Guest blog today by Ashley Lasher, LCSW, a local therapist and a new parent herself! Ashley talks about post partum depression and anxiety, the baby blues, and when to seek help.
In TAPS groups, we spend time every week singing silly songs, nursery rhymes, and other songs to our babies. These songs and games do more than just expose our babies to language and vocabulary - they also help our children develop social skills that they'll need as they grow.
How does singing help my baby develop?
Songs expose babies to auditory stimulation and provide an opportunity for you to engage your baby face to face. Psychologists categorize this as "child-directed speech" and its part of the beginning of language development. Research has been done on all kinds of different aspects of how baby's language exposure helps them develop a wide vocabulary. The conclusion? More exposure to wider vocabulary leads to a wider vocabulary and earlier mastery of simple words among children. If you're interested in reading more - Check out this research on child-directed speech out of Stanford.
Singing can also influence your baby's mood. Newborns tend to enjoy lullabies and will sometimes stop crying when you sing to them. It's amazing to watch this in a TAPS group. One moment all the babies are cranky and the next they are staring lovingly, calmly into their mom or dad's eyes. Songs can also make babies happy and excited. Researchers investigated what the perfect song for making babies happy would sound like and Recording Artist Imogen Heap wrote the lyrics. Happy Song has an effect even on adults! Try it. You'll probably smile.
So why is this important? Regulating emotions is one of the core social skills that children work on developing between 0 and 5. When you help your baby calm down by singing, by having face to face time, and by staying in sync with them and giving them breaks from stimulation you're helping them develop the ability to regulate their emotions! It takes a long time for this to fully develop and your baby's needs will change as they grow - and so will the songs that you sing. But one thing is certain - singing can help at any age.
Songs and singing games can also be used to help babies and young children learn simple nouns and body parts (Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!) and transition between activities (Clean up song!). In our house we use songs as a part of the coming home from school transition, saying good bye to friends, and to help us calm down at bedtime. How do you use songs at your house?
In this blog post you'll find some handy dandy resources for you to use up through your child's first birthday.
Maybe your baby is 6 months and doesn't really "roll over" yet or isn't "sleeping through the night". Maybe your nine month old isn't really interested in solid foods but is still breast feeding like a champ. Or maybe your friend's baby starting crawling at 6 months but your 8 month old isn't there yet.
Should you be worried? Probably not.
One of the questions parents in our groups frequently ask is, "Is my baby developing normally?" While sort of a complicated question, the answer is usually a resounding yes! Babies grow and develop is so many different ways and at so many very normal and very different rates that parents often start to worry when a friend or another TAPS group member starts doing something before their own child does. Every milestone has a normal range during which babies develop each skill and every baby is going to do this differently! Comparing your baby to any other baby, while helpful in some cases can increase your anxiety in others. I take the approach of cheering on every child at whatever rate they are developing while making sure that I'm equipped with the best information for how to help my children grow and learn.
One of the best research based websites I've encountered for early childhood development is managed and curated by Zero to Three, a national nonprofit promoting education for parents, childcare workers, and anyone else who helps care for children under three. I did a little digging for you and found their guidelines for baby's development from birth to 12 months - each link includes the range of milestones to expect along with some suggestions for ways to play with and engage your baby in fun developmental activities. And you'll probably be surprised that you're already doing most of these things.