By Maathangi Iyer, staff writer for The Attached Family
Your child is naturally imaginative — all children are. Most theories of child development view young children as highly creative, with a natural tendency to fantasize, experiment, and explore their physical and conceptual environment.
Having said that, the role of a parent in developing, stimulating, and nurturing the child — with respect to his emotional, cognitive, and language development — cannot be over-emphasized. Based on analysis by “Early Childhood Longitudinal Study’s Birth Cohort (ECLS),” 31 percent of American parents know very little about the pace of a typical infant’s development, such as when a child should start talking or begin potty training. Lack of knowledge can be a detriment to a baby’s development, whether it’s expecting a baby to be able to do something he’s not developmentally ready for or ignoring the child’s need for playful learning.
Even very young babies enjoy playing with their parents, and as the baby grows, so does her need for exploring and learning. The first few years of your child’s life is an exciting time for you and her, as it is this stage that the growth and development of her young brain are the fastest in her life. The day-to-day experiences are responsible for shaping the brain. Your baby’s experiences are what she sees, hears, feels, tastes, and smells — and each experience triggers electrical activity in the brain, enabling it to form these connections and grow.
Everything in your baby’s life is novel, and she spends every waking moment learning, absorbing, and grasping new concepts. Even the most seemingly trivial daily activities, such as feeling the softness of her blanket or the soothing sound of her mother’s voice, provide opportunities for learning.
Here are some games to help you boost your baby’s brain power through simple play designed to meet your child’s own development. The crux for all these activities is interaction: Interacting and communicating with your child will encourage and help him to become creative and imaginative, as well as strengthen the parent-child bond.
Talk and Touch
Newborn babies barely comprehend what we say. Nevertheless, our effort in communicating with them should not be compromised. Whenever you find your baby awake and kicking, talk to him. Smile often, say his name, and make sounds to help you gain his attention.
Also, touch your baby often — cuddling, kissing, and such. You baby will react more though giggling, cooing, and smiling when you speak if your words are paired with the sense of touch.
Talking with your baby helps him to put a voice with a face. In addition, this activity improves her concentration skills, as she moves her head in the direction of sound. Not only is her brain reacting to this sound, but so are all of her senses. Babies have great observation skills.
Hide your face with your hands. Ask, “Where is Mommy (or Daddy)?” After a few seconds, uncover your face. Initially, your baby may not understand, so make sure you smile and exude a lot of enthusiasm in encouragement. Also, say her name often while you play.
this game gives the baby a sense of coordination and control. She knows that if you move your hand from your face, she can see your face. And after a few attempts she may try to uncover your face, too.
When bathing or feeding, teach your baby about her various body parts. For instance: Touch his nose and say “Where is your nose?”, blink your eyes and say “These are your eyes,” or touch his fingers and say “These are your fingers.” Be enthusiastic and create sounds and make expressions to keep her attention: If you ask where his nose is and he points it out, then clap or give him a hug. This gives your baby a sense of motivation and accomplishment.
This game teaches your baby about communication and improves his memory. This game also improves his reflexes and his hand-eye coordination.
Crawl, Baby, Crawl
Place your baby’s favorite toy a little out of arms’ reach. When she is able to move to get to it, place another toy a little farther out of arms’ reach. You can also try this game by standing a short distance from your baby and opening your arms wide, and saying her name to encourage her to crawl toward you. When your baby reaches the toy or your arms, show your excitement.
Not only is this good exercise for your baby, but this game encourages movement and coordination. In addition, the thought process of going toward the toy or you further sharpens his concentration skills.
Even very young babies enjoy having a book read aloud or to hear you singing nursery rhymes. You’ll be more successful in engaging your child if the book has lots of color and pictures, and if you use voice fluctuation, animals sounds, hand movements, and other innovative story-telling skills. If you’ve read the book over and over, you can make it more interesting by asking questions about the story, pointing out parts of the illustration, and encouraging your child to “read” the book to you instead.
The most important lesson being taught is language development. She begins recognizing people and objects that she sees. She starts babbling her own made-up language. And she is able to express herself more clearly to be able to communicate her needs without crying. Hearing stories repetitively improves her memory and helps her learn to speak.
The Right Toys
Well-chosen toys can help develop your baby’s cognitive and physical development. Children are naturally attracted to toys, with which they learn how things work and move in the world. Children this age have an amazing grasping capacity. They love to stack, draw, and put objects into containers. They’re attracted to color and sounds and textures.
Toys and games don’t have to be complicated to be effective and fun. Even simple objects can catch your baby’s attention, such as measuring cups from your kitchen or a pad of sticky notes from your desk. Develop your child’s imagination and creativity by pretending a bowl as a tiara or an old bathroom rug as a magic carpet. After reading a story, act out one of the characters such as a tiger and encourage your baby to play along.
A few more tips on playing with your baby:
- Encourage your child in an activity that they seem to immensely enjoy — Children have their own preferences. Accept unusual ideas from them, and respect their efforts.
- Provide an environment which fosters learning — Turn every task into a chance to interact positively with your baby. For example, an older baby can help “sort” the laundry or you can ask your baby to choose one of two differently colored shirts to wear for the day.
- Expose your child to a diversity of cultures, experiences, people, and ways of thinking — Encourage your baby to try new experiences within their abilities and expectations.
- Make it a point to see life from your child’s perspective — What you may consider easy, your baby may see as being very difficult. Remember that the goal is to teach your child according to his unique development.