When you’re from Australia, it’s a long flight to get pretty much anywhere.
Even though you are flashing along at almost the speed of sound, the plane on the flight map barely seems to move!
Before I became a father no-one warned me that the speed at which babies develop is much the same. Knowing that in just a few short years my baby would learn a language and numerical system from scratch, I thought progress would be observably fast. In reality, weeks can pass by in which – superficially – nothing seems to change.
This can be a little bit morale-sapping. What’s the point, you ask yourself, of reading her a book when she will once again seemingly pay no attention? Why bother counting the number of apples aloud in the fruit bowl when she clearly could not care less?
Well, my baby is now 13-months old and the obvious truth is starting to emerge: she has taken it all in and she is developing at a remarkable speed, just like every other healthy baby is.
So here are some examples of my baby’s progress. If you’re the parent of a baby under one and are starting to have doubts like I did, I hope they will be of some reassurance.
Obviously my baby can’t yet read. But she can now turn the pages and point to the pictures and she can even point to some simple pictures (e.g. dog and ball) when I say the word. Her favorite book is Where is the Green Sheep? and when we get to the last page and finally find the green sheep (who is fast asleep) she sometimes lies down and pretends to be asleep herself.
My daughter learned to say “dad”, “mum” and “ball” (or, “boo-waaaah” as she says it) many months ago. For awhile it seemed as though these three words would be it – as if satisfied with this achievement she had declared the job done. Then, just recently, new words started appearing. In the last week, she has begun to say “banana” (well sort of, anyway), which has been especially satisfying as I have pointed out bananas to her for months now.
3. Hand movements
We’ve been playing with a Tupperware Shape Sorter for weeks and weeks. For most of this time, nothing seemed to change – she loved picking up the shapes and putting them in her mouth, but this was all. Now, all of a sudden, she is able to fit the circle shape into its hole, and will turn the toy around until she finds it. Interestingly, she still shows no interest in putting any of the more complex shapes into their holes – but no doubt, one day, as if by magic, she will.
Right from the start I have regularly counted to five on my fingers to her. Early on she loved this and would giggle enthusiastically, but more recently she has started to look away, seemingly bored. However, very recently, when I say “one” and extend my index finger, she has started to extend her index finger and touch mine. And now, when I hand her three bananas one-by-one and count aloud, it just feels as though a light bulb is starting to go off in her brain. It will be exciting to see how this develops.
5. Facial recognition
For months I would regularly touch my nose, ears, hair etc and name them and do the same to my daughter, and she would show no indication of any understanding. And then about a month ago it all started to happen, sometimes amusingly: the other day while talking to my wife, I said “I” with some emphasis when making a point and instantly our daughter touched her index finger to her eye.
Like most new fathers, I often think I should be doing more. The above examples of me being all educational amount to just a few minutes a day – but this is probably all that is necessary. This – and great patience, and making sure that whenever your baby attempts something new – whether they succeed or not – you express delight: clapping enthusiastically is a good way to do this.
So, if you’ve got a toddler, don’t give up! Everything you do is important and is being observed. And if you are wondering why progress isn’t faster, just remember that, like a plane, they are actually zipping along at an incredible speed and will get there sooner than you think!