Understanding children: Babies being heard
Understanding children: Babies being heard

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Understanding children: Babies being heard

5 Promoting development

There are, of course, many ways in which people support babies’ development. The extract in the next activity is from the book by Meggitt and Sunderland and lists some of the other ways in which adults and older children can help very young babies to develop their skills. Some babies with physical or mental impairments will respond to these things in different ways, at their own pace.

Different families will have different ways of promoting babies’ development according to what they know and can manage. You will see that the extract makes certain class and cultural assumptions – for example, that eye contact is a good thing to encourage, that families will have warm housing so babies can lie without clothes on, and that there is enough money around to choose particular baby-attracting furnishings for the home. Families who are part of some ethnic groups prefer to wrap their babies close to the body, and some may not talk to babies as much as others. The suggestions below will only reflect some traditions of what is helpful and will not be the only ways to help babies develop.

Activity 6: Promoting development

Timing: 1 hour 0 minutes

Read through the text below. There are two tasks to be carried out, each requiring you to write about 200 words.

Promoting development

  • Provide plenty of physical contact, and maintain eye contact.

  • Massage their body and limbs during or after bathing.

  • Talk lovingly to babies and give them the opportunity to respond.

  • Pick babies up and talk to them face to face.

  • Encourage babies to lie on the floor and kick and experiment safely with movement.

  • Provide opportunities for them to feel the freedom of moving without a nappy or clothes on.

  • Use bright, contrasting colours in furnishings.

  • Feed babies on demand, and talk and sing to them.

  • Introduce them to different household noises.

  • Provide contact with other adults and children.

(Meggitt and Sunderland, 2000, p.11)


Newborn babies respond to things that they see, hear and feel. Play might include the following.

  • Pulling faces

  • Try sticking out your tongue and opening your mouth wide – the baby may copy you.

  • Showing objects

  • Try showing the baby brightly coloured woolly pompoms, balloons, shiny objects, and black and white patterns. Hold the object directly in front of the baby's face, and give the baby time to focus on it. Then slowly move it.

  • Taking turns

  • Talk with babies. If you talk to babies and leave time for a response, you will find that very young babies react, first with a concentrated expression and later with smiles and excited leg kicking.

(Meggitt and Sunderland, 2000, p.11)

Task 1

Think about the extract above and then write a paragraph about which points you agree and disagree with, and why. Your paragraph should be about 200 words long. You may disagree with what you read because your experience of bringing up children or being brought up was completely different or because some of the suggestions do not seem practical or comfortable for you to do as an adult. You can write about alternative ways you know of helping babies develop, or things you did from the list that worked for you. This is an opportunity for you to practise writing about your own ideas and experience based upon a piece of reading. Don't spend too much time or worry about the result too much – just have a go.

Task 2

Now watch the video clip again and look at your notes in Tables 1 and 2 from Activity 4. Write a second paragraph of about 200 words describing what the mothers in the video did with their babies that appear in the lists of suggestions above.

Download this video clip.Video player: Watching babies
Watching babies
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Many of the items listed in the first section help to give babies a sense of security and being loved, which is good for their ability to form close relationships. These suggestions also help babies’ senses to develop and allow them to slowly build up new experiences while in a safe environment. The second set of suggestions can help with their communication skills in listening to language and taking turns to ‘talk’ and listen and to imitate. The object play can help them get used to some of the different shapes and patterns that will form part of their lives – and which may help them with learning to read later on.

Health warning

Reflecting on your early experiences of learning may have brought back memories or strong feelings. This is quite normal and you may find that some materials generate quite strong feelings. If these feelings are uncomfortable or painful you may need to talk to someone about them. You may have a friend or family member who you can talk to but some people find that they would prefer to seek help outside their families.


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