Playing with babies by Shanta Everington
Everything your baby does facilitates their learning about themselves and the world around them. During baby's first year, they will learn more rapidly than any of time in their lives. Every new experience presents a learning opportunity and your baby will be processing an enormous amount of information every day.
Through play, your baby will learn communication skills, develop their physical co-ordination and their imagination.
Baby-led play and interaction
There is no need to formally 'teach' a baby. Your baby is learning all the time through sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Joining in activities with your baby and taking cues from them is the best way to guide them through their enormous learning curve. Try things out and see how they respond.
Cause and effect
Remember, when they persist in throwing their toys out of the pram or hurling their porridge on the floor, they are actually learning about cause and effect – 'If I do A, then B happens' – and the laws of gravity. Call it a science lesson!
Babies don't need expensive toys to play. They are just as happy playing with everyday items that they see you handling around the house. Banging things with wooden spoons and filling plastic containers with things can be old favourites! Make sure that you don't give your baby small items that they could choke on.
Babies love being talked to. Even though your baby doesn't understand what you are saying, they will enjoy your attention and interaction. If you chat away to your baby, they will smile and make noises back. It is never too young to start having a conversation.
As well as being talked to, babies also love being read to. You can buy soft fabric books that your baby can hold and chew, as well as brightly coloured board books, which your baby can handle without tearing.
Babies soon develop favourite books and enjoy hearing the same story over and over again as they learn to anticipate what comes next and even join in! Helping your child to develop a love of books and reading early in life is a wonderful gift.
Agnes and her husband started playing with their son Edgar since birth. Initially, they sang songs that involved tickling or touching him, or miming. Agnes says, ‘We would shake a muslin cloth over his face or nose, making high pitch noises with the movement of the muslin, to which he would happily react.’
Baby Edgar also enjoyed lying on a baby gym, first looking at the hanging toys and then trying to touch them. Agnes says that Edgar soon learned to smile and make content sounds, and even later on he would giggle. Agnes believes that play and interaction is so important to make a baby feel valued and loved.
Edgar started as a spectator to his parents’ games but as he has grown, he has begun to initiate game and become more involved. Now that he is 10 months old, Edgar plays on his own more (with mum or dad nearby to give him a smile or a word and make sure he doesn’t get up to mischief!). He loves exploring and trying things on his own and will happily sit for half an hour concentrating on whatever game he’s invented.
Edgar also seems absolutely captivated by books and enjoys going out for a walk or to the playground, dancing, swimming and singing.
Extract from Baby's First Year: A Parent's Guide by Shanta Everington, published by Need2Know Books (www.need2knowbooks.co.uk) Shanta is also the author of The Terrible Twos: A Parent's Guide and runs the Parent Guide website at www.parentguideuk.wordpress.com.