Instead of thinking of tummy time as this really discrete assignment or task that you have to do, if you just incorporate it in short intervals into your daily activities - and think of ways to use all of baby's senses, like looking at a picture while singing - it becomes a little less scary, and a little more doable.
It sometimes felt akin to listening to nails on a chalkboard - people just sounded ridiculous when they spoke to babies. And then, I had my own. And I did it, too. I mean, I'd say that I didn't sound quite as insane... but I definitely changed my speech patterns and my voice. I'm so glad to hear there is a reason why we do this... and to have some ideas that make me feel better about engaging with my baby this way!
When a child's parents or caregivers use signs when that child speaks, he or she gets the chance to experience the word in a multi-sensory way. That means that you get to hear the word as you say it, they get to see it as you sign it, they feel it as they sign it, and then finally, they'll say it, eventually.
It's not easy to stay "in control" all the time - especially as the parent of a young child. I am so happy to have a community of parents to bounce off these notions, even though it's just a group on social media... Because now I know that so many of us have had the unfortunate experience of being sleep deprived and yelling at our helpless infants, or trying to multi-task when our toddler keeps screaming the same crazy phrase in the hope that will get our full attention. Trying to regulate our own emotions as parents is really tough... but realizing that to step in the shoes of our young children is to be, by nature of their age and stage, completely dependent on us to help them develop the ability to regulate their emotions... that's big.
"One of my main tips for parents is that we can embed so much therapeutic value into the activities that we do each and every day. And that's the "meat and potatoes" of occupational therapy - we're helping people do the job of living. Yeah, you can come up with creative and fun things to do, but that's kind of a lot of work, you know? But you just think about what you do during your day, and then involve your child. And then you're building that relationship, you're building their independence, and so many other factors that are such an important part of their development."
We started introducing solids to our youngest a few months ago... and he is really not interested. He doesn't like being spoon-fed, and he seems to be starting to navigate the world of baby-led weaning. I think what's resonating with me is the idea that the act of eating, for an infant, is an activity like anything else - and if I introduce it more like a play activity, that takes the pressure off of eating, and makes it more about exploring texture and having fun (with the added possibility of tasting what's offered to him, as well).
My partner and I grew up in two very different cultures and speaking two different languages. We also live in a place where the dominant language is not either of our original languages, but we both speak it fluently in our community. When our daughter was born, we both felt strongly about exposing her to our own "home" languages... it actually wasn't something we talked about with each other before hand, it just sort of happened that our daughter became multilingual. There's a lot of conflicting information out there about raising bilingual or multilingual children, but I guess we just went with what felt right for our family.
When my son was young, we were so busy attending therapy sessions, learning alternative methods to communicate and simply trying to stay afloat... it was easy to forget (and felt difficult to make the time) to provide basic activities that promoted learning through sensory experiences... It wasn't until he was a few years old that I realized how much I could do with a book, some household items, and some seemingly random play materials - and could pull together a really rich experience in under 5 minutes.
Sometimes when singing a song or chanting a nursery rhyme, a simple piece of fabric waving over my baby's head makes such a remarkable focal point for his attention. My toddler enjoys playing the co-captain and moving the fabric over her little brother, and we take turns being in control of how to move the cloth, or what song we want to sing. It also serves as a great way to help my toddler become more attuned to the way the baby is reacting to her movement and volume.
One of my favorite props to use with families is a large piece of fabric, like organza. It's a hammock, it's a snuggle, it's a roll-up-and-cuddle-together activity. It's also a ride for a pre-mobile infant who might like to gently be pulled along, or a wonderful tool for an older baby to use with rough and tumble play, to organize the sensory system and bring excitement into calm. As the parent, you're taking that responsibility on to tune into your child's level of excitement, and play!
There's something intimidating about wordless picture books at first... When my first daughter was born, some family friends gave us a beautiful wordless picture book that I put away on the shelf, thinking, "no, I can't read this, I don't know what to do, it's too complicated." But wordless picture books can be so rich... even though it can feel like pressure at first, it's actually NO pressure, because you can do whatever you want with a wordless picture book, and you are free to let your child lead whatever way the story or pictures take them.
My son hears three languages in the home, and I know it's common for children growing up multilingual to start to speak later. I don't like the idea of "manipulating" a situation to get him to speak, but I recently realized that there are ways to naturally tempt him to respond. For instance, when I sing a song that he loves, I often pause at the end of a verse for him to vocalize and "sing" back to me.
My son has a good life. He wants for nothing, he knows I’m here for him. Sometimes I think his late start to communication has to do with the fact that he has it TOO easy. So when his speech-therapist suggested a technique he referred to as “sabotage,” I thought, well - it sounds a little strange, but we’ll give it a try.
We love to create sounds together, and it wasn't until recently that I realized how connected the act of "music-making" and the act of having a conversation actually are! We take turns, we build on each other's "statements," we laugh at each other when the other does something funny... and I'm learning to read my daughter's signals to tell me that the activity - or conversation - is over. It's great fun to do together, with the whole family, or with a few friends.
My 11-month old seemed so bored with his toys, but I started watching the kinds of things he gravitated toward, and realized we could play little games using things around the house. I also started offering him choices, and realized that not only was this a nice way to involve him in creating a game, but it allowed him a nice sense of power and, in a way, self-confidence. When we put new things together (like sunglasses on a teddy bear), he became completely fascinated, and it really held his interest!
My daughter often didn't do what other kids did... so at first, it was difficult to figure out new activities when I ran out of ideas. I'd ask my friends what they were doing with their kiddos at home, and sometimes those things were too advanced... but by watching my daughter's therapist, I learned that I could modify activities sometimes, as well. I've learned a lot about giving my daughter space to let her try new things, and take "baby steps" towards new abilities. Without the developmental therapists we've worked with, I don't know that I would have even thought to do that!
We used to go to music class and I'd take my son's hand to "help him" bang on the drum. Then I realized, he was watching all the other babies do it on their own - why did he need me to make him do it? He would imitate everybody else when he was ready. And you know, I backed off, and a few weeks later - he did... with a HUGE self-satisfied smile.
We were sitting in the living room, playing with some toys and listening to music. My daughter suddenly raised up her hands, moving them from the left to the right... I thought, 'what's she doing? Is she ok?' And then I realized that 'Wheels On The Bus' had started - she recognized the tune... and she was doing the action of the wipers. She had never done that before!
I don't think she could even sit up yet, but I remember noticing that my daughter would watch another baby's reaction after she snatched a toy from him. I know she didn't do it to make the other child unhappy... but I felt like maybe I could help her understand that her actions had an affect on other people by talking about how the other baby felt sad, and offering a solution.