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 info and ideas on how you can support your baby’s development.
Babies grow and develop faster during the 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!
In general, the early childhood developmental domains are:
—————————————————————What’s important to understand is:
Babies learn through their 5 senses—touching, hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. And they start learning immediately—interacting and reacting to their surroundings via these senses.
When thinking of things to do with your baby, you’ll want to choose activities that incorporate or use her/his senses in some way.
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.
Try some of the hands-on, sensory PLAY activities like the ones below:
I’ve been visiting with one of my grandbubs and we’ve had a lot of fun trying out different food textures for tactile sensory experiences.
There’s been lumpy, bumpy mashed avocado
Slippery, slimy smashed banana
Creamy smooth AND cold yogurt
My grandbub is still nursing 100% of the time, but his folks 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 make it so fantastic—and obvious it’s the natural way for young children to learn—is typically, when children engage in PLAY, they grow in more than one developmental area at a time. PLAY enables 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 and 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 words provided don’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!
Reading—or singing—books with rhyming text and pictures with contrasting patterns, bright colors and/or textures that create sound draw your baby’s interest. Additionally (s)he’ll love hearing your voice—the intonations, animation, audibility—and internalize it as her brain is on hyper-speed learning—reading is a perfect 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 with a story is a great way to develop 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 promote social development as well as cognitive skills.
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; there wasn’t too much in it so he wasn’t overwhelmed; and it wasn’t in direct sunlight as he still isn’t old enough to wear any kind of sunscreen.
Of course, 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–moving his legs to demonstrate how to kick or his hands to make a splash–and with each successive time, he was more comfortable and I could see him trying to “Kick, kick, kick” to make a “big splash!”
Try one of these sensory mediums–avocado, banana, plain full-fat yogurt, or water–with your baby…let me know which one(s) they like!
Yours in PLAY!