Infant Emotional Development
From the start, babies eagerly explore their world-and that includes themselves and other people.
When adults respond quickly and appropriately to infants’ cries of distress or signals for play, infants learn that they are important. They learn that what they do makes a difference. They learn that they can express their emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and that someone understands how they feel. Consistent attention from the same caregiver helps to meet an infant’s need for stability and familiarity. Infants need a continuing relationship with a few caring people. Young children thrive when they share a strong bond with a person who cares for them day after day.
To meet the emotional needs of infants, make sure you:
- Hold, touch, and cuddle them, making frequent eye contact and talking with them (especially during routines such as feeding and diapering)
- Encourage them to develop their physical abilities such as rolling, sitting, and walking
- Respond to and expand on cues coming from the child (“Are you getting hungry? Let me get you a bottle.”)
- Provide time and space for movement and play
- Spend time interacting with them, holding them, rocking them, and sitting on the floor with them in your lap
- Talk to them often in loving tones using descriptive words (make this part of your routine care)
- Interpret their actions to other children to help them get along in the group (“Anthony has the ball and you would like one too. Here’s another ball for you.”)
- Encourage contact between infants; but be careful to protect younger infants from the explorations of older, mobile ones
- Give them hugs and smiles, and laugh with them
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