Here are several low-cost ideas to keep infants learning and interacting.
Q: Can you offer activities for my baby? He’s only 2 months old, and most of the time he’s eating or sleeping, but when he’s awake and content, I’d like to interact with him in a meaningful way.
A: Here are five things that will hold your baby’s interest:
Your face: Babies are fascinated by a face and all it can do. Your mouth moves and makes sounds, your eyes blink, your cheeks puff out, your head nods and shakes and your tongue moves in and out.
The very words you speak, your inflection and intonation all hold a baby’s interest. Your head and face are readily available to engage your child in a context of love and social interaction. From birth, your baby is interested in copying your facial expressions.
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A mobile: Most parents purchase a mobile to hang over their baby’s crib. But babies, like all of us, get bored. So if they look at the very same mobile day after day, they’ll soon lose interest.
Therefore, change the appearance of the mobile from time to time (not necessarily daily). So if your baby’s mobile has five horses that dance around in a circle, one day tie ribbons around their necks. Another day add a bell.
Balls: Anything that moves, babies notice. Nothing moves more easily than a ball that ricochets off furniture, bumps into walls and rolls under tables and through tubes. Need a tube? Go to the post office and purchase a large postal tube. When your baby tires of balls rolling around the floor, drop a ball through the tube.
Blocks: Once your baby can sit well without tumbling over, purchase blocks. They need to be small enough for your baby to hold but big enough so that he can’t swallow them. With the blocks, play “stack and tumble.” Your part of this game is to stack the blocks; your baby’s part is to knock them over. See how many blocks you can stack before your baby moves his hand quickly to knock them over. It’s all about cause and effect. It’s as if the child is saying over and over, “When I hit the blocks, they tumble over.”
Vary the play by putting the blocks in a container; your child will love dumping them out. Once your baby can pull herself up to a standing position, stack the blocks on the coffee table. He’ll love to knock the blocks to the floor, learning about gravity as she watches them drop.
Disappearance: A major part of your child’s early learning agenda the first year of life revolves around disappearance, realizing that objects and people continue to exist even when out of sight. Purchase a jack-in-the-box; play peek-a-boo; and later, when your child becomes mobile, play hide and seek. There are so many variations of these games, and there’s no end to your child’s interest in them. You’ll likely tire of them far sooner than your child.
For more of my ideas on infant cognitive development and accompanying activities, go to BabyZone.com and search for “Your Brilliant Baby, Week by Week.”
Jan Faull is a specialist in child development and behavior. E-mail parenting and development questions to her at email@example.com or write to: Jan Faull, c/o Families, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.