Your baby remembers more than you realize! For your child's development, it's vitally important for he/she to have a healthy memory of the earliest stages. But don't get carried away worrying about that time you had a fight with a family member in front of your baby, or yelled an obscenity when you stubbed your toe. To simplify our understanding, here is the big 3 of a healthy infant memory: 1. Remembering he/she is loved and cared for, 2. Remembering that the world is an interesting, fun and happy place, 3. Remembering foundational skills.
Many of us have those classic, quintessential baby milestones diligently recorded; your baby's first steps, first word, and first smile are all staples of our favorite scrapbook and our favorite recollections of raising a child. We load our photo albums and shoot birthday videos. But we often don't realize the power of our babys' most resonating database--their own mind. Even as early as your baby's first breath, he/she is absorbing information and forming all kinds of memories that will last a lifetime. So it is important for us to nurture our babys' minds by creating moments that communicate love, fun, security, intrigue, optimism, and just plain happiness.
The most important type of early memory is emotional. As infants, we may not have retained linguistic or pictorial memory, but we retained (mostly in our subconscious) the feelings associated with the experiences we had. Your baby may not have a specific memory of lying in your arms, gazing up at your smile, or listening to your lullabies, but your baby retains (well into adulthood) the feeling associated with this often habitual experience--a feeling of safety, love, and comfort.
Planning vacations and going to amusement parks are all great experiences. But the simplest moments, like being held, are often the most significant. Stroller walks can be new, fun and exciting adventures every time. Engage with your baby as much as possible. Point out the contrasting colors you notice on the leaves, the cricket hopping across the street, or the kid whisking by on his skateboard. The more positive energy you attach to the world around your baby, the better perspective your baby will adapt to the world around him/her as the years go by. Try to integrate this exercise everywhere you and your baby go. The waiter refilling a glass of water at a restaurant can be a fascinating point of interest, like a tiny waterfall crashing. The nifty potted plant sitting as the centerpiece on a table in the doctor's waiting room could be equally fascinating. Try to spark your baby's intrigue as much as possible.
Stimulating intrigue often coincides with having fun. We've all heard that playing with our babies is important, but why? When you play with your baby, you are also (often inadvertently) using teaching mechanisms. For instance, a simple game of peek-a-boo can send your child into a fit of laughter. Your movements and expressions are amusing, but this game also teaches children the concept of object permanence, which begins to solidify at about 4 months old; this term refers to your baby's ability to remember that an object exists, even when he/she cannot immediately see it. So not only will your baby remember feelings of having fun with you, but will also begin to retain elements of cognitive understanding. So have as much fun with your baby as possible! The healthy experiences and memories you create are the basis for your baby's healthy cognitive and emotional development. Put on a finger puppet show. Build a tower of soft blocks and let your baby knock it down for fun. Play some music and dance with your baby; move his/her arms and legs to the beat; show your infant the different ways he/she can move to the music. Let your baby look at all those photo albums, videos, and scrapbooks; you'll be amazed how much and how many people she can already recognize!