday' moments:
• When parents feed their baby, the infant feels safe and secure.
• Responding to baby's cries builds trust. It also teaches baby that he/ she is a good communicator and makes things happen when communicating. This is important in fostering baby's desire to keep communicating and development other communication skills, like verbal language.
• Comforting baby through holding, speaking softly, or lightly stroking baby's hair or skin helps to calm baby, build self-worth, and establish the importance of verbal communication. This also teaches baby ways to sooth him/herself. If cuddling calms a baby, they may later cuddle up with a "lovey" (stuffed animal) to help put him/herself to sleep.
Click here to download a free pamphlet for new parents from Zero to Three – Everyday moments 0 – 4 months.
Recent research supports the process of learning language begins in early infancy. Fostering early literacy habits are the building blocks for later language, reading, and writing skill development. In a recent policy brief from zerotothree.org the terms early literacy and emergent literacy refer to what children know about communication, language (verbal and non-verbal), reading, and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy includes all of the young child's experiences with adults in their lives, conversation and stories (oral and written), books, magazines, paper, and crayons/markers. Early literacy does not mean the 'teaching of reading' to younger and younger children. In fact, pushing infants towards adult literacy models is not developmentally appropriate and can serve to set the child up for failure. Early literacy is a continuous developmental process that is fostered in real-life settings through positive interactions with literacy materials and other people. Positive signs of early literacy development include: physical manipulation/chewing of books; pointing to pictures of familiar objects in books; imitating an action seen in a picture and running fingers along printed words.
Ways parents can share books with babies to encourage these early literacy behaviors:
• Make sharing books part of every day routines– read books at bedtime, on the bus, after dinner, etc.
• Have fun reading – laugh, use voice inflection, gestures, etc.
• Don't worry if you don't finish the story – a minute or two is appreciated
• Talk or sing about the pictures – you don't have to read the words
• Let children turn the pages – it is ok if the child skips a page
• Show children the cover page - explain what the story is about
• Show children the words - use your finger as a guide to follow the words as you read them
• Make it personal – connect the story events and characters to your life
• Ask questions about the story, and let children ask questions too - engage in conversation and discuss familiar activities and objects
• Let children tell the story - children as young as three years old can memorize a story and turn the pages to pretend to read
Click here for a print-ready PDF about early literacy that you can share with your new parents
Recommended book choices for infants aged 0-6 months:
• Books with baby faces/expressions
• Books with large pictures and designs with bright colors
• Chunky board books, or fold-out books that can be propped up
• Cloth and soft vinyl books with pictures of people or familiar objects that can go in the bath or get washed
Click here for Zero to Three recommended book list, based on age and subject content.
by Kim Wilschek, RN, CCE