Dr Lin Day's 10 Top Tips
Christmas is a special time of the year for parents and an even more magical one for babies. The Christmas tree, presents, shiny decorations, colourful lights, smells, tastes, and sounds make Christmas Day a complete sensory delight. However, the celebrations can be both exhausting and stressful, so it is important to keep in mind that your baby still needs your love and warmth, and the security of a familiar routine. It is also worth considering the safety aspects of anything that can be harmful to your baby.
Here are some top tips to ensure that your baby enjoys the celebrations.
Christmas provides the perfect excuse for relatives and friends to get together and enjoy the celebrations. To prevent overwhelming your baby, limit guests to family and close friends. If they want to hold or play with your baby, keep changeovers to a minimum and make sure you are available for a cuddle when needed. Nothing is more important to your baby’s emotional wellbeing than your reassuring touch.
Make your baby’s first Christmas as enjoyable as possible by keeping your routine the same. Too much change can raise your baby’s stress levels. To avoid emotional insecurity, give presents when your baby is alert and ready to play and stick to the normal schedule for eating and sleeping. If you are nursing your baby, find a quiet place away from the action. Both of you will appreciate the chance to relax and spend some peaceful time together.
Christmas Day provides a wealth of sensory stimulation for your baby but look out for signs of overstimulation and tiredness. A favourite blanket or toy can provide the emotional comfort and security that your baby needs but stay close by to provide reassurance when needed.
Age and stage appropriate toys will stimulate your baby’s senses, offer a wealth of learning opportunities, and lead development forwards. Black and white objects, and colourful toys and mobiles that make soft, gentle sounds will stimulate the interest of a newborn or very young baby. Favourite toys for babies aged 3 to 6 months include objects that can be brought to the mouth, and play gyms that can be biffed and kicked.
From 6 to 9 months, pop-up toys, musical instruments, tea sets, and activity centres with buttons to press will provide an endless source of amusement. Large plastic bricks, wooden puzzles with handles, shape sorters, drums, and push along toys are fun and educational for babies from 9 to 12 months. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest and avoid overwhelming. If your baby becomes irritable, change the activity.
Books are some of the best toys for babies. Books with textured or sparkly materials, large, brightly coloured pictures and hide-and-seek surprises encourage interaction with a familiar adult, and make great Christmas presents.
Available from our Baby Sensory shop - click the book above to get your copy!
6. Creative presents
Creative presents can brighten up your baby's first Christmas. A treasure basket containing interesting everyday objects, or a cardboard box filled with paper or fabric, offers endless learning possibilities. However, safety is vital. Parental supervision is required with these activities and avoid items that include, sharp edges on tags, long ribbons, small parts, plastic wrap or Styrofoam products. In addition, toys designed for older children such as electronic games may contain batteries or magnets.
Play with relatives and friends can be very enriching for your baby on Christmas Day. For example, they can show your baby how a new toy works or get involved in turn-taking activities such as rolling a ball back and forth or clapping games. Time-honoured games such as peek-a-boo, blowing ‘raspberries’, and being tickled with a soft brush or scarf are lovely ways to stimulate smiles and giggles. Adult interaction is vital for healthy social and emotional development because it spells love and warmth, and because it shows your baby that they are fun to be with.
Your baby will also need time to explore on his or her own terms. A balance of quality adult interactions and baby-driven play are a time-tested way of ensuring that your baby makes discoveries and solves problems.
Pine needles, scented potpourri, cinnamon, spices, herbs, and Christmas cooking smells offer your baby a multi-sensory experience and may be associated with fond memories in years to come. Exploring these scents under adult supervision can enhance your baby’s mood and behaviour, but it will be trial and error finding out which ones appeal the most. Avoid essential oils, since these may contain a high phenol content, which can irritate your baby’s skin. Other scents that can cause an allergic reaction include Arum lilies, mustard, and horseradish.
Babies are very attracted to coloured lights, shiny decorations, tinsel, and glitter. All these things will stimulate your baby’s senses and accelerate learning. However, safety is all-important. Putting presents under the Christmas tree provides a tactile experience for your baby, but place gifts that pose a risk out of reach.
Your baby will love the shiny decorations, but these must be explored with an adult. Avoid using mistletoe or holly as decorations as they could cause an adverse reaction if ingested. The best option is to pick your baby up and look at the Christmas tree together from a safe distance. This will help your baby to feel a part of what is going on.
10. At the end of a busy day.....
Christmas carols, songs, and music bring warmth and happiness to Christmas Day, and they set the tone for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.
Click the image above to access our music - available on all streaming sites!
Music is one of most beneficial learning resources for your baby and its effect on intellectual development is far-reaching. Music can also help your baby to relax and drift into peaceful sleep at the end of a busy day. There is nothing more important to your baby than snuggling up in your arms and hearing you sing a favourite lullaby. This is the best way to ensure the end of a wonderful Christmas!