This post was originally published by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

What do you do first when you see a young baby? Do you smile, wave and all of a sudden start talking in a much higher pitch? Do you pinch their little cheeks or ask their adult (if it’s not you) if you can hold them? Do you start making silly faces at them to see if they smile or copy you? I know with my kids, I always liked to hold them so they could see me,then I could look into their eyes and smile at them and make lots of funny faces.We spend so much time holding babies or placing them on their backs looking up that it’s impossible not to spend time studying those adorable little faces and getting lost in the cuteness of their eyes. They seem to be looking right back and studying us as well. In fact, as Max McClure states in a Stanford Report article from 2012: “At as early as four months, babies’ brains already process faces at nearly adult levels…”. This gives us the opportunity to make sure they clearly recognize our face and teach them some ways of expressing emotion.

My son loved when I would stick my tongue out, and it wasn’t long before he was sticking his tongue out back at me. This was a fun mirror game that we used to teach him lots of different facial expressions. We also had a “baby faces” book that showed many different expressions from different babies. This is my daughter’s favorite book and she has started to try to make some of the faces and expressions she sees the babies making. Not only are we building our kids’ expression and recognition abilities, we’re also encouraging some basic empathy skills that will really benefit them as they grow. Some of my favorite early memories with my kids…and times I remember bonding with them the most…were simply when I would hold them, and as they stared up at me I would do just about anything I could to make their eyes light up and see their beautiful smiles spread across their faces.  

This is fatherhood…