It should go without saying that socialization is critical for cognitive and linguistic development. Babies are social creatures. From the time they are born, infants are looking for their caregivers eyes, and within the first few weeks of life, they develop a social smile which forms the basis for future communication.
And then, COVID happened.
With so much focus on the return to school buildings this fall, not much has been said about our little people. Although the risk of infection and the need for hospitalization with COVID-19 is much lower in children, infants under 1 year old are at a particularly high risk. In addition, young children can become infected and can carry the illness to others in the community while they are asymptomatic.
As the transmission rates begin to decrease, many families are feeling ready to join “pods” or a consistent group of familiar families, while others aren’t quite ready to bring their children into social groups. Either way, you can continue to help your child develop important social development milestones virtually or IRL.
1. Provide lots of eye contact during tummy time.
Maybe you aren’t ready to bring your baby out into the world yet…and that’s okay! There are plenty of ways to continue developing social skills at home. For your little ones at home, set baby up on a boppy pillow with a mirror in front. You sit behind baby and make faces for your little one to imitate. Next, get on the other side of the mirror to play peek-a-boo.
2. Try a park play date
Some of you may be ready to get out of the house. Many local organizations are now having small classes outside, so take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and head to the park. Aim for groups of 5 children or less so that you can let your child move freely while also socially distancing. Look for classes that will engage your child’s senses, such as music, gymnastics, or forest school/nature play.
3. FaceTime your family
What a time to be alive! Technology is so cool! Even family that you never get to see are only a button away. Even though you can’t see family and friends in real life, FaceTiming is a great way to socialize for children over 6 months of age (FaceTiming is not a part of the AAP guidelines for screentime). Set up a rotating schedule with family, but remember to keep expectations in check: babies under 18 months can focus for 2-3 minutes, while babies over 2 can focus for 4-5 minutes.
4. Join an online community.
With the pandemic came a whole new vocabulary centered around Zooming and many services have brought themselves online, including me! I love being able to work with families in real life, but at this time, due to the closeness of interactions required for speech and language therapy, I have opted to continue to work virtually. This has been a great opportunity for me to focus on coaching services and I am happy to provide targeted speech and language coaching combined with a supportive community of parents. My Live Series begins on September 14. For five nights, I will go live for 5 minutes with a new tip or trick that you can incorporate into your daily routines. Come join me!
For information about the live series, visit speechwithjwo.jocelynmwood.com. If you are looking for more support, join the waitlist for the Tiny Talker Toolkit–a 6 week coaching journey with build in question and answer sessions and a supportive community of parents like you. Follow me on Instagram for the latest updates.