In your baby's first week of life they are able to focus on an object a short distance from their face and respond to bright colours. Babies of this age can only see things in a sort of a two dimensional way. Your baby may be able to attempt to grasp an object but they will not be able to hold on to it. Your baby will also be able to blink when an object moves quite close to them at a fast pace. To help your baby develop in these areas you need to give your baby plenty of things to look at that are within reaching distance. Babies of all ages enjoy looking at brightly coloured or shiny objects. They also enjoy looking at different textures and feeling them. You could draw a big smiley face on a paper plate and decorate it with lots of bright colours or you could collect tin foil, brightly coloured textured wall paper or wrapping paper. When you show these objects to your baby make sure you allow your baby enough time to look at them. Babies are much slower to respond than adults are.Babies are born with a set of reflexes which over a period of time disappear. There's the sucking reflex and rooting reflex both important for the baby to find the mother's nipple and to suck milk. Another reflex that helps the baby to feed is when milk touches the baby's tongue, the baby will automatically swallow. The rooting reflex usually disappears within the first two weeks.Other reflexes are:
The Moro reflex, an instinctive reaction to the feeling of being dropped. The baby's arms and legs fly outwards as if to catch themselves. This reflex tends to last for about 3 to 4 months of the baby's life and then disappears.
Stepping reflex - when the baby's feet touch a hard surface the baby will make a stepping movement.
Walking reflex - if you hold your baby upright and place their feet on a hard surface then they will display a walking movement by placing one foot in front of the other. This reflex goes away at around 5 to 6 weeks.
Crawling reflex - if you turn your baby onto their tummy your baby will bring up their legs and make crawling movements.
By the time your baby is three months old they should be able to see the things around them much more clearly and reach for those objects, grasping them in a firm grip. Your baby at this age will have much better body movement then when they were newborn. They should be able to move around in their cot much more easily and have better neck control. To help with this you could place different toys of varying colours and textures down the side of the mattress of their cot. This will create a beneficial learning experience for them and will encourage them to move around more meaning that they can reach the next stage in their physical development. You could also buy or create mobiles to hang above their cot. To create a mobile you would need:
One plastic coat hanger wrapped in tinsel, fabric or tin foil
Two or three yoghurt pots decorated with whatever you wish (must be child safe)
Decorated cardboard cut outs of anything you like, animals, stars, moon, rockets, spaceships, planets, aliens, angels, teddy bears, etc.
Bottle tops or buttons threaded together with string, wool or cotton thread
Multi coloured feathers (can be bought in art stores. Don't use feathers that you find outside due to a high risk of germs). Stick these on some cardboard.
Balloons with a smiley face, a sad face and an angry face on them.
Ribbons tied to the mobile
Silver foil either crumpled or un-crumpled for different textures
Fabrics of different textures, gummed paper, glitter, sequins and coloured shiny foil squares can also be used.
All or some of these items can then be firmly attached to the coat hanger with either string, wool or cotton thread. The first two, string and wool, are probably better because they are less likely to snap than the cotton thread when tugged. Once you have done this place the mobile within your baby's reach so that your baby is able to look at and examine the items on the mobile. To keep your baby's interest make sure you change the items on the mobile regularly to keep it fresh.At the age of three months your baby's language skills should have improved greatly compared to when your baby was a week old. You will find your baby gurgling away to themselves for a few minutes and will stop to listen when they hear a noise. You could help your baby to develop their language skills by singing to them or you could buy a CD with children's nursery songs and play this to them. It would help if you sing along and maybe do the actions to the song if you know them as this will not only help your baby's language skills, but will also help their physical development. The other thing that you can do to help is simply talk to them, using lots of happy facial expressions. When you talk to them use pauses and changes in tone of voice as you would in a normal conversation, this way your baby will come to learn and understand the right way to communicate with you and others.Your baby at six months should now be able to sit up without any help from you. If you place them on their tummy they should start to make crawling movements enthusiastically. To encourage your child to crawl you could do several things:
While your child is on their tummy on the floor place your child's favourite toy or a bright object just out of your child's reach. Do not place it too far away as your child may not attempt to reach for it.
Place your child on the floor on their tummy regularly everyday.
Talk to your baby when they are sitting securely and steadily upright. As you talk to them move to the left or to the right of them and walk further away. This will encourage your baby to turn their head and look towards you as you talk and will also help to strengthen their neck and back muscles.
Your baby at this age will attempt to feed themselves and will grab the spoon whilst you feed them. To encourage your child to feed themselves further you could place easy finger foods into their bowl for example: peas, sliced carrots, etc.At six months your baby has stopped randomly babbling but instead will babble every time you talk to them. Your baby can now make distinct sounds such as: ka, v, f, da and ma. To help stimulate your baby's language skills at this age you could:
Chat to them about their surroundings every time you take them out in the buggy. Be descriptive when you talk to them, for example, "look at that big yellow digger! He's digging up the road", or "ah there's a lovely brown doggy, isn't he cute? He's got floppy ears!"
Sit down with your baby facing you on your knees and sing nursery rhymes to them. Your baby will enjoy listening to you and watching your facial expressions.
Repeat words over and over again to your baby when they are looking at you, like dada, mama, etc.
At nine months your baby should be able to turn around whilst they are crawling and will display a stepping movement when held upright. To help them to learn to stand and walk, you can place your hands under their armpits and hold them upright with their feet on the floor. You can also hold your baby upright and place your baby's hands onto a stable object such as a chair. This will help them to become more independent at standing on their own. If you do this ensure that you are close to them just in case they fall. These exercises should be done twice a day in order to strengthen their leg muscles which are needed for walking. Don't forget encouragement and plenty of practice is needed for your baby to develop in this area.Your baby should be able to say their first word at this age and will be able to follow simple instructions i.e. "come here". They should also be able to imitate any animal sounds that you make for example moo, woof woof or meow. To help your baby develop their language skills further you could watch a children's video or children's TV with them. Talk about the things that are happening in the video or on the TV, for example, "what's Bob The Builder doing? Oh no look he's about to fall off that ladder! Oops, CRASH!" "Silly Bob The Builder!" This commentary from you will help keep your baby interested and will help your baby's language skills. You could also look at picture books or picture cards with your baby and talk about everything that you see on the page. Remember to point to the part of the picture you are talking about so that your baby will associate the word with the picture, for example, "look there's a lion". Repeat the word 'lion' as you point to the picture of the lion. At the age of nine months your baby's hand and eye co-ordination should have improved immensely. Your baby should now be able to build a two brick tower and use a pincer like grasp when eating finger foods. To help your baby improve in these skills you could provide them with stacking toys, small objects ( make sure you supervise them with the small objects just in case they put them in their mouth and choke), building blocks, painting and drawing. These activities will all help to stimulate your child's hand and eye co-ordination.Your baby at the age of twelve months may by now be showing the first signs of walking independently and will walk if you hold their hands or when they are pushing a toy. Try to provide them with plenty of opportunities for practicing their walking skills whilst making it fun for them. This will enable them to move onto the next stage of their development, walking completely independently without any assistance. Your baby's language skills have also moved on since they were nine months. They should now be able to say about four words. Dada is usually the first word they will say clearly followed by simple words such as dog or cat. To help promote your baby's language skills you could read them a bedtime story or give them basic instructions for them to follow. If they understand the instruction that you have given and they follow it then give them lots of praise and love. If they haven't understood the instruction then repeat it again. If they still don't understand then try another instruction but don't pressure them, they will understand in time. Your baby can now place simple shapes accurately into a shape sorter and can make a mark on a piece of paper with a crayon. You can help promote your baby's hand and eye co-ordination by playing lots of hand games with them, i.e. Clap Clap Your Hands, Incy Wincy Spider or the Wheels On The Bus. You could also collect various textures such as cornflour mixed with water, oats, pasta, custard, rice, flour, shredded wheat or sand and put these in different bowls or trays and let your baby feel all these different textures. This is a fun if not somewhat messy way of stimulating your child's hand and eye co-ordination, not to mention their movement skills, for example their pincer grasp as well as all their senses i.e. touch (the feel of the different textures), sound (the crunch of the pasta), smell (the aroma of the different food), and sight (your baby's ability to see what their other senses are telling them).In conclusion you will find that your baby will do a lot of growing, changing and developing in their first year of life and there are many other things that you can do to help them. There are many places that you can find this help besides this article for example your local library will have many books on the subject of parenting or websites on the internet as well as your health visitor and GP. The stages of development for a baby between the ages of 0-1 years written here in this article are a guideline only and have only been covered in brief. Some children may develop faster than others so do not be alarmed if your baby hasn't reached a developmental stage written here. It is a well known fact that boys develop later than girls and this tends to carry on throughout all their stages of development until adult hood. Even then young men tend to be less mature than the young ladies of their age. If you are concerned about your baby's development then contact your health visitor or GP and they will be able to deal with any concerns that you may have.Good luck and may you have many happy years with your child or children!