Your baby is watching your every move - and learning from it! A blog post about sitting and sipping with your little one...
Weaning? Sit back, relax, have a cup of tea!
OK, sit back and relax might be pushing it slightly, but if you and your little one are in the weaning phase it’s definitely the time to sit down and have a drink. But just to be completely clear, we’re talking here about sitting down with your little weaner and the drink is a glass of water or milk!
As parents and carers we are our babies’ role models. We need to lead by example. Set a good picture for them to copy.
How often does this ring true at mealtimes? Little ones are often dining alone, especially in the early days. Their eating times don’t always fit with the rest of the family’s and we’re keen to give our full attention to encouraging them to eat up, discover new flavours, explore different textures, have a sip of water.
But research suggests babies use a ‘body map’ in their brain, allowing them to observe people and imitate their body movements. This really does mean the power of mimicking is invaluable and takes the old adage of ‘do as I do’ to another level, so sitting down together and making it a shared experience is very important.
One of the biggest baby and child product concerns that dentists and orthodontists have been voicing centres around the modern-day love of sucking drinks from no-spill cups and spouted beakers. Childhood dental health is big news. Much of the ‘developed’ world is reporting shocking statistics for little people losing their teeth to preventable decay. Orthodontic issues such as crooked teeth and incorrect facial growth are at alarming levels. So dentists are encouraging the use of proper open cups from an early age because they are less likely to be used constantly throughout the day, they do not need to carry a dental health warning and the sipping action does not bathe the tooth enamel in liquid in the same manner as sucking. Orthodontists too are recommending open cups because a natural sipping action stimulates correct jaw development. Weaning is the time to start introducing sipping by using an appropriately-sized (i.e. very small) open cup at every mealtime.
Start with just a tiny amount of liquid in the cup and help guide it to your child’s mouth. They will get there with encouragement over a short period and sometimes they even get the idea straight away. The child often feels very proud and it’s really lovely to see.
One thing’s for sure, by sitting down and joining them at the table, and sipping on our own drink from an open cup, they’ve got the best chance of learning well. Model the actions, let them observe and as the research is saying, it’s a great way to help them know what to do. Older siblings can also get in on the action. Babies love to watch bigger kids, so encourage them to sit and sip aswell.
“To imitate the action of another person, babies first need to register what body part the other person used. Our findings suggest that babies do this in a particular way by mapping the actions of the other person onto their own body," says Peter Marshall, one of the research authors [Infants’ Somatotopic Neural Responses to Seeing Human Actions: I’ve Got You under My Skin].
Our mini watchers are taking it all in. Given enough chances to observe, they know what to do if ever they grab your phone or reach for a tablet (admittedly they sometimes try and chew on a device but it doesn’t take long before they are trying to put phones to ears or straining for a swipe on an ipad).
So it seems there’s science behind making mealtime a joint experience or even just sharing time sipping water. I’ll drink to that!
Sara Keel - Babycup Ltd
Sara Keel is founder and director of Babycup Ltd – Little cups for little people