From bedtime to playtime your child is always learning. Check out these family-time ideas for building their skills -- and your family connections. Want weekly ideas too? Sign up for Bloom Bright and have them sent right to your phone as texts!
We all want our child to play with others, but at this stage your little one will be more likely to watch with interest, than to interact. Want to encourage your baby and a friend to enjoy playing next to each other? Create a soft, open space by laying a large blanket down. Then, placing your infant and a friend on their tummies facing one another. Stay close by to offer support, silly faces or to take a tummy-time break as needed.
It’s normal for babies to get frustrated. But play can be a great space to explore solutions to problems. Work through challenges in pretend play first! Use puppets, dolls, or even dinosaurs. “Grrr! I cannot get my shoe on’ growled the dinosaur!” Have a helper come and save the day by asking questions. “Could you try a new strategy? Maybe slow down. Then, push your foot into it.” As your child pretends with toys, she builds skills to solve her real-life problems.
When your child coos and babbles, pause waiting until she is “done,” then respond with a comment or sentence of your choice. By treating baby sounds as conversation, you are building language skills and self-confidence in one easy step.
Sing songs that allow you to add your child’s name it in. “This is the way we put on Braxton’s — put on Braxton’s socks — put on Braxton’s socks so early in the morning!” Hearing music and name combined gives your little one a sense of who they are, and it can make routines a joy (or less of a struggle).
ALL DAY — EVERYDAY
Start talking to your sweet one the minute he is born. Talk about the world around him. And describe what you are doing. “We are going to take off that wet diaper. First, we will lay you on the changing table. Then, I will kiss that precious face…”
WHAT A FACE
Make funny faces! Sit your baby on your lap in front of a mirror and make silly faces. “Look at that smiley face!” This is a great way for your child to begin the process of understanding emotions. As they watch your face and hear your words, they learn to read facial expressions!
Adding nursery rhymes to your daily routine kicks off your baby’s language journey in a fun way. Diaper changes are a great time to add a song or two. Include hand and arm movements while saying your rhyme. “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man! Bake me a cake as fast as you can. Roll it, pat it, mark it with a “B” and put it in the oven for baby and me!” You can even mix it up. Maybe next time, you clap your little one’s toes together, instead of her hands?!
Babies first learn to focus their eyes by looking at faces then move to object nearby. Play peek-a-boo with your baby by using a blanket, scarf or just your hands to cover your face. Then, uncover yourself quickly saying, “Peak a boo, I see you!”
Painting with a popsicles is a great way to allow your baby to explore art — especially at the age when everything goes in his mouth. Put on a bib or just strip your little one down to a diaper. Then, put him in his high chair. You can also use a towel for independent sitters. Next, set out a piece of paper. Take a minute to show him how to make a mark on the paper with the frozen treat. Finally, let him explore: the taste, the cold, and the beautiful color on paper each give him a chance to learn something new!
OH SWEET MUSIC!
Move to music! Introduce songs to your little one as early as possible. And let it help you move from one part of the day to another by including it in your daily routine. Your baby likely has favorites and not-so-favorites. When she squeals in delight or wiggles to a favorite song, add it to a playlist. That way, you can turn on a beloved song any time. Then, you can sway, dance or rock with your baby in your arms.
Did you know chewing, cooing and babbling get your baby ready for her first little words? Each activity develops the muscles you baby needs for speech. Give her lots of toys that she can chew on. When she makes sweet little sounds, respond and encourage her. “Oh, really? Tell me more!”
When your baby is on his tummy, he build strong muscles. And those muscles will later help him scoot, crawl and walk. Spend a little time each day on your tummy together with your baby. Lay side by side or so that your faces are close together. Engage your baby with talk and toys! “Look here is your little bear, can you s-t-r-e-t-c-h and grab it?”
Every Day, Something New!
Every day is a new experience! By simply dropping something and picking it up, your baby learns that he can control things with his hands. Build on what he sees by describing it out loud. “You used your hands to pick up the car. Can you pick up the crayon?”
Engage all five senses while playing with your baby. Your little one learns from touch, smell, sight, sound and taste. Simply point out things in the world, and allow them to use their senses. Invite your baby to explore regularly throughout the day. Touch a soft toy. Smell food. Notice the birds outside. Listen to you sing. Try new foods.
SHOW AND TELL
Show your baby how to do things safely. Your baby will watch and learn from you. So, when you model safe practices, it helps a lot. “Sit on your bottom like this to come down the stairs.” Be sure to share safe ways to do things when you’re talking about things that aren’t safe. “Oh, the door can smoosh fingers. Let’s just leave the door open.”
ONE AT A TIME
Give your baby uninterrupted time to explore objects. Place just one toy within his reach so he can explore without distraction. This is the first of many small steps in building a longer attention span. When he starts to lose interest, add a new toy to create two options — old and new.
Learning All the Time!
Believe it or not, your tiny one is building the foundation for lifelong learning all the time. Everyday play helps her learn so much! When she holds a toy, brings it to her mouth, and explores by tasting, mouthing, and looking, her brain explores problem solving! Give your baby three similar chewable toys to play with, watch to see how she plays with each.
Your child likes variety and is eager to learn new things, go new places and see new things. Notice your child’s interest and point it out. “You are bouncing up and down in your stroller, are you excited to see the doggy?” Your words and attention create a wonderful leaning opportunity for her, they connect words with objects, places and people!
Babies have a pretty solid exploring game. When your little one is scooting, rolling or crawling all over the place, he learns about the world and how it works. So, let’s roll! Want to keep a play space exciting? Change it up—rotate toys, play outside instead of inside, or add a new box to explore.
Keep It Simple, Silly.
Simple toys are usually the best! There’s no need for pricey gadgets. After all, your baby loves balls, blocks, measuring cups and small containers. Just watch her create her own world of play. Help her explore by putting toys in a basket and then leave them down.
FINGERS & TOES
Your baby is aware and learning about his body. He explores his hands, feet, fingers and toes while he plays. So spread out the blanket and join along, “I am going to kiss all those wiggly little toes.” Who knew learning could be so much fun?
When it’s cold and snowy, get outside and explore together. Talk to your sweet one about the snow, its color, its temperature and its texture. “The air is so cold today.” Then, try taking a small bowl of snow inside. Your baby can explore it while seated in a high chair or on your lap. Little fingers get cold quickly, so a warm rag on hand to sooth the cold away is helpful.
THE WORLD AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Little one wide awake after dark? Most parents have been there — more than a few times. You can turn that challenging moment into a learning experience. Take your baby outside on sleepless nights. Let her look up at night sky, watch lightening bugs, and hear the sounds of night. Things are so different at night than when we normally take our little ones outside. The more exposure to new and varied experiences the more your baby is learning.
BOUNCE IT, ROLL IT, THROW IT
Your little one is changing every day. You can help them learn about all the many things toys can do. Play with a ball in many different ways. You can roll it or bounce it. And don’t forget to throw it! Then, talk about what it does. “Oh, the ball rolled down the sidewalk!”
It’s For You!
The best way to help your child get creative is to become a part of the fun! Does your baby use everyday objects to pretend? Go along with the story. When your child uses a block as a pretend phone, join in the story! “Hello! Oh, thank you for calling me.”