Dr. Toy's Smart Play: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ by Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D
St. Martin's Press
292 pages 1st edition (February 1998)
Active, Creative, and Educational Toys for Baby
Three main categories of toys are the basis of your child's "smart play": toys that keep him active, toys that spur him to create, and toys that educate. Many good toys have qualities that comprise more than one of these categories and do not lend themselves to rigid classification. Your own creativeness can merge these different functions into a toy. Also, it's not necessary in every case to separate toys into those for girls or boys, as many item satisfy the needs of both.
In this chapter I shall suggest playthings based on the purposes for which the product has been designed. For example, when you are confronted with a dozen choices of well-made rattles manufactured by a dozen different companies, which one do you choose? Use my guidelines, and when you make your selection consider the reasons you want the item, then observe what happens when the baby takes it, and be influenced in your further choices by his responses.
The most useful guidance I supply is to give you ideas on the best playthings for each age and suggest uses for them, and also to mention a few companies as examples. If I do not list a specific company, it does not mean its toys are not good. It may simply be that I have not yet examined the products closely.
Don't forget to take lots of pictures during this first year, Photographs taken of you baby and the objects he plays with will bring both of you enjoyment and delight in the future.
Baby Is Ready for Gentle Play
Your baby is born with all of the senses necessary for play. She sees, hears, tastes, touches, and smells. During this period your baby observes, experiments, and begins to master her environment. She absorbs sensations that prepare her for playthings--hearing your voice, hearing laughter and music, feeling shapes and textures like papa's head, mama's nose, brother's woolly sweater; tasting dad's linen shirt and mom's wedding ring; and seeing lamp lights, blanket shadows, movement. She smells her soap, the pine tree outside her window, her mother's aroma, her others' jogging sweats, and her brother's peanut-butter snack.
The way you and baby's family play with her from the very beginning determines how effectively she will play when she's older. Babies who feel secure and confident reach out for pleasure and stimulation and for positive relationships. Babies who are denied such gentle fun soon withdraw and show signs of fear, lack of confidence, non responsiveness, and worse. From the moment of birth, the way a baby is treated affects him for the rest of his life.
The infant picks up subliminal cues from his senses. The newborn's tactile sense and hearing are, for now, the most highly developed, although tasting, smelling, and vision advance swiftly. Therefore touch the new baby in ways that are pleasant and soothing; give him mild, non energetic baths; carry him close; snuggle with him; rock him; sing to him; wrap him in soft, warm blankets; and gently talk and whisper to him.
Studies have proved that breast-feeding brings the mother and her baby closer. In addition to the practical function of providing nutrition and immunities, breast-feeding provides tactile stimulation. Regardless of feeding method--breast or bottle--feeding time is a perfect period for heightened communication between mother and child. Ashley Montagu in his book, <i>Touching</i>, strongly endorses touch as essential emotional support. Other psychologists such as Dr. James Prescott reinforce this theory with extensive cross-cultural research.
Babies that are not touched do not do well mentally or in other ways that are essential for healthy growth.
And so the baby first learns about love and about trust from the primitive responses of her senses. She next sifts these responses into meaning; She does not merely see, she observes; she does not merely hear noise, she differentiates sounds. The first month the infant will be sleeping and eating most of the time. She turns to light and sound sources, but abrupt or loud sounds frighten the baby and should be avoided.
Because the newborn is exceptionally sensitive to sound, if a loud, sharp noise like a door slamming does not startle him, consult a pediatrician about the possibility of a hearing impairment.
The baby has come from a prolonged period in a protected, dark, quiet place into a bright and noisy world. Because her eyes are not able to focus the first few weeks, it is difficult for her to follow moving objects precisely. At first she detects only shades of gray and white. Soon she begins to separate colors and they hold absolute allure for her.
Gradually your little one learns to focus his eyes on the designs of the ceiling and walls. As he approaches four and five weeks old, he is more aware of his surroundings, his eyes focus and the objects in his crib become more important.
A colorful mobile, with or without a music box, will attract
baby now. She responds to a rattle, to your smiles, and she turns toward sounds. She laughs and makes gurgling sounds. Music will fascinate her (although her attention span is very short).
By six weeks your infant will stare happily at an object which moves slowly in the wind. He perks up when he hears people, telephones, doorbells. He looks into mother's and father's eyes, and smiles. The baby will move his arms and legs, but cannot grasp or hold on to the objects for very long. His eyes are moving, beginning to coordinate, and he can follow a toy moving slowly in font of him.
Your newborn's favorite position when in bed is lying on her back, with legs drawn up and head turned to the side. During the early months, newborns can best focus on objects about eight to twelve inches from their eyes.
You might introduce pictures to your infant, containing interesting objects such as a face or a flower. A very young baby is most attracted to pictures of simple shapes which contrast sharply against the background. Baby tends to look at the outlines of the shape rather than at the center. As he grows, he will look more at the center of the picture and notice detail. He will begin to look at very simple pictures for shorter periods of time and concentrate longer on more complex
pictures. Talk to him as he looks at each picture, and let your voice and body action, together with your words, tell baby more about the picture. Attention span is very short in the early months so make these sessions brief--only a few minutes. Your conversations are the most important part of your time together.