parenting q&a

From how to stimulate your little one’s mind to controlling sleeping patterns, Samantha Malkoun and Genevieve Newell of Future Kids answers all your parenting questions… 

Q.) Any tips on how I can stimulate/educate my four-month-old? She doesn’t do much yet…

Samantha: The first few years of life lay the neurological foundation for intellectual growth. Babies at four months can pick out more subtle colour contrasts, so introduce books or flashcards with black, white and red colours. Studies show that babies taught with flash cards develop their senses of sight and hearing faster, so introduce cards with big pictures, words and numbers making sure to change the category every few days.

Speaking to your baby, laughing, cooing and copying the sounds that she makes, will help your baby learn language. Varying the pitch of your voice, using different accents, singing, and making silly noises will make reading together much more interesting. Reading is one of my absolute favourite activities to do with a child of any age, and if you can introduce this at the youngest possible age, she will enjoy it for life.

Your baby is becoming more dexterous. Fill a “sensory basket” of varying textures – sticky, silky, rough, fury and fluffy – and allow your baby to hold and explore the items, or tickle the soles of her feet with them. Engaging her senses is highly stimulating and leads to an enquiring mind.

Play different genres of music, tapping different parts of her body to the beat. You can also encourage her to turn her head in the direction of different sound sources, so that she becomes more aware of her environment.

Take a scarf and let it fly high into the air and settle on your baby’s head – this peek-a-boo game also encourages self-awareness. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have with simple things found in your home.

Q.) French parents believe that babies should be sleeping through the night by three months, while childcare author Gina Ford believes in feeding (and waking) babies at 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 11pm, 3am, 7am. Which school of thought do you side with?

Genevieve: First, I think we need to clarify that when the French (or indeed anyone!) say “sleep through the night”, they do not mean unbroken sleep from 7pm to 7am. So don’t beat yourself up if your baby isn’t doing that!

What is meant by this statement is that by three months old your baby should be sleeping from the last late night feed, which is usually around 11pm until the first early morning feed, usually  5.30am. This is not an unrealistic expectation, and with a little bit of organisation you can have your baby well on the way to sleeping in this pattern within a week.

I’m not a big fan of waking sleeping babies, especially in the middle of the night, however the Gina Ford school of thought can be very helpful to first-time parents who have had no contact or experience with babies before, as it provides a very detailed, almost minute-by-minute example of a routine.

Nevertheless, in my 15 years of experience, this quite militant approach can be stressful for mums and dads who are unable to make the routine work for them and it can make them feel like they are doing something wrong, or that there is something wrong with their baby. No two babies are the same so I often advise parents to take her advice with a pinch of salt, and not to stress too much about adhering to rigid timetables. Stressed parents equal stressed babies, which means that nobody is getting a good night’s sleep!

If you’re looking for someone to help you with your baby’s sleep training woes, I can recommend Cecile De Scally of Babysense Dubai.

Send all your parenting Q&As to us at with Parenting in the subject