Q&A: How do I entertain my baby?
I am a stay-at-home mom and have a 5-month-old little girl. I feel guilty throughout the day if I don't spend time with my daughter. However, I don't know how to entertain her during her waking moments. I feel like I should be teaching her new things all the time: reading to her, singing, talking, etc. However, I need to do my chores around the house, too. Should I be feeling this guilt and what can I do to keep her educationally busy while I do chores and paperwork?
You sound like a great mom, and based on your question I imagine that your daughter is in no danger of being starved for attention. With that in mind, the best thing I hope to do for you (and everyone else in your position) in answering this question is to reassure you that you should not feel guilty, and reinforce the fact that babies do not need to be formally taught new things all the time. While I applaud you for reading, singing, and talking to your daughter, you can rest assured that allowing her some “down” time to just observe the world around her is actually good for her—and for you!
With regards to keeping infants “educationally busy,” you’re already doing the best things possible for your daughter. After all, I am a big believer in the fact that reading to babies is one of the very best things you can do. Reading books together each day offers your baby close bonding time with you, lets her hear the varying intonation and sing-songy sound of your voice, and ultimately helps insure that she’ll grow up learning to love to read—a skill that will be one of her keys to future life success.
You also mentioned talking to your baby, and I want to make sure that you don’t discount how important simply talking to your baby is for her social, brain, and language development. In fact, studies show that above all else, it is the “idle chatter” between adults and babies—the running commentary about everyday things and activities that many parents don’t pay any particular attention to—that has the greatest impact on a baby’s overall sense of security, connectedness, and language development.
At the same time that you are focusing your efforts on educationally stimulating your baby, I want you to be sure to also be aware that allowing your baby to observe and adapt to her surroundings and her family’s schedule is an important part of teaching her as well. Letting her lay nearby listening to music or laying on a play mat while you tend to paperwork, or having her entertain herself safely in a playpen while you get some chores done, for example, will actually be good for both of you.
With that said, I hope that you keep up the singing, reading, and talking with your daughter, and don’t waste any more time on feeling guilty!