Even before your baby’s sense of smell or taste has had a chance to develop, she can feel your tender, loving touch. In the first months of life, touch connects your baby to the world by letting her know you are there to protect and comfort her. As she grows, touch becomes a major source of information about life beyond home. This period of brain development is the perfect time to visit touch-friendly places in our region.
Into the Wild
The natural world is rich with tactile information, and kids are eager to get their hands on it. You don’t have to look far to discover our area’s many green spaces; from small manicured parks to old growth forest, these living laboratories are filled with cool things like leaves, rocks, flowers, and bugs for experimental touch.
Some local attractions have taken the nature experience a step further by creating spaces especially for small bodies and growing minds. Sitting on 65 acres of land in the heart of the city, Lichterman Nature Center provides all sorts of outdoor exploration. In their Backyard Wildlife Center, tots can touch a snake skin, feel a bear’s pelt, or hold a lotus leaf. The Memphis Zoo’s Once Upon a Farm is another great place to get up close and personal with animals. Have your child scratch a goat behind the ear or stroke the bristly coat of a cow. At Memphis Botanic Garden’s My Big Backyard, children can get hands-on time with wooden marimbas, splash in a stream, or discover mystical fairy houses.
Shelby Farms Park and the Greenline also offer great nature experiences, and are a good way to introduce your children to an active, sporting lifestyle. Just be patient as they meander from the path for a little spontaneous leaf collecting or insect investigating.
Maybe your child is curious about how things work. The Children’s Museum of Memphis hosts a wealth of interactive exhibits designed around the littlest scientist, covering topics as diverse as weather patterns and dentistry. The Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum lets children view trains big and small, while the Pink Palace Museum offers a chance to touch a narwhal tusk, investigate a human cell, and see what’s going on under the skin with the Christie VeinViewer.
Local museums also host traveling exhibitions, many packed with cool interactive displays. This month, a special exhibit at the Pink Palace (designed in partnership with The Urban Child Institute), demonstrates the benefit of Touch Talk Read Play.
It’s a big world out there, filled with exciting things to experience and learn about. Wrap your child’s hand in the comfort of your own and head into the city for some brain-building tactile learning.
How They Grow:
Gear: That activity center you received at Christmas can be fun for baby, but how long should you let her play in one? These allow your child to sit or stand and can be used once your child is sitting up independently, around 6 months of age. But extended use each day can be bad for baby’s posture, since the hips are turned out, which encourages toe walking.
Best Bet: Limit baby’s time to 15 min. sessions
Option: To support baby’s development of sitting up, reaching and grabbing, let your tot spend time sitting on the floor with stacking blocks.
Source: Retro Baby by Anne Zachry • $18.95