Of course, when they’re tiny you have your hands full on a constant basis, but it’s interesting to discover differing attitudes and approaches to encourage our babies to play by themselves, even when they’re still weeks old.
We recently read up on an expert who believes we should think of new babies as dependent, but not helpless. According to Magda Gerber, babies are capable and even keen to play by themselves, albeit for only a few moments at a time, and of course, in the presence of someone to care and supervise. In her view, it’s never too early, the earlier the better, and the benefits of confidence, focus and independence begin right there and then.
That all sounds very enlightened, but isn’t it the case that the moment you put your baby down, he’s going to immediately start wailing? Probably, but if he does, it’s because we’re doing it wrong!
If we just plonk him down without any warning, that’s the wrong way. Talking to baby, telling him what’s happening and showing him where he’s going – all these things allow him to get the idea of what you’re doing. And once he’s there, letting him sense your close presence will help to keep him content.
And if he cries anyway? Since babies are constantly held, cuddled and kept in confined spaces, a little freedom may not be to every baby’s liking, at least not immediately. A little patience is recommended!
So you’ve got this far, now for play! Variety is the order of the day here. Little baby gyms are great for encouraging focus and hand-eye coordination, but there doesn’t always have to be an actual activity. Just placing baby in different locations and letting him experience what’s around him, is good enough. Apparently this helps develop imagination and a willingness to make his own fun, as long as we push through any initial resistance!
All in all, the aim is to encourage baby to be resourceful and contented with his own company, in all sorts of different situations. We can be with baby, but we don’t always have to actively interact with baby. Allowing him a little time and space can unlock his own natural willingness to think, daydream and explore has huge benefits, according to Magda Gerber.
Maybe I’ll try this out on the three teenagers we have! They say it’s never too late to get them into good habits, and I’m sure they’ll enjoy having a little quiet time without their phones and iPads. I’ll let you know how we get on!