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Play is a significant part of a baby's growth and development. Learn about temperament and attachment, and how play can influence a baby's developing brain.

Temperament and attachment

Each child is born with a special and unique way of responding to their environment. This is known as temperament and is reflected in a child’s behaviour. Over time, you will learn the baby’s temperament and how best to respond. Respecting their unique characteristics and responding sensitively will form the basis for a healthy relationship.

When you respond promptly in a warm and caring way, you are developing the trusting emotional connection with the baby known as attachment. As you respond to the baby’s cues - for example by cuddling, feeding, or talking – they will respond to you and feel safe and loved. They will feel more comfortable exploring their world and relating to others.

How to comfort a crying baby

Crying is one of the ways that a baby can let you know how they feel. Crying could mean baby is hungry, in pain, tired or over-stimulated or sometimes it happens "just because". Sometimes it is difficult to figure out why they are crying, but gradually you will become better at it!

When babies cry, they need to be picked up and comforted. They learn that you are there for them and will meet their needs. You cannot "spoil" a baby by responding to them.

You may need to try a few things to see what will work. Here are a few ways to comfort a crying baby:

  • Feed the baby
  • Hold the baby - try skin-to-skin against your chest
  • Carry the baby in a sling or wrap
  • Rock or walk the baby
  • Sing to the baby

Additional temperament and attachment resources:

Early brain development

The first six years of life are the most important for healthy brain development. As children grow and experience new things, connections are made between brain cells. As a parent or caregiver, you can have a positive influence on a baby's brain development.

Talk to the baby often, cuddle, smile and provide new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. You are the baby's most important toy and play mate!

Playing with a baby

Play is very important for babies and children because it:

  • Helps them learn about themselves and the world around them
  • Promotes their physical, cognitive (thinking), language, emotional and social development (how they will get along with others)
  • Helps a parent or caregiver nurture their relationship with the child 
  • Helps develop their skills

From the very beginning of a child’s life, they are engaging in play with you. It might be as simple as following your face with their eyes as you move around them, or listening to your voice as you sing during diaper changes.

Create a safe place to play on the floor where baby can move around and explore. Provide at least 30 minutes of "tummy time"throughout the day when baby is awake and supervised. This is important for baby's muscle development and can prevent baby from getting a "flat head", since baby should always lie on his or her back when sleeping.

Additional early brain development resources: