Congratulations on your new baby! If you didn’t know it before, YOU are your baby’s 1st & most teacher! That realization might seem a little daunting if this IS your first baby, but let me reassure you with some information and ideas on how you can support your baby’s development.
Babies grow and learn, ie., develop faster during their first year of life than at any other time!
In fact, your baby’s brain doubles in size during their first year; and the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance, triples in size! That’s a lot of growing alright!!
Early childhood education recognizes four, general developmental domains. They are:
ALL children learn through their senses–touching, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting!
What’s important for you, as a parent, to understand is:
Babies start learning immediately—interacting and reacting to their surroundings via these senses.
CHOOSE ACTIVITIES THAT INCORPORATE or USE THEIR SENSES
For example, during the all-important, physically-developing Tummy Time activity add toys—homemade or store bought (see my Recommendations page)—that make SOUNDS and/or have TEXTURES.
Also, try some of the hands-on, sensory PLAY activities below. Know when children PLAY, they learn so, in addition to being PLAY activities, they’re learning activities!
While visiting with one of my grandbubs, we had a lot of fun trying out different food textures for tactile sensory experiences.
1. There was lumpy, bumpy mashed avocado
2. Slippery, slimy smashed banana
3. Creamy smooth AND cold yogurt
My grandbub is still nursing 100% of the time. I got the okay from his folks, though, that they would have been okay if he’d put his fingers in his mouth to taste any of these items. However, he had absolutely no interest in that, which I found fascinating as essentially everything else goes into his mouth! He’s obviously satisfied with his current meal plan!
One of the aspects of PLAY that makes it so fantastic is it’s the natural way for young children to learn holistically. When children engage in PLAY, they grow in more than one developmental area at a time. PLAY enables a synergistic growth and development across multiple—sometimes all—areas! With sensory PLAY, there’re layers of learning happening with natural scaffolding between layers!
For instance, keeping with a sensory experience, my grandbub’s favorite book, at the moment, is Puppy Tails by Jellycat. It has crunchy, crinkly sounding outer pages
soft, squishy inner pages
PLUS different dog tails to feel, pull…or in our case, put in the mouth!
I must admit, for me, the given text didn’t necessarily describe the tails the way I would, but as a sensory experience Puppy Tails rates Top Dog! So, do what I do and make up your own text!
Choose books to read, or sing, to your baby that’ll make them curious or spark their interest. Books with rhyming text and pictures with contrasting patterns, bright colors and/or textures that create sound(s) are perfect! Additionally, babies’ love hearing your voice—the intonations, animation, audibility—and will internalize those characteristics as their brain is on hyper-speed learning. Reading is an ideal activity for Cognitive Development. NOTE: Language skills fall under this large developmental umbrella.
Your baby’s Emotional and Social Development are also impacted during your cozy reading times together. Snuggled up together with a story is a wonderful way to deepen their sense of trust and reinforce their sense of attachment, furthering their emotional development. Reading together also encourages your baby to look, point, touch, and answer questions — all of which promotes social development as well as cognitive skills.
Last, but not least: When babies are read to regularly, and they sense your joy and excitement over this special time together, they’ll start to associate books with happiness…and voila!! A life-long reader is born!
A go-to sensory material for babies is WATER! Whether in the bathtub, at the sink, fountains at a neighborhood park, or your own backyard, wading pool, water is both fascinating as it is soothing; exciting as it is calming.
The hot, humid MidWest weather made the wading pool an ideal option for my grandbub! I made sure the water was warm for this introduction. Also I didn’t add too much water in the pool so he didn’t feel or wasn’t overwhelmed. And, of course, being mindful of that tender, newborn skin the wading pool wasn’t in direct sunlight as he still isn’t old enough to wear any kind of sunscreen!
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Babies and children need to be supervised AT ALL TIMES when they are near water!
We have continued to PLAY in the wading pool every day–adding toys, laying on his belly, laying on his back–with me moving his legs to demonstrate how to kick or his hands to make a splash. With each successive time, he was more comfortable and I could see him trying to “Kick, kick, kick” to make a “big splash!” So FUN!!
I hope you’re able to try one of the sensory mediums: avocado, banana, plain full-fat yogurt; cloth activity book; or water with your baby. Let me know which one(s) they like!
Yours in Play!