Whether you stay home to care for your infant, or leave him with a different caregiver, having a set of activities to entertain your little one has many benefits. Not only does it give you a fun way to interact with each other, but age-appropriate activities help foster physical and cognitive development. You don't have to map out the entire day, but setting aside a bit of time to play together each day builds your bond and helps your baby grow and develop.
Change Your Scenery
Walking around with your infant can help soothe him when he's upset, but it also gives him the chance to see new things. Walk from room to room in your house, pointing to and naming the items you pass. Show your baby where you cook and identify the foods in the fruit bowl. Name the clothes in the laundry basket, the furniture in your living room and the flowers and plants in the backyard. The mall, the park, the grocery store and even other people's homes offer even more scenery changes to keep your little one engaged. This activity also builds vocabulary and language skills. Look at board books with bright pictures for similar benefits when you are not able to actually change the scenery.
During infancy, children learn by exploring with their hands and mouths. This is why you'll see your little one taste everything that comes his way. Offering him plenty of safe ways to satisfy this need helps him learn. Let your baby touch and manipulate pieces of fabric with different textures, such as cotton, corduroy, satin and fleece. Play with stuffed animals and blankets, which also expose him to a variety of textures. Let him run his fingers through your hair, help him feel the grass and sand at the park or show him how to gently pet the family dog or cat. These activities build fine motor skills and promote safe exploration of your baby's surroundings. Supervise closely to keep your baby from putting things into her mouth that could be harmful, such as dirt or a chewed piece of gum on the park bench.
Imitate Each Other
When your infant imitates what you're doing, it means he's learning, both physically and cognitively. Repeat the sounds your baby makes and encourage him to stick his tongue out or wave his hands after you show him how. Watch him smile when you grin at him and smile back at him when he grins first. If your baby is attempting to roll over or reach for a toy, show him how it's done and help him copy your actions. This helps him figure things out and builds his motor skills by getting him to use his muscles.
Any age-appropriate toy is fun for your baby to play with and most promote some aspect of his development. Toys that do something when you child manipulates them help him learn cause and effect and keep him engaged. You can play with them together by showing him how the toys work and taking turns getting them to light up or play music. Talk to your infant about what's happening at the same time, which builds vocabulary skills and keeps you both interacting with each other.