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Your baby’s life during the first twelve months will be marked by many developmental milestones, such as vocalisation, mobility, social awareness and so on. Babies naturally develop into well-adjusted adults as long as the basic needs such as nutrition, rest, and emotional bonding are met. You can further encourage your baby’s development by stimulating him both mentally and physically, which can help him explore and understand his environment.
Research has shown that the key components in this process are parents who take the time to interact with them in different ways. There are several fun activities described in this article which can help them in their development.
Video: Best Games to Play with Your Baby
How to Play with Babies?
The first year is going to be difficult, with the rearranged sleeping schedules, fussiness, crying, constant attention and so on. As a newborn grows older, they become more aware of their own body in the context of their surroundings. One of the most common ways babies explore their new environment is their mouths. They tend to put everything in their mouth. Fingers and hands are also developing during this period, allowing them to grab, pinch, hold and lift objects as they grow. There are various games you can play with your child that help him experience the world, involving visual components, social bonding, hand-eye coordination, motor skills and memory.
Games to Play With Infants Under One Year
Babies younger than one year have rather short attention spans. Combined with their age, personality and disposition, it can become difficult to keep them focused on a single thing. This is why it helps to repetitively play the same game over and over, so it becomes firmly entrenched in their minds. If your baby is enjoying the activity, he will be smiling or laughing. However, if he looks disinterested or squirmy, change the game.
Birth to 3 Months
Newborns seem like they are unaware of most things around them. So you might think it’s difficult or impossible to engage them. However, even very young babies have working senses, which can even be stimulated and sharpened.
1. Locating Objects
Tracking or finding objects can help with visual development. You can use a brightly coloured item in this activity. When your baby is on his back, keep the object right in front of his face. Then, slowly move it from left to right until your baby begins to follow it with his eyes.
2. Song and Dance
You can introduce him to music and movement. Play a relaxing song with a beat, firmly hold your baby and dance around the room slowly in time to the song.
3. Identifying Reflections
Hold your baby in front of a mirror and point at his reflection. You can ask him “Who is that?”, And repeat the activity for other reflections, such as yours, his sibling, or a toy.
4 to 6 Months
1. Bubble Distraction
Playing with bubbles is quite fun, and can be an interesting way to distract your child if they are fussy or cranky. You can blow bubbles anywhere, at the park, during bath time or even when putting your baby to sleep.
2. Flight Simulation
Since your baby can now support his head, you can lift him up in your arms and carry him around as if he is flying.
3. Introduction to Scents
Let your baby get a whiff of the various smells around the house. This activity can distract him as well as teach him how to associate odours with actions. For instance, you can employ mild spices like cinnamon, cloves, cumin as well as lotions, creams, soaps and so on.
7 to 9 Months
Your baby should be now able to grasp objects and transfer them from one hand to another. He might even begin crawling around.
1. Obstacle Courses
You can use large but soft objects like pillows and quilts in his crawl paths so he can learn how to manoeuvre around them. This is excellent to improve motor skills.
2. Sensory Stimulation
Babies are pretty noisy, especially when they take objects and bang them around on the floor or tabletops. This is not because they want to annoy you; they are curious about the sounds being produced. Give them items like spoons and bells which make interesting sounds. You can also give them embroidered cloth or other complex but delicate surfaces to hone their tactile skills on.
3. Hide and Seek
Hide and seek, or peek-a-boo, is a great game to help your baby understand the concept of object permanence, that is even if an item moves out of the line of vision, it still exists somewhere. You can hide behind a door or curtain and let your baby find you. You can also cover your face with a cloth and reveal yourself when your baby starts calling for you.
10 to 12 Months
At this age, your baby should be learning how to stand, pull himself up, climb and so on. Fine motor skills like turning pages are also developing.
1. Make Movement Fun
As your baby learns to walk, you can encourage his mobility by keeping his favourite toy in different locations, so he goes to get it. Also show him how to push objects around the room, which will help him establish a sense of balance.
2. The Imitation Game
Babies around a year old love imitating sounds and expressions. You can encourage them by making strange sounds and faces until your baby starts copying you or responding with their versions.
3. Order from Chaos
Your baby is now learning that the world around him is ordered. You can show him how to maintain that order by giving him toys and other objects and show him how to arrange them by size, colour or shape. This will also show him that order need not be established rigidly, but rather that there are multiple ways of doing so.
Tips for Parents
Activities and games are essential in the early development of children. Here are a few tips for parents to play with infants, which can help make the experience both fun and informative for your little one:
- Make playing with the baby a family activity. This will strengthen the bonds between family members and stimulate the formation of an intimate relationship between the family and the baby.
- Make sure you have the time to play with your baby. As explained earlier, one of the important factors in child development is the active presence of a caring parent. The activities mentioned in this article are quite simple and do not need special rooms or items.
- Remember that the solutions to the problems in the activities must come from the baby. Your role is just to create the setup and assist your baby with anything that is required.
- Keep an eye on your children when they are playing. If you observe any instances of mean behaviours, such as refusal to share or physical altercations, you need to interfere and show them how to play fair.
- Don’t hold back when it comes to giving your babies different objects to play with. Babies who experience a wide variety of colours, sounds, smells and textures are better at developing the ability to integrate their perceptions with the environment.
- Be aware of the materials used to make the objects used in the activities. For instance, plasticine and clay is a bad idea for babies under twelve months as they could swallow it. Similarly, other plastic toys may have chemical colourants that can enter the body if the baby keeps them in their mouths for too long.
- Don’t set the rules for their activities. Allow them to build on their creativity and ideas. Play with them in a distraction-free environment, away from disturbances, especially television.
Growth and development happen according to a biological schedule. Even though there might be a few differences, most babies follow the same pattern, starting with rolling over and followed by sitting up, crawling, standing, walking and so on. But always know that all babies are unique, and it does not help to compare your child with others. Some babies might take their own sweet time in learning things while others can be much faster, but at the end, this speed has a negligible effect on their adulthood. However, if you notice your baby takes considerably longer to reach his development milestones, it might be due to an undiagnosed condition. Please consult your paediatrician in this case.