Every child develops at his or her own pace, but there are many strategies parents can adopt that can provide early stimulation and spark connections between brain synapses. Rather than focus on a particular skill, it is better to immerse your infant in a loving and interesting environment, with plenty of experiences from which to choose. Remember also that hands-on, interactive experiences resonate more than watching videos, even educational videos.
Be Child Centered
Remember to be child-centered in the activities you choose to boost your infant’s development. There is no point in forcing activities on a baby who is tired or disinterested. Watch your infant to see where her interests gravitate, and scaffold learning experiences for her from there. For example, if she loves board books, head to the library for baby story time.
Consult Milestone Charts
Consult milestone charts and timetables, but do not live by them. Whether your child is spot-on for every milestone or is ahead in some and behind in others, there are activities suitable for boosting her development. The most fundamental thing a parent or caregiver can do is engage with the child. Physical contact, conversation, smiling and play are all key aspects of an infant’s successful development.
Explore the World
Explore the world. You need not live by an enormous green space or a well-stocked play area to find activities that fascinate an infant. A simple walk in the stroller, stopping to look at interesting shop windows or a beautiful flower in bloom provide concrete experiences that spur on development. Remember to talk about what you see and experience so that the baby associates descriptive language with visual stimulation.
Get on the Ground
Get on the ground or the floor. Nothing delights an infant more and keeps her motivated than her parent or caregiver getting on her level for some fun, games and talk. Encourage imaginative play by filling a shoebox with finger puppets or stacking pillows to make a fort. The Infant Brain Development website (see Resources below) has advice on imaginative play with infants.
Add art to the mix. Sing songs, dance with baby in your arms, make a toy drum for beating time, or squish play-dough through your fingers. Reciting nursery rhymes is an ideal musical experience that lays the groundwork for later reading fluency. Help your infant clap to rhythms, or place her on your lap and tap your foot to the beat.
- Avoid showing frustration when your infant struggles with a task. Change the activity or take a break.