Taking Care of Babies: Truly Engaged
It’s no secret that some people enjoy babies and small children more than others. Sometimes it is a matter of someone (mostly male, but not always) who has grown to adulthood without the opportunity to be around very many little ones, so they don’t know how to truly engage with a child.
Any new parent—who may be feeling just a little unsure about the whole thing—would do well to read and keep this simple list in mind.
Or there are those on the opposite end, whose home and extended family may have had oodles of small kids that they were expected to entertain or babysit. As older children, they are “so done” with all that when they reach adulthood. Have you seen that happen?
I had been ruminating on “engagement with small children” and then I saw a “Decalogue” on a friend’s Facebook page, written by her 10-year-old daughter as a school assignment. It’s about how to take care of little kids. It was so simple and so good that I got permission from her mother to share it here. Decalogue is another name for the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses in the biblical book of Exodus; this was a Language Arts assignment out of a Sonlight Curriculum often used by homeschoolers. Students were to think up and write their own “ten commandments” of something.
Her daughter Sadie has had significant experience helping with babies because her mother (and family) cares for children in their home; so while simple, these are basic but also incredibly helpful for the inexperienced.
The Ten Commandments of Baby Care
- Show them different toys.
- Hold them carefully with both hands.
- Hug and kiss them.
- Make sure they don’t put dirty or small things in their mouth.
- Help them try new things.
- Feed them milk and change their diaper.
- Take them outside for fresh air.
- Put them down for naps when they’re tired.
- Read to them/give them books.
- Always watch them.
Any new parent—who may be feeling just a little unsure about the whole thing—would do well to read and keep this simple list in mind. Maybe post it on the refrigerator.
My own sure go-to for calming a fussy or bored baby is to show them their image in a mirror. Unless the baby is really tiny or really distraught, most children will quiet down and study themselves—or you—in the mirror, and be engaged with the different view. Also, holding them in front of a window to let them look outside usually enchants them as well. This is especially great when you can’t go outside because it’s too cold or rainy.
So often as adults we are so self-absorbed: reading the paper, answering the cell, sending a text, scrolling through Facebook, playing a game on the smartphone—that even when we’re home and in the presence of our children, we fail to really connect and hear the little ones. Some of us are self-centered, unaware, and tuned out, and even when a small child practically begs to be picked up or listened to, we go on talking. Of course, we can expect and teach the preschooler to learn to wait their turn for our attention if we have business we have to finish first.
There are lots of ways to work at the 10 items on Sadie’s “Ten Commandments” to keep babies happy. One mother hides some toys in a closet or the basement and gets them out when the children seem to have tired of their current toys. The “old” things look new when the children haven’t seen them for several months.
Finally, parents who are engaged with their little ones take notice of repeated yawns and cranky attitudes that crop up as children tire and desperately need a nap. A routine and schedule helps most be happier and more content. Establish fun and special routines before nap or bedtime—special toys they play with only in the bath, a book always read by Daddy or Mommy, certain jammies or sleepers you put on just for an afternoon nap. The children come to look forward to the chance to relax, unwind, talk or sing to themselves, or look at a book until they go to sleep.
What are your ideas for engaging little ones? Or for helping them disengage at nap or bedtime?
I’d love to hear your great ideas, and perhaps share them in a follow-up column, for parents, grandparents, siblings, and sitters! Please post at the website www.thirdway.com/aw or send to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.