Playing is learning
From birth to the first birthday, amazing things happen. Every day, the baby learns something new, discovering the world step by step in amazement. And the parents are amazed too. However, they are not immune to questioning more often whether everything is really going according to plan. “Developmental stages should only be assessed as a whole and not as individual building blocks. The child may be more capable in some areas, but not yet as capable in others,” says developmental psychologist Luise Hollerer, basically giving the command “relax”.
Giving yourself time as a young family is essential: “You can literally tune in to the miracle of the human being,” Hollerer emphasises, “it’s an observation, a feeling your way towards what calms the child, for example. For both sides it is still a journey into the unknown at first.” While the baby absolutely needs an immediate and gentle response to its needs in the first weeks and months, this immediacy is no longer so essential in the course of the second half of the year. Then it becomes more important to observe the child taking steps on its own. It turns away from the mother or father towards the world and begins to explore it with its senses. “You should leave this exploration to the child and not always intervene immediately.
Children have their own blueprint, Hollerer emphasises: “One may start experimenting earlier in the motor area, another with language or through social contacts.” Where a child shows a desire to explore, opportunities should be opened up for them – for example, to expand the range of movement in a protected setting. In this way, it is also encouraged not to do everything in the company of adults in the second and third year. “Many parents find the observation situation difficult at first, especially with the first child. Once you have more than one child, attention is shared among them anyway and you can’t be as present for every new rung climbed.”
Toys are still of little relevance in the first weeks and months of life. “The baby’s senses are completely focused on closeness. On physical contact. Getting in tune with each other also means: gurgling, squeaking and babbling, when the child squeaks, gurgles and babbles, “simply amplify its sounds,” advises Hollerer. When the child begins to reach for objects, this can be well accompanied by speech: “Now you have a big leaf in your hand, a rough cone, a beautiful branch.” Later, different materials invite the child to explore them in detail.
Emotional exceptional situations
Young parenthood is always associated with a variety of emotions, many questions without clear answers, with excessive demands, with lack of sleep or with uncertainty. It is a relief to support each other as best as possible in a partnership or to accept support from outside, from family and friends. “You often don’t actively organise your day, but only reactively. It is quite reasonable for the baby to be entrusted for a short time to another person who also holds it in love.”
The first holiday together is a special one. Here, too, Hollerer tries to take the pressure off. “Not everything will always go as you planned. The baby might cry or just be in a bad mood. In such situations it is important to be happy about what is possible, let the day come and enjoy moments without planning in advance what has to happen. That just adds unnecessary pressure.”
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