Article courtesy of Zest Pediatric Network - The Nest Schools Medical Education Partner
The first year
It may seem like almost daily that your adorable little one will develop new skills and absorb so much more of the world around them. Before they may have been fully occupied and happy simply lying on an activity mat, their developing mind will require more to hold their attention, so it’s important to find developmentally appropriate ways to stimulate their young minds. Play with your little bundle of joy will be enjoyable for you and help your child continue working towards meeting the developmental milestones.
Here are a few examples of some play you can utilize with your baby:
- Early play can be as simple as reacting to your baby with a smile. Responding to your baby’s smile with a smile helps develop some social-emotional skills where they are learning to gain your attention and a reaction simply by smiling.
- Another great, simple, early form of play is merely reciprocating your baby’s cooing and babbling sounds, showing them some of the earliest skills needed for later conversation and vocal turn-taking.
- Encourage supervised tummy time play to allow your child to experience the world from different vantage points while they continue strengthening the neck and trunk muscles they will need for later sitting up, eating, walking, etc.
- Mirrors are another fun way for your baby to see themselves working on their skills and expose them to the various facial expressions in their current repertoire.
- Peek-a-boo helps them work through object permeance. This can also include hiding a toy behind your back or under a blanket and having them search it out.
- Dive into the numerous varieties of sensory experiences available to you. Let them sit outside in the grass, play in a sandbox, try to catch bubbles, dip their toes in a kitty pool, or play in the bathtub (with close supervision, of course)
As your child gets older and more mobile, it’s essential to ensure that their play is happening in a safe environment and that your home is as baby-proofed as possible. This includes:
- Having properly installed baby gates at designated locations around stairs.
- Having cleaning supplies and medications stored out of reach and in babyproof cabinets
- Ensuring heavy furniture (television, bookshelves, dressers, and the like) are properly mounted and/or secured to the wall.
- The floors and play area are clear of small objects possibly posing a choking hazard.
- Covering all electrical outlets
- Consider locking or having babyproof doorknob covers on all exterior, basement, and bathroom doors
- Using cordless blinds
- Consider corner bumpers or covers on any pointed or hard surfaces