Children are born ready to learn. That makes us, as parents, their first teacher.
While cradling your newborn, it might be hard to imagine how you are a teacher. What do newborns learn? How do you as the parent set the stage for lifelong learning?
With my first child, we read the book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” every night, continuing though his early years. We knew every word by heart. I was amazed when he was fussing in his car seat, I could sing the story to him and he would settle himself down without my touch. He was comforted by the rhythm of the words and my soft voice.
Often, we think ‘ready to learn’ is knowing ABC’s, 123’s and having experience with technology like computers.
When First 5 El Dorado Children and Families Commission asked kindergarten teachers to define ‘ready to learn,’ they told us they can teach academic skills. They described ready children as those who could separate from their parents, play with other children, handle two-step instructions and independently use the restroom.
These skills are referred to as social and emotional readiness and they are typically developed through relationships.
The organization Zero to Three, suggests families can build these skills through the magic of everyday moments.
“Daily activities, such as feeding, bathing and grocery shopping” are times you can bond and enjoy your baby.
Here are some opportunities and tips for building a relationship with your newborn:
Feeding: Whether you are nursing or using a bottle, meal time not only provides nourishment for your baby but makes him feel safe and secure. While feeding, rock your baby, talk quietly or stroke his face or hair. Show him how much you love him.
Comfort: When your baby cries, respond and comfort him. I have heard parents say you will spoil your baby if you pick her up each time she cries. According to research, the opposite is true. Babies whose parents respond to their crying with sensitivity cry less overall because they know that care is coming. Learn how your baby likes to be comforted. Does he like to be swaddled? Does he respond to your voice or soft music? Does he just need to see your eyes?
Conversations: Engaging with your baby requires a dance between talking and listening. From these exchanges, babies learn words and emotions. He will understand pauses in conversations that allow you to take turns.
Your baby’s words are babbles and noises. Talk with him, “You are such a good boy. What would you like to do today? Let’s take a walk to the park.” Talk to him as though he understands every word you’re saying.
Lastly, know that using media with young children is not as effective as what you have to offer. Baby Einstein videos, computer APs and other forms of media cannot replace the power that you have in talking, listening and bonding with your child. This relationship is the strongest predictor of a child’s success.
For more information on early learning visit Born Learning at bornlearning.org or for parent resources visit Zero to Three at zerotothree.org.
The work of First 5 El Dorado Children and Families Commission is found at first5eldorado.com.