We spend many weeks together in our RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes. We talked about how babies’ brains rapidly develop in the first few years, how early experiences shape the brain and affect future life. We all thought about the same thing, how stressful it could be to realize for us as parents how much we are responsible for our babies’ wellbeing. So I thought we should create a list that hopefully helps us feel more secure and confident about what we are doing.
We can brainstorm together what babies need between the ages of 0-2 years old:
- At least one important adult, a caregiver who our baby can trust and rely on.
A grown up who is loving, respectful, confident and stable.
Responding is not the same thing as reacting. When a baby cries we are responding by verbally acknowledging, “I hear you. I wonder what you are trying to tell me.” We respond by observing, coming closer and eventfully maybe picking up our baby. We also respond when the baby plays, talks and smiles.
Talking about what is relevant to the child. Talking during caregiving. Talking about what concerns the baby: “I am going to get up in minute and go to the kitchen. Pause. I will be back.” We don’t want to talk all the time, because the baby might start tuning us out. When we see that our baby is looking at us we may want to narrate what he is doing: “I see you found a yellow ball.” Children need time with adults as well as independent play.
Telling the truth when you are going to leave, when you are taking him to the doctor. Be honest about sad and scary feelings, “You fell and you got scared and it hurts.” Be honest about limits, not trying to sweeten them or distract the child.
We can listen to a nonverbal baby or preverbal baby – listening, observing body language and being present.
When we quietly sitting there watching babies play, it might seem like we are doing nothing, but we are present and the child knows that we are there with him and it is a pleasure for us to be with him.
- Safety and security
- Consistency and routine
Routine creates a feeling of predictability and safety. That is why young children thrive on routine and predictability.
Moving slowly around babies.
- Tarry time
Giving babies more time to process. Letting them know and then wait.
- Space and items to explore
- A safe space to play in or a “yes” environment
- Simple/passive items and toys to play with
- Uninterrupted and independent play
- Outside time!
“What do they need?” Caldwell asked. “They need to be loved. They need to be spoken to. They need opportunities to explore. They need to be safe and to feel safe. They need stable figures in their lives. They need new experiences. They need to repeat experiences they enjoy. They need someone to interpret their new experiences in the world, verbally. They need someone to help them find words for what they see in the world. They need an opportunity to feel love and to feel part of a family. Their wants are fairly simple, and these are needs we’d like to think would be met for every child.”
I would like to invite you to add to this list if you can think of more items. I also truly feel that your babies are lucky to have thoughtful, conscientious and respectful parents in their lives.