Mobile infants, babies old enough to crawl and learning to walk, who spend time in child care centers can benefit from physical activities aimed at their age and development levels. When planning activities, remember that infants learn very differently from older children. According to the Child Development Lab (CDL) at the University of Illinois, infants begin to understand and interact with their environment at the same time that they learn to stand, crawl, and walk with support.
Toys and games help all children learn. Research from the CDL and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that the best activities encourage infants to play with toys and people, while exploring the world around them. For infants, simply rolling a ball back and forth with a caregiver can teach both cooperation and cause and effect. It can also help build the infant’s hand-eye coordination.
Toys and Materials
Infants just learning to walk will like toys that they can hold on to for balance, and push as they move around. As mobile infants gain confidence in their walking skills, wagons and wheeled toys will gain appeal. Child care centers can supply toys and materials that appeal to infants and encourage them to play. Brightly colored balls are one favorite, and infants will have fun tossing bean bags into a basket or bucket. Mobile infants often love to dig if provided small pails or buckets. A child care center should provide toys and materials that are easily cleaned, have no sharp edges, and have no loose pieces that an infant might swallow.
Child care centers can provide the environment and encouragement for mobile infants to explore their surroundings, develop their natural curiosity, and stretch and strengthen muscles. A well-designed child care center will offer a variety of structures where infants can sit, stand, and hold themselves upright. In addition, a child care center can provide simple objects made of different materials, allowing infants to explore textures and shapes as they play.
Playing with Others
Adults playing with mobile infants in a child care center can help the children learn to cooperate and share with others. A simple game of hiding a toy behind the caregiver’s back and letting the infant find it will teach that objects do not simply disappear. This activity can also teach trust that the adult will return the object. Another simple learning game involves placing the baby on his stomach and use a toy to encourage the infant to come to the caregiver. Traditional fun like Peek-a-Boo, I’ve Got Your Nose, and This Little Piggy can stimulate an infant’s curiosity and help develop muscles and coordination.
Make sure all floors and surfaces are kept clean. Check areas where water may gather frequently. Keep infants in sight at all times. Provide a safe play area away from toddlers and older children who may bump into the infants. If possible, allow the babies to see the other children, as mobile infants enjoy– and learn from — watching and listening to older children at play.