Anyone who comes to my classes will notice that we always celebrate at the end of each activity with a big "Yay!" and applause. It might seem over the top, but your baby needs this positive reinforcement. Before the age of 7 years, the human nervous system is working at an incredible pace to create neural pathways. Every sight, every sound, every touch, taste, and smell, every emotion your baby experiences is cataloged by his or her busy brain. On the outside, they may look like they're staring blankly, but behind those sweet little eyes, gears are whirring, connections are being made, and the groundwork for new ideas and imagination is being laid.
Transitions from one activity to another are one of the most difficult times for your little one. My classes are fast-paced, and usually have between 8-10 transitions within 30 minutes. The hardest kind of transition is when we must put away an instrument or other manipulative we've been using in class. We have a special song to signal to our babies that their time with the instrument is over, and it's time to put it away; when the whole class sings the song, it creates an atmosphere of joy and team work. As we sing about putting away our things, we watch our babies help drop the instruments in their box or storage bag, and we shout, "You did it! Good job! Yay! What an awesome helper you are!" The first few times this happens, the baby's face will register surprise. The eyebrows go up as if to say, "Did I do something good?" Later, the sense of pride at being a good helper will show in their big smiles and giggles. I've even seen a baby take her first steps because she was so excited to help put her instrument away.
The next time you find yourself picking up toys, enlist the help of your baby. Make it fun by singing a clean-up song like the one we use in class, and remember to shower your baby with praise and cuddles when they show you even the smallest effort toward helping. You are their first and best teacher!