Module 1: Promoting Mental Health in Infancy

MasteryPracticing Walking

Gaining Skills and Competence

Babies gain new skills through the early experiences of repeating actions over and over again to see the effect of their actions on their own bodies, on objects, and on their parents and others. This initial sense of mastery, the sense of self as actor and doer, fuels emotional as well as cognitive development.

Questions to Ask

  • What is your baby’s typical day like?
  • How do you think your baby is learning?
  • What are some of the new things she is doing?
  • What are some of her favorite activities?
  • How does she adapt to new experiences, situations, or people?

Provider Tips

  • Describe how babies cope with and master new experiences. For example, a baby may focus intently on her parent’s face, completely ignoring noise from the TV or a busy household. She may then avert her eyes from the parent’s gaze, taking a break from the intensity of the parent-child interaction, before returning to gaze again intently at her parent.
  • Using the guidance below, explain how parents can help their baby master experiences and learn new skills.

Guidance for Parents

  • Your baby was born with a natural desire to explore and learn about herself and her world. Beginning with the discovery of her own hand, she will move from looking at her body to exploring the objects around her. Watch for cues that she is ready to learn. For instance, if she makes an attempt to crawl, place a favorite toy slightly out of reach. This will give her a reason to continue in her efforts to crawl.
  • Let your baby know that you are proud of her when she tries to do new things. Smile at her, talk to her, and “applaud” her efforts. This will encourage her to continue trying until she succeeds.
  • One way your baby learns is by hearing or doing the same thing over and over again. She enjoys hearing songs and playing games that have words and actions that are repeated. Certain toys such as a squeak toy, Jack-in-the-box, or a busy box, can help her learn that her actions get results. She will also learn from new toys that differ slightly in color, size, or texture from the toys she usually plays with.
  • Your baby’s personality and her emotional responses will affect the way she relates to her world. Pay attention to how she reacts and adapts to new situations. Regular routines for feeding, sleeping, and other daily experiences help her to anticipate what will happen next and feel secure. When your baby feels secure, she will be more likely to explore and try new things.

Copyright Georgetown University Georgtown University Infancy