“Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy;
at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11
PRAYER: Abba, father, how we adore you for all the joyful pleasures you provide for us! Thank you for the gift of speech and how it enriches our fellowship with you and with each another. Please help Baby and me to learn how to communicate well so that we can really understand each other! Help me to work hard at studying Baby’s verbalizations and gestures too. Please help us develop a truly satisfying system for communicating, and make us flexible about changing strategies as needed to remain close throughout life.
THOUGHT: Somewhere between eight and eighteen months, many babies are more capable of communicating through sign language than through articulated speech. Although almost all babies use some gestures to communicate, baby signing is a fairly new concept. My children have found it very helpful in learning to understand their babies, and they believe it lessens communication frustration between parent and child.
ACTIVITY: Over the course of today, think about what words might be most useful to teach Baby in order to optimize communication and minimize frustration. Try teaching Baby to associate one sign with one important word. Be sure to clearly articulate the word as well as sign each time so Baby learns both. Some words that were most important to my first grandson included: Mommy, Daddy, milk, water, eat, more, finished, dog. Consider buying a baby sign language book, or check out the Michigan State University American Sign language website, which has videos demonstrating the signs and is very comprehensive. Try it! I think you’ll like it!
“And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.” Malachi 3:17
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for being our “Jehovah-Tsidkenu,” the Lord, our righteousness. Please make us into beautifully cut and polished jewels that you will cherish and favor. Thank you for loving us so wonderfully!
THOUGHT: Have you tried using a shape-sorter or form box with Baby yet? These are toys where Baby learns to match the shape with a space of the same dimensions, and I have read that there is a connection between learning this skill and future math prowess. The simplest types of shape sorters have about four spaces that can hold four colorful shapes, although we had a three-dimensional form box that had 4 shapes per side (16 altogether), where the shape could be pushed right through the space and into the box, and then the top could be unlatched and the toys retrieved.
ACTIVITY: Start with the most basic shape sorter you can find, but eventually you can progress to using the more complex shape sorters. Take one of the shapes (maybe the circle) and fit it into the matching slot, then take the shape out and give it to Baby to see if he can get it through the slot too. If you work together on such projects, eventually he may be able to take any block you give him and put it through the correct hole (as long as you help him find the hole). Many moons later, your clever little puzzler may be able to figure out which form goes through which hole, but don’t expect too much too soon. Be sure to praise every success and don’t ever become impatient or disapprove what he cannot understand! Always cherish his sincere effort—that is the greatest success!
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory:
no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
PRAYER: Oh LORD God, thank you for being our sun and shield! Thank you for giving us grace and glory…and for so many other wonderful things too! Thank you for Jesus, the holy and anointed one who came to seek and to save the lost. Please bless Baby. Seek and save her. Help us to walk uprightly so that our prayers will be unhindered as we ask for all the good things we need to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2).
THOUGHT: When Baby gets old enough to enjoy rides on park equipment without being completely in the parent’s arms (obviously only a swing with a strap-baby-in-the-basket type of seat is safe at this age), don’t forget these little songs that can be sung to reassure Baby and make the rides less scary:
ACTIVITY: For the teeter totter, as you stand behind him, holding on to him and push him up and down, saying:
“See-saw, Margery Daw,
Jackie (or use Baby’s name) shall have a new master.
He shall have but a penny a day,
For he can’t work any faster!”
“A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go,
We’ll catch a little fox and put him in a box”
(catch the swing and give Baby a little hug)
“And then we’ll let him go!” (Let the swing go free again.)
“[It is God] who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.” Psalm 147:8
PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for allowing me to help Baby grow up. What a privilege!
THOUGHT: Two great principles from the world of education are:
1. Dialogic Reading: Don’t just read, but make comments and ask questions, even if you have to answer them yourself in the earliest years. Dialogic reading has a host of advantages over simply reading the text. It enhances language development and later reading ability; it teaches the child to think creatively and critically so that she interacts with the text rather than just absorbing the words; and finally, it usually makes the book more fun for the reader and a true “bonding experience” for parent and child. “What do you think she’ll do next?” “Why do you think she looks so happy?” “Where do you think they’re going?”
2. Scaffolding: This is the idea of building on ideas. Read a sentence (or a short page), ask a question, and then pause for a response. For example: “Look at this big animal. What is he? A dog! That’s right. What does a friendly dog say? “Bow-wow-wow.” Good!
ACTIVITY: Try reading a very simple, cardboard book to Baby several times during the same day. After you have simply read or talked your way through the book a number of times, stop at the end of each page and see if Baby will try to turn the pages in anticipation. Ask her questions about what will come next and see if you can get a response. For example, if there is a picture of a dog on the next page, you could say, “What do you think we’ll find now?” If she doesn’t seem to know, ask directly, “Do you think we’ll see a dog?” See if you can get her to start anticipating what will come.
“I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.”
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you for the many places in the Bible where you explain not only what you want us to do but why. Thank you that your commandments are not only for your glory, but also for our own good, so that we’ll live quiet, peaceable, and happy lives. Please help me to be a wise and considerate guardian for my little one. Help me to develop a sweet reasonableness in my requests, giving Baby lots of freedom but also protecting her and our home.
THOUGHT: Try to be an “elaborator” rather than just a “pragmatist” when it comes to talking with Baby. A pragmatic statement relates facts, like, “Don’t touch the curtains.” An elaborator tries to get the child to reason through issues. Certainly, if a child is about to rub grubby hands on a curtain, a sharp “No!” is in order, but the more a child understands sound reasoning, the better chance she will have of making right choices on her own or remembering why she shouldn’t do something. The elaborator might add something like, “What do you have on your hands? What will happen if you grab the curtains with sticky hands?” Of course, very small children may not understand that gooey oatmeal wouldn’t look nice on the curtains, but getting the child to make some connections between her behaviors and the outcomes is worth trying! You can always give her your opinion about the importance of being clean, and eventually she’ll catch on.
ACTIVITY: Have you taught Baby to wash her hands with a washcloth yet? By now Baby could begin learning a little bit about this basic self-care task. Try putting a warm, damp washcloth on Baby’s tray after meals. Start by wiping off her hands for her, but then wash out the cloth and give it back to her, inviting her to wash her hands with it again. Use the cloth to wipe off your hands and show her how clean they look when you’re done! After some patient training, you may find that Baby looks forward to getting to use her nice, warm wash cloth and will content herself with “washing up” her hands and tray (after you’ve already cleaned them) while you’re working on the table.
“My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank you that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and understanding. Thank you for Jesus, who is the “wisdom of God.” Please bless Baby and make him into a discerning and wise person. May we both pursue you with our whole hearts. Please uphold us with your strong right hand!
THOUGHT: I was always such a sober, literal thinker and so reality oriented that it didn’t occur to me to ask silly questions in an imaginative way, but when done in fun and love, and with the purpose of teaching Baby to think and evaluate, it can be worthwhile.
ACTIVITY: Try playing “This and That.” Try pointing to a ball and asking, “Is this a banana?” If Baby is confused, show him a banana and say, “Is this a banana?” If he responds positively, say, “Good! Yes, this is a banana!” Then point to something else, such as the ball again, and ask, “Is this a banana?” Hopefully Baby will shake his head. If so, shake your head too and laugh with him, saying something like, “You’re right! This isn’t a banana, it’s a ball! BALL!” Then go to something else, such as a window, and say, “Is this a ball?” See if you can get him to shake his head, or to shake his head with you. “No! This isn’t a ball, this is a WINDOW!” Go from item to item—chair, cup, table, shirt, wall, sink, stove, refrigerator, shoe, bed, dolly, coat…whatever!—and see if he can identify when you are calling something by its right name. You could end by pointing to yourself and saying, “Is this Baby?” or pointing to Baby and saying, “Is this Mama?” and then having a good laugh, with lots of hugs and kisses together.
“Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding.”
PRAYER: Oh, Father, help us to find your true wisdom and understanding!!
THOUGHT: Here is a game to help Baby begin to understand the idea of comparisons.
ACTIVITY: It’s called, “So Big, So Little!” Find a set of similar objects, with one being considerably larger than the other, and put them in your Surprise Box. Examples: Large and small balloons, cooking pots, bowls, dolls, toy trucks or cars, books, paper (like unfolded newspaper and a tiny square of newspaper), jars or bottles, baskets (laundry basket and a bread basket…of course, the laundry basket may not fit in your Surprise Box!), gardening shears and sewing scissors, one of Daddy’s shirts and one of Baby’s shirts (all types of clothing would work well), etc. Then, one set at a time, pull out one item and say, “So Big!” then pull out the similar small item and say, “So little!” Point to the first and say, “Big!” and open your arms up very wide and look wide-eyed. Then point to the smaller one and say, “Little!” placing your hands close together in front of your face and hunching up so even you appear smaller. Repeat this with each set of items in your Surprise Box. See if eventually you can get Baby to make the motions with you, discriminating “Big” and “Little.” If you repeat the game later on during the day, Baby may even be able to anticipate what is big or little and make the motions as soon as you pull out one of the items. If not, practice this game several times over the course of a week or two and see if he catches on! Once he has the concept down, you can ask about all sorts of things: “How big is Daddy?” “Big!” “How little is Baby?” “Little!” How big is our house? Our car? Our church? How little is our kitty? This bed? This chair?