CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I'll post up one extract each Friday. At the end of each Friday post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract.
Attention skills: help your infant concentrate
Your newborn baby never plans. He reacts. He responds to loud noises with a startle reflex but relaxes when he hears your voice. By 3 months, he turns his head to the direction of the sounds he hears.
Soon, he watches your face closely as you talk. Make the most of this contact. Speak quietly to him and make happy faces. Watch him concentrate hard and copy your facial movements. When you poke out your tongue, he follows suit a few moments later.
His concentration is intense. This is natural. Everything is still new and he needs to understand it.
Sometimes you speak to him and he won’t look at you. He’s too busy watching a mobile, or the patterns of leaves against the sky, or he’s wiggling his toes. He may be aware of his own internal feelings. Maybe he’s getting hungry. He can only concentrate on one thing at a time.
Attention skills: baby’s short attention span
He can’t choose the subject of his concentration. It happens by chance. If a new toy catches his eye, he loses interest in what he is doing and puts all his attention on the new toy. If he bangs his hand, he forgets what he was looking at and cries, but you can distract him by giving him something new to see, hear, feel, smell or taste.
During his first year, his concentration span remains short and single-channel. He plays with one toy for a few moments, then moves on to something else. It helps him to have just one or two toys available at a time. Let him play with these until he loses interest, then put them away and give him something else. Avoid surrounding him with dozens of toys all at once. He finds it difficult to settle down with one toy if there are too many other things nearby.
Attention skills: baby activities: peep-bo
To play peer-bo, you hide your face from your baby, then pop your head out and say “peep-bo”. It’s a great attention builder. At the start of the game you make and hold eye contact with him. This captures his awareness and he watches you closely.
Then hide your face. This surprises him. It takes him aback. He sits for a second, puzzled. Maybe he feels a touch of anxiety. Then, you pop your head out again and give him a start. You smile; he laughs and has his reward for waiting.
He learns several lessons.
First, he learns that making eye contact with you is fun. Second, he finds that his bonus for waiting a moment is that you appear again. Third, he works out that your face might disappear but come back again: it hasn’t gone away forever.
That helps his intellectual development, as he learns that objects still exist, even when he can’t see them. As a bonus, he finds that you like laughing with him. This helps him feel secure and happy, providing the perfect environment for relaxed development.
Come back next week for the next extract to find out more about your child's attention skills and discover more activities you can carry out yourself. CLICK HERE for the next extract.
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I write this Communication Blog
Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.
I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.
I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.