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3 Tips to Start Your Infant Off Right When Transitioning Into Child Care

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“It takes a village to raise a child”

All over the world, infants have an inborn need to interact with others.  This need and bond is especially important with an infant’s caregivers.  The Bernard van Leer Early Childhood Focus Series on the Developing Brain discusses “The Social Brain” of infants.

#1  Before infants learn to sit up, they learn to trust and enjoy others.  Parents are their children’s first teachers.  In the early months of infancy, babies should learn that they will consistently and calmly have their needs met in order to create trust and bonding.  Human interactions are guided by goals and beliefs so parenting styles differ across the world and even in your own neighborhood, but consistency is important.  Some parents are willing to let a young infant cry for a certain amount of time or in certain situations due to their beliefs and goals while others will not let an infant cry for even a short time due to their beliefs and goals for the child.  Babies learn from the consistent actions of parents and caregivers regardless of which parenting style is used.  What are your beliefs and goals for your infant’s next few months and first year?

If you plan to have help from a child care provider, make sure you discuss your beliefs and goals with her so you can both be consistent with your child.  How long to let a baby cry and how to comfort should be discussed as well as addressing how to help the child to go to sleep or learn to self-soothe.

#2  Babies love to look at faces and listen to people talk to them.  Many young babies prefer people to toys most of the time.  If young infants are given an active social life with a lot of eye contact, talking, singing, movement and gentle touch, babies establish trust and are able to develop the social part of their brain structure rapidly and deeply.  Small babies do not need a wide social network and to know many people, but those they are in contact with should provide rich social experiences.

Parents who need to have a caretaker help with their young infant should be sure the child care provider believes in providing eye contact, lots of talking and singing and touch.  Social interaction builds strong brains.

#3  Until about 5 months of age, infants have an extremely short attention span.  At the 5 month mark, most infants begin to recognize and respond to social cues such as repeatedly calling a child’s name and/or using a sing-song voice.  Interestingly, this is universal with parents all over the world engaging their infants in the same way.  Brain studies show the prefrontal cortex “lighting up” when a 5 month old begins to recognize these social cues.

When your child begins to respond to these cues, he/she has already developed the beginnings of trust and connections to his or her social world.   Continue the development by continuing to sing and talk, dance and hug, and add in books and quiet time routines.

Ask your child care provider if she reads to the children and provides them with books to chew on and look at.  Ask if she talks and sings to the children and observe interactions.  Talk about what is important to you now at 5 or 6 months and see if that meshes with her beliefs about infant development.

It does “take a village to raise a child” and differences among caregivers are normal and healthy for children to experience as long as each caregiver is consistent and open to discussion and thought.

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