When my little angel turned 3 months old, she started looking at objects in her room. I asked myself, “So, I’ve hung the mobile, now what?” Well, I playfully began narrating everyday actions to my baby. What I didn’t realize at that time was that I was helping her brain make new connections by simply talking to her.
“Stimulating your baby’s senses promotes growth of brain cells,” notes Carolyn Tipton, a family and play therapist at the Jewish Family Service in Memphis. “It is these nerve pathways that are the “highway system” of intelligence. When you interact, you are creating new awareness for your baby.”
Boosting baby’s brain power isn’t hard. Do a few of these activities each week with your baby. You’ll give new ways of exploring the world around her:
Go on an Outing. Whether it’s going to the grocery store or walking around the block, you’re exposing your baby to new faces, sounds, sights, smells, and textures.
Try spending more time outdoors this month, where your little one can experience nature. According to Tipton, such outings are resources for learning that lead to emotional and physical growth. Babies learn to feel safe when exposed to new experiences that can build self-confidence in relationships.
Activity: Discovery Walk While at the grocery store, pick up fragrant fruits like citrus or herbs such as dill. Let your child smell them. Describe what he is seeing and touching. Point to an apple and say, “This is red.” Pick up a kiwi fruit, and let him feel the fuzzy texture. Turn mundane errands into a meaningful adventure for your child.
Babies learn to feel safe when exposed to new experiences that can build self-confidence in relationships.
Build a Reading Routine. Make story time with your baby a priority, as important as going outside or playing with toys. Research indicates that reading to babies helps build vocabularies and increase the number of words they understand. Look for books rich in language with interesting colors, patterns, and drawings. Register with booksfrombirth.org and receive free books.
Activity: Carry-along Books • Place your child’s photo along with some pictures of close family members in the plastic sleeves of a wallet. Point to each person and say, “This is mommy, this is daddy.” Opening and closing the wallet helps practice fine motor skills and the images inside encourage recognition of family members.
Make Music. “Introducing music to children is an experience that transcends culture,” points out Thomas Hobson, a music therapist and director of child life services at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Singing a lullaby provides interaction, builds a bond, and relaxes both mother and child. According to Hobson, babies are born with the ability to receive music and differentiate tones and frequency. Music lays the foundation for spatial awareness and language acquisition.
Activity: Kitchen Band • For drum play, use a wooden spoon to bang on an empty oatmeal box or a coffee can. For bells, shake stainless steel measuring spoons that come in a ring. For maracas, fill an empty plastic spice container with colorful beads (secure the top tightly with duct tape). For cymbals, clap together two pot lids. You've got a baby band right in your kitchen.
Popular Peekaboo. Playing peekaboo teaches baby about object permanence. Simply put, it is the awareness that an object continues to exist even when it cannot be seen, heard, or touched. “Playing the game is ideal for developing cognitive skills,” suggests Tipton. It is basic to our ability to remember, to memorize, and to recover emotionally.
Activity: Treasure Hunt • Play peekaboo with toys by hiding them in a baking pan filled with cereal. Start with partially hiding them; he may need some help finding them at first. Once comfortable playing this game, move on to completely burying objects in pretend sand. You can begin with a blanket and his favorite toy to introduce the concept and then expand to this hide-and-seek activity. Provide him with spoons to dig for the treasure.