Your baby's mind can absorb so so very much in its first year!
How baby is developing
What you can do
From day one, your baby starts to understand! Yes, they can listen and are alert. By the third day of life, your child can respond when spoken to. By the end of first month, they will have developed the basic ability to respond to sound - by swivelling their eyes or head - and will even try to twitch their mouth when their mother speaks.
Answer all signals and make sure your baby sees you when you nod your head, or sees you move your mouth when you speak. Their range of sight extends to just a foot, so bring your face, fingers or colourful things as near as possible. Stimulate your child’s senses by talking, singing and showing him bright things.
By this time, your baby will have started to understand the mechanics of conversation and will try to speak by opening and closing their mouth. They may respond to your voice by changing their behaviour, quieten when you speak soothingly and become distressed when you speak loudly or roughly.
Laugh a lot, speak in singsong fashion or sing lullabies to feed your child’s sense of rhythm. Try to be more physical with them – hold them, rock and sway them or use a rocking chair and cradle. If their head shows some steadiness, you may even want to try a little ‘dance’ with them to some music.
Your baby may start smiling at you and nod their head when you talk to them. They may even be able to make small throaty noises in response.
Babies love looking at faces! You make the best toy for your baby because you can make funny faces and funny noises at the same time. Look at your baby, as they will be looking at your face intently for facial clues as to what you are saying. Move fingers or toys in and out of their range of vision to capture their interest, and speak from both sides of the face so that your baby learns to recognise voices coming from different directions.
Smiling becomes a greater habit, and your baby will start showing an active interest in what is happening around them by looking at the source of sounds, staring at objects and looking as if they are trying to get a hold of them with their eyes.
Give them free rein to indulge their interests - prop them up on cushions so they can see more things around the room, allow them to see bright, colourful objects and soft toys, and show your child their hands. All of these will stimulate their interest in their surroundings.
Your baby starts to develop an awareness of its own body. They may often look at their fingers and move them at will. By this time they will also be reacting more to their environment by squealing, smiling or moving their body to conversation and sounds around them.
Respond to your baby's behaviour with exaggerated movements and sounds. Play simple games with them, like tickling feet, pulling at their legs and arms, or bending their knees. This helps your child realise movements of their own body. You can even give them toys of different weights and textures for them to grasp and feel.
Curiosity becomes a trademark. They also start to recognise familiar objects like their favourite toy, and enjoy being propped up so that they can look around them. They understand routines like breast-feeding or bottle-feeding.
Feed your baby's curiosity. Do things that make your baby laugh, share jokes with them, and let them play with toys that will teach them about different weights, sizes and textures. Toys that make some noise adds to their stimuli.
Your baby may enjoy simple games by now, like splashing in the bath. They probably like to examine things closely, look at themselves in the mirror, turns their head towards sounds, and move their arms and legs to attract attention.
Respond to your baby when you are “called”. Move towards them and make eye contact so that your baby will understand when you are responding to their requests. This will also assure them that you are their source of help and comfort. Introduce strangers to your baby, and use your child’s name as much as you can.
Your baby will be initiating conversations by now. They can recognise their own name, put their arms out to be picked up, and try to feed themselves – showing the first signs of independence. They will imitate simple things you do and anticipate repetition. By now, they may also exhibit some feelings like fear, and preferences for foods.
Show your baby their reflection in the mirror and teach them to point at themselves and you, and to recognise the different people in the household. Repeat sounds that your baby makes, to demonstrate simple cause-and-effect to them. For example, push a ball towards them and show them that it rolls. Give things to them then take it back, and vice versa; this is to teach your child a sense of purpose and making things happen.
Your baby now understands the meaning of simple words like “No” and shows signs of determination, like moving towards things out of his reach. They can recognise familiar games and rhymes, and anticipate the movements associated with stories or songs.
Play lots of games with them, put things out of their reach and bring these things to them when they ask. Encourage independence with self-feeding. Explain routines such as lunch to your child, going through the details at every point, such as when you sit them down, put on their bib, etc. Get noisy toys and let them play with safe kitchen utensils to help them match words and objects.
Routines and games should by now be familiar to them, and they may even be able to say one word they understand. Your child may even show you things in a book, but don't expect them to concentrate too long on a book. They will understand simple concepts like here and there, in and out.
Read magazines and books to them, increase their sense of concentration by telling them simple short stories. Play games that involve them e.g. clapping, and demonstrate movement and effect.
By now, your baby should be showing a repertoire of emotions. They will show interest in their favourite books, pointing out favourite passages or even pictures, and may be able to say a few words with meaning. They can understand simple questions, and shake their head for "No". They will repeat tricks that make you laugh.
Teach them the names of objects and parts of their body. Do actions that your baby can imitate, and praise them and reward all responses. Describe routines to your baby and read them short stories with abstract ideas. Encourage them to show affection by kissing or hugging you, or patting his toys. Describe anything you do for them, e.g. putting on his clothes, sitting him in a chair.
Finally, celebrate your child’s first birthday! Relax and enjoy your baby!
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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