Now we turn our attention to the highly significant role of parent-infant play in the development of parent-infant synchrony. The development of parent-infant synchrony depends on the abilities of the parent and infant to accurately read and respond to each other's cues. Interactive play between parents and their infants and toddlers is sometimes initiated by the parents and at other times by the infant. One of the benefits of parent-infant synchrony is that these interactions contribute to the development of infant self-control. Even though most parents accurately read infant cues and respond accordingly, there are two main impediments to the initiation and repair of parent-infant synchrony: Either the parent ignores the infant's invitation to interact or the parent overstimulates the baby who wants to pause and rest. Therefore, when engaging in interactive play with their infants, parents should respond not only to their babies' gestures that are designed to engage parents but also to their signals that they are feeling overstimulated and need a short break. The gesture from infants that signals their need for a brief pause is seen when babies turn their heads away—the first gesture for "No." After these brief pauses, babies will turn back to look at the parent, usually with a smile to indicate they are ready to continue playing (Feldman et al., 1999).
What This Means for Professionals
It is beneficial for parent-infant play to occur simply for the joy of it, and play can be introduced into bathing, dressing, and a variety of everyday caregiving activities. When parents make a game out of giving the baby a bath or playing peek-a-boo as they are putting on a shirt, these activities become more enjoyable for babies as well as for their parents. One of the benefits of interactive play for infants and toddlers is that it increases their overall sense of predictability. For infants and toddlers, gaining a sense of predictability regarding what is likely to happen in certain situations increases their self-control.
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