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Parents of young babies:
Dear Practica Parents,
You will notice, as you read through the monthly sections of the Practica Parents’ Guide, that we often refer to your baby’s “midline” and what you can expect in terms of him crossing that midline. (The midline is the imaginary line that divides the body into right and left halves.)
During the first months, it’s exciting to witness a baby learning to turn his head all the way from side to side at will. This is an important milestone, as the right hemisphere of his little brain is learning to control the left side of his body and vice versa, and these two hemispheres are initially unable to communicate with each other.
Over time, as neural pathways develop between the left and right hemispheres your baby will get better at coordinating the movements of his hands to explore objects. By the onset of the second half of the first year of life, he will be practising to pass a toy from one hand to the other. At first, this newly emerging ability will make it easier for him handle and turn toys as he explores them. Later on, it will help him to solve a problem.
Encourage this by deliberately creating situations from about 8-9 months that confronts your child with a problem that can be solved by transferring an object from one hand to the other. When he is holding a snack in his right hand, and you offer him a toy on that side, you’re creating an opportunity for him to learn that he can make the occupied hand available to receive the desired object by intentionally transferring the snack to the other hand.
However, seeing that this post is aimed at parents with young babies, here’s a fun game that is listed for 3-month-old babies:
- Activity 215-216 from the Practica Parents’ Guide:
Produce two very different sounds at your baby’s eye level, one directly after the other. Each of them should last around 6 seconds. You can, for instance, play one note on your xylophone and then scrunch a plastic bag between your hands. Praise your child when he turns his head to look for the source of a sound. When he consistently turns his head, try positioning the xylophone to his far left and the plastic bag to his far right so that he can practise moving his head past the midline of his body as he looks from side to side.
- Tip 1: The constant background noise of a television or radio makes it difficult to develop a number of important listening skills. Therefore, eliminate background noise when you play this game. Turn the television off altogether.
- Tip 2: Music is brain food, so enrich your baby’s day with listening to various genres of music. However, divide the experience into shorter sessions of about 30 minutes each – to make sure that he doesn’t learn to disregard music as background noise. Also, from time to time, help focus his attention on the music by tapping the beat on his back, singing along and dancing to the music while holding him.
This activity also develops important listening skills. This is significant because, the very same regions in our brains that are being wired to process everyday sounds gradually become more and more involved in helping to process music and speech sounds.
Naturally, for these regions to be wired for future learning, babies need to gradually develop a number of interesting abilities: not only do they need to learn to pay attention to important sounds and ignore others, they also need to learn to notice differences between certain sounds, remember these differences, attach meaning to them and learn to reproduce them.
During the second year of life, you will catch your child doing increasingly clever things that involves using both sides of the body – like holding a bottle with one hand and dropping little objects into its opening with the other. He will eventually learn to catch and throw balls, thread various kinds of shapes from his Practica box onto laces, and, when he is around 4 years old, you will be amazed at how smoothly he turns a piece of paper with his non-dominant hand whilst simultaneously opening and closing the blades of a pair of scissors with his dominant hand. What a feat!
You will be encountering numerous activity ideas aimed at developing “laterality” as you progress through the pages of your Practica Guide. This is a term that we use that encompasses what many therapists refer to as “bilateral integration” – in other words, learning to coordinate the two halves of the body.
Witten by Lizette van Huyssteen