Your baby will grow and develop faster in the first year of life than any other year, according to Better Brains for Babies. The good news is that it is not difficult to stimulate your infant's intellectual development -- all she needs is you. Interactions with you and other caregivers are one of the best ways your baby learns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With some simple activities, your baby will be learning and growing each day.
1. Smile, Talk and Sing
When your baby is a newborn, she will especially enjoy watching and listening to you. Talk with her face-to-face often so she will begin to associate your face and your voice with the feelings of being comforted, helping to develop a strong attachment. Soon you will notice that she quiets when you begin talking to her as you approach. As you talk, smile and make other facial expressions, such as sticking out your tongue, and watch as she studies your face, sometimes trying to imitate you. Copy her sounds and wait for her to respond as you have a little conversation. Choose a soothing lullaby and sing it to her routinely. After she becomes familiar with the tune and the words, it will have a soothing effect for her, according to KidsHealth. Developing this strong bond will help your baby be confident as she grows and continues to learn.
2. Activity Mats
An activity mat makes a great learning toy for your baby, as it allows for a variety of age-appropriate toys to be hung within reach of her exploring hands. Hang objects such as textured toys or rattles that will make noise when she moves them, and allow her to bat and kick at them. Brightly colored and high-contrast objects, as well as unbreakable mirrors, will attract your baby's attention and help stimulate her vision, according to the article "Using Toys to Support Infant-Toddler Learning and Development" in the journal "Young Children." Sometime around 4 months of age, babies discover the concept of cause-and-effect, as they realize they are the ones making the toys move and jingle. Your baby will begin to examine her effect on other objects as well, shaking and banging them to get a reaction.
By the time your baby is 8 months old, she will likely have mastered the concept of object permanence, according to the AAP. This means that she understands something still exists, even when she can't see it anymore. This idea is strengthened by games that involve hiding and finding something. Put a favorite toy under a blanket, and show her how to lift it to find the toy. Continue hiding things and say, "Where did it go?" and when she finds them, cheer her on with an excited, "You found it!" Peek-a-boo will become a favorite game at this age, so play it in a variety of ways. Use your hands to cover your face or put a light blanket over your head and say, "Where's mommy?" Let your baby play peek-a-boo with herself by placing her in front of a mirror and then covering it with a blanket. As she pulls the blanket down, she will be excited to see the baby looking back at her again.
4. Early Pretend Play
As your little one gets closer to 1 year old, she will begin to understand that every object has a name and a function, according to the AAP. During this time, you will notice a change in the way she plays with toys. Instead of seeing everything as an object that can be chewed on, banged or thrown, she begins to use toys with more purpose. Because she has been watching you, she knows that a toy telephone is held to her ear or a spoon from the play dish set can be used to stir in her play cup. Continue to offer her props that help stimulate this emerging pretend play, such as a hair brush, a toy hammer or a child-sized broom. Show her how each is used, and she will soon imitate you.
- Better Brains for Babies: Learning and Development: Infants Birth to 12 Months
- Young Children: Using Toys to Support Infant-Toddler Learning and Development
- HealthyChildren.org: The Secret to a Smarter Baby
- KidsHealth: Learning, Play, and Your Newborn
- HealthyChildren.org: Cognitive Development: 4 to 7 Months
- HealthyChildren.org: Cognitive Development: 8 to 12 Months
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