Let’s face it - no one would choose to have their baby in the middle of a global pandemic, but what if in doing so, you have actually happened to give both you and your baby an amazing gift?

There is so much that is really tough - and let’s face it, just a little bit rubbish - about giving birth right now; from being pregnant and not being able to share your excitement as your bump grows with those you love and who love you and not being able to join an antenatal class in person and meet other people in your area who are also about to welcome their new baby into the world, to wondering what your hospital’s rules for birthing partners and taking your baby home and of course, the ever-present concern of contracting COVID-19.

But there might just be an amazing positive to this that you may not have realised amid your concerns. Lockdown was something that only a few weeks ago we could not even envisage. The idea of being cooped up at home for weeks on end, only going out for walks and shopping, was unheard of. The longest most families had spent all together was the annual holiday where everyone relaxed for two weeks and began to breathe again until the rat race started again and by coffee time on Monday morning, the relaxation of the holiday was a distant memory only recorded in photos!

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What we have gained during lockdown is simplicity. Things have been pared back to just the family, food, and doing what can be done at home. We have lost the frantic rush of life that we were all living without even realising it. Bringing your baby into a world of simplicity might just be the greatest gift you can give them. Of course, it is so rubbish that extended family will not be able to hold and meet your baby when they are in that beautiful state of experiencing the world for the first time. It’s not fun that you will not be able to go to baby classes and meet other people who are in the same situation as you, but, what you will have that I think will be unique to your baby’s generation is simplicity and time.

We are all being forced to look inwards and live in our own tiny worlds, but this is exactly what your baby wants and needs. Your baby thinks you are amazing in every way. There is nothing they like more than hanging out with you and your partner. The very best toy you can give your baby is you. Time spent gazing at you is time spent in the very best way in their eyes. Becoming a parent is a massive thing! Although the physical side is something that our bodies instinctively know how to do, i.e., growing the baby, giving birth, providing milk, etc; the emotional and social side is something we may have no prior experience of and is something we need to learn. Learning new things is always challenging and there are always bumps along the way. Normally we would learn from the other people around us, but right now that is not possible, so we get the chance to work out OUR way to do things. Your own way might not be what is considered ‘correct’, but it will be the way that works best for you and your baby which happens to make it just perfect. Though there may be plenty of things that you get wrong along the way, there will be so many other things that you will get just right. There will be brilliant days and there will be wobbly days, but that is part of the journey to becoming a confident parent. Becoming confident as a parent will help your baby start out life in the best possible way.

One of the most important things you can do to help your baby develop and build your confidence is playing and interacting with your baby. Play is how your baby communicates. Play is important from before birth right though life until we are old. It is how we get to know our baby and how they get to know us. It is also how your baby learns. Play not only builds relationships that last a lifetime, it also quite literally builds your baby’s brain.

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Not only does your baby learn through play, you do too! As you play, you build your confidence. The best thing about play is that once you have the idea of what to play and how to play, it is free, can be done at home and done by you. Having an idea of what your baby is learning from the play you are doing is how you build your confidence as a parent as you know that what you are doing is the right thing. Coming up with ideas of what to play can be quite a struggle, so this is where the Oliiki app comes in. It is an app full of simple, lockdown-friendly activities to help mums and mum-to-be just like you to help them support their baby’s development to the fullest.

Designed by Clare; a Mum, Primary School teacher and education researcher; the Oliiki app shows you how to use the power of play to impact your baby’s learning from the very beginning of pregnancy right through until your baby is two years old. Each day there is an easy, research-backed activity using simple, everyday objects which relates to the age of your baby.

 

Here is one of the pregnancy activities from the Oliiki app:

Today, when you are eating, sit together with whoever is in your house with all distractions off. i.e., turn off the TV, radio etc. Just focus on being together. If you don’t have anyone else with you, just talk to your baby bump. Now, tell a story and just enjoy this interaction. It can be anything, but rather than just making it about your day, try and make it about something you have done or experienced before, or re-tell a story that you have read. The reason for doing this is that research has shown that this is a great way for children to develop their language skills and expand their vocabulary. The research found that although reading to children introduced them to approximately 140 ‘rare words’, conversation at the dinner table introduced them to over 1000! Children with bigger vocabularies learn to read earlier and more easily than those who recognise fewer words because they can decipher the words written on the page more easily. On top of this, you are also building bonds that last a lifetime, developing better emotional and mental health and improving their social skills. From this, you can see how simply talking around the dinner table is building your baby a strong brain!

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If you have a newborn, this is an activity from the 0-3 months section of the Oliiki app.

Surprisingly, singing to your newborn, for instance a song like ‘if you’re happy and you know it’, is so much more than just simple singing! Something that you might think is nothing at all is actually doing amazing brain building for your baby. By singing the song you are engaging with them, building your bond. You are teaching them language by repeating words and if you use actions, they are associated with the words of the song, helping to build brain connections and reinforce the meaning of the words. You are building your baby’s emotional security as you hold them, look at them, focus on them and smile. You are also enveloping them in music. Research shows that music positively affects the cognitive and emotional development of a baby: it helps them with their sensory and intellectual development - children who have been surrounded with music develop more creativity as they grow, and scientists think that music also helps build memory, aiding the learning process. Perhaps unexpectedly, there is evidence that music is closely connected to maths. Listening to music also helps develop your child’s listening skills which are closely linked to language skills. Finally, music helps your baby’s emotional development, such as empathy and understanding. So, you can see that singing ‘if you are happy and you know it’ has a bit more impact than just singing a song, doesn’t it?

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Perhaps now you can see how having a baby during a global pandemic and having all this time to experience life with your baby together as a family really is a gift. It is time where you can learn to become a parent, your own way, get to know your baby undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and build a strong relationship that will last a lifetime through the play that you do with your baby. If you want some ideas of activities to help you with this, download the Oliiki app and get started, your baby will thank you for this amazing gift you are giving them.

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