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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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School Readiness

O-12 Months##


What You Can Do to Help Your Baby Begin Developing Self-Control from 0 to 12 Months:

  • Stay calm yourself.  You teach your child self-control by staying calm when she has lost control. This helps her feel safe and lets her know that you’ll always be there to support her—even during the tough times.  You are also modeling for her  how to stay calm and manage strong feelings. 

  • Give your baby some basic tools for regaining self-control.  Provide just enough help to so that your baby can solve some problems herself.  Put a lovey or pacifier within your baby’s reach, or teach an older baby a simple sign (like lifting hands to mouth) to show when she is hungry.  Help your crawling baby find her “blankie” when she is sleepy, or move a couch pillow to help her find her missing toy. 

  • Show your baby what he can do. If he’s biting your finger because he is teething, instead of just saying “no” and taking your hand away, offer him a positive alternative.  Give him a cool, wet washcloth to chew on or a soft teething toy to gnaw.  This kind of response from you helps him learn right from wrong.  It also gives him the chance to focus his energy in acceptable ways—a key ingredient in school success.

  • Understand why your child lost control. Is there a particular time of day or specific experiences that often leads to a breakdown?  If you can identify specific stressors, it will help you guess which times or situations may be challenging for your child. You can then change the environment or your daily routine to minimize the chance of a tantrum.  For example, if you know your baby doesn’t like noisy, crowded places, you can be sure you’ve packed his lovey, and a favorite snack and small toy for these outings.  You can also schedule such trips during his best time of day (not when he’s tired or hungry).  And plan to keep your time out as short as possible. 

  • Use routines to help soothe your baby. For example, playtime is often fun, silly and active, and tends to get babies very excited.  So it can help to have a relaxing naptime routine to help babies calm down after an active, playful interaction.  You might give your baby a brief massage with a yummy-smelling lotion, and then read a gentle book and/or sing a lullaby to help your baby make the switch to dreamland. 

  • Help your baby soothe herself. The calmer your baby feels, the more in control she will be. Experiment with different ways to soothe your baby.  Some children need lots of physical contact--firm touch and hugging--while others respond well to being engaging in an activity. Still others need time to blow off steam on their own in a safe, quiet place.

  • Read your baby’s signals.  How does your baby communicates through her cries, facial expressions, and gestures?  By watching, you will discover how your child “tells” you about her needs, wants, and feelings.  Maybe she rubs at her eyes when she is tired, or puts her fingers in her mouth when she is hungry.  When you are able to understand your baby’s communications, you can help her regain control more easily.  Also be aware of your child’s daily rhythms and basic needs. It is hard for children to cope when they are tired, hungry, sick or stressed.

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The most important thing about the activities you do with your baby is that they’re fun for both of you.  But sometimes these activities can also help babies learn new things.  Are there any games or songs that your baby loves, and that also help him build on his growing sense of self-control?  Please share them with us!  We’d love to post a few of our visitors’ ideas on this site.


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