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Sharing attention is when parents show things to baby and talk with them about it. It's important learning for baby and it deepens their relationship with parents as well.

In the Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 2, under ‘Whānau say’ (page 5), it talks about noticing the sorts of things baby likes to play with – things with different colours, shapes and textures and things that make sounds.

Ask whānau:

  • What have you and baby been up to since we met last?
  • What’s baby interested in at the moment?
  • How do they show you that they’re interested?
  • Does baby have favourite things they like to play with?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • Do you notice baby being interested in what you have or are looking at?

Affirm what parents have been noticing.

Learning through sharing attention

When the parents show things to baby and talk with them about it, it’s called ‘sharing attention’ – and this is really how a baby learns about the world.

Baby watches their parents and takes their cues from them. They not only learn from what they parents say, but also from facial expressions and tone of voice.

Ways to share attention

Here’s an example of how you might show the whānau some ways of sharing attention:

  • ‘I have some things here that baby might be interested in looking at – they’re not really toys, but more like things to explore.
  • ‘What do we have here? A piece of coloured material, a wooden peg, a block, a small book, a spoon and a plastic cup.
  • ‘Let’s check that they’re all safe for baby to explore. It’s important that they’re big enough that baby can’t choke on them and that the edges are rounded so baby can’t cut or hurt themselves.’

Remind parents that mouthing is the most common way a baby will explore at this stage. And baby doesn’t need lots and lots of things to explore at once – 3 or 4 is plenty.

  • ‘You choose which ones to offer baby, and let’s see which baby goes for first.
  • ‘What are you noticing about what baby chooses and what they do with it?’

Baby’s busy brain

Breaking down all the different ways a baby explores highlights how busy their little brain is.

Explain to whānau that baby is looking, reaching, grasping, holding, examining, turning, changing things from hand to hand, mouthing, shaking things and dropping things. And they’ll repeat those actions over and over, which is strengthening the connections in their brains.

  • What could you say and do to let baby know you think it’s interesting too?

When parents show baby that they’re interested too – by smiling, nodding, looking surprised, commenting or describing what they see baby focusing on – they’re providing a rich learning experience through this shared attention. Baby will enjoy it, and the relationship between baby and parents is also being strengthened.

  • What are some other ways you and baby could share attention?

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby Wall Frieze – Ka taea au ki te mātakitaki – I can watch

Six things children need – Te kōrero me te whakarongo – Talking and listening

Helpful resources for whānau