Baby Bonding Tips Just in Time for Father’s Day
In the first years of life, children are learning how to learn. The experiences in their first days, months, even minutes of life shapes the kind of students and adults they will become. Babies’ brains are forming an astounding 1 million synapses per second, and the first three years are the period of the most rapid brain development. How parents respond to their babies’ needs shapes how their brains will develop.
New research, published in the Infant Mental Health Journal, shows that babies whose fathers were more engaged and active when playing with them in their first few months performed better on cognitive tests later in life. Fatherhood has a history of being overlooked in the parenting space, which has led to the undervaluation and underestimation of the role. The truth is that dads are everyday heroes who deserve to be celebrated.
Babies thrive when they form secure attachments with their parents, and the security and trust that they feel in this relationship help them regulate their emotions and behaviors. Secure children are on the right path for school readiness and will develop critical skills like curiosity, a willingness to explore, enthusiasm for learning and independence.
It is critical that dads foster inspiring, encouraging and educational relationships with their children early in life. Every book dads read, laugh they share, hug they give, “why?” they answer, or word of encouragement they deliver has a dramatic impact on their children’s development.
Here are just a few ways dads can make the most of their bonding time on Father’s Day and every day:
- Make the best of story time. Babies love predictable stories. By reading stories that have a rhythmic flow, they will listen to the patterns in your voice and learn the story. Also, your love of reading will help foster theirs.
- Take a break from the summer heat with a fun memory game. In addition to working babies’ memories, card matching games will help them hone their concentration and planning skills.
- Throw a dance party. The actions and movement that accompany most children’s songs promote coordination, balance and control. Beyond just dancing, using the whole body to make music supports gross motor development.
- Carpool Karaoke. Music introduces children to more words, increasing their vocabulary and understanding of letter sounds. They identify more sounds and learn rhyming words.
- Build together. Piecing together a puzzle or building a block castle is a great way for young children to pick up nuances of cooperation. As they work toward a common goal, they learn the value of teamwork and planning, while reinforcing positive social-emotional skills and developing small motor dexterity.
While celebrating this Father’s Day, dads should savor every bonding opportunity and help make every moment matter for them and their babies.
Edna Lindsey is the Healthy Parents & Babies Program Manager at Ounce of Prevention Fund, an organization dedicated to giving children living in poverty the best chance for success in school and in life by advocating for and providing the highest quality care and education from birth to age five.