As a parent, you want to help your baby develop as much as possible. Infants often learn best through interaction and play, and by doing interactive activities with them, you can help your child develop and grow! Even with very young infants, some simple activities can help with child development, as well as strengthen the bond between parent and baby. The activities listed below are developed for a variety of child development, for example sensory, motor-coordination and cognitive development.
Activities for Infants
- Song and Dance
Music is a wonderful way to engage your baby into learning about rhythm and sound, no matter what age they are. With infants, even holding them and swaying to music is a fun way to introduce music to them – and can be a great way to soothe them to sleep! For slightly older babies, you can encourage some motor coordination and rhythm by dancing with your child and teaching them to clap, sway and move to music. Singing can help your child with his/her language development as well, as you can experiment with different pitches and sounds.
This works well for stimulation! While sitting up, lie your baby with his/her tummy facing down across your lap. Hold your baby with your hands firmly on either side of the midsection, and lift him/ her gently up into the air. You can move your baby around like an airplane – up down, sideways and diagonally. Be sure to do this activity over a soft carpet and to keep low, should any wriggling occur! Babies often love seeing things from different perspectives – and the more sound affects you give, the better. Not only will your baby be stimulated, but will also develop muscle tone by subconsciously activating stabilizer muscles when responding to movement.
- Faces and Expressions
While it may seem simple, spending time just pulling different faces to your baby is extremely stimulating for them. They learn to pick up expressions, and may even attempt to try face-pulling themselves. This helps to engage facial muscles while learning to attach meaning to different expressions.
- Picture Books
These are great for stimulating your child’s vision. While very young infants may not exactly understand everything that you show them, they learn much more than we realize. Picture books are a fun and educational way of engaging with your baby, and will introduce them to creativity, imagination and even reading for the future!
- Shadow Puppets
This provides fun for both the parent and baby! All you need is a torch, a dimly lit room, and your imagination. Shine the torch at a wall, and make shadows by holding your hand in front of the torch light. You can get creative and include some paper puppets and sound effects for a full show! This is guaranteed to capture your baby’s attention, as it will let them explore light, depth and movement as you play around with shadows.
- Toy and Container
This one is a simple yet clever activity that encourages your baby to learn on his/her own. All you need is a safe container (plastic Tupperware, basket or plastic jar) and a few toys/items to handle. Place the toy inside the container and let your baby watch you take it in and out. Allow them to test it out themselves. This game is great, as it can vary with the type of container (i.e. with or without a lid, or different shapes and sizes). It can also differ with the type of toys used, for example using one large toy, or a multitude of little items. Explore with shape, size and color to make it more interesting. This is excellent for hand/eye motor-coordination, as well as cognitive development.
- Testing Out Textures
This can be done in a variety of ways, all you need to do is look around! Try finding materials around the house that have different textures for your baby to touch and feel. If you have a children’s book of different textures, that works too, but it can be more fun to take your baby around the house to touch and feel the different surfaces. For example, some carpets are fluffy, while some floors are hard and smooth. Walk your baby around the rooms, feel the walls, touch items of strange textures, go outside and feel the grass, touch a leaf and explore the world! Just be aware of safety, as not all surfaces are safe to touch – you don’t want your baby cutting a hand, nor touching something that could contain harmful chemicals.
So, there you have it, a multitude of ideas that can simulate and engage your baby. As your infant gets older, there is a whole range of other developmental activities that will help further your child’s growth. Early learning years of a child’s development are most important (and most rapid) phase of development, so do your research on the kind of preschools that you want your child to attend. You want to find preschools that focus on holistic, early childhood development, for example Providence Children’s Academy. After all, your child will grow up so fast, and it’s vital to make the most of these early learning years!