How Everyday Activities Can Stimulate Early Learning
Last week I presented a brief overview about how every interaction you have with your baby helps stimulate their brain, starting from day one. This week, we are going to hone in on the first three months, focusing specifically on playtime. Now that your baby is easing their way out of “survival mode”, and spending a little more time every day using energy for things other than basic needs, it’s important to use this time wisely, not only to bond with your baby, but to help them develop their motor skills, and expend energy so they can sleep better. All of this, plus interaction with you, promotes brain development! Even utilizing just one or two of these playtime activities each day, will help your little peanut become a smarty pants in no time!
Face Time – As in, Face To Face time with your baby! Research has shown that babies find faces more engaging than anything else during their early stages of development. Even with toys or bright colors in front of them, they will choose to look at your face every time. What faces do they prefer? The smiling, wide eyed faces, of their caregivers, looking them right in the eye, and responding to all the cute things they are doing! The most important thing about face time is that it helps further cement the bond between the two of you. This is the most simple, most engaging, and the most pleasurable type of playtime for your baby.
Chit Chat – Talking to your baby during face time takes the level of engagement and stimulation one step further, but you should also talk to them during everyday tasks. Tell your baby what you’re doing! The more they hear you talk about changing their diapers, the more they will begin to associate sounds and words with actions. Infants are drawn to higher pitched sounds, so don’t be afraid to use “baby talk”. That’s what they are doing, after all! It’s called infant directed speech, and especially for preemies, it can be beneficial to development of their auditory cortex (the part of the brain that processes sounds). Once your baby hits the three month mark, start taking them on walking tours of the house, and point out objects by their names. Say the names of their body parts as you touch them during bath time – belly button, fingers, toes, nose – and help them make the connection between language and objects.
Singing and Dancing – We’ve talked about singing to your baby a million times, but we haven’t covered dancing yet! Think about Pat-A-Cake, Patty Cake for a second, and how the singing goes along with the hand motions. The song instructs your baby what to do with their hands, and in turn, helps them learn to coordinate motions and gestures for functional use. Take a few of these classics, and hold your baby’s hands to help them with the hand gestures as you sing the song to them! Itsy Bitsy Spider, If You’re Happy and You Know It, and The Wheels On The Bus.
Looking and Touching – During the first three months, your baby goes from barely being able to focus their eyes, to being able to identify familiar faces from across the room! Giving your baby something to focus on will continue to help strengthen their eyesight, and being able to touch that something will be even better for their motor skill development! Go for contrasting colors, like black and white, and slowly moving objects to start. Avoid the television though. There will be plenty of time for screens later in life! Having some items hanging from a play gym can encourage some hand-eye coordination by enticing your baby to reach for the colorful items they find so interesting. Introducing different textures will help them start to differentiate tactile sensations as well, which contributes to gross and fine motor development later on, and encourages them to explore the world around them through their sense of touch!
The biggest takeaway here is that boosting brain development isn’t rocket science. The biggest thing, as we said from the start, is INTERACTION! Most of this will come instinctively for you, just because you LOVE your baby, and you love seeing all the precious little things they can do! Chances are, you’ve been doing at least a few of these things already! So give yourself a pat on the back, and tell yourself how awesome you are! Then turn to your baby, and exchange a big, wide eyed smile!
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RMHC of Arkoma 1333 Arapaho Ave, Ste C Springdale, AR 72764 (479) 756-5600