Baby Brain Connection
Parenting for Early Childhood Literacy
Playing & Interacting
Activities for "Playing & Interacting"
You are your baby’s first teacher. Your home is your child’s first classroom. Every waking hour, from the time your child is born, she is watching , learning something from you. You can be the type of loving, caring parent you want your child to become one day. There is no perfect parent. Everyone makes mistakes. The goal is to raise a child who feels loved, safe, and valued—a child who cares for others and for herself.
The following activities are taken from: productiveparenting.com (Click “Activities”); by Beth Bronsil, M. Ed., Susan Dineen; 125 Brain Games for Babies by Silber; and many ideas from educators and parents.
Target Age: Early Infant Birth to 6 months
Skills Learned: Body Awareness, Gross Motor, Language Development, Coordination, Classifying, Trust
Farm Animals: Children learn language concepts through play. Infants seem to be fascinated with animals in books and when seen. (toys, pictures in books, or photos of farm animals from the computer) Introduce farm animal figures to your infant. Show each animal to your infant. Name the animal and make the sound of each.
Infant Moves: Infants seem to be in constant motion when awake. Put a blanket on the floor. Lay your infant on the blanket. Observe how your infant moves. Talk to your infant about the moves, "You are moving your legs."
Rhythm: When babies respond to sights and sounds, encourage the movement of her legs, arms, or head while supporting her.You can also move her arms and legs in larger motions including crossing over the body. It is believed that movement activities release neurotransmitters in the brain that activate memory.
Routines: Children want and need structure. Help your baby learn the rhythms of the day. Do quiet things before bedtime. Nighttime feedings should be quiet, with low light, to help her learn day from night. Keep a fairly regular schedule with older babies, with meals and bedtime at about the same time each day. Make a routine that leads to bedtime, such as tooth brushing, washing, story time, feeding, massage and bed. This helps baby’s brain set up rhythms.
Target Age: Later Infant 6-12 month
Skills Learned: Body Awareness, Gross Motor, Language Development, Coordination,Classifying, Trust, Social Development, Visual Tracking, Tactile, Creative Movement
Crawling Together: Enjoy following your crawling infant around and explore the world from a new point of view. Just get on your hands and knees and follow the “leader.” When your child stops to look around, comment on the surroundings, "The tiles are a little cold to touch," "Do you see the green carpet?" etc. Take note of what seems to interest your child. On subsequent days, observe how the path direction changes and/or stays the same.
Opposite Game: Enrich your child's language development with this activity! Play opposite games with your child.Some examples: 1) Place your child over your head. "Mary is high!" Move your child close to the floor. "Mary is low!" Other ideas: Big/little; open/close,front/back, on/off, etc.
Sharing Events: Preparing your child for events in life that will happen is important. You may think your child will not understand what you are saying, but it is still important. Maybe your in-laws are coming for a few days or a baby sitter is coming for the evening. Take time to explain what is happening. This is a good habit to begin while your child is young. Your child builds trust during transition times because of these explanations.
Finger Play: Finger plays are fun for your child to hear, (and act out). Finger plays promote language development for your child. Recite the poem, "Five Little Monkeys"
"Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head, (put one finger down.)
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, (phone to ear)
No more monkeys jumping on the bed,"(shake head and finger).”
Continue with four, etc.
Variations: You Tube provides the lyrics for this and other child friendly tunes.
Experimenting: Your baby is not manipulating you if she drops a toy from the highchair over and over. She’s experimenting. She’s asking, “What happens to this toy when I drop it and what happens to my daddy when I drop this toy?” At around five months old, a baby may try to get you to come play with her. She is learning to communicate. Instead of answering every single cry, you can sometimes give her something to entertain herself. Distracting babies with a toy is magic!
Mirror Movements: Children love to imitate. Sit on the floor with your child in your lap in front of a large mirror. Make movements and see if your child “mirrors" you. Raise your arms, touch your nose, mess up your hair, and pat your tummy. Repeat this fun activity in the future. Variation: Sit across from your child as you make funny movements.
Block Play: Children love to play with blocks! Give your child blocks that are small enough for your child's hands.Try building a simple tower. Let your child knock it down. What does your child do with the blocks? Stacking blocks will take time and your child will love doing this with you when older. Right now building and knocking down towers is a fun learning experience.
Cardboard Box: Children love playing in their own private spaces. You will need a large cardboard box or drape a sheet over a card table. Open the sides of the cardboard box and let your child explore the new space. Place block towers along the openings for your child to knock down, while travelling in and out of the box. Join your child and read some books inside!
Gestures: Your child may be beginning to use social gestures such as waving when someone leaves your home. Play a game with puppets or stuffed animals. "The dog is going away." "Can you wave bye-bye?"Your child will delight in this game, while developing social skills.
Curiosity: Your baby is curious, and he will explore as soon as he can move around. So baby-proof your home and put away the dangerous and fragile items. If you say “no” all day, your baby won’t learn by exploring. Save “no” for the dangerous things—touching stoves, chewing electrical cords. Once you’ve said “no,” say it every time he goes near the item of danger. Wait a bit before soothing him so he learns the limit is real. Then hug away! Eventually your baby will start to understand “no” and he’ll test you to learn the limits. He’ll look at you before he tries the action. This is normal! Be consistent and calm. You’ll do this over and over, and he will eventually learn. Later on, you may even see him pause as he goes to touch or shake his head and say “No …!” Praise him for learning!
Surprises: Babies like to play games of surprise and anticipation. As you dress your baby, ask a question such as “Where is my baby?” when he’s covered and “There you are.” as soon as you see your baby’s face. You can do this with other body parts. Act surprised and pleased when you provide a response.