Our children will teach how to love, how to forgive, and how to be full expressions of our deepest selves, if we only let them. ~Ann Ruethling & Patti Pitcher
When I first “organized” this series on The Family Literacy Circle, I thought “Nurturing the Family Literacy Circle with Your Newborn” would be its own post. However, after completing the research, I knew one post wasn’t going to be enough.
Your baby’s first year is HUGE ! Continuing with the Literacy Circle is one of the most important gifts you can share with your newest family member.
Learning to control the physical world with her/his body is your baby’s primary focus: eating, grabbing, rolling over, sitting up, babbling/talking, crawling, walking, climbing, “toddling”. These skills are gained through imitation and repetition. You can see your baby’s personality begin to emerge while “working” on these accomplishments.
How To Make a Nurturing, Literacy-Friendly Home
Cynthia Aldinger, founder of Lifeways North America & author of Home Away from Home , coined the phrase “Living Arts”. Creating a supportive and caring home has 4 major elements, according to Ms. Aldinger:
- Domestic Activity– Model the work necessary to keep a home safe, healthy & secure. Include your child(ren) so they have opportunities to imitate what is being done and, then, participate with the family.
- Domestic Activity’s Literacy Value: oral language, sequential order, following directions, cause & effect, problem/solutions, details
- Nurturing Care – Share your life experiences while focusing on your child(ren) as major contributors to the family’s history.
- Nurturing Care’s Literacy Value: oral language, main ideas, characters & setting, fact & opinion, compare/contrast
- Creative Discovery – Recognize your child(ren)’s desire to be physically & mentally active while exploring & mastering new skills
- Creative Discovery’s Literacy Value: experimenting, risk-taking, brainstorming, problem solving, sequencing, critical thinking
- Social Ability – Build confidence in your child(ren) that will help grow & nurture relationships with others outside the family’s sphere, such as friends, schoolmates, clubs, teams.
- Social Ability’s Literacy Value : inference, prediction, character, settings, generalizations
Your Newborn’s BrainPower
Did you know ?
- Newborns have about 100 BILLION brain cells at birth
- 75% of your newborn’s brain develops AFTER birth
- Your baby’s brain DOUBLES in size within her/his first year
- Your newborn can feel pleasure, fear & distress
- Your newborn’s 5 senses quickly develop once outside the womb
- His/her hearing is not fully developed, but s/he recognizes & prefers mother’s voice
- S/he recognizes mother’s smell at birth
- S/he is sensitive to sounds, light & temperature
- S/he can distinguish light from dark, but not different shades of color (pastels), which will develop later
Your newborn’s sensitivity to bright light does not affect his/her need to sleep 15-17 hours a day. During the first few weeks, s/he usually doesn’t know the difference between night and day.
How Smart Is My Baby?
Dr. John Medina, a brain scientist & author of the book, Brain Rules For Baby , shares a few facts about intelligence:
- No intelligence gene has been isolated
- IQ (intelligence quota) measures one’s ability to take IQ tests
- Researchers can’t agree on what IQ tests measure
- IQ can change throughout one’s life & is affected by stress, age & cultural environment
- Family life affects a child’s IQ
He, also, says the human intelligence has 2 “essential ingredients”:
- The ability to record & keep information-the memory
- The capacity to use that information – reasoning & problem solving
You and your loved ones can support & nurture your newborn’s brain development in several ways.
How To Boost Your Newborn’s BrainPower for Literacy
Babies enter the world with a lot of love and trust. Bonding between parents and child is a major key to the healthy growth and development of your baby’s brain.
Rahima Dancy, an internationally- known early childhood educator & author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and Susan Sloop from the University of Illinois Extension (I combined the lists) offered some suggestions:
- Touching, cuddling & rocking your baby a lot promotes brain growth and a sense of security & well-being
- Responding quickly to your baby’s cries or fussiness with a soothing & calming voice builds positive brain circuitry in her/his brain as well as emotional security
- Giving your newborn some peace & quiet time so s/he will adjust to her/his physical life
- Spending time face-to-face & being attentive with your baby gives her/him the confidence to explore, discover & learn about the world BUT DO NOT overstimulate or force physical development
- Talking, humming & singing with your newborn stimulates his/her brain for understanding speech, producing language, & gaining skills for reasoning as well as planning
Your Newborn’s Oral Language Development & Literacy
Yes, talking, singing & humming with your newborn helps develop language & literacy. Believe it or not, s/he is communicating with you, too!
Another way to communicate with your newborn is through sign language. “Between 6 to 8 months, babies’ long term memories are developmentally ready to retain the words they hear and the signs they see.” (White & Harper: Signs of a Happy Baby 2017)
Pathways.org, who is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings, provides some great information on early childhood growth & development abilities & milestones.
- Quiets and/or smiles in response to sound and/or voice
- Turns head towards sound and/or voice
- Shows interest in faces
- Makes eye contact
- Cries differently for different needs: hungry, tired, uncomfortable
- Chuckles, gurgles & coos
- Talk about everything you are doing: washing your hands, getting dressed, cooking food, feeding baby & family, putting away toys
- Use short sentences
- Stress important words
- Speak slowly & vary your tone
- Use pictures and/or objects to help your baby understand
- Read books (more on that later)
- Reacts to sudden sounds and/or noises
- Listens and responds when spoken to
- Begins to to use consonants when babbling: da da; ma ma; ba ba
- Makes different kinds of sounds to express feelings
- Notices toys that make sounds
- Uses babbling to get attention
- Hum, chant, rock & bounce in a rhythmic way
- Give your baby a rattle to shake while you sing and/or listen to music together
- Use a mirror to play “who” & “where” games
- Play “Peek-A-Boo” games
- Make sure your newborn has musical toys
- Give your newborn toys with a variety of textures
Baby Talk: The Communication of Crying
You’ve probably noticed your infant:
- playing with saliva (spit spray is fun)
- raspberry-tongues (always a favorite)
- blowing bubbles (they LOVE to do this)
- vocalizations (yells, shouts, growls, howls)
- cah-rrrryyyy-ing ( yes, it’s baby talk)
A few words about the Communication of Crying – As a new mother, I was nervous about “understanding” the different cries my baby “spoke”. Very quickly, I learned to recognize what his cry-speak (just made up that term) was communicating. My Mother-Sense alerted me to what he was loudly “saying”. Believe me, they’re not ALL distress signals. Your tired-self will clue you in. And, you, like I, will be amazed at the variety of wails.
Here’s What I Discovered
The Distress Calls were no-brainers for me, as with many parents. My body went into immediate, reflex action. The other cries’ solutions came with a trial-and-error approach. No one wants to hear a baby’s mournful moans, but, sometimes, s/he is just expressing a feeling and/or thought of the moment. Listen closely to your little one and you will be able to distinguish the difference between a cry for help and a cry of frustration. It’s the language of babies-your baby- so, interpreting his/her cries will strengthen the bond between you. “Yay! S/he gets me!”
Here’s How I Discovered What To Do
- Distress Calls or Pain: hunger, indigestion, teething, injury, sickness Mother-Sense: hair-raise on the back of my neck, increased heartbeat, stomach-clench, cool sweat, drop every & any thing to address the call, uh- alarm
- Annoyance Alerts: diaper duty, clothing adjustment, sucking &/or attention need, toy access desired Mother-Sense: respond & assist in a timely manner or escalation is imminent
- Grumble Yowls: dissatisfaction, discomfort, irritation, moodiness Mother-Sense: distract with silliness or fake crying, change of scenery-going outdoors works great, everyone has days like this
- Whimper Whines: confusion, tiredness, boredom, mild frustration, lonely, sound exploration, maybe some aches due to growing pains Mother-Sense: wait a short while to see if Baby will self-soothe (IMPORTANT), if not- talk to Baby calmly, offer toy to distract, give teething biscuit or ring, pick up & rock when big tears occur
Disclaimer: I am not a child expert – just a loving parent & elementary educator. well, that was more than “a few words” now, wasn’t it ?!
Literacy Needs Playtime
Watching your baby play is one of the most fascinating and revealing activities you can do. Listen to his/her babbling while at play. You may recognize some of your tones and expressions (in babblese). Not only will you learn how & what your baby is learning, but also, what keeps his/her interests. Seeing glimpses of your baby’s emerging personality and the way problem solving happens is a treasure. Try not to interfere too much when you hear groans or wails of frustration. These, what I call “growing pains”, are helpful to your baby’s brain growth & development.
Kallokyri’s “Importance of Play”
In June 2016 Anastasia Kalokyri created a whimsical infographic : “Facts About the importance of Play in Early Childhood” for shoptwinkie.com.
Within the 8 Stages of Play, from birth to ages 6 & 7, she describes several stages of your newborn’s play.
During Unoccupied Play from birth -3months, your baby’s movements seem to be random without a clear purpose. However, researchers have found these movements are an important first step in the early stages of play.
Constructive Play, which also begins at birth, starts with infants putting things in their mouths to see how they feel & taste.
Beginning at 3 months your newborn may not notice others sitting & playing nearby. During Solitary Play your baby is exploring the world by watching, grabbing & rattling objects.
How Play Affects A Child’s Development
Here are some other facts Ms. Kalokyri shared:
- How s/he learns & works out who s/he is
- How the world works & how s/he fits into it
- Helps build confidence
- Helps to feel love, happy & safe
- Helps to develop social skills, language & communication
- Helps connect & refine pathways in her/his brain
- Helps him/her learn about caring for others & the environment
- Helps her/him learn physical skills
Playing with your newborn is a very important part of her/his literacy development because it stimulates brain and oral language growth & development. Remember to encourage quiet, solo playtime in your newborn because it is just as important to her/him.
Games, Toys & Literacy
Playing games with your newborn is a wonderful way to bond and stimulate brain health. Learning through our 5 senses is the human way to make contact with the physical world.
Choose toys that encourage creative and interactive play. Toys made with bright colors and a variety of textures, especially wood , wool, cotton, help your baby connect with the real world.
Talking, humming & singing during play is a great way to boost literacy. Oral language is an important building block when nurturing the Family Literacy Circle. encourage loved ones to participate.
When your baby is tired of playing & needs some quiet time, s/he may: begin sucking, wrinkle face, stare vacantly, yawn, squirm, cry.
Developmental Play for Your Newborn
Because games, toys & books are the POWER tools of your baby’s Literacy World, I researched several different sources to help bring this information to you. It was encouraging to read the repetition within the variety of authorities, scientists & specialists. Here are a few I used and combined their findings.
Dr. Glade Curtis, a pediatritian, and Judith Schuler, MS, co-authored 2010’s Your Baby’s First Year. They help parents understand how they can help their baby’s first year of growth & development with a week-by-week approach. They divide play into: stimulate vision, talk & sing, and vocabulary & language.
Of The Hearth.com cited ZerotoThree.com & Maternal Child Nursing Care as sources to help her create her “Developmentally appropriate Play for Babies ” chart. It is divided into 4 types of play: visual, auditory, tactile & kinetic.
I created tables to share the information. Remember to continue and build on each activity every week.
Developmental Play for Your Newborn (Birth to 1 Month)
AGE SEE & PLAY HEAR & PLAY TOUCH & PLAY GRAB & PLAY
WEEK 1 *Show bold-patterned objects
*Show pictures of loved one's
*Talk & sing to baby
*Play soothing music
*Hold, caress & cuddle baby
*Rock baby in a rocking chair
WEEK 2 *Look closely into baby's face
*Look closely into baby's eyes
*Sing nursery rhymes
*Play lullaby CDs
*Swaddle baby *Put baby on his/her back
*Take baby for a stroller walk
WEEK 3 *Move simple bright pics and
see if baby tracks
*Show bright toys close
*Vary the tone of your voice
*Say baby's name often
*Keep baby warm *Wear baby in a carrier
WEEK 4 *Show pictures of loved one's
*Read anything aloud
*Dance with toys while you sing
*Give butterfly kisses *Gently shake a rattle
WEEK 5 *Show bright toys close *Take baby on a house tour, pointing out objects *Place baby on tummy with bright toys *Roll a ball while baby is in your lap or in a carrier
WEEK 6 *Hang a mobile above baby *Describe what your doing when doing chores & caring for her/him *Play with baby & a mirror *See if baby will grab colorful rings
WEEK 7 *Make funny faces *Take baby outside & point out trees, plants, sky, clouds, etc *Touch baby"s parts & name them *Shake toy keys & move them
Developmental Play for Your Newborn (2-3 Months)
AGE SEE & PLAY HEAR & PLAY TOUCH & PLAY GRAB & PLAY
WEEK 8 * Make room bright with high contrast colors * Tell baby what you're doing while dressing him/her * Give baby a gentle massage
*Use an infant swing or bouncer
WEEK 9 *Show baby bright toys & slowly move them right/left * Laugh when baby laughs * Comb baby's hair with a soft brush *Place baby on tummy with a mirror
WEEK 10 *Show baby bright toys & slowly move them up/down * Dance with toys while you sing * Help baby touch different textures *Place baby on tummy with toys
WEEK 11 *Show baby bright toys & slowly move them in a circle * Play CDs with nature sounds * Play "Little Piggies" *Utilize toy bars
WEEK 12 *Show baby a small doll in the mirror *Make up a story to tell baby *Point to one of your body parts & then touch baby's same part *Utilize infant mats
WEEK 13 *Show baby how to shake a rattle in the mirror *Talk to baby about using 4-5 word sentences Play "Pat-A-Cake" *Hold up a variety of toys to see which ones baby reaches for
WEEK 14 *Wave bye-bye with baby in the mirror *Ask baby short questions: "Are you ready to eat?" "Do a gentle horsey-rock *Hold a toy in each hand to see which one gets grabbed
WEEK 15 *Read wordless books with bright, simple pictures *Expose baby to home sounds & different outdoor sounds *Blow on baby's fingers *Gently move baby's arms & legs in a swimming motion
Copy of Developmental Play for Your Newborn (4-6 Months)
AGE SEE & PLAY HEAR & PLAY TOUCH & PLAY GRAB & PLAY
WEEK 16 * You might need to remove mobile or place out of baby's reach * Expose baby to classical, jazz & pop music as well as different languages * Look for toys with multiple sensory feels
* Bounce baby in lap while holding in a standing position
WEEK 17 *Make a family & frequent friends photo display * Tell stories about the people in the photo display *Show baby the real person next to the photo & touch the person * Make sure loved ones are playing on the floor with baby
WEEK 18 *Hang prisms to "catch" rainbows *Talk about the colors of the prism rainbows * Place your hand in the prism rainbow & then baby's hand * Place prism in baby's grasp
WEEK 19 * Blow bubbles * Pop blown bubbles * Touch & hold blown bubbles *Catch a blown bubble & place on baby's hand
WEEK 20 *Play peek-a-boo in the mirror *Look in the mirror with baby & make faces * Introduce wooden & plastic kitchen utensils *Put kitchen utensils on baby's play mat with baby
WEEK 21 *Place some fruits & veggies in a variety of shapes & colors in front of baby *Talk about the fruits & veggies shapes & colors *Pick each one up & place in baby's hand using texture & temperature words *Place a few fruits & veggies in baby's reach
WEEK 22 *Have baby see you make a bubble bath *Drop some toys to hear different splashes "See if baby will imitate your drop & splash play *Hold a bath toy in each hand to see which one gets grabbed
WEEK 23 *Show baby a few books & see which one gets chosen *Change your voice when talking about different images in the book *Talk about the different textures of books: board, cloth, plastic, felt *See if baby will hold book & read to you
It might be fun to record some of the changes you see in your baby’s play. How’s the babblese progressing? Any new sounds? Preferences? I’m sure you’ve noticed a few books your baby likes to hold & eat.
Reading with Your Newborn in the Family Literacy Circle
Reading to a Newborn? Really?
Remember, you’ve already introduced reading to your baby-in utero. Reading aloud to your newborn has many benefits:
- presents a perfect bonding opportunity: snuggle & read
- watch & learn what interests your baby
- interaction teaches your baby reading is fun
- teaches your newborn new vocabulary & ideas
- encourages different sound expressions for oral language
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended reading to newborns. Evidence supports the fact your baby actually understands what your are reading, unless, of course, it’s The Theory of Realitivity or War and Peace .
Your baby’s brain is still developing; and reading stimulates the brain’s growth & development. Reading books with your Newborn nurtures the Literacy Circle, preparing and developing the habit of lifetime reading.
When & Where Do I Read to My Newborn ?
Yes, your baby is spending most of her/his time eating. sleeping & trying to master the physical world. Reading can be done during the day and for a few minutes at a time. Make it part of your daily routine.Try “weaving” some pages or a short book throughout each day and/or evening:
- when your newborn wakes up in the morning or from a nap
- right before a nap or nightly bedtime
- repeat some of the rhymes you’ve read during bath time
Or you can change up the reading routine:
- while you are waiting in a restaurant, doctor’s office, the car
- choose different places to read: the floor, at the table, on the bed, outside in the hammock, on a park bench
- have loved ones read to the baby
How Do I Read to My Newborn ?
- Read with expression, changing your tone & pitch
- Read slowly, pointing & describing the images
- Pause in-between the pages so your baby can have time to look
- Look to your baby for clues on interest /focus
- Maybe you need to share a different book or read at another time
- Re-read favorites often
- Give your baby a chew toy while you read
- Be interactive with your baby during the read: ask questions
What Kind of Books Should We Read to a Newborn?
There’s no substitute for books in the life of a child. ~Mary Ellen Chase
So many books! So little time! Fear not!
Many of my Third graders continued to read wordless books as source of enjoyment to themselves & others. They created vocabulary-rich stories around the pictures.
Parent & child development sites will give you “tried & true” recommendations. Siblings, relatives & loved ones will share their favorites, too. Mommy & Daddy can probably recite their favorites from memory.
Your child will let you know which books are the “preferred” reads. You’ll hear them being shared with friends, dolls, pets & stuffed animals in another year or two..
Some experts say select books with black & white images for babies under 6 months of age. Just a thought… Some other suggestions for book choices are:
- Books with large, simple pictures
- Thick, sturdy board books
- Cloth & soft, vinyl books
- “Bath-time” books
Remember books will first be explored in your baby’s mouth. Make sure your baby knows s/he is more important than the chewed & shredded book. It is well-loved!
Here’s a list of several of my “tried & true” board book choices from the BLB Resource Library:
Go to your local library, elementary school library and/or bookstore to “check” them out.
A Little P.S. Note
While researching more sources, tips & ideas to add to this Family Literacy Circle Series, I came across Elizabeth of Frugal Mom Eh!’s post ” 20 Things to Do with Your Baby Before They Turn One.” Here’s a few suggestions for the 0-6 months window:
- Capture your newborn’s hand & foot prints. Looking at my adult son’s newborn “prints” still brings a gulp to by heart.
- Learn and/or compose some songs to sing to your baby. Remember “rhyme, rhythm & repetition.”
- Take TONS of pictures. You’ll be amazed how much your little one changes in a matter of days. Seriously!
- Go swimming in water if weather permits. Your baby will sigh with the memory.
- Fill in that Baby Milestone Book while your emotions are present. You will absolutely LOVE re-reading it. Your growing child will love hearing about it, too!
- Baby Milestone Book suggestions: bottle to high chair food, baby bath to bath tub, cradle or bassinet to crib, baby food to finger food, major movements, favorite toys & showing teeth
Need a Baby Milestone Book ? BLB Shop has one you may like.
Baby’s First Year of Firsts : A Memory Keepsake Book
Click on the link below to check it out.
I’m sure you have some wonderful tips & ideas to share. Are there any questions and/or concerns you have about your newborn’s first 6 months-regarding Literacy, of course? Isn’t it amazing how our everyday lives affect our children’s? Fill in the Contact Me form below, but you don’t want to subscribe….yet. I’d love to hear from you!
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