LEARNING IN INFANCY OCCURS IN LEAPS AND BOUNDS.
The baby you left in the house in the morning will not be the same one you see at the end of the day.  Little things like a new toy, an open window, the visit of a grandmother, a new song sung by the older brother after coming home from school, the new swinging game the baby-sitter invented, a bump on the head after rolling onto the crib's side, the taste of ice cream for the first time -- all these fire off certain neurons in the brain.  The experience connects those neurons with others, and more complex functions are set off.
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EXPERIENCE and EXPOSURE are great teachers.
Doing things, looking at them, and especially handling them are great for getting the neurons going.  It's even better when somebody talks about these when the body is trying to figure itself out, or when one is  wondering what an object is for, or why one thing is gooey and another is so hard.  A child's vocabulary improves so much faster if Mom or Dad is always talking in adult language and the  baby sitter assumes one  understands what she is saying about Sister's book not being a toy. Talking to young children should be seen as a great challenge in simplifying words and things and yet awakening imagination and creativity.



EVERYTHING IS INTERESTING when one is an infant.  The world is a great place to explore, and mastering the movements of one's body is an even greater challenge.  No wonder infants are always turning over, reaching for objects and trying to clamber onto stools and higher places.  Along with these adventures come the inevitable falls, cuts, burns and bumps on the head, not to mention the swallowing of foreign bodies or occasional concussions.  Parents who are aware that all  these are normal will anticipate the dangers and try to make the environment safe, rather than restraining their children or always saying 'NO!',  which is often a deterrent to learning.

This page was last updated on: September 5, 2016
THE GROWING INFANT benefits not only from touching and handling things but also from being touched, stroked, kissed or massaged by the people in his world.  Parents are told to 'touch early and often' in order to maximize the learning experience and have the baby feel the love that is there for him. INFANT MASSAGE has been advocated especially  for premature infants in the nursery and has been recommended for the growing child as well.
LEARNING TO LOVE is as important as learning about life and the world.  Infants learn about loving from experiences with their primary caretakers and the peripheral personalities of their as yet small world.  If the adults are responsive, attentive, affectionate, patient, thoughtful, understanding, and forgiving of small mistakes, then the child learns to trust, to feel secure and to program those same positive traits into himself. If sometimes these adults lose their tempers but explain why, the child also understands that one need not be perfect,  that one can also make mistakes but can redeem himself by recognizing and accepting those errors.
RESPECT FOR THE CHILD AS AN INDIVIDUAL should be an early lesson for new parents.  That means that one pays attention, REALLY pays attention, to everything about the infant -- his behavior, his attempts at communication, his attempts to master his environment and his attempts to learn for himself.  For many parents, this really entails a re-thinking of the place children occupy in their lives and in their minds, and sometimes they go the opposite way.  Sometimes they allow their children to run their world, investing these little beings  with the power of kings and emperors.   That is not respect but SURRENDER, something no empowered parent with the best intentions should allow himself to do. 
A relevant issue in these times of two-income households. is the continued presence of the traditional and preferred caretaker during the early months of a child's life.  Mothers who leave their babies  at home to go back to work may worry not only about the emotional health of their precious ones but also about their intellectual development.  Many know that their children do miss them when they are away. They worry also about the type of care the surrogate parents give when they are not there.

Perhaps the issue is not a big one when the mother works part-time, or when she can go home at the end of the day.  Mothers who leave for work abroad or in another city have a more difficult time. The separation's emotional impact on the infants and older children may be enough to disturb the processes of learning, among other things. Of course, some preparation is often made by many parents to decrease the trauma for the children, but sometimes this may not be enough.

I have had several patients who were left to the care of a grandparent or a nanny for a while when the mother went to work or had to leave for a prolonged trip.  These babies refused to suck or appeared depressed for several days; they  rejected their mothers briefly when they came home, or appeared to be offended when they were approached.  This is not a very uncommon occurrence and brings the challenge of how to communicate to these young ones the reason for the separation.  Just how does one prepare infants for life's realities which include short or prolonged separation from their parents?

 

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