Ideas to Support Baby Development

Parenting

Appropriate for babies from 0-18 months.

Games such as pat-a-cake have lasted through the years because they work so well with, and offer so much to, infants. They provide opportunities for social interaction, imitation, touch, rhythmic awareness and yet another chance for Baby to hear your voice.

Following are other games you can play with Baby. But first, here are three points to keep in mind when deciding what and when to play:

  1. As you choose activities to do with Baby, consider providing a variety of opportunities based on her level of skill development. You’ll want to select activities she can easily master and those that provide practice in areas she is still developing. Remember, too, that repetition is essential in early childhood. Repeat Baby’s favourite activities as often as possible. You’ll tire of them long before she will!
  2. While you’re playing, use language with Baby, describing what you’re doing and what he’s doing or seeing and delighting in his accomplishments. Not only will this provide motivation, but it also will promote Baby’s language development.
  3. Some babies prefer a quiet approach to activity while others prefer a higher level of stimulation, which will affect the nature of your playtime. Baby may even alternate between the two, responding one time to a subdued style and another time to a more vigorous one. Be sensitive to your infant’s moods and energy levels. Plan to play only when she’s well rested and happy, and sense when she’s had enough.

Here are some Fun Activities for you and Baby!

baby-developmentBaby Games: Visual Tracking

Provide Baby with bright, colourful objects to watch. Finger puppets or a brightly coloured sock placed on your hand can be used to gain and keep Baby’s attention. Slowly move your hand up and down, in circles and to the right and left. You might also play “sound” games with Baby. Shake a rattle or other noise-producing object above Baby’s head or to his side, encouraging him to locate the sound. This provides practice with both visual tracking and sound discrimination.

Baby Games: Body Awareness

Sing and demonstrate “Where Is Thumbkin?” Play games such as “This Little Piggy” with both toes and fingers. Touch her nose, exclaiming, “I’ve got your nose!” Then proceed to play the game with other body parts such as toes, ears, fingers and legs. When Baby’s developmentally ready, ask her to find your nose, ears, mouth and so on.

Individuation

There’s nothing like the tried-and-true game of peek-a-boo to help a child begin to see himself as a separate individual. It also makes babies laugh! Once Baby is familiar with this game, you can move on to “Where’s Mummy?” Begin by placing your hands over your face, just as you would with peek-a-boo. Later, hide your whole self behind a piece of furniture, asking, “Where’s Mummy?” You then pop up, answering, “Here’s Mummy!”

Baby Games: Eye-hand Coordination

Any activity during which Baby is reaching for or batting an object promotes eye-hand coordination. Another option, appropriate for infants as young as 3 months, is to sew a bell or bells onto an elastic band that you can slip on Baby’s wrists or ankles. Once on, gently shake the body part until Baby looks at it.

Also, when Baby is able to sit unassisted, make him comfortable on the floor, legs apart. Sit opposite him in a similar manner and roll a large, brightly coloured ball toward him. Describe what you’re doing, and encourage him to push it back to you. Another possibility is to give her two large paper or plastic cups, one of which is filled with dry cereal, and encourage her to pour the cereal from one cup to the other. Because this can be a messy activity, it’s best to first prepare the floor area with a large vinyl tablecloth!

Baby Games: Imitation

Babies are great at mimicking, and at about 10 months of age they have a greater understanding of what they’re doing and really enjoy it. Surprisingly enough, imitating is an important skill, as the ability to physically replicate what the eyes are seeing comes in handy later for activities such as writing and drawing. Also, imitation helps confirm for babies that they’re like other people.

Play the mirror game with Baby while sitting and facing each other. Stick out your tongue, wiggle your fingers in your ears, and wave your arms up and down, all while encouraging Baby to do likewise. When Baby is ready to figure out how the game is played, encourage him to lead while you imitate.

Later, when Baby is mobile, “Follow the Leader” is a wonderful game to play. It will encourage imitating and also provide practice with walking. Be sure to vary the speed of your movements, the pathways you take (possibilities are straight, curving and zigzagging) and your body’s shape (big, small, wide, etc.).

By playing the simple games described here and others like them, you can foster an early love of physical activity, promote your child’s development and deepen the bond between you and your infant.

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