It’s a new year and Teach Speech Therapy is full of new ideas and goals to make 2015 truly wonderful. Our ongoing mission to help parents and their children develop successful language skills. I will be sharing with you a series of posts devoted to early language development, first words and sentences, playing, reading, and more. My hope is that these posts will help you feel empowered in your child’s language development journey while also teaching you important terms and practices along the way.
Here’s to a great year ahead!
Here’s Looking At You, Kid!
Each milestone in your child’s life is a thrill. Not only is it exciting to see your child accomplish a new skill but it also provides clues regarding your child’s development. Eye contact is one of the very first major milestones you’ll discover and it’s a powerful moment.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing that your child is looking right back at you. Beyond creating a special connection, eye contact is an important social function to greet, request, or even to direct attention towards something before vocalization begins. Once your child is able to communicate with you with their eyes, you’ll quickly pick up on the “signs” and feel an even stronger bond.
Why Is Eye Contact So Important?
- One of the first signs that your baby is developing neurologically
- Shows that their communication development is on track
- Increases the bond between baby and parent and communicates the importance of that bond
- It is the foundation for joint attention (which we will learn about in a future post)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you hold your baby about 8-15 inches away from your face so that their eyes can focus more sharply. Newborn babies’ eyes continue to develop well after birth and eye contact typically surfaces around 6-8 weeks of age but can emerge up to 3-months of age.
Remember, every child develops a little differently so try to be patient while also being attentive. If by 3 months of age you are not seeing direct eye contact, it is recommended that you speak with your pediatrician. While reduced or complete lack of eye contact may be a sign of a developmental, visual, or neurological delay, sometimes the reason may be as simple as not catching your child’s eye at the right time!
How to Encourage Early Eye Contact with Your Child
Foster a deeper connection while feeding your baby by singing softly or talking to him or her while maintaining eye contact.
- Hold up a toy or object next to your face and talk about it to your child. This will help encourage sound development.
- Talk or softly sing to your child while sitting or laying face to face.
- Play games that encourage your child to follow moving objects. This could be as simple as facing your baby and then moving your head side to side or up and down slowly.
Remember, your baby is most likely to interact with you when he or she is quiet, well fed, and alert. Trying these methods with a cranky, tired, hungry baby will only be frustrating for you both!
Eye contact may be sporadic or non-existent at first. Just keep practicing with your baby and help encourage him or her to develop this important visual skill.
Want more information? Listen to this fantastic NPR piece about eye contact and language development: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5043754
MaryFrances Gonzalez is the director of TeachSpeech LLC and a certified speech language pathologist. Using a holistic approach and playful learning, she helps children build a strong foundation for learning, one word at a time. If you have any questions about your child’s speech or language skills, contact us today to set up a free next steps call!