There's nothing more exciting than making the holiday rounds with a new baby to show off--for you, anyway. Your little one may have a different idea. Help him maintain an even keel with these stay-cheery tips:
1. Be greedy.
Well-meaning relatives will be happy to meet the new addition and, of course, will want to hold him. To avoid hurt feelings, say something like "I'm going to hang on to him for now. The truth is he gets overwhelmed by crowds, so we're going to take it slow," suggests Claire Lerner, the director of parenting information and resources at Zero to Three, a national child-development organization in Washington, D.C.
2. Take a time-out.
You may be enjoying chatting up cousin Carla over a leisurely dinner, but if your baby starts working his way to a meltdown, retreat from the crowd for a short time. Take him into a dark, quiet room and softly reassure him. You'll be surprised how quickly he can relax and recharge for the party's second half.
3. Go with his flow.
Sure, you may always put him down for his morning nap at 9:15 and nurse him every two hours on the dot. But when you're traveling, those home routines just may not work. He may sleep a little more (or, God forbid, a little less), or he may feel like nursing more than usual just for the comfort of it. Or he may stick to his schedule like glue...who knows? The point: "Do whatever works in the moment," says Lerner. You'll be less stressed--and your baby will be, too.
II. 5 to 8 months: Homegrown toys
When the novelty of all those fancy new holiday toys wears off, forget making a trip to the store. Look no further than your kitchen cabinets, and save a few bucks. Let's raid the kitchen! Pull out. How to make it fun. What she'll learn a plastic bowl. Hide a favorite toy underneath, making it appear and disappear. The idea that objects still exist even when she can't see them plastic cups. At bath time, let her hold a cup when it's full and empty. Soon she'll fill and dump it on her own. Fine motor skills and the ability to distinguish between heavy and light objects a sponge and widemouthed plastic jar. Tear a new sponge into large pieces, and show her how to put them in the jar and dump them out. Sensory awareness ("Oooh, sponges are squishy!") and the concept of in and out empty tissue boxes. Stack the boxes, and help her knock them down. The concept of up and down a flashlight. In a dark room, shine the light on a wall (away from her eyes). Eye strength and coordination by following the light.
III. 9 to 12 months: Just like mommy
What could be cuter than a chubby hand shaking back at you when you wave bye-bye? That little wiggle is not only adorable, it's also a milestone. "Imitation is an important way babies learn, and it's a precursor to imagination," says Punam Kashyap, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. As her memory grows, your babe will begin to copy things you did yesterday (say, wiping down the counter) and not just what you're doing right now (like talking on the phone). Encouraging imitation is as simple as including her in the most routine of activities:
If she reaches for the page while you're reading, invite her to turn it by gently guiding her hand to the paper's edge.
If she starts patting her head while you're brushing your hair, hand her the brush. Then take turns and praise her for her excellent primping.
If she raises her hand when you wave good-bye to someone, by all means help her flap away. She'll be doing it on her own before you know it.