Sunday, October 27, 2013

Raising My Advanced EtiKid

My son started crawling at 6 1/2 months and walking at 10 1/2 months. Although that is no small feat, I am even more excited (and proud!) that he is extremely social and loves to interact with other people. I am WELL aware that most of his abilities are due to nature (he was very active in the womb, frequently causing the need for repeat ultrasounds!). I will say that I did recognize signs that he was ready and provided him with opportunities that encouraged him to develop his skills. As I have friends asking me what I have done to promote his development, I thought I would share some tips (not just as a parent but from an Occupational Therapist's perspective). 1) TUMMY TIME! From the time he was born, I would hold him across my arms or on my lap on his belly. Once he got a little older (2-3 months), I placed him onto a mat on the floor- on his tummy. He definitely did not like it at first, but I always started floor time in this position. Toys that made noise were placed in front of him - encouraging him to extend his tolerance of tummy time. This helped him to get a sense of his body in space, as he received a lot of sensory input from his stomach and arms being on the floor. It also helped him learn to lift his head and upper torso off of the ground, promoting neck extension (straightening). He became more aware of himself and his surroundings once he was able to look at objects and happenings around him. Sheryl Berk from Parents Magazine has additional tips for Tummy Time. 2) Lots of playtime... Many people mistakingly believe that a child who doesn't move can be left alone on the mat. I feel that it is even more important to engage, talk to, read to, and just generally sit on the floor with the infant. As a parent, OT, and child development specialist, this time is especially formative in a baby's life. Demonstrate how to use toys and give the infant the freedom to explore the objects as well. Make sure that the toy is "developmentally appropriate" (more about that to come in future posts). Additionally - just because a toy is in the store does not always mean that it is right for your child. Use your gut instinct. If that is not working at the moment- perhaps due to extreme sleep deprivation, call/email me. 3) Model social behavior - your baby is NEVER too young to learn social interactions. Smile, respond to their sounds, and use LOTS of language to foster their own speech communication skills. Providing and modeling interactions as soon as possible can only help the child learn how to engage with others. The more engaging a baby is, the more likely others will respond to him/her. 4) Be consistent. It is definitely too early for punitive measures. However, after 6+ months, a child can begin to learn safe vs. unsafe. Redirection is the BEST method for preventing unwanted behaviors. Yes it is exhausting, but it will make it easier to raise a polite little person in the not-so-distant future. For example, when my child wants to play with electric outlets (he looks at me and smiles as he touches them because HE KNOWS HE SHOULD NOT BE NEAR THEM!), I immediately say (in a stern voice), "Not safe." I then redirect his attention to his toys (on the other side of the room), and sit with him as we build the simple blocks or read a book. This list can go on and on (I will share more tips in coming weeks). I firmly believe in the adage that it "takes a village to raise a child." Therefore, I am sharing my wisdom as an Occupational Therapist (and parent!) and welcome any other tips you may have. Of course, if you have any questions, you can call me or email me. I look forward to hearing more stories about your own EtiKids!