During the first year of life, infant babies grow and develop dramatically. They will change from helpless newborns to toddlers who can crawl or walk and even say their first words. Caregivers of infants set the stage for a lifetime of learning during these early days. Choose stage-appropriate daily activities that will stimulate babies’ growth and development physically, socially and mentally.
Motor Skill Development
During the first six months, it may not seem like babies can do much physically, but they are constantly fine-tuning their motor skills. Provide objects for them to grab like rattles and other toys or just your fingers. Place objects just out of baby’s reach so he can practice reaching and develop depth perception.
Make a homemade mobile out of an assortment of toys and hang over your baby’s crib and encourage them to reach out and grasp the objects or kick at them. Attach objects to crib slats and encourage your infant to grab them. Vary the positions you put your baby in, such as sitting up or on their stomach, to strengthen different muscle groups.
Eye Movement and Coordination
Help your infant learn to track objects with her eyes. Young babies can only see limited distances, but they’re learning to connect your voice and other sounds with location and should be able to follow you or a noisy toy. Help your baby follow an object with her eyes by slowly moving a toy in front of her and watching her eyes move with the object. Call to the baby or rattle a toy as you move around a room so that baby can practice following you with her eyes and eventually turn her head to track you.
Babies can start learning body parts before they are able to talk and name them. While diapering, bathing or putting on lotion, name each of your baby’s body parts. Point out his nose, ears, mouth, tummy, and even right and left arms and legs. Use rhythm or songs to consistently label body parts. Tickle time is great not just for inducing giggles, but for teaching body-part names.
Social and Emotional Bonding
Speak your baby’s name often while performing various routines like diapering, feeding or dressing. Provide closeness while bottle-feeding by holding her close to your body so she can sense your heartbeat and scent. Make a game of funny faces with her. Eventually you’ll see those first smiles and she’ll begin to mirror your actions. Although it may seem silly, your baby will love hearing a running narrative of your daily activities, so keep talking to her.
Explore the Sense of Touch
Babies’ brains are ready to absorb anything and everything in their environments. Allow your baby to touch, hold and even mouth some objects as you pick up items at the grocery store. Guide your baby’s hand, holding their forearm, to touch materials of different textures like silk, corduroys, felt or burlap. Feel lots of opposites like soft and hard, square and round, rough and smooth. Provide words for everything they touch to build that inner vocabulary.
About this Author
Laura W. Smith has worked as a freelance writer since 2007, producing content for eHow and LIVESTRONG. She has worked as a women’s fitness trainer for three years and specializes in health and fitness topics. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Baptist Bible College and has studied journalism at Wayland Baptist University.