The amount of time you spend face to face with your child matters. When you spend time face to face, you are sending the message that you delight in just being together. For your child, there is magic in your eye contact, smile, and voice. You are sending the important signal that your little one is important to you. In addition, the combined effect of eye contact, smiles, and a joyful voice is the beginning of the developmental process for attention, bonding, and communication.
Typically, this face-to-face contact occurs naturally as a part of the day’s routine. Think of talking to your child as you change a diaper, looking into his or her eyes at feeding time, or highlighting new things while you are outdoors on a walk.
Face-to-face contact makes your baby feel as if he or she is the one and only thing in your world. Just being physically present isn’t enough. The eye-to-eye contact is critical.
In our modern world, many new technologies and products compete for the face time your baby needs. One example is the mobile phone. Sometimes parents and caregivers do need to talk, text, and tap various apps, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of necessary face time with your developing child. Do not become tethered to your mobile device. Give yourself and your child the necessary time simply to be together.
Another too often overlooked example is the car seat. Car seats are wonderful lifesavers. Car seats have become so easy to use, however, that some parents overuse them. Babies are not little bundles to be carried like a sack of groceries. If you leave your baby in a car seat outside of the car, you are depriving your infant of visually experiencing the world. The sides of car seats are so high that your infant can see only straight ahead, which makes it very difficult to orient to sounds on either side. So, if a cat purrs or a phone rings, your child cannot see anything to connect to the sound, even if she might try to turn her head. Nor can your child follow your gaze as you smile and greet an arriving friend.
Researchers are learning that a child’s ability to follow eye movement and orient to sounds is important for the effective wiring of the systems for attention and social interaction. If your child tries over and over again to follow a sound or your gaze but with no success, he will just give up and tune out. When you have arrived safely at your destination, carry your child in your arms instead. Take your infant out of the car seat and let him or her look around, shift attention, and follow your lead.
Encourage the healthy development of your child’s brain by nurturing the ability to see and interact with you and the world in the fullest way possible.
Create face-to-face time.
More to consider . . .
Vary your baby’s perspectives by carrying your child on your hip, in a side sling, or in a soft front or back carrier.
Consider using a bouncy seat or swing, which won’t restrict your child’s range of vision, when you do need to put your little one in a safe, still-supervised place while you are busy.
Be sure to nudge your child’s curiosity by spending time together. Hold your child on your lap or join him or her on the floor. Nurture your child’s attention to the world all around.