Babies learn through experiences and they learn through exposure. We want to give our babies all of that, plus the sun, moon, and stars. A great way to introduce new experiences and give them exposure to different concepts, sensations, and items is to play with them.
EVERYTHING IS LEARNING TO A BABY!
You already know it’s important to play with your baby our toddler—the right kind of play isn’t just fun, it’s also interesting, educational and a bonding experience. But figuring out how to interact with a scrunched-up newborn and how to happily occupy an unruly 14-month-old are their own unique challenges.
Babies develop at different rates so if your baby doesn’t seem ready for a certain activity, try it again in a month or two. Your baby also could downright hate an activity. That’s normal too! Find something that makes you both happy.
Here are just a few actives that your baby or toddler may like.
3 months: Put a twist on tummy time
Babies need tummy time to strengthen their back, neck and abdominal muscles, but many don’t like being placed facedown on the floor. So instead, try laying baby tummy-down on top of a soccer ball or kickball. Hold baby securely and move him or her around in circles, forward and backward. You can even place toys close to baby to encourage reaching for them, or set out an infant mirror so baby can see himself or herself.
8 months: Make musical instruments
Babies love to experiment with different sounds. Arm baby with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, and demonstrate how to pound on pots, pans or plastic containers out of the kitchen cupboards. Try turning on some music; a few babies will drum or sway right along with the beat.
12 months: Put together a puzzle
Simple wooden puzzles are great for children starting at one year of age, and they help to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. Start with puzzles with just a few pieces and chunky wooden handles, since the handles are easier for small, chubby hands to grasp than regular puzzle pieces
16 months: Play with blocks
By now, your child has the physical dexterity to pick up and rearrange blocks, and may enjoy stacking them up and knocking them down. (Most toddlers love making messes!) Some kids like to use the blocks to create roadways and structures for cars and other toys too. Try putting out a variety of small toys with the blocks and see what your child does.
20 months: Water play
Toss some plastic measuring cups into the tub or kiddie pool to open up a whole new window of learning for your child. Let your child play, experiment and make observations. If you want to play along, try filling a half-cup container and pouring it into a one-cup container. Then fill the one-cup measure and have your child try to dump the contents into the half-cup container. It won’t fit!