A few weeks ago, a friend invited my son and me over for a playdate with her two-year-old son. The boys played and giggled while we caught up on some much-need girl talk. While we were talking, her son brought over a box of flashcards and motioned for me to go over them with him. We went through a few and I was shocked to discover how well he knew the objects on the cards. He brought a larger deck to his mom and as she flipped through them, he recited the names of the objects. There had to be more than 30 flashcards and he knew them all! I looked at the label and noticed the age recommendation was for four-year-olds!
Seeing how hard my friend has worked with her son made me think about a question I’ve asked myself often: What should I be teaching my baby? If you’ve found yourself asking the same question, I’ve broken down what I believe to be two core values that all babies should be familiar with before the age of one.
What Should I Be Teaching My Baby? Discipline
This word may come off a bit harsh for some but it should be noted that discipline is simply the act of training.
- When to go to sleep. I consider a baby with a set sleep schedule to be disciplined. There are some concepts that come naturally to humans while others, such as when to go to sleep, need to be taught.
- Right from wrong. I can’t speak for all children, but I know for a fact that my nine-month-old son knows right from wrong. He loves to laugh when I tell him “no” but he knows exactly what he’s doing. For example, before I baby-proofed the bathroom, I told him to stop opening the drawer. He laughed, stopped for a second, but continued to open and close the drawer until he caught his little fingers. He cried for a bit, but once he realized what caused his pain, he stopped crying and crawled out of the bathroom. He learned his lesson. I’m sure that was only the first of many to be learned on his own, which brings me to the second core value.
What Should I Be Teaching My Baby? Independence
- How to walk. Every baby develops at their own pace but rolling over, crawling, and standing are all actions that lead up to a baby’s first step. Allowing your three- to fourth-month-old baby to spend up to two minutes on his stomach, two to three times per day (with a pediatrician’s permission, of course) helps strengthen the neck. Just like a baby who rolls over is on his way to crawling. My little one is crawling, pulling himself up, and is working on standing on his own. I’m already anticipating the number of tears that will be shed (by me) once he takes his first step! Once a baby can walk, he no longer needs your legs to get around.
- How to entertain himself. A baby who wants all of your attention is more than likely a baby who also wants to be held most of the time. And if you’re busy holding him, he’s not learning how to be independent and move around on his own. If your baby is able to play on his own and entertain himself, that gives you time to do other things like cook, use the bathroom in peace, sneak a snack—you know, things you wouldn’t normally be able to do with a baby breathing down your neck.
- How to feed himself. This is one that’s become a battle, lately. My son grabs the spoon when I’m feeding him but not to feed himself. Instead, he likes to make a mess and feed the floor, which his puppy brother loves—especially when sweet potatoes are on the menu. There are tons of snacks out there designed to help babies learn to grab food between their index finger and thumb but I’m working on more healthier options.
Babies develop at their own pace so don’t be discouraged if your little one is taking his time. One thing my friend has taught me is that there are things that you can teach your baby even before it’s recommended. I’m currently toying around with the idea of teaching my son sign language. I’ve read it reduces tantrums because when a baby can successfully communicate what they need, there’s less of a chance that they’ll get frustrated. I’ll let you guys know how that goes.