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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

4 Tips for fostering your grandbaby’s development

Jun 26, 2020 11:13AM ● By Hilary Thompson

Stimulate your new grandbaby's development early on

Congratulations on a new bundle of joy in your family! There is so much to celebrate and enjoy with a new grandbaby. 

A lot may have changed since you had your first child, but the responsibilities of a new parent are not new to you. Now is an important time in your grandchild’s life and you have the ability to help, from picking out the best infant toys to setting up a college fund. 

Whether you live near or far away, there are plenty of ways to foster your grandbaby’s development.

  1.  Buy toys that stimulate their minds.

A newborn baby’s brain develops at an astonishing rate. Along with the new gadgets and toys that a grandparent has to master (how many things can this swing do?), it’s good to have an understanding of what that new little mind needs to develop in the best way possible.

 First, know that you don’t have to overdo it. In fact, your brand new infant grandchild prefers the sound of your voice to a cacophony of sounds and sights. Their new eyes prefer dimmer light as they adjust to being in the world, and gradually they’ll be interested in high-contrast images such as black-and-white patterns on objects and toys. Help them practice tracking an object with their eyes by moving it slowly back and forth—this will help them develop hand-eye coordination, which will be useful in the future when they begin to learn to read.

 When you choose toys for your new grandchild, think about a variety of textures, colors, sizes and shapes to help the grandbaby's development with tactile stimulation—another important way they build and create connections.

  1. Talk to them.

If you live far away from your grandbaby or are practicing social distancing, there are still some great ways to foster their growth and development, as well as support their parents. You can let your new grandchild hear the sound of your voice through video chats, phone calls or socially safe visits. Hearing words, rhythms and patterns in language, as well as multiple kinds of voices, is an important way to stimulate your grandchild’s brain development.

 Even if your baby can’t understand what you’re saying, her or she will begin to recognize tones and cadence, which establishes a foundation for language learning. Reading a story and explaining pictures to your grandbaby is a perfect activity whether you’re near or far away. A “house tour” is another popular way parents and grandparents offer a language-learning experience. Take the baby around and point out rooms and objects, or tell stories related to them. You can do this via video chat by walking around your own house and talking about what you see.

 Make eye contact and respond to your grandchild if they make a sound—it helps them to understand how language works. At a loss for what to say? Sing a song instead. You don’t even have to be a good singer for it to be beneficial.

  1. Make a family album.

One great way to have something to talk about to your grandchild is to make a family album. If you live far away, send it to your grandchild and have your own child show the baby photos as you talk about the people via video chat. Share memories about the baby’s parent growing up, or talk about relatives the baby has yet to meet. If you enjoy scrapbooking, you can make themed albums that cover your branch of the family, favorite vacation places, zoo or farm animals, or a book of funny faces and poses.

If you’re Internet-savvy and would prefer someone else to do the work, try services like Shutterfly, Snapfish or Chatbooks, which can make albums for you. Services like these also allow you to make and send photo albums directly from your phone, sometimes automatically. Making these albums is super fun and simple, and you can send them right to your loved one’s door. Ask your child to reciprocate with albums of your grandchild at each stage of their growth.

  1. Set up a college fund.

Before you know it, your grandbaby will be talking about what they want to be when they grow up. Helping your grandchild have a chance at a college education offers them the opportunity to learn new skills and qualifications useful for whatever their chosen career may be. A college education is one of the best ways to ensure they develop into a self-sufficient and successful adult. 

However, the U.S. Department of Education predicts a 6.5 percent growth in college tuition costs annually. Meaning, by 2030 the cost of a four-year degree will exceed $200,000—at a public university, let alone the cost of a private one. And your new grandchild won’t be enrolling until at least 2038. Start saving: The earlier, the better.

Look into a 529 savings plan. This allows a grandparent to set up and contribute to the account and pass it to a grandchild tax-free for use in higher education expenses at a 2-year college or 4-year university. These plans have high annual and total contribution limits, allowing you to get the most out of your money. You can also set up a prepaid tuition plan, locking in rates now and helping to avoid that inevitable inflation of college costs. Talk to your financial advisor about the best options for you and your grandchild’s future.

As a new grandparent, you play an important part in fostering your grandbaby’s future. Knowing that you can positively impact your grandbaby’s development, in whatever way that looks, will be meaningful to both your grandchild and his or her parents in the long run.

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