Did you know play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.
Birth to 6 months:
1. Baby’s Name Game [COGNITIVE &LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT]
Place your child on their back on the floor or comfortable area where you both can be close to one another. Lean in close to your baby and use their name in a variety of different ways. For example, “I see…”, “Where is…” or “I love…”. By repeating your child’s name and using different tones in your voice, you are stimulating multiple areas of the brain. Adding soft touches can enhance the experience.
2. Baby Talk [LANGUAGE & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT]
Talk, talk, talk. Have a conversation with your baby. Believe it or not, even very young infants are learning the languages that they hear consistently. Responding to your baby’s gurgles and coos with facial expressions and words, helps to build your baby’s brain. Singing, narrating what you are doing, discussing the day’s activities and even asking questions of your baby can be a great social experience for you both.
1. Baby Gym [PHYSICAL MOTOR DEVLOPMENT]
In a comfortable space with plenty of room, place your baby on the floor. Gently move your child’s arms and legs in slow, exercising motions. For instance, you can place your baby on their back and gently move your child’s legs in a bicycling motion. It is important not to force a movement, create motions based on their individual abilities. This is intended to stretch and strengthen muscle development and build a trusting relationship between baby and you.
2. Sticky, Icky, Ooey, Gooey [SENSORY DEVELOPMENT]
Place your child in a high chair and let them explore tastes and textures. Be sure to provide safe, non-toxic materials such as pudding, applesauce, ice, banana or flour. It is important for young children to explore items with all five senses. To make for any easy clean up, plan right before bath time. As a bonus, you may even learn what your child’s likes and dislikes are!
1. Soft Items Toss [PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT]
Set up a box or laundry basket a few feet from where you child is sitting or standing. Provide soft items such as small stuffed animals, plush balls or
toys, and encourage your child to throw or toss item into basket or box.
2. Where Did It Go? [COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT]
Show your child a familiar object and then hide it in the room in a place that is visible but not obvious. Encourage your child to help you find the object. You can also encourage language development by asking simple questions, such as “is it under the table?” or “do you see the red ball on top of the couch?”
1. Copy Cat [SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT]
Sit face to face with your child. Make a face or simple gesture, such as sticking out your tongue or making a sad frown. Encourage your child to
copy your movements and gestures. Adding a mirror to the activity can help build your child’s understanding of body language and recognition of their own reflection.
2. Animal Action [COGNITIVE & LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT]
Make animal sounds and corresponding movements and encourage your child to play along. You can sing, dance and act out all kinds of animals. Introduce new animal sounds and movements that your child might not already be familiar with, such as a snake (wriggle your body and “hissss”) or a gorilla (stand up tall and pound on your chest with a loud “ahhh” sound). Children crave new knowledge at this age and are learning anywhere from 8-12 new vocabulary words DAILY- Imagine the possibilities!
1. If You’re Happy & You Know It: With A Twist [CREATIVE EXPRESSION & LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT]
Sing “If You’re Happy And You Know It” with your child, but the twist is to add different tasks, such as “dance around”, “blow a kiss” or “take a bow”. Repetition of a familiar tune along with new instructions can stimulate cognitive brain development as well,as children have to listen and follow directions.
2. Stack It Up and Knock It Down [PHYSICAL MOTOR DEVELOPMENT& SELF-REGULATION ]
This activity is all about cause and effect. You can use plastic cups, blocks, boxes or any other safe household materials. Encourage your child to help “build” by stacking items one on top of the other. You can encourage early math skills by counting the items as you build. Once completed, try counting down before knocking the structure over. “One.., two.., three!”This extra step can help your child with self regulation, which helps with taking turns,waiting patiently and learning to watch for social clues when interacting with others. This is a great activity to help prepare them for handling emotions later in life as well.