Wednesday, October 7, 2015

10 Ways to Build Your Baby's Mind and Attention

Rachelle and me
1. Train her to look you in the eye as you instruct her. Hold her little head in your hands gently and say, "Look right at Mama's eyes," Realize the incredible goodness and beauty of being one in mind with other humans. Babies feel our excitement, and if we're energized by this reality (of mental oneness) and desire it with our children, our zeal will help draw them into a habit (of eye contact) which can contribute to better self-control, attention, and submission as well as being a small part of the foundation of a beautiful parent-child relationship.

2. Talk. A lot. Throughout the day describe what you are doing: what you see, what you hear, taste, and smell. Count everything. Name colors constantly. Describe shapes. Tell her what you are thinking. So what, if you're thinking about Dostoevsky and the heartaches life can bring, do it from a contented, truthful, hope-filled mindset, and let her begin to be exposed to words with huge meaning. She doesn't have a clue what you're saying yet, but that's okay. She'll hear it again and again, and the sooner she starts hearing talk about the big questions of life, the sooner she'll be joining the conversation. Your constant conversing will build her concentration, her language skills, and her mental dexterity.

3. Read to her with excitement (simple picture books and books that have textures are good starters) as she sits on your lap or beside you. If she squirms, keep reading. Let her wiggle and crawl a bit, and then bring her back to sit. It's a process that takes time, and of course, you have to choose books wisely. Work to lengthen the amount of time you read. You may have to insist at some point when you are convinced she is resisting sitting still out of laziness of mind or rebellion. If you are where you should be with regard to self-control and submission to God, you'll sense when she isn't and can train her accordingly. Make sure you have seen the vision, that you have embraced the joy of learning. Make sure you model energetic wonder as you explore God's creation with your baby. It's catching! 
Our friend, Kevin Moser, reading to LaRae
Talk about an exciting read! She was captivated.
The three little pigs were never so real! ;)
4. Avoid videos, video games, or other electronic devices within the first two years if at all possible, and only occasionally and cautiously use them after that. The fewer the better. 

5. Set aside a quiet time each day (other than nap time) as soon as your baby can sit up. You have to train her in this. You'll have to interact with her for a while as you train, but eventually you can place her in a playpen, crib, or on a blanket--whatever works best for you--and she will sit for 20 minutes to an hour (or more as she matures) and quietly look at books, learn shapeswork puzzles, thread spools, place rings on a cone, any type of quiet activity that builds concentration and motor-skills. If you are consistent in your training at home with this quiet time, it works wonders at church! 

6. Play quiet, orderly music in your home. Mozart was my favorite.

7. Never yell at your baby or your spouse. If something is urgent, whisper with urgency.

8. Mealtimes are wonderful training grounds for self-control, concentration, and motor-skill development. Place a spoon or fork in your baby's hand as soon as she is sitting in a high chair and eating real food. Place your hand over hers and help her take a bite. It's like making dashes for traceable letters. She will learn more quickly to feed herself than you can imagine if you are consistent. Same thing with a sippy-cup. Guide her hands until they can manage the skill on their own. It's so much fun to watch babies learn, and they're so much smarter than we tend to think! 

9. Read an ABC book every day. We used our Dr. Seuss ABC book as a bedtime, nap time read -- memorized it, in fact -- and Curt and I still know the entire book. Fun memories. Our girls knew their letters within the first year of their life. We would start quoting the book and would pause so they could say the next letter. Rachelle read at age 3. I think this book, along with constantly talking to them -- never in baby talk -- throughout their early years, helped develop language skills. Was it exhausting? Better believe it! At times I was tempted to tell LaRae, since she was a conversationalist much more than her sister, "My name isn't mommy. I'm not sure where she went. Maybe you should run to the next room and see if you can find her." I resisted the temptation. :)

Wrestling with Daddy is important too! ;)
I was so thankful Curt could take over some of the talking once he got home each day! 
10. Listen to them when they talk, or try to talk. Keep eye contact with them whenever possible as they converse with you. (I know sometimes you have to get dishes or laundry done while they're talking, and you simply can't keep eye contact!)  Model what you want them to be like and how you want them to learn, and remember it has to be from the right motive. If you want your child to be bright and attentive because it makes you look good or just builds their ego, it won't produce a good and beautiful outcome. If you want your child to be bright and attentive so that they can find their place in God's kingdom and be sharp tools for His purposes, go for it! And Godspeed! Joy awaits.