(Family Features) From taking steps toward the stairs to learning that bubbles don't taste good, exploration is a part of development for babies and young children. While it's an exciting time, it also can be coupled with anxiety and hesitation as parents find themselves saying "no" or jumping in when baby discovers a new space.
An Open for Adventure survey from Babyganics found a majority of parents (69 percent) believe a child can learn to be more confident if he or she is allowed to explore freely as a baby. However, letting go doesn't always come naturally for parents.
Clinical health psychologist Dr. Bobbi Wegner encourages parents to be explorer parents, which focuses on raising resilient, confident and adventurous humans through challenge and discovery. She offers these tips for parents:
Aid in discovery. Encourage and applaud baby's healthy risk-taking, such as mastering a challenging stair climb or pushing through moments of frustration and failure. Additionally, create teachable moments that introduce your child to necessary limits. For example, if you have hot coffee in the morning and your little one wants to touch the mug, let him or her gently touch a warm area of the mug with a fingertip and repeat that the mug is "hot" to help encourage exploration and flex baby's senses.
Let baby be free. While you may think baby gadgets are necessary for playtime, consider rethinking those toys. Instead of searching for stimulation through lights and sounds from a toy, allow your baby to explore the natural environment. Look for opportunities that allow him or her to make a manageable mess and even get wet or dirty. This could be as simple as playing with a container filled with water or letting your baby pull up grass in the backyard. These small unstructured play adventures can help develop independence and confidence.
Engage the senses. Exposing your baby to new flavors and smells helps engage him or her on a multi-sensory level. For example, allowing your baby (at an appropriate age, typically between 4-7 months) to try new foods can provide a feeling of accomplishment while also exposing him or her to different textures and flavors. Encourage even more sensory exploration by allowing your baby to smell the food and even play with it using his or her fingers.
Provide early exposure to new places. Bringing baby along to restaurants and other public spaces allows for positive exposure to new places, people and sounds, which can help build the immune system, encourage social interaction and support development. While letting a child explore in a public setting like an airport or train station can make many parents anxious, carrying products such as Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes can help ease parents' apprehension and keep little hands germ-free while on the go.
Wait a moment. It's common for parents to intervene the moment baby awakes from a nap or starts moving toward the stairs. Try pausing, allowing your little one to naturally find his or her limits while managing your own fears and worries. This tactic can allow your young explorer an opportunity for cognitive and social-emotional development with you as a safety net nearby.
"Parents often look to their own internal response to guide parenting: 'If I am worried then it must be dangerous, and I should not allow my baby to do it,'" Wegner said. "When in fact, parents should prioritize their baby's exploration and needs to provide learning opportunities rather than allowing their own anxieties to impede their children."
For more information, visit babyganics.com.