How to Engage Your Infant to Encourage Development
by Lisa Douglass, Infant Teacher at Day Early Learning at Fort Harrison
From newborns who rely on you for everything, to young toddlers who explore everything, there are so many things that infants accomplish during their first year. It’s important to give them experiences each day to help them learn and grow. Here are some activities that you can do at home to help your infant successfully progress into a toddler.
Introduce literacy by reading a book together. You can sit with your infant on your lap, in your arms, or lay beside them to promote tummy time. Reading a book together is a great way to bond with your infant, and it helps to develop those first steps towards speaking and reading.
Another activity that is fun for infants is art. Most art can be done with infants as young as six months and some can be done with four to five month olds. The one thing to remember is that infants learn best by putting everything into their mouths, so make sure anything that you use is edible or non-toxic.
For those 6+ months begin by taping a piece of paper down on a solid surface (tray, cookie sheet, floor, etc.) and offer the infant a shallow pan or lid with paint on it. You may have to help the infant find the paint. Then encourage them to touch the paper and watch the young Picasso at work.
For younger infants or for those who may have sensory issues, place the paper with a dab of paint inside a ziplock bag. Close the bag and tape it down to a solid surface such as a cookie tray or the floor. Placing the infant on tummy time, you can encourage them to touch the bag and experience the magic.
Introducing Physical Activity
When looking for physical activities try using your fingers and letting the infant grab hold to pull up to stand. Help them to sit back down by lowering your hands and encouraging them to bend and sit. For more skilled infants, from the standing position (and with lots of padding around), encourage the infant to release your hands and “free stand” on their own either falling to a sitting position or falling into you. Prepare to catch them if needed.
Playing with toys is also an important part of infant development. The toy that all infants want the most is the toy that they see you holding. Letting them play with a pot, plastic cup, spoon, or plate and showing them how to use it is introducing life skills. Giving them a piece of paper can be an experience in sound, smell, and in most cases taste (remember everything goes into the mouth).
Doing little activities with your infant provides the best experiences for learning about themselves and the world around them. Remember you as a parent are your infant’s first teacher and the one who will make the greatest impact in their lives.