The first 12 months of a child’s life are full of monumental moments — first smile, first roll over, first time sitting up. Babies develop at such a rapid rate, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with everything they are learning and doing on a daily basis.
It can also be difficult (especially when you are tired and seriously sleep-deprived) to come up with fresh ideas to keep your baby entertained and support their development. The activities detailed here will keep you AND baby engaged, as you continue to bond and enjoy each other’s company.
Under 3 months
Your baby is starting to learn about the world and one of the things they love most is to watch your face. They will learn about your different expressions and will watch carefully as you raise your eyebrows, poke your tongue out and screw up your face. Change your expression slowly and carefully and they may even try to copy you. Remember that smiles tell a thousand words, so always finish with a nice big smile!
So you may not have the greatest voice in the world, but to your baby you are simply the best. Hum softly in their ear as you carry them from room to room. Sing your favourite nursery rhymes while they watch you from the cot or car seat. Singing and talking is fundamental in the development of language acquisition and the rhythm in your voice will help them to learn the song long before they learn the words. These familiar songs will become a source of comfort over the years ahead.
Now that your baby is starting to reach out and grasp at objects, bubbles are a fun way to encourage your child to focus on a moving object and even try to catch one as it floats away. Watch how intently your baby follows with their eyes and see their surprise when the bubbles pop and disappear! This is a lovely activity to enjoy outside, and watch as the bubbles dance in the breeze.
An oldie but a goodie! Your child will delight in the way that you can appear and disappear just by hiding behind your hands. They may even giggle in anticipation as they wait for you to suddenly appear with a big smile and an “Ahhh BOO!” This is a fantastic way for your baby to learn about object permanence — that an object remains, even when it is no longer visible to the eye.
Your baby is growing in confidence and curiosity. They will love to experiment with different noises and there is nothing more exciting than being given free permission to make beautiful “music” with empty saucepans, lids and wooden spoons. This is a noisy activity but your child will love learning about how to make different sounds, from tapping the wooden spoons together right through to banging two lids together like cymbals!
Reading to your child is one of the most important activities to share with your baby, however, you may notice that they are now more interested in the pages of your book than the story itself. They may enjoy reaching out and touching the book or trying to turn the pages for you. Have a variety of books handy — cloth books, board books and special activity books which feature different textures on the pages. Let your child explore the world of books with you and they will soon love to associate reading time with discovery and adventure.
As your baby continues to develop their hand-eye coordination, stacking cups or blocks is a fun way to practice their skills, as well as encouraging them to persevere and try again when the tower inevitably topples. Your baby will learn more from making their own mistakes than by getting it right the first time, so try hard to resist the temptation to”fix” any engineering errors and let them see the consequences of their construction. As your baby learns, they will build in confidence and their towers will get higher and possibly more creative as they try out their newly-acquired skills and ideas.
Fill a shoebox with an assortment of objects from around the house and garden — for example, a peg, rock or shell, old keys, envelope, small container with lid, pair of baby socks, ribbon, purse etc. Show your child how to remove the items one at a time from the box. Let them explore the shape, texture, colours and movement of the items. Every few days, change the contents of the box so that it becomes a mystery as to what is inside. Your child will look forward to what might be hidden inside and will start to make connections with what has been in the box previously! Please keep in mind that small objects may be a choking hazard so be sure to choose items that will not break into small pieces or items that are bigger than the size of your child’s palm.