Children of all ages and sizes naturally love to play. This is a universal truth as you will find even a young infant responding with a smile when you play with her. They develop the necessary life skills at their own rate. Adults can encourage growth by giving them daily opportunities to practice these skills in a fun and safe environment.
There are developmentally-appropriate practices to be mindful of as we interact with our children. These are methods that promote a child’s development through play-based learning that gets the child engaged. The timing for introducing an activity is also crucial for infants. When the child is in her active and alert mode during the day, this is an optimal time for learning.
Play time for infants does not need to be complicated. A few materials that capture her attention might even be better than acquiring a lot of toys that do not necessarily encourage development. That is why knowledge on child development and the milestones for each stage is necessary for any adult who wants to facilitate a child’s optimal development.
Development milestones during the first six months of life
Here are the basic skills that a child is likely to master at certain points in life. Be reminded though that this is only a guideline as each child has a unique pace of development. The sooner a parent gets involved in the activities of the child, the higher the likelihood that growth will materialize. The best formula is in creating a loving and safe environment for the child to thrive in.
- learning to hold head up
- Smiling and cooing socially
- Making eye contact
- Turning the head towards a sound
- Listening to different tones of voice
- Social smile
- Copying facial expressions
- Reaching for a toy
- Grasping a toy
- Transferring toys from one hand to the other
- Rolling from tummy to back and vice versa
- Showing interest at materials around
- Looking at self in the mirror
- Attempting to sit without support
Activities for 0-6 months
Look and see
Infants love to see objects in strong contrast so pick items that are colored red, white or black for this activity. Hold up these materials and let them follow with their eyes. Do this slowly and at a distance of about 10 inches away from her head.
This is a great activity that helps strengthen the neck, back and arm muscles. Just be mindful of signs of fatigue and help your child go back to lying on his back or side if she seems tired. Provide her with baby-safe materials like felt books, soft toys or even a mirror to keep her entertained. You can also talk to her and tell her stories in varying tones of voice.
A quick game of peekaboo can teach your child the idea of object permanence. She will be fascinated to discover that you are there one moment and gone the next then back right where you are. You can also hide under a blanket or behind the furniture as your baby watches. This can be a very happy game that your child will enjoy even as she grows older.
Young infants enjoy looking at faces. It will be particularly fun to play this silly game as your child observes. Soon she might even try to copy your expressions.
Provide your infant with materials that have varied textures. Tell her how one is soft, hard, smooth, silky, etc. Take note of the ones she enjoys the most and give this to her repeatedly throughout the day.
Love and touch
This could be done when bathing or changing your baby. Sing a tune conveying your affection for her and give her a gentle massage. Rub her arms, legs and body as you talk to your child. This can be a powerful bonding moment shared between parent and child. Make sure to choose a quiet room to give your child a relaxed atmosphere.
Dance with me
Hold, cuddle and dance with your little one as you move to music. During his active times, you can choose a song with an upbeat tempo while keeping the room well-lit. Shift to a lullaby or any soothing melody and keep the room dim to signal downtime for your child.
When the weather is fine, show your child the outdoors. Point to and name the things that you will spot outside. This encourages her vision and language development. Plus, it is always fun when the scenery changes.
As you find ways to play with your child, you will discover what she enjoys the most. Do not be afraid to repeat the same activities also even if she did not seem to like it as much the first time. You will eventually discover her interests and find your little one more engaged in the activity!