While at this stage we work mostly on establishing a good attachment, there are lots of ways we can support the infant's need to participate in their daily care of self activities. These are most relevant for the infant once they can sit, perhaps from around six months, and can continue into toddlerhood as their scope for independence increases.
Some of these come naturally to me now, I will always give the infant their own spoon, while others I need the occasional reminder! Why do we want to foster independence at such a young age?
- Empowers the child.
- Show them what they can do, that they are capable!
- Boosts self-image, the child over time see themselves as an active collaborator, not a passive bystander.
- It's easier! As a parent, it's easier to have a child who can self-feed at least a little.
- It sets up the mindset, the home environment, and will lead to a more capable and independent toddler and preschooler.
- It leads to a more contented and happy baby, the infant is more satisfied and is having their developmental needs met.
Care of Self Activities that we practice at home at eight months include:
- Feeding. If spoon feeding give the infant a (weaning) spoon too. They might not get much in their mouths but this is a start.
- Always offer some food the infant can feed themselves such as finger foods.
- Offer the infant a cloth napkin for wiping their mouths after feeding, give them a small sponge or cleaning cloth for wiping the table.
- Consider using a bib that the infant can put on and take off themselves. At eight months my son can't put on his bib but he can take it off when he is finished, we currently use a bib with an elastic neckline.
- Offer a weaning glass and show the infant how to use it. If you use a weaning glass from six months or even later, it will only take a month or so for the infant to work out how to use it.
- Dressing. Ask for the infant's participation in dressing, an infant can begin to lift their arms when taking a top off or push their arms and legs through the arm/leg holes in clothing, this is the start of self-dressing. We also want to provide clothing that is loose and easy to get on and off (particularly important heading into toddlerhood) and is comfortable.
- Washing/Bathing. If using a sponge or wash-cloth, give the child the chance to use it first or give them another wash cloth to use at the same time.
- Nose wiping. Give them a tissue to wipe first. Always let the infant know what is going to happen, even at eight months do the nose wiping in front of a mirror, the child will begin to make the connection and later will feel the need to wipe their nose.
- Teeth Brushing. Allow the infant to try to brush their teeth first or at the least allow them to explore the toothbrush before you use it, again this can be done in front of a mirror so the infant has a better idea of what is happening to them. At eight months Otto (pictured above) has six teeth, many infants at this age have less teeth or you might just be using a soft cloth to wash them.
Once we start thinking about the small things the infant can do, it makes the transition to toddlerhood easier. The child is already on the path to independence and is building lots of useful skills. Many of these activities can start even later, even at twelve or eighteen months, it's not too late to have the child being more active in their care of self activities. If I have forgotton any care of self activities that the infant can participate in please list them below, I'm sure I will find the suggestions helpful!