You have read all about the importance of playing with your baby. You understand that play time can enhance your child’s development. You may not know how to play with the baby. You want to choose activities that will help your baby hit the main milestones, but you don’t know where to begin. This is a very common concern among parents.
When you bring your baby home from the hospital, don’t expect to start playing right away. Your baby will show no interest in [tag-tec]toys[/tag-tec] or other objects. Her favorite thing to look at is your face. Newborns are nearsighted and they see your face best when you are holding them for a feeding. Talk to your baby and smile at her. As she grows, you will find her engaged more often and she will start talking back in the form of coos and squeals.
In the first few months, the bulk of your play time will involve showing your [tag-cat]baby[/tag-cat] things. In most cases, toys are used for this type of play. There are other great things to show your baby. Ordinary household objects, such as a spoon, cups, plastic bottles, fruit, vegetables or any other non toxic object you can find. Show it to the baby and name the object, “Look at the banana,” later you can add details, such as the yellow banana. Baby development happens steps at a time and different babies develop at different rates, so you may need some patience.
Young babies love the sound of your voice. Read to your baby every day. Babies don’t care what you are reading or even if you follow the text. You can read the newspaper, a magazine or a picture book. As the baby grows, he will start to enjoy the pictures and will try to grab the book. Board books or cloth books are good for reading with babies. They can grab and hold the book without tearing the pages.
Your baby thinks you are amazing and everything you do is wonderful. The baby is a very captive audience and will love hearing you sing and watching you dance. Silence your inner critic and put on a CD. Hold the baby and dance around the room, singing along with the lyrics. Your baby will love it.
Around four months of age, your baby is gaining in physical development and will start doing things like rolling over. Sitting up will follow in a month or two. Play time should be on the floor to give your baby time to practice these skills. A blanket or baby gym on the floor is a good place to practice motor skills. Get down on the floor and play with your baby.
Sometimes babies get frustrated when practicing a new skill. My son rolls onto his stomach from his back easily, but hasn’t figured out how to get onto his back again. He will get frustrated and start to holler. Rather than rushing right to his aid, I sit back for a minute and encourage him to keep trying.
At this age, your baby will be ready for tickle games and a bit more rough play. You can swing the baby into the air over your head or blow on her tummy for a laugh. Repetition is the key to this game. After a few times, your baby will anticipate the tickle and laugh in delight.
Once your baby can sit unassisted, he will be more engaged in play activities. Roll a ball back and forth with the baby. This develops small motor skills and eye hand coordination. Your baby will enjoy moving objects from hand to hand and may try to stack one or two soft blocks. Have fun stacking blocks with the baby and then let him knock the tower over.
Babies don’t need a lot of expensive toys to help enhance their development. They need time to play and have fun with you. Above all, keep the games fun and engaging. This will motivate your baby to want to play. Even more important than helping your baby develop motor skills, play time develops a bond between you and your baby that will last for a lifetime.