My husband and I decided to observe the baby during his play time and really just let him lead. We did this to an extent but now we’re doing it more consciously. What do I mean by observe? For one thing, there’s no pressure to be his entertainer 24/7. By letting him explore his environment on his own, he’s able to learn, and to know how to learn. For instance, this afternoon, I sat nearby on the floor while he was playing with my laundry hamper, pulling himself up. I just sat there and saw that he was trying to balance himself without holding on to anything. When he managed to do this for a second or two, he would look in my direction and give me a big grin, saying, “Wow I just did that, that was cool!” Only then would I give him praise and clap my hands. Usually he’d then crawl over to me for a quick hug and then go right back to the hamper to try it again.
We also give him plenty of uninterrupted time. Before I noticed I would try to push certain toys on him, maybe because I thought they were interesting (or because we just bought it and wanted to justify the hefty price!). Now I just lay his toys and household items around and let him choose whether or not to crawl towards it and pick it up. Even if it’s time for a diaper change, I try to wait until he’s done playing with something before I pick him up so that I don’t break his concentration. I feel like this will give him a longer attention span and fuel the desire to problem-solve.
Another aspect of being a keen observer is not jumping the gun whenever something happens, particularly when he hurts himself (in a minor way). Instead of overreacting when he cries, I ask him, “How do you feel?” I try not to say, “It’s okay, don’t cry” because he should be able to cry if he wants to. I just imagine myself having a bad day and wanting to cry it out, and my husband telling me, “It’s no big deal, nothing to cry about.” I would feel belittled, and I wouldn’t want him to feel like he always has to be happy, or that in crying, we’re disappointed or aggravated by him.
The difficulty with being an observer is not letting yourself get distracted, especially with chores and tasks. I’m usually itching to get things done around our home, and often I think to myself, “If only I didn’t have to watch him I could be doing this and that.” I pretty much have to take that mentality aside and realize that the more tuned in I am with him, the less clingy he will be, and I’d be able to get stuff done without him crying just because I’m not right next to him. It’s also accepting that life really isn’t the same anymore with a baby, and that our home will always have something messy about it and won’t be as spotless as it was before him. Maybe when he’s older, but not for now.