When it comes to giving moms a great start in their parenthood phase of life, babies are born ready. But to get the most out of being a parent, you’ll need to make sure that your little one is prepared for all their big adventures.
As your infant’s 24-hour partner, you as a mom are responsible for making sure that he or she is safe, stimulated and developing healthily. Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.
Within the first 12 months of your baby’s life, they are learning how to focus their attention and identify faces, colours and sounds. Soon they’ll be teething, babbling and exploring objects with a great deal of curiosity as their motor skills develop. But how do you support this development between all the diaper changes, feedings and naps? The answer is simple: playtime.
Each time a child plays, they find themselves in situations that present several different ways and opportunities to learn something new. Play helps children understand more about how the world works and develops the necessary social, language and communication skills that remain with them for life.
A child’s success in life depends on strong foundations developed from infancy. Here are a few easy, quick and fun activities that can be used to encourage the development of your bundle of joy.
1. Tummy Time
Tummy Time is when your baby is placed on their tummy with their weight on their forearms for a short period of time while awake. It helps babies build head, neck and upper body strength, as well as muscles and find balance. The ideal time for tummy time is after your baby has had a diaper change or just woken up from a nap.
For 2-3 times a day, place your baby on their tummy with their hands outstretched for approximately 3-5 minutes each time. As your baby strengthens and grows, increase tummy time and place a soft toy within touch distance to encourage reaching and crawling.
2. Pull Fun Faces
The happier and more exaggerated the better. From birth, babies are hardwired to recognise faces. Exaggerated features and wide smiles are more attractive to babies as they see these expressions as more powerful versions of a face. If your baby is a little older and responds to the sound of your voice, try to get them to copy what you do. This activity will help your baby develop facial motor skills, listening skills and language skills.
3. Read a Story
Even at a tender age, your baby remembers some of the sounds that they’ve heard before. Hearing words read aloud helps a baby’s language skills develop and gets them familiar with different sounds and words. It also helps to expand their vocabulary through more complex words that are not always overheard in day-to-day conversation.
4. Eyes and Smiles
The eye gaze is one of the first milestones babies achieve. Everywhere a baby looks, their eyes are providing information and stimulation. Eye contact is a non-verbal form of communication that lays the foundations for verbal communication. When making eye contact with your little one, if they smile, smile back. This will further develop their social responses.
5. Talk to Your Baby
Your baby will be exposed to language from birth, even though babies don’t have control of the ability to understand language until the age of 2-3 months. During this time, your baby will hear other people’s speech and will be exposed to talking as they communicate with you and other people. Talking to your baby will also allow you to understand how babies learn languages. When your baby is babbling gibberish to you, they are learning how to recognise sounds.
6. Sing Lullabies
The more you sing to your child, the better. As a result, your baby will be more likely to learn how to vocalise and coo back. They will also be more likely to sing in the future. Of course, you need to choose songs that your baby likes. Try songs that encourage early vocalisation such as Hush Little Baby and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When singing, start as softly as possible, gradually increasing the volume as you go.
7. Play Peekaboo
Peekaboo is often the first game people play with babies and is also the infant’s first experience with play. Peekaboo teaches babies about disappearing, reappearing and object permanence, which is the ability to understand that objects are still present even if they can’t be seen. The game can be played at any age to stimulate your baby’s senses, strengthen their visual tracking skills and allow them to access their sense of humour.
8. Different Textures and Surfaces
Newborns explore their environment with their hands, feet and mouth. They don’t understand the world as we do yet, but the sights and textures that they encounter help shape their brains. Understanding and identifying different textures in the world contributes to a rich sensory language that allows babies to successfully distinguish between animals, plants, foods, different surfaces and fabrics. This makes texture a significant part of the sensory language that babies receive every day.
9. Bring In Toys
Not only do babies need to play with many different types of toys, but they also need to explore their world and discover the various objects and actions around them. Toys are great for this as they provide a safe place for a baby to learn, develop problem-solving skills and unlock their imagination.
These activities, while seemingly simple, play a significant role in the complexity of childhood development. Never leave your baby unattended while attempting any of the aforementioned activities and always ensure that they are done in a safe and monitored environment.