Babies interact a lot with their care-givers and this interaction affects the growth, relationships and stresses within the environment. The use of play is a powerful tool which assists infants and their caregiver to have an effective positive change in their relations and the social environment.
Parents may find themselves confused about their babies’ responses as they play. It is not uncommon to wonder: We were having so much fun a minute ago, and now he’s crying. What happened? It may be that your baby reached his limit for stimulation and was telling you he needed a break. Babies have their own individual ways of responding to stimulation—light, sound, touch or activity. Some can take in a lot of stimulation before they tap out and become distressed. Other babies get overwhelmed very quickly by what may seem to be just a small amount of stimulation (like brightening the lights in the room.) There’s no right or wrong way to be. A baby’s ability to manage stimulation is based on his unique wiring.
Infants become noticeably more interested in the world around them as they grow older and while they don’t “play” in the way that we often think of, they are eager to explore objects and interact with the people they see everyday. Play is not just about toys but about the back-and-forth interactions—anything from singing a song as you change the diaper, cooing and smiling back and forth with him. Loving and playful experiences like these helps the infant to become well-adjusted.
As you move an interesting object slowly from side to side, the infant will follow it with his eyes. This is called tracking and is one of the first ways that young babies explore the world while building their visual skills. Over the next couple of weeks, the infant connects the act of kicking with the sounds the mobile makes when struck. This helps her understand cause-and-effect .The infant discovers that making noise is just plain fun.
Counselling of infants in their first years of life greatly impacts on their future development. It involves a lot of caring touch and interactions. Among the theories behind working on children’s mental health are a number of factors including brain growth and adaptability, the care-giver connection and toxic stress. As an infant therapist, I therefore use some of these factors to help care-givers help the infants to be better able to cope with growing, connecting with them and heal infant stress. In recent times infants have been subjected to heinous acts like sexual defilement, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment leading to the need for therapy.
Activities that mothers/care-givers use regularly when interacting with infants are important ways of connecting with children. In infant therapy I therefore ask the care-giver to make a deliberate interaction through a number of activities which may include playing with oil, peek-a-boo, cradling and back story telling.