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The time we spend communicating with our wee ones is important for their little minds to develop. They are born ready to start interacting with you and the more moments you interact with them throughout the day the better. Here are some tips for simple things you can do to engage with your baby while you get on with your day.

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The little things

In this short video, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk explains why doing the little things together with your baby is so important.

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Where do I start?

Having a baby can be an overwhelming experience. You now have a new person who will be depending on you to help them manage their emotions and learn about the world. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s exciting and rewarding but also difficult and stressful. Taking care of your baby’s physical needs feels like such a massive job that you might worry you aren’t giving their emotional needs enough attention.

Babies want to feel safe and cared for and they want to feel connected to you. But don’t worry if you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of simple things you can do to build your relationship and connect to them.

Just try to be consistent and persevere and listen a lot. Your baby will teach you what they need from you.

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Get connected

As soon as your baby is born they are ready to communicate with you. By talking to them and comforting them you make them feel safe. They can’t understand all that you say but they understand enough to feel comforted by your voice and your attention.

Babies “chat” with their parents and others around them using actions, expressions and sounds. By engaging with them you can give them the foundation of love and affection they need. They are able to do this because they are born with a brain that is built to communicate with you.

In this short video, Glasgow mum Kim shares the little things she does to boost her wee one's emotional and social development.

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Tips for connecting with your baby

Tip #1: Make life playful

It could be chatting or playing a game as you go about your daily activities. It could even be singing to them in the car, or telling them a story at the shops. By weaving in playfulness throughout the day, you help your baby to learn that relationships are joyful and fun and trustworthy. These experiences then becomes embedded in their pathways in their brain.

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Tip #2: Facetime

Babies, especially when they are very young, can’t see very far. So get close for some face to face chats. Mirroring your baby's expressions and noises as well as speaking in a sing-song voice really helps their development and communication.

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Tip #3: Out and about

Talking to your baby when you’re out and about is a good way for them to hear your voice and for you to bond. Talk about the things you see on your travels, like the colours of the cars you walk past or how shivery you feel if it’s a chilly day.

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Tip #4: Funny voices

Talking to your baby may sound simple, but it is very important for babies' development. Don’t be afraid of making funny voices or sounding daft, in fact the more tuneful you sound the better!

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Tip #5: Take your time

It can take a baby at least 10 seconds to gather themselves and get a response together, so pausing and waiting to see what your baby does can help give them the time they need.

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Tip #6: Echo time

Repeating their sounds back to them is a good way of helping them find their voice and get used to communicating with you. And when your baby makes sounds or gestures, you can talk back to them as though they have said something - it doesn’t matter what you say, your baby will love it!

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Tip #7: Put your phone away

We all have busy lives and need to stay in touch with friends and family and keep on top of emails and life admin. But babies love having our full attention, and to feel that we’re responding to them – it helps them to feel safe and connected. And if you’re looking at your phone and they can’t see your face, this can be upsetting for them. If it happens often, it could affect their development and make it harder as they grow up for them to learn to communicate and socialise.

So when you’re chatting or playing with your wee one, try to put away the phone and give them your full attention.

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You can find songs and rhymes to suit different moods or times of day in the Scottish Book Trust’s Bookbug Library, as well as ideas for how to use them with babies, toddlers and 3-5 year olds. Or you could download Bookbug's songs and rhymes app so you’ll always have songs on demand on your phone!

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Serve and return

One way to connect with your baby is by doing something you might find you do already called “serve and return”. This is when you watch whatever your baby does and let them see you copy it. So your baby might say “da!”. If you smile and say “yes, it’s daddy!” your baby will feel connected with you, and use your response to learn.

Or your baby might look at something, and you can say what it is and show it to them. Then pause and see how your baby responds. Try to keep it up as long as your baby is interested. Even if you are busy with housework or other tasks, it can be fun to involve your baby by “chatting” about what you’re doing.

By doing this your baby learns that you are listening and responding, this then gets built into the pathways in their brain. This simple turn-taking helps your baby learn about communication and helps them realise how much they matter to you. It also begins to build their confidence and lays foundations for how to manage their feelings as they grow.

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"Serve and return helps your baby to learn new skills in communication and socialisation. Interaction with others who respond to them with noises, gestures and touch helps the social part of their brain develop. Interaction and relationships are essential to growing their little brains and minds."

What is co-regulation?

Co-regulation is a natural part of relationships where people (babies and adults!) learn how to manage their emotions with the support of others. Babies can't manage their own feelings, because their brain and stress system is too immature. They need help in managing big emotions. Parents do that when they respond to babies' needs.

This is the process of co-regulation, when your warm, reassuring reactions help a baby to 'regulate' their own emotions. These reactions support your baby’s understanding, and help them express themselves and manage their emotions. If you pay close attention to the signals your child sends you and respond sensitively, you will help them learn how to regulate their own behaviour.

It might sound complicated, but it is really just about being consistent in making your wee one feel cared for. For example, if your child is upset and you respond calmly and listen to them then it can help them feel better. By doing this, you are helping your baby to develop trust and feel safe.

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“Babies feel safe when they are near you. They aren’t sure what dangers lurk if you are too far away! That’s why they can get fretful and anxious if you are gone for too long. That doesn’t mean that you actually do need to be with them all the time. It just gives you a better understanding of why they can cry at the most unexpected times (like when you nip to the loo!). If you are sure to comfort them when you get back, then they start to learn you will always come back, and that in itself is reassuring.“

“We know secure early relationships promote feelings of security, and this helps babies learn how to think and feel. In the long term they will be better able to express and control their emotions and have happy relationships.”

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