New babies might seem like they are unaware of much other than the need for clean nappies and frequent feedings. While that might be true for your brand new bundle of joy, it is not true for babies past a couple of months old.
For the first few months, your baby will be developing a whole menu of senses, like touch, hearing, smell and sight. Initially he will be very near-sighted, and after 3 months or so he will exhibit a fascination for new smells, sounds and colourful patterns and becomes a grabbing octopus for items that he sees.
That time frame is not cast in concrete, however. Babies respond to your attentions and the items around him on their own schedules. There’s a lot to absorb in his emerging recognition of the new world around him.
What you can do, however, to help him develop is to continue touching and singing and talking softly. One day, he will respond with a focused look at you or a smile that has nothing to do with body functions.
To start with, babies will respond to your touch and voice and quickly move on to objects that you show them as their eyesight improves. They are human blotters and will absorb new things rapidly, which makes sessions of show, tell and touch very entertaining to your baby.
Your kitchen is a huge storehouse of fun “toys” to start with. Spoons are great for holding and examining until he discovers banging it on something that makes noise. The squeals of delight will outweigh your headache. Other mysterious kitchen delights can be egg beaters, mesh strainers, plastic cups, almost anything that won’t hurt your little one. Expect most new “toys” to get dropped or tossed around as your baby experiments with gravity and new sounds of metal hitting the floor.
Babies will enjoy being read to or listening to music at their own time during this early sensory development. Don’t rush them into it because it will not be something they enjoy or even recognize until they are ready for that leap of development. Initially, they might enjoy opening and closing books and looking at the colourful cover. Tearing the pages will entertain them for a while, so pound shop purchases might be a good idea to start with.
At some point in his development, he will begin to recognize you and the toys you are offering him. He will love being cuddled and listening to you read stories to him. Use different voices and show him the colourful graphics on the pages you are reading. When he reaches for the books when you approach with them and smiles in anticipation, you will know that his sensory development is on track.
It really doesn’t matter what the book is about, but the shared snuggly closeness and the different tones of your voice as you change it to match the story you are reading is important. Start with nursery rhymes and music that is age appropriate. Those old Barney music dvds still captivate babies, if you can find them.
For a few years, you will be your baby’s entire life and totally responsible for the smooth development of his senses. Offer a wealth of different colours, sounds, textures and watch the growth and development for the miracle it is. Enjoy those changes while you can. Every sweet, cuddly bundle of joy will eventually become a total stranger you don’t recognize. Most call them teenagers.