Since I was a child, I’ve had a very passionate love for infants. I was like my mother in this way. My mother had a gift for communicating with little ones. She would talk to them, pause and wait for their response. She would repeat this over and over. It was a JOY to watch her.
Little ones loved her. And she loved them.
When I was working at a pre-school, I was introduced to the Teachings of an extraordinary Infant Educarer, Magda Gerber.
Later, I went on to study with her in an 80 hour intensive training in the early 2000’s. Her work inspired me greatly.
As the result of this training, I wrote the booklet, Communicating with Infants and Young Children.
I’ll be sharing some of the material from that booklet in the blog today.
The Precious Newborn:
Each little, precious child arrives on planet Earth with her** own unique set of likes and dislikes.
As parents, caregivers and educators, you can allow these precious little ones to be who they are by listening to them, hearing them (REALLY hearing them) and responding to them.
** To simply the text, I'll be using the pronoun she through-out.
This is the ART of Communicating with Infants & Young Children!
As your little one is heard by you, she begins to trust you and trust the world she lives in. As you do this over and over again, your child grows into a trusting, authentic person who is in tune with her innate core. No greater GIFT can be given.
As you read this material, I invite you to become the ‘watchful observer’ of your little one.
Watch her! Listen to her!
Observe her movements and actions.
She has much to tell you!
You will discover that your little one does indeed have language! You’ll see her body move. She is speaking to you! If you listen with your mind, body and heart, you may very well be able to intuitively understand what she may be saying to you.
Watch her expressions. You’ll easily be able to tell when she is happy and when she is concerned.
Listen to her sounds. Is she expressing joy, fear or peacefulness? These verbal and non-verbal expressions are her communications to you...her language! I invite you into this amazing world of your little one’s expression.
The ART of communicating with infants and young children is a practice. One might even call it the parent’s “spiritual practice.” Be patient with yourself. Be patience with your little one.
Together, this can be a wonderful adventure for both parent and child. And you are giving your little one the greatest GIFT you can ever give your child.
Why is Listening to and Communicating with Infants and Young Children Important?
The“Self” is that within each person; that is the essences of who they are and is unique to each individual. The expression of this self and being heard are essential for one to feel loved, important and cared about. When you observe the expressions of your infant and respond to her, you are telling her that she was heard. This builds trust.
Precious little ones express this "Self" through their body language of movement, expressions and sounds.
As you begin listening to their “language” and watching their movement and expressions, you begin to understand what they are saying. This experience can be such a gift for the infant as well as the adult.
Imagine for just a moment
that the only language
you had were
sounds, movements and expressions.
Would you not be grateful when another person listened to you and responded to your expressions?
The following are some brief thoughts about the "Self" and various ways your infant might express it.
NOTE: The booklet, The Art of Communicating with Infants And Young Children, that these excerpts are from was written for the busy parent. Therefore, after each general introduction, main points are made in short paragraphs. In this blog, these concise points are in pink.
EXPRESSIONS OF THE SELF
Squeals from your child may be his expression of delight. Observe his responses carefully. This is his way of showing you his preferences.Acknowledge such happenings with your words and your facial expressions. Your child appreciates being understood.
Cries are a sign of your child’s displeasure. This is her way of talking to you. Tell her you hear her. Tell her you will care for her. Explore what the problem might be: wet diaper, stomach ache, her environment, her need for your presence. Comfort her. You will not spoil your infant. For 9 months she was within you, hearing your heart beat, hearing your voice. She needs you nearby, especially for her first 9 months of her life.
Allow your child to have preferences that may be different from your own. Respect his interests. Your child may love animals. You may not. Provide opportunities for your child to experience more of what is of joy to her.
Rotate the play objects your child has in his play area.Change creates interest and appropriate stimulation. Note your child’s expression when new objects are presented into the environment. A long stare, a smile, or babbling shows his interest.
Ways of Nurturing
in Infants and Young Children
There are “ways of being” that you can learn, which will support you in listening and communicating with your little one. When you interact with your child in these ways, you facilitate your little one’s expressions and nurture their preferences. They are easy to learn. Once you learn the “way,” you can practice it with your child in many different areas. The ways I’m referring to are as follows:
II. Listening and Hearing
III. Heart To Heart Communications
WAY ONE: ALLOWING
Allowing is one of the most powerful, yet subtle ways of being with a little one. Allowing begins your little one’s adventure into the knowing of her “self.”
As you observe your infant and allow her to move in ways of her choice, in a free environment, you are practicing the way of allowing.
As she moves freely, she will discover much about herself and what she is able to do as well as learn about the world around her. Freedom of movement is a very important aspect of allowing.
When a little one is constantly restricted by being in a seat, stroller or other apparatus, her movement and her expression is limited. Creating a safe space for easy movement in an age-appropriate area allows for free and easy movement.
An infant of 3 months would need only a small, safe space to move freely. Whereas, a child of 9 months would need a larger safe play space in order to enjoy her freedom of movement.
I invite you to read these short paragraphs and reflect on each individual one. Then, think about your little one, and how you can encourage more “allowing” in her world.
Create a safe space where your infant is free to move and explore.Allowing free movement brings joy and a sense of freedom to your infant. Freedom with movement gives her the ability to learn about herself.
Allow your child to be free to move in her own way. Infant seats, bouncing apparatuses, swings and baby walkers do not allow freedom. By allowing free movement in a safe space, your child is able to explore how her body moves.
Become the “watchful observer” as your infant plays with familiar objects.See what she enjoys. Observe her triumphs without distracting her with applauds. Such expressions of delight from loved ones encourage her to repeat such actions, just for the reaction. This takes away from her own process of learning.
Allow your child to go through mild moments of frustration during play.For example, if your child isworking diligently to place some balls in a container and is not succeeding, allow this to take place. Do not show her how to do it or help her. As you witness her process, put words to her actions so she feels your presence. Working through such moments builds stamina and focus.
Allow your child to be self-initiating.Give her time and space to explore, express and experiment with objects in a peaceful environment. Uninterrupted free time is needed by all – especially infants.
Nurture your child with encouraging smiles. Infants read facial expressions and body language. Smiling at your child sends a subtle, yet powerful, message: “You are so precious and what you are doing is just perfect!”
WAY TWO: LISTENING AND HEARING
As we begin our conversation I want to share with you two definitions:
HEAR: The act or process of perceiving sounds.
LISTEN: To make a conscious effort to hear.
Although I'm not sure that in general, people society make such a distinction. However, for our conversation here, the difference between the words is very important.
Hearing is more about just hearing the auditory sound.
Whereas, Listeningis also about making a conscious effort to understand what was heard.
I believe this can best be understood, if we think about listening to an older child or an adult. One may "HEAR" the words that another says, but it's the LISTENING that may bring the deeper meaning.
Listening bring the "conscious" aspect of understanding to the conversation which is always crucial to communication. I believe this is done by listening with body, mind and heart.
LISTENING AND HEARING
"Listen" to an infant by watching her body movements. She can tell you so much. As you move close to her, she wiggles all over and smiles. This sends a message of her delight! If she stiffens or has a frightened look on her face when she hears a loud sound, she’s letting you know she’s scared. Be sensitive to her unspoken language.
Speak words that match your facial expression. Children learn to “read’ you early in their life! Make sure your words, body language and your facial expression all match what you want to convey to your child.
Smiling is a cue that your baby is in agreement with what you are doing. Appreciate the smiles! Acknowledge them verbally. It’s rewarding to be in sync with your child.
Pose a question to your infant or young child if she is fussing. For example, “Would you like to sit up for awhile?” or “Perhaps you are tired of lying down.” See how she communicates back to you! A little smile and arms and legs moving rapidly may be her way of saying, “YES”!
WAY THREE: HEART 2 HEART COMMUNICATIONS
When you begin watching your little one’s expressions and responding to them, you are opening the door to com- municating with her.
When you see she is telling you some- thing, let her know what you are observing.
For example, "I see you are kicking your legs." Smile and then pause. Watch your little one’s eyes and wait for her to respond back to you. You may want to repeat the same thing again or respond in another way.
Each time you speak,
your little one to respond
and then you respond to her,
This is communication!
This process of
is what I call
During the first 18 months of my children's lives, I often respond by repeating the same thing over and over. I might say, “Ready for your bath?” Pause. “Ready for your bath?” Pause. “Ready for your bath?” Pause. And I might end with, “Bath!” Looking back, my children had a great vocabulary by 18 months. And often their first words were the ones I repeated most often.
One of my favorite ways of seeing this heart-to-heart communication work is by asking your little one if you may pick her up and making a gesture by stretching your arms out to pick her up. Wait for a response.
Often, a little one will kick her legs and move her body rapidly, saying, “YES, YES, YES, pick me up now!” The following are ways of nurturing this communication.
HEART TO HEART COMMUNICATIONS
Communication from infants comes through in a variety of ways. Communication includes sounds of babbling, eye glances, head movements, body movements, arm gestures, crying, yelling, silence, laughing, and smiling. As you practice being in the now and "listening" with your eyes, ears and heart, you will hear what your little one is saying.
Listen to the babbling (sounds) of an infant. Make your own sounds back. Pause. Listen. Make your own sounds back. This is how you have a conversation with a very young child. What might she be saying?
Look into the eyes of your infant. Smile. Pause. Watch the infant’s eyes. State an observation followed by a question, such as, “I see you shivering. Are you cold? Then pause. Listen for her response. Watch for her response. Speak, then pause. Speak, then pause. Speak, then pause. One day, she will babble back!
Respect your child by asking if you can pick her up.Extend your arms in a gesture to pick up your child. Wait for a response. A smile, some kicks, arms extending upward to you may be your child’s way of saying, “YES, picks me up.”
Trust that your child can understand you as you speak to her. Your child intuitively picks up signs from your voice, words and body language as to what you are saying. Know that a special communication is taking place between the two of you.
Would it not be wonderful if everyone was able to listen like this? What a wonderful world it would be!
If you'd like the full text of this 50 page ebooklet, The Art of Communicating with Infants and Young Children
it can be purchased here. Sliding scale is available.
The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Dr. Verny
APPPA, the Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology
The field of prenatal and perinatal psychology has emerged over the last thirty years thanks to Dr. Thomas Verny, and it’s showing us that infants and even the unborn prenate is very much a feeling, sensitive and responsive little being. Dr. Verny’s book, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, is an excellent introduction to the world of the unborn, which up until thirty years ago was hardly recognized as significant. Dr. Verny, M.D. is the founder of the APPPA, the Association of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology, an organization bringing people together to further the understanding of the prenate and newborn.