Working on it
Um. I always feel weird when I read things like this. Am I supposed to be working on BG's fine motor skills? Because other than pouring Ch*eerios onto her high chair tray for her to mess with while I get her dinner ready, I don't think I have been.
That's a rhetorical question, BTW. I tend to believe that if you give babies a rich (rich in the sensory sense, not in the monetary sense) environment and interact with them as your instincts direct, they will develop just fine. But we just overthink and overanalyze and, well, overparent. We all managed to learn to pick up raisins and bang toys together and knock over towers of blocks without our parents "working on it" with us, after all.
My favorite example is the whole "parentese" thing. Humans instinctively talk to infants in a higher-pitched, exaggerated way (babytalk). We can't help it. Then research found that babytalk actually helps babies acquire language. Great news, because it confirms that what we do instinctively is good for babies. BUT then of course we have to take it too far and now every other article about how to make your baby smarter advises us to "speak parentese." Do we really need to be told this?
I swear I'm not one of those extreme types who thinks experts are evil and we should all go back to some ill-defined halcyon "indigenous" way of child-rearing. But I do think that as parents, we know way more than we give ourselves credit for. And my baby won't be held back in the third grade if I don't work on her fine motor skills.
Edited to add: I don't object to things like teaching babies sign language (it helps you communicate, after all), or making an effort to read to them regularly, and I admit to spending five minutes in front of the mirror this morning with Bat Girl trying to teach her to blow kisses...but what I object to is this idea that we, as parents, have to invest so much time and effort into helping kids acquire skills and meet milestones that they do just fine meeting on their own.
Speaking of sitting in front of the mirror, this might illustrate what I mean: Every night after BG's bath, I wrap her in a towel and then before we head into her bedroom to get her dressed, I stand in front of the mirror and we "say hi to the cute baby!" BG grins at herself delightedly and I wave to the cute baby in the mirror. Sometimes she holds her hand up in the air like she's trying to wave too. A few days ago, I noticed that she was actually turning her head to study my hand going back and forth as I waved--then turning back to the mirror to try to duplicate the movement herself. She's learning how to wave by mimicking me, which is what babies do naturally. I didn't set out to "teach" her to wave. I haven't been putting any special effort into helping her acquire this skill. I just did what came instinctively to me--waving at the cute baby in the mirror, and when BG responded to that, doing it again and again--and she did what came instinctively to her.
I think it's too easy to get caught up in the "25 ways to make your kid smarter" parenting-magazine thing, and think that you have to be doing something special to help your kid learn (like consciously making yourself speaking parentese, as opposed to just doing what comes naturally), when all a little baby really needs is for you to love them and play with them and talk to them. Which, hopefully, you would do anyway. Am I making sense?