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Play, Growth and Development

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 your child’s behaviour. Over time, you will learn your baby’s temperament and how best to respond. Respecting your child’s unique characteristics and responding sensitively will form the basis for a healthy relationship with your child.

When you respond promptly in a warm and caring way, you are developing the trusting emotional connection between you and your baby known as attachment. As you respond to your 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 your crying baby

Crying is one of the ways that your baby can let you know how he or she feels. 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 he or she is 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" your 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 your crying baby:

  • Feed your baby
  • Hold your baby - try skin-to-skin against your chest
  • Carry your baby in a sling or wrap
  • Rock or walk your baby
  • Sing to your 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 your baby's brain development.

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

Playing with your 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 you nurture your relationship with your baby
  • Helps develop their skills

From the very beginning of your 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: