Showing your baby affection helps him feel safe and secure.

Ways to Stimulate Emotional Development in Infants

by Stacey Chaloux

With many tips and tricks to stimulate your baby and promote brain development, emotional development is often overlooked. However, emotional wellness is extremely important to your infant's future social development. When you take time to show him that he is loved and cared for, you are helping him gain a sense of trust, self-awareness and self-esteem, which are crucial to the rest of his development.

1. Bonding

Bonding is the strong attachment that develops between you and your baby when he is very young. These strong ties are essential for your infant and help to provide a model for intimate relationships as well as foster self-esteem and a sense of security, according to Kids Health. Bonding with your baby happens when you offer him gentle touches and cuddles, sing to him while looking in his eyes or comfort him by rocking. Skin-to-skin contact is soothing to your baby and helps promote healthy growth and development. Make eye contact often while you hold your infant close to you. When your baby feels your touch and sees your face, it becomes a first form of communication as he learns to recognize you and associate you with comfort.

2. Responsive Caregiving

When your baby cries, it is important to meet his needs quickly so that he learns to trust that you will be there to help him. Knowing what he needs is not always easy, but being observant of his behaviors can help you determine what he is signaling to you. When your infant cries and you comfort him by feeding, changing or cuddling him, you are acknowledging his attempts to communicate with you. When you meet his efforts with a quick response, it helps him feel valued and understood. As he grows, continue to watch his behavior and use those observations to guide your decisions. For example, if he is grabbing for the spoon as you feed him, let him try to take a bite on his own or give him his own spoon. Knowing that you understand what he wants helps him develop confidence and self-esteem, according to Zero to Three.

3. Affection

It seems natural to coo and smile at a baby, and it is crucial to your little one's development to do so, as it provides stimulation for his growing brain. As you go about your daily routine with your infant, take time to smile at him and wait for his response. Soon, he will greet you with a smile or gurgle, which you may respond to with another smile or laugh. These loving interactions teach your baby about the give-and-take of relationships and that his actions have an effect on other's feelings. He will learn that it feels good to make others happy, building a foundation for healthy relationships. When you show your baby love and affection, you are teaching him that he is someone special and he learns to love others in return.

4. Offer Support

As an infant, your child is developing many new skills all the time. Provide support as he explores and experiments with what he can do, while still allowing him to feel success for himself. For instance, when he is trying to grab for a toy that is just out of reach, instead of picking it up for him, move it slightly closer to him so that he can stretch or move to get it. Many child development experts call this type of support "scaffolding,” according to Zero to Three, and it provides just enough help to challenge your little one without letting him become too frustrated. Scaffolding helps your infant feel capable as he explores his surroundings, and learns to trust that you will be there if he needs help.

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