Infants are growing and changing each day. As caregivers, it is our job to support their development by introducing and sharing rich learning experiences. Although infant activities are slower paced, there are many different things to do with babies that they will enjoy and that will benefit them developmentally.
Books with touch-and-feel sensory experiences and pictures of faces are especially enjoyable for infants. Reading together with infants helps them develop early literacy skills. According to kidshealth.org, reading with infants, “teaches a baby about communication, introduces concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way, builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills, [and] gives babies information about the world around them.”
One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to support infant development is to talk. Infants love to take part in back and forth conversation! When an infant makes a sound, respond as if they have communicated with words, and ask them questions about what they have said. Infants are interested in you, and enjoy following your motions and words.
Infants’ brains develop through reciprocal conversation. According to the Child Mind Institute, there are many ways to facilitate these conversations, including imitating back the sounds the infant makes and expanding upon their speech sounds– taking turns with infants verbally encourages back and forth conversational exchange. These are simple ways to encourage children’s development early on.
Another great way to engage them is to narrate what you are doing, whether it is diapering, feeding, dressing, or carrying the baby. You can punctuate your narration with questions and exclamations.
Singing and Dancing
Infants love to listen to and move with music. With younger infants, you can hold them while you sing or while you play music in the background, and dance along with the beat by holding the baby while rocking and bouncing up and down. With older infants who are able to sit up, sit next to them and clap along with the songs using hand gestures and movements for the infant to follow along!
Parents.com recommends showing babies their reflection in a mirror as a way to support visual skills and encourage social and emotional development. As babies look in the mirror, talk and ask questions such as “who is that?”
Do you have shakers or music makers available? Babies enjoy the action of hitting and banging as part of their exploration of new items. Shakers can be used during music and movement to go along with the beat, or they can be offered to an infant to be explored independently. Infants will enjoy learning about the different sounds and noises that shakers can make, depending on what is inside!
Infants are interested in exploring the feel of different textures and materials. Putting an infant on a fluffy blanket or a smooth play mat can both be opportunities for learning! Allow infants time to touch, feel, and run their fingers through objects of different textures. Offer soft items like stuffed animals next to teethers or wooden blocks so that infants can explore the variety and feel the differences.