Looking for ways to help your baby learn and grow? The key is to offer a range of stimulating and enriching experiences in the first year of life – and, it's easier than you think! Babies learn many of their language and motor skills through simple activities.
Check out these five ways to help your baby reach those important developmental milestones in their first year.
1) Talk, Sing, Smile
Talking to your baby is one of the easiest ways to encourage language development from day one. Tell your baby stories, or simply point things out to them and say what they are. Even in the early stages, before your baby can talk, they will begin to make connections between sounds and objects.
Singing songs to your baby is a sure-fire way to elicit a smile! Even better, it will help them learn about language patterns, rhythms, and rhyme. Meanwhile, facial expressions can also help encourage your baby to engage with you and the world around them. By providing lots of smiles, your baby will begin to understand that they are in a safe, happy, and secure environment.
2) Use age-appropriate toys
There is a wide range of toys available to encourage baby development. To get the most out of them, you should make sure they're age-appropriate. Newborn vision is limited, so high-contrast black and white books and toys are most interesting to them. As babies approach the 3-month mark, different colors, textures, and sounds become much more appealing.
Why not make your baby happy with a versatile activity center? Activity centers can be used for developmental play from day one, but always check minimum age limits on specific products. You'll find a whole host of activity centers available, from flat floor mats with dangling toys, to upright jumpers that allow your baby to move around.
3) Engage your baby's senses
As babies approach three months of age, they become more and more interested in their environment. This is a great time to aid their development by offering them the opportunity to see, smell, touch, and hear different things.
You can easily add this to your daily routine. Put different kinds of music on, expose your baby to different smells when you're cooking in the kitchen, or hold your baby's hand and place it on a range of surfaces – warm, cold, soft, and smooth. Talk to your little one about what they are experiencing to help them learn about the environment, as well as to develop strong language and motor skills.
4) Tummy time
Tummy time is important for helping babies strengthen their neck and upper-body muscles. It allows them to develop better head control and prepares them for the exciting developmental milestones of crawling and sitting up.
Start by placing your baby tummy down on your lap or chest, holding on to their arms. This gets them used to the idea of being front-down. You should then try moving them onto a soft surface on the floor. Young babies may only tolerate a few minutes of this at a time, so be ready to pick them up when the fussiness begins! In time, your baby will become confident resting on their tummy, and able to hold themselves up and reach for toys from this position.
5) Quiet time
Babies can quickly become overstimulated, so it's important that you provide them with some quiet time each day. This allows your baby to relax and process the new information they're constantly gathering! Bombarding your baby with constant activities and sounds can actually delay development, so balance is key. Quiet time gives your baby's brain time to solidify what they have learned.
Above all, you should remember that you are the most important thing for your little one! Just by being with them, talking, and playing, you will be helping your baby learn and develop all the time.