A baby’s job is to eat, sleep, poop ... and play!
As a parent, it’s important to ensure that your baby plays daily and uses toys and objects that help them hone in on their developmental milestones throughout their first year of life. Babies grow at different paces and they need certain kinds of play and activity along the way.
The first form of play that a baby participates in is called tummy time. A baby is placed on their belly and is encouraged to explore their world around them on an activity mat. The mats are colorful, are filled with textures, mirrors, and some even make sounds. It’s usually on these mats that parents observe their babies roll over or begin to scoot forward to crawl or chase after a ball.
Once babies master tummy time, they are placed in a bouncer or activity gym. These stationery items house lots of stimulation and developmentally friendly toys that help strengthen their legs, their grasping abilities, and encourages creativity and imaginative play.
When babies become more mobile and toddle around, there are lots of play options. Push toys, walkers, and items like balls or slides are great to help build a baby’s muscles and encourage lots of active play.
Where you play with your baby is also important. Be sure to get your baby out of the house and out to explore your backyard. The park is also a great place for your baby to play and socialize with other babies close to their age.
A lake or beach can also be a unique experience for a baby. Water play, as well as exposure to textures such as sand can really enhance a baby’s background knowledge, visual interest, and elevate their curiosity.
When it comes to play and activity time, there are some do’s and don’ts to follow.
- Mix things up. If you give your baby the same thing to play with every day, they will become uninterested and bored. If you can’t switch up the toy, then at least switch up the location.
- Give your baby toys that are developmentally friendly and safe. Always check for loose parts or small items that can serve as a choking hazard since your baby puts everything into their mouth.
- Facilitate play. Roll a ball to your baby when they are crawling. Dangle keys for them while they’re enjoying tummy time. Laugh, tickle, smile, and hug. Your baby is associating play with enjoyment, and you!
- Schedule play dates. Social development is just as important as physical development. Play at a very early age helps target appropriate interactions, speech, and even sharing.
- Choose non-toxic art materials and toys made of organic material. These toys ensure that your baby only plays with the safest items as they come in contact with their mouth and skin.
- Play peek a boo and hide and seek games. This teaches your little one about object permanence and is also pretty fun!
- Read to your baby from small, cardboard books. This is a great way to practice attention skills, developing their vocabulary, and introducing them to speech sounds.
- Do all the playing for your baby. It’s ok to sit back and take a less active role when your baby plays from time to time. This helps them become independent and discover the world around them on their own.
- Play with the television on. TV will take away from what your baby is doing and will discourage conversations and musical interaction since its sights and sounds tend to take over.
- Be unrealistic with milestones. While it’s great to show your baby paper and crayons, don’t expect them to sit there and color a master piece. While it’s great to do arts and crafts, finger paint is a much more acceptable activity.
- Leave your baby completely unattended during play time. Accidents happen. Always keep your baby close by.
- Drag your baby off to story hour. It will be quite some time before they can sit on their own and listen to a full fledged story. Stick with word flashcards and mini books for the time being.
A baby’s play and activity time is important right from the get go.
The right setting, the right materials, and the right encouragement makes all the difference!