By Karyn Robinson-Renaud MSW, RSW
The first twelve months with your baby are action packed. They are a time of rapid growth and learning. During this first year is the perfect time to use simple play activities to lay a great foundation for your baby’s future. Below are some fun ideas to get you started on that path.
Simply You. “You are your baby’s favorite toy…” says Sheila Bourgeois. Bourgeois is a program coordinator at a family resource center. She says that you don’t need a lot of toys to support your child’s development. Whether you are singing, reading or making funny faces, your baby will be delighted. Occupational Therapist, Wanh Porter says that the key is to do all of these simple activities face-to-face. She also recommends copying what your baby does. Developmental Targets: Social/Language and Cognitive. One month and up.
Singing Time. Babies love hearing the same songs sung to them many times says public health nurse, Shelley Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy recommends doing simple action songs with your baby. Pat- a- cake is a fun favorite. Be sure to bring your child’s hands in front of his face so that he can try out the actions too, reminds Shaugnessy. Developmental Targets: Social/Language and Cognitive. One month and up.
Bubble Play. Did you know that bubbles are great for body awareness? Bourgeois explains that when bubbles pop on your baby’s body, it brings her attention to that area. Regardless of your baby’s age, she will enjoy watching you blow and pop bubbles says Bourgeois. You can also introduce simple words like “up” and “pop”. Developmental Targets: Cognitive, Gross Motor, Fine Motor and Social/Language. One month and up.
Reading Time. You can bring books to life for your baby with your animated voice. With older babies, get books that they can hold and turn the pages of suggests Shaughnessy. She also recommends choosing books with simple words and pictures that you point to as you read. Developmental Targets: Social/Language, Cognitive and Fine Motor. One month and up.
Kitchen Band. Allow your little ones to explore their musical side with your pots or a plastic container recommends Porter. They can use their hands or a spoon to create their own rhythms. Your baby will start to learn basic math skills by playing around with simple rhythm activities, explains Bourgeois. Developmental Targets: Cognitive, Social/Language and Gross Motor. Eight months and up.
Hiding Fun. Initiate simple hide-and-seek games with your baby by going under blankets or behind furniture says Porter. Encourage your little one to try hiding from you as well. Developmental Targets: Gross Motor, Cognitive, and Social. Six months and up.
Ball Play. Porter suggests using different sized balls with different textures to teach the game of catch. Your baby will develop hand-eye coordination as she gets the hang of the game, explains Porter. Developmental Targets: Fine and Gross Motor, Cognitive and Social. Eight months and up.
Discovery Box. Turn an empty tissue box into a sensory game suggests Bourgeois. Decorate the outside of the box and then fill it with clean fabrics that have different textures and prints explains Bourgeois. She recommends that parents encourage their baby to pull some fabric out of the box and then help baby explore it with his hands and mouth. Developmental Targets: Fine Motor, Cognitive and Social/Language. Six months and up.
Movement Fun. Put favorite toys around the room for your little ones to get to any way that they like, says Shaughnessy. Feel free to get on the floor with your baby to model fun ways of moving. Developmental Targets: Gross Motor, Cognitive and Social. Nine months and up.
Mini Monet. Make your own paint with cornstarch, water and food coloring, suggests Bourgeois (see recipe in side bar.) Encourage your little Monet to paint with her fingers or a brush. Consider also offering different textured things to paint with like sponge shaped animals. Developmental Targets: Cognitive, Gross and Fine Motor and Social. Six months and up.
Most importantly, focus on having fun with your baby. The bond you create through engaging your baby in playful ways will create a great foundation for his development.