Playing with Baby – Excerpts
“By reading all the great experiments researchers do all over the world, you begin to realize how important all those observers think YOU are to your baby. They want you to know that all you do with your baby enhances their development. So, by reading about this fascinating research, you will become an expert, too, with your specific unique baby whom you love! You will understand how and why to choose to play in different ways during different months. How proud you can be not only of your baby but also of yourself as his or her parent.
Early researchers like Rene Spitz (1965) thought that in the first weeks, the outside world was practically nonexistent for infants. Today we question this. Recent research has demonstrated that from birth infants are capable of what is called a primary social relatedness (Beebe 2014). This means that from birth the baby wants to relate to you, their primary caregiver.
Experimenters like Meltzoff (1990) have even discovered that “as early as forty-two minutes after birth, infants can imitate gestures of others” (Beebe, Cohen, and Lachman 2016, 13). Can you imagine? Just forty-two minutes after delivery your infant wants to imitate you! How is it that these experimenters discovered this incredible finding?”
“The First Month: Stimulus-Seeking by Your Baby”
“As your baby gazes at you, you may see your infant widen her eyes and show subtle facial expressions. Your little one wants to seek and even initiate social play. However, she may also need to modify the degree of social stimulation seen in the faces before her, so she is not overwhelmed. If you are making too many different faces or being very animated that may stimulate her too much; she may just need a break. When this happens, she will initiate self-quieting measures such as averting her head or closing her eyes (Beebe, Cohen, and Lachman 2016, 13).”
“The Third Month: Repetition and Novelty with Your Baby”
“During play, special communication moments can occur, such as eye love, when mothers and infants sustain a mutual gaze for up to 100 seconds with positive affect (Ammaniti and Trentini 2009, 22).
This parent-infant process cannot be explained based on either partner alone. The parent and infant co-create the nature of the infant’s experience (Beebe, Cohen, and Lachmann 2016, 13). In other words, mommy and baby work together interacting when they play. Interestingly, a mother tends to look at her baby’s face most of the time, while the infant is the one who makes and breaks the mutual gaze—looking away and looking back in order to regulate arousal. (This is also a time when your communication might misalign or be out of synch, as your baby may need to dampen or lessen her arousal when you want to stimulate her with eye contact.)”
“Mommy and baby are facing each other while the baby is propped up to sit against many pillows on the couch.
Mommy: “Hey. Wa-a-tch carefully! See this blanket? (Mother covers her face with the small blanket.) Where is Mommy?”
The baby stares and waits a few seconds until the mother dramatically says, “Swoosh. Off it comes.”
The baby giggles and laughs. The mother repeats this play three times, each time getting escalating laughter. Daddy is watching, too, also enjoying these delightful moments.
Then the mother puts the blanket gently on the baby’s face.
“Ooh. Where did you go?”
The mother removes the blanket and sees the baby’s eyes open wide and grin.
The mother does it several times each time getting an escalating giggle.”
“The Fifth Month: Exploring and Discovering with Your Baby”
“According to Murkoff, Eisenberg, and Hathaway (2003, 310-311), when deciding how you want to play with your five-month-old, you should keep in mind what he can already do developmentally:
- when upright, holds head steady
- lies on her tummy, raising her chest with her arms
- continues to pay attention to small objects
- reaches for and grasps objects
- squeals and smiles—especially when you smile at her
- keeps her head level with her body if pulled into a sitting position
- rolls over (one way or both ways)
- bears some weight on her legs and even stands while holding on to someone or something
- turns toward voices
- sits with support
- pulls up to a standing position from sitting
- works to get a toy that is out of reach, objecting if you try and take it away
- passes objects from one hand to the other
- looks for lost objects
- babbles with vowel and consonant combos such as ga-ga-ga, ba-ba-ba, ma-ma-ma, and da-da-da
This list can give you a great starting point in realizing what your baby is already capable of doing, what she enjoys doing, and what kind of play might interest her most. Your child may or may not be doing all of these things—remember, developmental milestones vary greatly from baby to baby!”
“A Play Session”
“Caz takes Semantha out of the exerciser and puts her on the floor in a sitting position. She puts a toy that has blinking color a little out of reach, and Semantha reaches for it but can’t touch it. She reaches and reaches and then manages to put out her two arms and one leg in a crawl position, but the other leg stays tucked under her. She can’t quite make it into a crawl, but she does retrieve the toy. We encourage Semantha. I say something like, “Go for it, you can do it.” She enjoys the attention and playful encouragement.
We continue this kind of play for a while until Caz decides she’s had pleasurable exercise and needs to be changed.
On the changing table, Semantha is reaching for anything in sight. Caz shifts gears and decides, instead of a new diaper, it’s time for a bath and more play. She sets up the plastic tub in the large bathtub and places Semantha in it comfortably because she likes the water. Caz and Semantha play with bath toys together, smiling at each other as they give and take different plastic objects moving them in and out of the water.”
“The Seventh Month: Observing More Independence in Your Baby”
“An Illustration of a Mother and Seven-Month-Old at Play”
Mommy hides behind a very large pillow.
While under the pillow, Mommy’s face is hidden. Ask, “Where is Mommy? Can you find her?”
Give the baby a chance to react even if it’s a few seconds before she does. If she finds you by moving the pillow, say, “You found me!”
If she doesn’t find you, then Mommy says, “Look. Here I am!” as you come out from under the pillow.
Try it a few times smiling and laughing.
“The Eighth Month: Strengthening Object Permanence with Your Baby”
“Put a bunch of objects around her and ask, “Where’s the ball, the spoon, the bunny?” You may see her pointing, which is another game, showing that she understands direction. Don’t forget to point to things yourself, naming objects as she follows your direction.
Cause and effect is delightful to your baby now. Find things for him to see, like the flicking of a switch to turn the light on, and then have him try it. Then, turn the switch again and let him see the light go off. Watch his expression as he tries faucets and doorbells, too.
Your baby’s interest in dropping things (that you retrieve to reinforce object permanence), throwing things, and banging pots and pans is continuing to grow. An eight-month-old does this repeatedly as she explores her sense of object permanence.
Mirrors are great for playtime, as your baby is slowly discovering that his reflection is his own. Name and point at him in person and then in the mirror and see if he gets it.
Repetition is important, as is novelty. Many games won’t work the first time you play them, because your baby’s attention span will vary a lot depending on his mood and temperament. Sometimes he’ll enjoy a game for as long as twenty minutes, but often you’ll need to change the game every five minutes or so. Overall, his attention span is growing though, so don’t give up too soon. You’ll know your baby is having fun when he turns toward you, smiles, giggles, and laughs. When he squirms away, arches his back, looks away, or cries, pay attention and stay attune to him; he’s had enough and wants to change what you are doing.
Because your baby’s capacity to transfer objects back and forth from hand to hand is increasing, make this movement into a game. Cheer when he succeeds. Also encourage his newfound pincer grasp skill by encouraging him to pick up small, safe objects like O-shaped cereal, cooled boiled rice, pieces of banana, peas, and corn to enhance hand control.
Continue letting your baby investigate his environment by giving him a lot of new things to examine, like pots and pans and kitchen utensils. Then watch him bang them, bite them, throw them away, and retrieve them.
At this age, babies are good at interacting with more than one person at the same time. You can play peekaboo or throw a ball with several others and then watch your baby try to get herself back into the center of attention.
Your eight-month-old enjoys imitating you. Make funny faces, put your hands in the air, or shake your head, and then watch your baby attempt to do the same. This is also a great way of interacting with your baby!
Your baby will love to take two objects and bang them together, hold them up to the light, squint at them, bang them separately on the table, and bang them together on the table. He may even explore hitting the objects with different hands and observing whether they make the same sound. Help him out by passing him objects that make interesting sounds—such as hollow containers, metal spoons, and rolls of paper towels.”
“The Ninth Month:
The Mutual Sharing of Mental and Emotional Interactions with Your Baby”
“An Illustration of a Mother and Nine-Month-Old Baby at Play”
The baby smiles and watches with fascination and glee, very attentive to the reflection.
Mommy: “Oh now let’s move our heads up and down. See my head go up and down? See the baby’s head go up and down? What fun we are having.”
The baby eyes the mother’s and baby’s reflection with great curiosity and excitement.”
“The Eleventh Month: Imagining Stories with Your Baby”
“What Did Caz Learn from Playing with Semantha?”
“As my time with Caz and Semantha at her home is drawing to a close, Caz is revealing the attachment she feels with me and comments openly on how long we’ve known each other. It’s important that I’m very attuned to these feelings toward me. I’ve been the one constant in her life with Semantha for a year as many tumultuous things have happened such as her mother’s mental illness, her new devoted love with Mark, and of course all Semantha’s vast growth and development. Remembering how Caz is a very young mother with little consistent maternal support, I understand just as Semantha needs Caz’s attention and approval for trust and safety, Caz also needs the same from me.
Semantha has developed well during this first year trusting her mother, tolerating well her short absences with joyful reunions, enjoying playing with other children at day care, and reaching all milestones on time. She has developed a core self that is joyful and attained a positive secure attachment with her mother.”
“As shown with Caz and Semantha, just as your baby needs your trust and attention, you, too, need consistent, caring support. This may come from a spouse, a parent, a trusted friend, or a therapist. This supportive person will naturally become very important to you especially if you are a new mother. Be kind to yourself and accept that you have needs as well as your baby.”