Learning through play

baby learning through playThe art of play is a vital tool for a baby. Babies are often learning through play by watching and interaction. It helps babies develop key skills they will use later as well as encourage socialization, development and intelligence. Don’t buy into the expensive DVD sets that claim to teach and engage your baby. The best thing to engage and entertain your baby is you.

Though the idea of sitting a child in front of the TV seems appealing to keep them occupied as you do things around the house, it should never take the place of physical interaction. In fact, experts are now suggesting to limit exposure to TV and background noise in children younger than 2 as it has been shown to actually hinder social skills! There is no better substitute than your own voice and interaction.

Chores are piling up?

We’re parents too and we understand you can’t devote your every waking moment to your baby. For these times, a bouncy seat or high chair works wonders! I recommend a bouncy seat for young babies who are not able to support their head or sit up just yet. With older babies you can just pop them into the high chair. I would bring my son in the kitchen with me and I would dance and sing to him while washing dishes or preparing supper. Just giving him my attention was thrilling to him and he loved the silly dances I would perform.
baby eating on seat
Babies are naturally drawn to faces. Simply looking at, talking, singing, and making different facial expressions can enlighten your baby. Likewise, a mirror makes a great toy for any baby. Many toys available today feature a baby-safe mirror for capturing their attention to ‘another baby’. When my daughter was little I would put her in her car seat and place her in front of the full-length mirror in our bedroom while I got ready when we would leave to go somewhere.

Here are some games and activities that you can do with your baby at different ages and stages of development.

Newborns 0-3 months

During the first few months babies can only focus on objects that are about a foot in front of them so close-range play is ideal. It’s a little early for baby to actually play with toys as they aren’t capable of grasping objects this young, but here are some activities you can do to play with your little one.

  • Play finger puppets
  • Play copycat – babies like to imitate you so make silly faces and stick out your tongue then wait a few moments and watch your baby try to do it too
  • Roll a ball or toy within vision range while baby is on her tummy
  • ‘Clap’ baby’s feet together
  • Hang a mobile over the playpen

Babies 3-6 months

By this stage babies are becoming more aware of how the world around them works and learning through play and observation. Babies at this age can understand that certain words sound like their connotation so singing-games are a great way to engage with your child.

  • Sing and act out songs with sound effects
  • Offer baby toys and baby-safe objects of different textures and shapes
  • Hold toys just in front of your baby while on his/her tummy and move them in an arch above their head so that they follow it with their eyes.
  • Play simple hiding games with baby’s toys and let her watch you as you ‘find’ them.

    Picture from Sinister Dexter

Babies 6-9 Months

This is where the fun begins. By now your baby is most likely sitting up on his own and rolling over. Some babies around this age may even have begun crawling.

  • Give your baby handmade rattles to shake such as a securely-sealed canister with rice or beans.
  • Use soft or plastic blocks to play with your baby. Stack them up and let her go at them. (Since babies this young typically put everything in their mouth I would advise against wooden blocks until they are older)
  • Play Peek-a-Boo
  • Tickle songs or nursery rhymes such as ‘This little Piggy’

Babies 9-12 months

Your baby should be much more active and possibly more mobile by this stage and is ready to amp it up.

  • Give them items from the kitchen to make ‘music’ with (i.e. pots and spoons)
  • Reading a book with noticeable pictures and action words
  • Bring your baby outside and the let them explore new textures like the grass on their feet
  • If your baby is learning to pull himself up, look towards getting a toy table or arrange objects that are safe for him to use to pull up on

You don’t need to go out and buy a ton of toys with bells and whistles to engage your baby in play. There are many fun games that you can do with your baby yourself. You can even use things around the house that your baby is sure to love. My kids always loved to play with boxes or in a laundry basket. Make up games and be silly; just be sure to be safe by not offering items that could be potentially hazardous. You will soon see how easy learning through play can be for your baby with a little creativity.

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