Like everyone, babies have a job to do. They have to grow and develop in many ways.
In this first year of his brain development, your baby has to create millions of connections. Many of these connections are the result of ways you are involved with them.
Babies know a lot more than we think they know. Language development in your baby begins before he can even talk. He has been actively listening and watching you speak to him and to others for days since he was born.
As he has become more active, you have seen many changes. When your little one is about 8 months old, he begins to make signals or sounds to you. This won’t sound like words. It is from these sounds that he learns to communicate with you.
You are the one who frequently understands what he wants from the sounds he makes. He may not be speaking, but usually you know what needs by identifying clues.
How you react to these sound signals is important. These clues help him begin to develop his language skills.
It also increases your bonding with him as you talk to him at slightly above his level of understanding. When he feels you understand his needs, it gives him confidence and trust in you.
The bonding you have with your child is critically important to your child. When your child feels secure and safe with you, he is then ready to explore. It takes a few months for him to have specific attachments, but he is learning who he can count on. (“Social and Emotional Development,” Redleaf Press, 2008).
The trust your child has in you is shown when you even leave the room. Mothers who sneak out so their child will not see them leave are likely to find their children playing less and most likely to cry.
In contrast, mothers who told their toddlers they were leaving and would return or told their child what they should do in the interim, had children who played the most and cried the least.
Your child will bond with others he spends time with and who he may become attached to. We even know that children with secure attachments to one or more caregivers by the age of twelve months are more compliant and easy going as toddlers.
A child who has become attached to you will look at you and move towards you after he has been separated for a time. In your presence, the child feels safe enough to start looking around and exploring. When a child is attached like this, then he feels secure enough to begin to explore and learn.
Your job as a parent or even as a child-care provider is to provide the security to your child that allows him to feel comfortable as he explores and learns.
Many times, he just wants to be able to see you. He will be more active in his exploration if can check you out and make sure you or someone he trusts is close by.
Babies need to become attached to at least one person who provides them with security and love. This first and most basic emotional attachment is the start for all human relationships (“Helping Your Preschool Child,” U.S. Department of Education).
Individuals who have the biggest influence on how well a baby learns are important people in getting little ones ready to learn. Their job is to help a child feel safe, secure, loved, and ready to learn.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.