Working at Bright Horizons Family Solutions in Deer Park, Susan Marie Schulhof has gained more than a decade of experience working with the Barrington area’s tiniest residents.
She is sharing that knowledge through “Fun4Babies,” a book with 52 activities parents or teachers can do with infants. It can be bought as an e-book or in paperback through Schulhof.
How long have you been working with babies?
I have been an infant teacher with Bright Horizons Family Solutions since 2001. In addition to raising my own three daughters, I have always had a love for infants. I baby-sat when I was younger, and my parents were foster parents to three different infants when I was a teenager, as well.
What is your favorite thing about working with babies?
I love working with infants because I feel like I make such a difference in their lives. I always say that they may not remember me specifically, but they will remember being loved. I also love reassuring parents that I love my job and will take excellent care of their child.
When and how did you decide to write a book?
I have always had a love of reading books and a desire to become a writer. Before I had children, I had worked in social work, sales and elementary education. Then, after my divorce, I started working in early childhood with infants. Whenever I tell anyone that I am an infant teacher, they inevitably ask me, “What do you teach an infant?” My answers always trigger more questions about taking care of infants. I was at a training seminar for work in 2009 when I first came up with the idea that it would make a great book.
Describe the process of putting the book together.
I started out writing down all of the activities that I implement with infants at work. I wrote down all of (the) areas of learning and tried to make sure that I had a variety. The first draft of the book was more about the specifics of what you teach infants through taking care of them and doing the different activities on a daily basis. I even had chapters about what a day at the child care center is like for an infant. To see if there was interest in this topic, I started a blog in 2010 that was originally called “What do you teach an infant?” This eventually evolved into the blog called Fun4Babies Book.
I started looking into publishing in 2011. A publisher that specialized only in educational books suggested that I look for books similar to this and submit my book to that publisher. As I looked at the bookstores, I realized that there were many books about baby names and putting infants to sleep but not many about infant activities. I took out the chapters that were more specific about child care centers and retooled it into 52 activities a parent or teacher could implement with an infant. Now I have had requests for what to do after the first year, so maybe a Fun4Toddlers book is in the future.
Why do you think activities like the ones in your book are so important?
The activities are important because I feel that they really stimulate cognitive development. Studies have supported the importance of nurturing and interacting with infants, and these activities are a wonderful way to do that. Although I repeat all of these activities sometimes daily, weekly and monthly at work, in the book, they are listed as one activity a week. The first few weeks are simple ones since many new parents are just overwhelmed with having an infant, but they are all easy to do. When my children were young, I gave them rattles, read books and sang to them. I remember one day, my mother said, “You should get her some stacking cups.” I was college educated and valued the importance of learning, yet I never thought about what I was teaching my own infant.
What is the most important thing new parents should know?
There are quite a few things I would have wanted someone to say to me when I was a new parent, but that would be another whole article. Most importantly, they should know that this time in their infant’s life goes by very fast. They should try to enjoy it and not try to do everything “perfect.” These activities should be a fun and loving way to interact with their children. Although each activity has learning benefits, the infants will just enjoy doing activities with you.
Is the Barrington area a good place to raise children? Why?
I have lived in Barrington since 2001, and it has been wonderful place to raise my daughters. My three children, with my last one a junior in Barrington High School, all went through the Barrington schools and have received a great education.
There are so many opportunities available to families in the Barrington area. Being a single mother, we have never had an abundance of money yet we never went without food or shelter. Since my daughters were young, I have always stressed the importance of helping others. We have volunteered, through my work, with an organization called WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) since they were little girls.
I wanted them to understand that since we have so much happiness in our lives, we need to share that with others.