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How to play with a newborn baby (0-3 months) – what and why – psychology and research


What, how and why to play with your newborn. Really interesting psychology behind newborn play and what's important
As I approach the 5th month with the new baby (already!) I was looking back and thinking of the ways that we “played”. There’s a lot of time in the day so how can you play with baby and what can you do all day long? Well, apart from nappy changes, sleeps, screams, baths and other practical “stuff”, here’s some ways we played together and some of the psychology/research behind activity ideas:

 

SOUND – COMMUNE

Talking:

Face to Face time is a GREAT way to play. This means simply being face to face with baby and having a chat. You can talk about anything; something that you did that day or just make certain sounds with some over the top mouth-moving to show how you’re making it, like B-B-B-B-B-B, OOoooo.

 

→ → → Talk in a funny voice!

Talking is important but it’s a case of Quality, not Quantity

Talking in “parentese” – that baby talk that we do, characterised by higher pitch, slowed down and exaggerated intonation (6) – might irritate some but apparently it has it’s benefits; slowing speech down and exaggerating sounds, also introducing that “sing song” element to the voice is something babies like. It works well with very young babies according to this article who report that prevalence of baby talk with children (in one to one conversations rather than in groups) was linked to better language development,

The more parents exaggerated vowels – for example “How are youuuuu?” – and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production.

 

When the babies were 2 years old, parents filled out a questionnaire measuring how many words their children knew. Infants who had heard more baby talk knew more words

Singing:

Again, communication is paramount so singing counts too. Apparently, from day one babies have an ability (innate) to discriminate rhythmic patterns. See this interesting article from Psychology Today for more but in sum, you can start in utero – around 25 weeks of pregnancy the baby starts to process auditory signals – which is why newborns may prefer their mother’s voice, because it is quite familiar to them!

 

Reading:

Reading from birth is a great thing to practice, and has benefits. See my reading page for more in-depth information on the psychology of reading with babies and small children. In brief, baby will recognise their mother’s voice from the womb (1) and hearing it from day one may be familiar and comforting to them, reassuring them of your presence (2).
When we read we usually read with different expression and voices than when we talk and books/reading materials contain different vocabularies, words, expressions than what we might use in every day talk around our children. This is useful because it exposes the child to more varied language and sounds.
Reading to babies from the early months has been found (3) to be related to increased reading with babies at 8 months old (creating a reading habit), which in turn, related to language abilities at 12 and 16 months, particularly with expressive language (being able to put thoughts into words and sentences).
Interaction when reading has also been highlighted as an important element in relation to language development (4) with older babies (12 months).

 

TOUCH

The importance of touch: how what and why to play with newborn 0-3 months

Touching feet

Touching hands, touching feet – we did a lot of this in month one, mainly because his little feet were so cute. The baby and I are due to take part in a research study soon at a Baby Lab about whether infants in the early months can distinguish between a social touch and other touch. This will involve monitoring activity and touching baby’s arm with a toothbrush and then touching by hand.
Skin to skin is recommended and touch is going to be important! Research has reported increased touch to facilitate growth and development (cited in 5). Research on benefits of touch with premature babies has also influenced procedures in some hospitals such as use of “kangaroo care” where the baby receives skin to skin contact being held upright against the bare chest of the carrier (5). There is a huge wealth of literature out there about importance of touch and skin to skin with babies and infants which I encourage you to read further if this is an area of interest to you.

 

Sensory play

We also did lots of sensory play such as touching soft toys, a range of textured material and letting him touch/kick his little feet on some crunchy sounding tissue paper.Sensory play idea for newborn and 0-3 months - kicking tissue paper. The psychology of newborn play

 

SIGHT

  • Mirroring, including mirroring noises and chatting, having a conversation

  • Face time

  • Tongue talk

  • Copy Cats

How, what and why play with your newborn: stick your tongue out at them! Baby-Brain.co.uk

Nurrr

We spent a lot of time sticking our tongues out at each other! Given baby’s limited communication channels, this was something he was able to do and I sat there and “Mirrored” him, i.e. copying what he was doing and sticking my tongue out in response to him. This then turned into a kind of “conversation” where we would take it it turns. I then threw a few more facial expressions in and tongue clicks which seemed to interest him. This early study (6) writes that babies between 12-21 days old are able to imitate facial gestures, so you can try it from the first few weeks! Also loving the pictures in that article of the baby imitating “mouth opening” and especially the “lip protrusion”.

 

High contrast:

High contrast black & white images with baby - what how why play with newborns and 0-3 months

In terms of visual aspects and development, the visual system is not yet fully developed at birth (a). Baby has difficulty distinguishing between similar colours such as orange and red and so prefer high contrast colours such as black against white. We used several “high contrast” images and resources such as a black and white book and flash cards.

 

 

Let’s Face It

Face time your baby! The importance of talking with newborns and psychology of interaction

Who’s there?

Babies love looking at faces; even in the days after birth a baby will prefer to look at images of a face compared to other images. YOU are their favourite play thing and baby will be very interested in staring at you whilst you sing/talk/coocheecoo at them.

YOU are your baby’s favourite play thing!

Mirroring and attachment:

Here’s a good video about “marked mirroring” with your baby. The page has described it nicely so I’ll just quote here:

Facial expressions that help a baby to know his feelings are understood are known as ‘mirroring’. Mirroring is said to be ‘marked’ when the parent mirrors the emotion then quickly ‘marks’ the interaction with a reassuring expression. Mirroring shows the baby that he is understood and reflects the feeling he is experiencing.

 

The’marking’ helps the baby know the feeling belongs to him and that the parent understands but is not overwhelmed and is therefore able to help him or her to manage such feelings.

(Warwick Medical School, 2014, http://www.your-baby.org.uk/early-interactions/marked-mirroring-showing-they-understand-their-babys-emotions).

 

Home activities: Tummy Time, Mirror Play, Play Gym

Mirror play with baby: What why and how to play with newborn and 0-3 months

Who’s looking at you, kid?

Tummy Time, play in the mirror and play gym were some fun and easy activities we tried at home. See links for more information on these activities. Play gyms for example have some great cognitive, visual perception, grasping and reaching skills, gross motor skills, self-awareness and sensory stimulation benefits as summarized in this nice article here by Mama OT. Personally, I could really see the baby developing in terms of gross motor skills, coordination and crossing his midline to reach out and grasp at toys.

 

Getting out and about

At first I remember it seeming very daunting and difficult on a practical level to get out of the house. Add two kids to the mix and there seemed like even more obstacles and things “to do” before we could get out the front door. However, there are many benefits and aspects for parent and child including social and mental health elements. Here’s a page about choosing activities and benefits of them for maternal mental health.

 

Lastly: Enjoy this time with baby!

Kicking tissue paper fun! Sensory activity with newborn baby and 0-3 months. Baby-Brain.co.uk

Wheee!

 

 

References:

  1. Decasper AJ, Fifer WP. Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voice. Science. 1980;208:1174 –1176.
  2. Lariviere & Rennick (2011). Parent picture-book reading to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit as an intervention supporting parent-infant interaction and later book reading. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32 (2),  pp 146-152.
  3. Karras, J. & Braungart-Rieker, J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.
  4. Julie Gros-Louis, Meredith J. West, Andrew P. King. The Influence of Interactive Context on Prelinguistic Vocalizations and Maternal Responses. Language Learning and Development, 2016; DOI:10.1080/15475441.2015.1053563
  5. Ardiel, E. L., & Rankin, C. H. (2010). The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Mar; 15(3): 153–156.
  6. Ramírez-Esparza, N., García-Sierra, A., & Kuhl, P. K. (2014). Look who’s talking: speech style and social context in language input to infants are linked to concurrent and future speech development. Developmental Science, 17 (6): 880–891

a) Brémond-Gignac D., Copin H., Lapillonne A., Milazzo S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanismsCurr. Opin. Ophthalmol. 22, S1–S8.

 

Baby Friendly London – Foyles Bookstore


Baby Friendly London. Places and spaces for baby/toddler to feed, change, stretch, crawl & walk. Our reviews & insightsPlaces to stop off in central London that are baby/toddler friendly!

  • Out and about? Need a place to feed and change?

  • Need a place for baby or toddler to get out of the pram and stretch their legs, run around, have a play?

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Foyles – Bookstore (website)

107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT

  • Nearest stations: Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square tube
  • Nearby: Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Soho

 

What’s so good about it?

If you need somewhere to stop off, get a coffee, let baby or your toddler toddle about, then this shop has many options. You can look at the books and toys in the children’s section and entertain them for a while, make use of the high chairs in the cafe while you have a refreshing cuppa, and then let them stretch their legs upstairs. Here’s some pictures and further details:

 

  • Good selection of children’s books and book related toys. Children’s area has some bean bags, small tables and chairs to read at

Baby Friendly London. Children's books & toys. Space for baby/toddler to stretch, crawl & walk. Foyles

 

Baby Friendly London. Foyles Bookshop, Children's Books. London & Baby from Baby-Brain.co.uk

Lots of Children’s Books

  • Cafe with highchairs, reasonable selection of food and drinks – Baby and toddler changing facilities on same floor
Baby Friendly London. Foyles Cafe. London & Baby from Baby-Brain.co.uk

Foyles Cafe – lots of tasty food and drinks

  • A good open space up on floor 6.
  • We went up here to let our 13 month old get out of the buggy after a long nap to crawl and toddle around. They use this space for events but events are not a regular occurrence so the space was empty. There is plenty of space up there.
  • As you can see below, especially in the middle picture below, there is a large glass window into the space which overlooks the cafe. Another picture of the fuller space on floor 6 is below
Baby Friendly London. Space for baby/toddler to stretch, crawl & walk. Foyles
The space up on floor 6

upstairs space

  • **update** April 2015 – they now have additional seating for the cafe on this floor. I don’t know if it is temporary or not but there was still space up there to walk/crawl around and look out of the window onto the cafe or out onto the road outside. It was also nice and quiet up there with plenty of table space if you have a few people that need to sit around a table.

 

Baby Friendly London. Foyles Cafe. London & Baby from Baby-Brain.co.uk

Additional table space

  • And how do you get around the shop with a buggy? Why by one of their many, fast, lifts of course

Baby Friendly London. Space for baby/toddler to stretch, crawl & walk. Foyles

 

Safety first: this is obviously a shop and not a children’s play area/provider. Check with staff if you have any safety concerns and always supervise activities closely.

Research on reading: vocabulary benefits. Oh and our baby health review

reading with baby, research shows link between reading for pleasure and vocabulary. baby-brain.co.uk

Free stuff from our child health review; toothbrush and books

We went for a health review today as the Little Lovely is NEARLY A YEAR OLD (almost unbelievable).
Anyway, as part of that we got some free stuff from the government. Booty! Yes, we got a free toothbrush, toothpaste and a bookstart kit that included 2 baby board books, some nursery rhymes and a booklet with a £1 book voucher in it. So, looks like government wants to develop a generation of book readers with good teeth. Sounds alright to me I suppose!

So when I got home, I looked up the bookstart website and had a look around their site. Came across some interesting research on their research blog about the benefits on vocabulary of reading for pleasure. They write:

 

 

 

Reading for pleasure in childhood has big vocabulary benefits later in life

 

This research from the Institute of Education looks at how vocabulary scores change between ages 16 to 42.

 

The findings show that the frequency of reading for pleasure is positively linked with vocabulary scores, and what people read matters just as much as how often they read.

“Those who regularly read for pleasure at age 10 scored 67% in the vocabulary test at age 42, whereas those who didn’t read regularly aged 10 scored 52%.

– Regular readers tended to have higher vocabulary scores at age 10 and 16

 

– Regular childhood readers (measured at age 10 and age 16) were still 9 percentage points ahead at age 42.

 

 

– The researchers speculate that regular childhood readers are likely to have picked up ‘good reading habits’ which continued into adulthood.

 

– The type of reading material also made a difference: the greatest gains in vocabulary scores were seen in those who read ‘highbrow’ fiction.

Based on information from bookstart research blog, The Institute of Education news (read their article here) and Sullivan and Brown, 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Working Paper 2014/7

What happens in the brain when we read? – psychological research

“Brain regions that encode words, grammar, [and] story identified”

 

what happens in the brain when you read? psychological research paper

What happens when I read this book?

Psychological research says:
A study involved functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of eight people as they read a chapter of a Harry Potter book. On analyzing the scans, by every four-word segment, they produced an “integrated computational model of reading”, identifying, (they claim) which parts of the brain were responsible for processes such as determining the meaning of words, understanding relationships between characters, and parsing sentences.

Interestingly – 

“The test subjects read Chapter 9 of Sorcerer’s Stone, which is about Harry’s first flying lesson,” …

 

It turns out that movement of the characters — such as when they are flying their brooms — is associated with activation in the same brain region that we use to perceive other people’s motion.

 

Similarly, the characters in the story are associated with activation in the same brain region we use to process other people’s intentions.”

Method: The study used a technique where people saw four words of a passage every half two seconds. “For each word, they identified 195 detailed features — everything from the number of letters in the word to its part of speech. They then used a machine learning algorithm to analyze the activation of each cubic centimeter of the brain for each four-word segment.”

Bit by bit, the algorithm was able to associate certain features with certain regions of the brain

 

Exactly how the brain creates these neural encodings is still a mystery, they said, but it is the beginning of understanding what the brain is doing when a person reads.

 

 

This article was based on information from:

Carnegie Mellon News

and Science Daily

Journal article reference:

Leila Wehbe, Brian Murphy, Partha Talukdar, Alona Fyshe, Aaditya Ramdas, Tom Mitchell. Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Subprocesses. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (11): e112575 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112575

 

Reading with baby – what, why, and how to

 

How to read with baby? just read to them right? Yes mostly. And enjoy it.

  • But here’s some more information and tips on how to read with baby from the first few months onwards.

→ → → For the full story on reading, see the more detailed page here

 

Age 0-3 months (and 3-6 months)

  • Baby will love hearing the sound of your voice. They may recognise voices from the womb so it’s not too early to start reading to them

  • Baby’s eyes are developing still, obviously, but they can see stark, high contrasting colours and images, such as the ones below. I bought some high contrasting flash cards for the Little Lovely to look at, see more about that here, but you can easily make or download these. I knocked up a few below, available as a PDF.

  • Simple squares might be ones to start with. Print off and cut out. Stick onto card, make into a mobile, or just show on paper. Alternatively, make your own flash card book.

  • I bought a small baby board book from a charity shop (about 50p I think), and cut out and attached one image to each one of the pages. The high contrast images were covering the original book, but it was cheap and not that interesting so I didn’t mind. It was much simplier than trying to make my own board book from scratch!

simple square high contrast flash cards - visual stimulation - baby-brain.co.uk

High contrast flash cards for baby – simple square designs – available to print

⇒ Click link to download: High contrast images for baby –  visual stimulation – simple square images

 

 

 

 

3-6 months

  • High contrast images might still be interesting for baby to look at

  • Reading early on with baby gets both you and them into good reading habits and pattern of behaviour – for example, a recent study found that reading with 4 month old children was related to shared book reading when the child was 8 months old – and reading at 8 months old was found to be related to language skills at 12  and 16 months, so earlier book reading promoted later book reading and skills

  • Read with expression – don’t forget about facial expression and mirroring baby’s expression also – babies are fascinated by faces. 

  • Describe and name the pictures, describe what is happening – children’s books at this age might not have much text, but make the most out of the pictures. what’s going on? what are the colours? is there something relevant to your life and baby such as the little boy in the story likes a red car, and you have a toy red car? What sound does the car make? And so on.

 

 

6-12 months

  • Continue to read with expression, different voices, faces

  • Now that baby has more attention they can sit through a short story book

  • Now that baby has more control of their hands and increased motor skills – try some interactive and lift the flap books. At 9 months the Little Lovely is very curious (and was in the months before this) and likes interactive books where he can flip things back and forth, feel different textures and some books that also play sounds. He can’t always press all of the buttons hard enough to make the sound yet though.

    • Interactive books will help baby learn about cause and effect, and increase their sense of their own control and direction over their actions

  • As before, describe and name the pictures, describe what is happening – There might be more text in the story now than in 3-6 month old books. But still, make the most out of the pictures, link the text to the pictures, point and describe. What’s going on? what are the colours? is there something relevant to your life and baby?

  • What sound do things in the book make? Baby will be able to imitate some sounds now – they might love blowing raspberries, making certain sounds like dadada, bababa, mamama (at 9 months, LL likes to shout DADADA very loudly, can’t remember exactly when he started on the dada, maybe 7 or 8 months, followed by baba, then mama) – so can you link this to characters or things in the book so baby can learn more about the meanings of those words/sounds?

    • We attach meaning to words as guided by parents and those who teach us – e.g. “cat” just means a random collection of sounds unless we learn to associate it with what a cat is.

    • So, can you start to associate the sounds and words with what they actually mean and increase your baby’s understanding of these words?

 

 


References:
  1. Lariviere & Rennick (2011). Parent picture-book reading to infants in the neonatal intensive care unit as an intervention supporting parent-infant interaction and later book reading. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 32 (2),  pp 146-152.
  2. Karras, J. & Braungart-Rieker, J. (2005). Effects of shared parent-infant book reading on early language acquisition. Applied Developmental Psychology, 26, 133-148.
  3. Brémond-Gignac D., Copin H., Lapillonne A., Milazzo S. (2011). Visual development in infants: physiological and pathological mechanismsCurr. Opin. Ophthalmol. 22, S1–S8.
  4. Decasper AJ, Fifer WP. Of human bonding: newborns prefer their mothers’ voice. Science. 1980;208:1174 –1176.
Other references influencing this page:
  • High P, Lagasse L, Becker S, Algren L, Gardner A. Literacy promotion in primary care pediatrics: can we make a difference? Pediatrics. 2000;105:927–934.

 

 

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