How to enrich your baby’s development through play
Read on for helpful tips for enriching your baby's development through play.
Cuddling, kisses, pats, soothing words, singing, reading, smiles, silly faces and giggles — these are all essential to your baby’s emotional and mental well-being and development. While they can come from siblings, grandparents or caregivers, the best and most effective ‘source,’ of course, is mum and dad.
There are plenty of things you can do to help your baby develop their mental and emotional skills — and playing with her is one of them.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your little one’s development through play, here are a few suggestions:
Birth to 3 months
Babies this young thrive on touch and the sound of your voice. They will be stimulated in a positive way by your singing and by your recitation of nursery rhymes.
An infant’s attention span doesn’t really come into play yet, so reading storybooks with colorful illustrations that are not too detailed will be enjoyable for her too.
You can also try putting on some music, holding your baby close and ‘dancing’ with them. The gentle swaying will be comforting and the sound of the music will help them learn to distinguish sounds.
You can also help develop their muscles and flexibility by exercising their arms and legs with gentle pumping and bicycle movements.
4 to 8 months
Your baby can now sit up — with or without assistance — and can hold her head up. She will also be able to reach for things and hold onto things for limited periods of time.
Therefore, in addition to the activities you’ve already been doing with your baby, you can try the following:
Give them different textures to feel with their hands and against their face. Let them hold onto a silk scarf, a terrycloth washcloth, a leather coin purse, a velvet headband, etc.
Babies this age will also enjoy watching and possibly even trying to ‘catch’ bubbles. The new colorful ones will make the experience even more delightful.
Peek-a-boo, ‘this little piggy’ and tickle games are favorites of babies this age, as are colorful board books that are short, sweet and to the point. Those that simply name things (shapes, animals, clothing, foods, household items, etc.) are especially helpful at this age.
This may also the best time to start taking your baby on walks and excursions to a variety of places such as the zoo, nature trails and botanical gardens to allow them to take in the sights and sounds.
9 months to 1 year
In addition to everything mentioned on the previous page, babies this age love to play in the water. With close and constant supervision, your baby will enjoy splashing in the tub, filling small containers with water and dumping them out (over and over and over and over again) and trying to wash themselves.
At 9 to 12 months old, most babies will be crawling and possibly even walking. Giving them a variety of textures to walk on (grass, carpet, sand, tile, wood) and even more textures to feel (sand, rocks, cotton batting, silk, satin, dirt, etc.) will heighten their senses.
Babies this age are also able to learn where their eyes, nose, mouth, etc. are and point to them when asked. Some babies will also be able to imitate simple animal sounds, too.
The attention span of a baby this age is limited so you will need to keep books short and sweet. Rhyming books or those with interactive components usually work well.
Other games you can play with your 9 to 12 month old include rolling a ball back and forth, stacking blocks and playing with simple percussion instruments made for little ones.
12 to 18 months
Your baby will be walking and talking more and more each day during this time in their life. This means they are going to be searching for new and exciting ways to learn and play — leaving the door wide open for you to introduce them to a number of fun and educational games and learning experiences.
You can continue teaching them to identify their body parts, animal sounds and sounds of other common items such as a bell, siren, train and so forth. You should also add emotions to the mix at this age — make a sad face, happy face, mean face, scary face, etc.
Blocks, balls, sidewalk chalk, washable markers and crayons (used under adult supervision), stacking and sorting toys, and simple puzzles are all good ways to help develop their cognitive and motor skills.
Now while you can and should encourage your baby to play independently so that they can entertain themselves, it is just as important for you to spend a good amount of time each day playing and interacting with them — teaching them how to stack, sort, etc.
Babies this age will also enjoy swinging on the swing set, chasing bubbles around the yard, splashing in the tub and wading pool, picking flowers, petting animals and exploring the ‘great outdoors’.
A baby’s sense of taste and smell are also in need of attention during this time. You can introduce them to different smells by letting them smell flowers, candles, spices, perfumes and lotions.
As for taste, your baby will be eating more and more table food during these months.
While this is a good thing, it is important to be careful not to introduce too many new tastes and textures too quickly. Doing so can cause tummy trouble.
You will also be able to better detect any possible food allergies or sensitivities by going slowly. Do take note, too, that it is dangerous to give honey to a baby under the age of 2.
Babies are nothing short of amazing. From their first tiny cries to forever, they own the hearts of their parents. And that is as it should be.
Of course, parents should do their best to enrich their children’s development through play and other age-appropriate activities. Our children are, after all, our responsibility, so let’s make the most of our time with them.
What are the ways you enrich your baby’s development through play? Share them with us by leaving a comment!