A baby’s brain is very flexible. Although there are areas specialized for certain functions like language and movement, it is her everyday experiences that determine the kind and strength of the brain connections. But we cannot separate the actual experiences from the emotional context in which they occur. Just meeting a baby’s physical needs is not enough. For your baby to thrive she must receive social interaction and nurturing love. She needs YOU!!!
So what can you do to help your infant learn, grow and develop intellectually and emotionally? Following is a list of activities and experiences you can share with your baby that will not only help her brain to develop, but also strengthen the bonding and attachment that is so crucial for her to thrive.
Birth to 12 months:
- Engage your baby with eye contact while you talk or sing to her.
- READ to her. It doesn’t matter what you read, but do so with emotion and a soothing tone.
- Use gentle touch. While holding her stroke her skin, touch her fingers and toes, put her hand against your face, and rub her back. This can be done anytime during the day but is especially fun outside on a blanket on a warm day.
- Play with her using a mirror. Hold her with her back against you as you both face a wall mirror. Make silly faces, stick out your tongue, SMILE—it is great fun when she imitates you!
- Hang a musical mobile above the bed. (Make sure she can see the figures as they spin). There are numerous types of toys on the market that have colorful items hanging down so she can look, kick, and reach for them. Be sure to alternate her view by switching her from her tummy to her back or sitting upright in a bouncy chair. Always supervise your baby during these activities.
- Show and then hold out various objects like rattles, teething rings, and soft toys, and watch her reach for them. Describe the item and ask questions. She won’t be able to answer you with words just yet, but you are developing a strong connection and encouraging language skills.
- Play ‘pat-a- cake’, ‘peek-a-boo’ and ‘where did it go?’ Hide toys under blankets and containers, then pull the cover away and watch her surprise.
- Let her make some noise by banging on pots with a large plastic spoon, shake rattles, or just pat with her hand on the table.
- Don’t forget water play. Older babies love to play and splash in water. Give her cups and funnels so she can practice pouring. NEVER leave your baby alone in or near water! Babies can drown in 1 inch of water!
- Use hand puppets to tell a story.
- As your child becomes more mobile she will enjoy many push- pull toys.
- Talk and read about different animals and make their sounds.