Teaching your baby social and emotional intelligence through activity starts earlier than you might think. Here’s how to get off to a good start.
I distinctively remember a lonely and hot August night with my 2-month-old at home alone. He was my first baby, my family wasn’t around, his father was at work, and I didn’t know what to do with this tiny infant that wouldn’t let me put him down for more than two seconds.
It’s not like he was old enough to go to the pool, or take a walk, or play. Or was he, but I just didn’t know or understand how?
Starting Early on Social & Emotional Learning
Babies are constantly studying and making new connections with the world around them. They can express and experience emotions before they even fully understand them. There are many activities we can do with our babies to build on these social and emotional skills to connect with them.
Daniel Goleman, author of the widely read book Emotional Intelligence, has written a book called Social Intelligence that discusses the benefits of emotional and social intelligence that can be taught right away.
“What can we change that will help our children fare better in life? What factors are at play, for example, when people of high IQ flounder and those of modest IQ do surprisingly well?” Goleman asks. “I would argue that the difference lies in the abilities of emotional and social intelligence.”
“And these skills can be taught to children, giving them a better chance to use whatever intellectual potential the genetic lottery may have given them.”
Adult speech is especially fascinating for infants, so even when you feel crazy for talking to a baby all day, know you are aiding in the healthy social skills they need to learn to connect.
The Power of a Parent’s Voice
If given the choice of music or listening to a human voice, infants prefer your voice. This preference plays a role in attachment by making them more responsive to you. They even move their bodies in response to the human voice.
Babies may not always understand you, but they can differentiate the tones in your voice and start to make associations according to Delmar Learning.
What kinds of activities can you do to nourish your baby’s social and emotional intelligence before they can even roll over?
- Play with your babies feet and toes during bath time
- Sing songs and let them hear your voice
- Take them for a walk around the neighborhood and point out objects
- Name each object and the color if appropriate
Tell him what is going to happen before it happens.
Explain that you are making his bottle to eat, talk to him about changing his diaper. Eventually, he will start to make associations and thrive with the predictability as a result of this.
As infants learn their world is predictable, they are willing to wait longer for events to happen because they have developed trust, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
At home you can hold your baby over your shoulder and take a stroll through your house and point out objects or pictures on the wall. Show them grandpa or a picture of their big brother when he was a baby. The view from your shoulder is a lot different than their view from the floor.
Place your baby in your lap and smile at them, making cooing noises in response to their facial expressions. Your baby craves interaction and affection with you and thrives when he gets it.
The Importance of Social and Emotional Development
A research study conducted by Ed Tronick, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts, had mothers playfully interact with their babies by making facial expressions like smiling or sticking their tongue out.
He then instructed the mothers to stop and keep a still face having no interaction at all. Within two minutes, the infant began to self comfort, lose postural control, and become increasingly withdrawn.
Social and emotional development develops a child’s capacity for self confidence, trust and empathy while promoting cognitive curiosity as well. Not to mention, strong social and emotional development is a predictor of later academic, social, and emotional success.
“The brain is not a finished product and won’t be for many years,” says Tronick.
Plus, what better news is there for a new parent than to know smiling and talking to your adorable new baby all day (not doing laundry, dishes, or vacuuming) is what’s best for them? And we all want what’s best for our babies.