Making the Most of Baby’s Play Time
Babies (newborn to 12 months old) are like sponges: they absorb all kinds of information from the world around them. Their ability to integrate new information vastly exceeds our own. Therefore, every moment of a baby’s wake time is a learning opportunity. Here are some tips to make the most of that opportunity.
- 1. Speak grammatically correctly and in full sentences in front of baby. Baby may be as yet non-verbal, but baby is learning words and word usage at all times. Help baby learn to speak well by speaking well in front of baby. “Babytalking” to baby does not maximize baby’s integration of new words into his/her vocabulary.
- 2. Talk to baby about life, reasoning, emotion, etc. Baby may be too young to understand, but the early exposure to this information sets the foundation for the later reiterations.
- 3. Play music often in the background. Let your baby learn how music sounds, feels, inspires, and incites. Play soothing music to calm baby or help baby sleep. Play up-tempo music during play time. Enroll baby in early learner music appreciation classes. Some studies have suggested that early music appreciation exposure (in home or via a class) can help babies develop the ability to think creatively.
- 4. Use a variety of colors in baby’s environment. Soft colors (i.e., pastel blue) calm; bold colors (i.e., bright orange) excite. Use soft colors in baby’s bedroom and bold colors in baby’s play room. Choose other environmental colors (and perhaps even on baby’s clothes) to help frame baby’s experience of his/her world. Enroll baby in early learner art classes (i.e., finger painting, etc.). Some studies have suggested that babies who are encouraged to experience and express through art are more likely to think creatively as adults.
- 5. Use a variety of shapes in baby’s environment. Brightly colored foam balls, triangles, squares, etc. can help baby form the ability to conceptualize spatial relationships.
- 6. Use a variety of textures to encourage baby to explore the world. Babies rely significantly on touch, so provide them a variety of textures to touch. Fuzzy blankets, satin trim, corduroy upholstery, denim pants, cotton knit onesies, etc. all help baby experience the joy of discovery through touch.
- 7. Use a variety of scents in baby’s world. Babies are strongly scent-oriented. Because scent is a powerful influence for baby, help baby learn to associate specific scents with specific experiences. For example, if you always wear XYZ parfum, that scent is likely a calming scent for baby. Use that scent, even in your absence, to calm baby. For example, babysitters may find it easier to put baby down for a nap if the babysitter applies your parfum right before naptime. Alternately, the scent of freshly baked cookies may induce hunger in a more mature baby. When baby is older, you can begin to speak with baby about scents. What do you smell? Cookies? Do you like that smell? Does it make you hungry? As baby continues to age, you can advance your discussions to the chemistry of scents, etc.
- 8. Use dolls to teach more mature babies about healthy adult relationships and interactions. Subtle lessons, such as one dolly listening while the other dolly talks about her happiness or sadness, is an excellent way to set a healthy paradigm.
- 9. Use physical exercise to help baby develop coordination, fine motor skills, and physical fitness. For example, tricycles are fun for baby and also help baby develop the aforementioned physical traits.
There are myriad opportunities to expose baby to learning experiences: the above examples are merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. These first 12 months of baby’s life are the foundation upon which all subsequent knowledge will be based. Take every opportunity to help your baby become all that he or she can be.