I hold no degrees in child development, but these are some things I’ve learned as a mom and through research.
Five Ways to Stimulate Baby’s Learning
You can use the following activities to promote early learning and build a strong, educational foundation for the future:
1. Talk (and Sing) To Your Baby
I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to simply talk to your baby and even sing to him now and then. Talking to your baby will not only create a priceless parent-child bond, but it can also build up your child’s vocabulary and language development, influence future social skills, and shape his or her mind.
While “baby talk” seems to come naturally to most parents, try to also use regular speech when talking to your baby. This can really help your child’s language and speech development as he grows.
2. Hold Your Baby
Yes, it’s as simple as that. From the time your baby is born, [most] hospitals will encourage skin-to-skin contact time and cradling your infant in your arms. Your child will get a sense of security which produces a calming effect and promotes better sleep. As an adult, I know how much easier it is for me to focus and function when I feel calm and have had decent rest, so imagine how much more productive it will be for your infant.
3. Play With Your Baby
It is so easy to get distracted by life and forget to just sit down and play with your baby every now and then. Again, this will create a special bonding opportunity between the two of you while building up anticipation, stimulating memory (remembering the lyrics and motions to songs, knowing what is coming next), promote problem solving (What happens after Mom hides behind her hands? She will pop back out!) It can even help with motor skills as your child grows and begins to play along.
Some great, interactive games include peek-a-boo, motion songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Pat-a-Cake”, tickling your baby’s belly (if they like this; refrain if your infant does not like tickling), pretend your finger is a bee and spiral it towards Baby’s nose then make a “bzzz” sound and tap his or her nose…what are your favorite games to play with your little one?
4. Stimulate the Senses
You will find that shapes, colors, and patterns will really grasp your child’s attention. Even when my babies were very tiny, I would talk to them about different shapes and colors we saw. This will help them remember more easily as they hit the toddler and preschooler stages. Patterns, especially those that are black and white, are wonderful for eye development because they require your child to focus more and helps to develop the visual part of your infant’s brain (if you want more medically-backed details on this, see here.)
Touchy-feely activities are a great opportunity to discover and learn. Let your child explore the sense of touch and describe things you feel like a fuzzy blanket, squishy marshmallow, or scratchy Velcro. I love the That’s Not My series of touch and feel books. My Toddler Outdoor Painted Canvas Project is also fun to try.
Talk about the senses when changing a diaper. I know, sometimes this might be gross, but I like to talk to my baby while I change his diaper because it calms him down and can help with potty training later on. Say things like “this diaper is stinky” for smell (you can also use “this diaper is wet” then when a new one is put on say “this diaper is dry.”) Try smelling things that aren’t icky like flowers or fresh apple pie. Describe everything you can.
Sound can include talking and singing as recommended above, but you can also introduce musical instruments (orchestrated music, if you play an instrument see how they like the sound), try things louder and softer (do not overdo this and hurt your child’s ears), make animals sounds and vehicle sounds.
As your baby gets older and starts eating food, try different flavors and begin describing them based off of their taste and reaction: a little spicy, bitter, sour, sweet. Use descriptive words to build up vocabulary, discover new foods, and broaden your child’s taste.
As with any activities for young children, all sensory activities should be supervised by a responsible adult.
5. Read to Your Baby
This is different than simply talking to your baby. Reading can be educational and also inspires creativity and imagination. From the day my oldest was born, we would read the book “Thank You God” every night to him. By the time he was a little over two, he had memorized the book and could “read” it to us. He was speaking more clearly at his young age than others the same age and above the average vocabulary level. I truly believe reading books with more words than our typical daily conversations was a big factor in this. Now that he is older, he has a love for books, a wild imagination, and such creativity.
If your child has been diagnosed with autism or SPD, some of these activities may be over-stimulating; talk to your doctor to find out which are best for your child. If your child has not been diagnosed but seems over-stimulated by any activities, refrain from those for the time being and discuss with your doctor.
Don’t stop at your child’s infant stage either; as your child grows, continue to encourage learning through your actions and activities. Follow my educational adventures and grab some fun learning activities in my Toddlers category!
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