Caring for Infants

Curiosity Activities for Infants

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Your infant will love toys that shake, rattle and roll. Consider balls with different textures and sizes for him to roll or hold. Look for rattles that are clear so that your baby can see the contents as he shakes them. Toy blocks with bells or other noisy objects inside will give your baby something to look at, listen to and stack. Don’t discount the value of everyday objects. Your curious infant will love playing and making noise with plastic containers, measuring cups, and wooden spoons.

Look, Touch, Taste

Curious infants explore the concept of object permanence, which is the notion that an object continues to exist even when it's out of sight. Play with your baby by hiding a favorite toy under a small blanket. Leave part of the toy visible and encourage your baby to pull away the blanket and find his toy. Give your baby blankets or safe toys with different textures for him to taste and feel. Sit in front of a mirror with your baby and make faces or let him lean forward and look in the mirror.

Go, Go, Go

Once your infant learns to get places by rolling or scooting, he won't stop. Create a child-proof space for him to play and stock it with interesting toys. Place toys on top of the couch and encourage your older infant to pull to standing and see what is there. Give your older infant toys to push, pull and walk behind. For a younger infant, place toys inside of other toys and encourage him to overturn containers and see what is inside.

Safety Considerations

Because infants put everything in their mouths, safety is a primary consideration. Any toy that fits through a toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard. Check plastic or wooden toys regularly for splinters or cracks and steer clear of toys with lead paint or detachable parts. Keep toys free of germs by either putting them in the dishwasher or wiping them clean with soap and water. Many fabric toys can be washed and either machine or air-dried.

Infant & Toddler Development With Parental Interaction

Emotional Development in Infancy

Edward Tronick designed the “Still Face Paradigm,” which explores an infant’s reaction to parent’s interaction or lack thereof. When a parent looks at the baby and responds to her sounds or pointing, the baby interacts happily; however, when the parent looks with a straight face and does not interact, the baby becomes upset and responds with negative emotions and crying. Zero to Three suggests this experiment displays clearly an infant’s need for parental interaction, and with proper response from parents, infants learn trust and a sense of caring.

Toddler Emotional Development

The sense of security developed in infancy continues through toddlerhood. With parental interaction, toddlers learn familiar people and respond favorably to them, according to PBS.org. By age 1 or 2 years, toddlers learn to recognize their emotions but they often have difficulty managing them, which results in tantrums. Through the toddler years, children develop more independence, but they still need to sense parental supervision as they explore and play. Parents helping toddlers label their feelings and practice emotional regulation helps them develop in a healthy way.

Milestones

An infant's or toddler’s sense of being loved and feeling safe is essential to stimulate other areas of development. In the Tronick study, when parents did not respond to their baby, the infant did not want to explore his environment. When parents do show interest in a child’s curiosity, it gives that child the motivation to discover. Through discovery and play, infants and toddlers meet developmental milestones, which are skills most children gain by a certain age. Infants often “speak” before they use recognizable words; infants at 6 months will respond to a sound a parent makes by making their own sounds. Toddlers might find things you hide or name pictures in a book, but they do not learn these skills on their own -- parental interaction is necessary for meeting milestones.

Tips

Responding to your infant’s needs is one crucial step to developing security. This task can be as simple as feeding your infant when he cries, according to Education.com. Encourage language development by talking to your infant and helping your toddler learn vocabulary by naming objects or reading. Stimulate physical development by helping your toddler walk or play games with a large ball. Play peek-a-boo with your infant. In general, demonstrating behaviors, giving your child eye contact and attention, playing with your child and showing affection are ways parental interaction stimulates infant and toddler development.

Infant Creative Arts & Exploration Activities for the Spring

The spring season is an exciting time for infants to explore the world around them. A child exercises his sensory and motor skills when using familiar items in inventive and unfamiliar ways. Be sure that a variety of new equipment is available for all exploratory or artistic activities. Supervise your infant at all times and tailor the items to fit each individual infant’s abilities and needs.

Outdoor Exploratory Activities

As the weather grows warmer, discovery of the great outdoors opens a wealth of activities for infants. Allow your infant to explore new terrains on soft green lawns or warm sandy landscapes. Fill a bag of natural surprises such as flowers, feathers, colorful stones and shells for your infant to rifle through. Spring is also an opportune time for discovering an assortment of friendly animals such as kittens, puppies, tortoises and goats. Don’t forget to introduce your infant to the world of water. Swim classes provide constructive spaces for you and your child to explore the water. Learn to blow bubbles, discover items that sink and items that float and explore with other infants.

Outdoor Arts and Crafts

Artistic creations can be accomplished either in outdoor settings or with elements collected from nature. Activities include getting your infant’s hands dirty by manipulating clay, mud or wet sand. Customize art supplies for infants using natural elements such as colorful flowers, green grass and leaves. Constructing crafts with your infant to be eaten by wild animals will also help them build a connection with the outside world. For example, dip an uncooked ear of corn into honey and sprinkle it with bird seed or popcorn to create a natural bird feeder.

Indoor Exploratory Activities

During April showers, your infant can still explore the elements of spring at home. Prepare your crawling baby for the outdoor terrain with piles of pillows on a soft floor where they playfully learn to navigate in uneven landscapes. Wrap favorite outdoor items in colorful paper and watch your infant joyfully unwrap them. Infants also enjoy the discovery of a large pile of bubbles made from safe dish soap or baby-approved bubble bath.

Indoor Arts and Crafts

Large sections of paper (or other possible background elements) taped to the floor provide plenty of space for your infant to discover her own creativity. Utilize spring themes such as new plant growth, young animals, insects and melting snow when planning crafts. Be sure to include an assortment of both utensils (sponges, string, rocks, large brushes) and ingredients (ice cubes, edible paints, colored sand) for each craft. Using a collection of everyday items to make unique creations is a fun way to aid an infant's mental development.

Safety Issues With Infant Jumpers

Falling Risks

Weak clamps that don't properly attach the jumper straps to the doorway can cause the entire jumper, and the baby inside, to fall to the floor. Considering the additional force a baby applies when jumping, the fall could easily be several feet sideways in either direction if one of the clamps snapped loose. Even if the clamps were secure, as infants start bouncing more forcefully, they're at risk of loosening the safety harness straps designed to keep them in place.

Spring Risks

Infants love poking their curious fingers almost anyplace, including the spring coils attached to the jumper snaps. And, while cloth sleeves over the springs might be an effective deterrent for a 5-month-old infant, the inquisitive hands of a 9 or 10 month-old baby can easily push this movable cloth out of the way and pinch skin or fingers in the springs. Once the spring is exposed, loose pieces of clothing and wisps of delicate baby hair can also become painfully trapped inside.

Position and Proximity Hazards

Jumpers let infants bounce in any direction without boundaries. This becomes especially dangerous as infants grow stronger and start bouncing more forcefully -- and in different directions, potentially slamming into walls, doorways, table edges or something even more hazardous like a radiator, oven or fireplace. What's more, many baby jumpers not only allow your baby to bounce, but the long straps or springs allow him to swing. As he becomes stronger, the combined momentum from swinging while bouncing makes the exterior hazards even more dangerous.

Developmental Issues

Given how much babies love bouncing in jumpers, it can be tempting to let them sit a jumper for several 20-minute periods a day. One developmental risk, however, is that bouncing up and down, often on tippy-toe, doesn't mimic the motions of walking or even standing, reports the San Diego Children's Hospital. Additionally infant jumpers don't strengthen muscles in the core or torso as does crawling or tummy time. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Safety Commission, this is why it's best to limit infants' time in a jumper to no more than 15 minutes per day.

The Link Between Good Nutrition & Development in Infants

Water

Water plays an essential part of infant development by regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and waste and maintaining normal kidney function, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. During the first year of life, breastfeeding or formula will fulfill an infants' need for water. Even in hot weather, supplemental water is not necessary when a baby takes in sufficient amounts of breast milk or formula, with about 4 to 8 ounces of water a day recommended for infants who are being introduced to protein-rich or salty foods, such as meats and egg yolks.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is an integral part of infants' developing bones and teeth and ensures healthy nerves and muscles. Deficiencies in calcium are linked with increased blood lead levels. Infants will receive enough calcium by consuming breast milk or infant formula, and infants age 9 months and older can also receive calcium from dairy foods such as yogurt and cheese or green and leafy vegetables. Vitamin D affects the absorption of calcium. If mothers are breastfeeding their babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mother provide their babies with supplemental vitamin D. In addition to boosting immunity, vitamin D also prevents bone-softening diseases such as rickets.

Iron

Iron is another essential mineral needed for developing infants in order to provide healthy growth, proper formation of blood cells and prevent anemia -- which can cause long-term cognitive and behavioral developmental delays. A full-term infant is likely born with adequate iron stores, which begin to deplete around 4 months of age. As breast milk contains little iron, breastfed babies should receive a supplement of 1 mg of oral iron daily, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. Formula is fortified with iron, and formula-fed infants will receive adequate iron, without any additional supplementation.

Lipids

The USDA defines lipids as substances that contain fats, oils and cholesterol. These fatty substances are a major source of energy in infants and also protect their bodies' organs, promote brain, skin, and eye development and help increase their resistance to infection and disease. Because infants grow at such a fast rate, their diet should be energy-dense to promote healthy development, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, no limitations of fat and cholesterol are recommended for children under the age of 2 years. Around 50 percent of the energy substances consumed in breast milk or formula are comprised of fat, making them an important source of lipids during infancy.

Crystals in Infant Urine

Colors of Crystals

The colour of the urine crystals often signals the severity of the problem. Clear crystals often come from the diaper itself. Moisture absorption is the purpose of these crystals, but occasionally they leak out of the diaper. Typically, such crystals are no cause for concern. On the other hand, orange or pink crystals, comprised of calcium and urate, come from the infant's urine. Doctors call this condition "brick stain." It usually indicates that the baby is dehydrated.

Younger vs. Older Infants

Brick stain in very young babies--those who are only a few days old--is common and usually not serious. Breastfed babies drink colostrum for their first few days of life. Colostrum is a nutritious liquid that a mother produces for 3 to 5 days before her milk comes in. Because mothers produce only small amounts of colostrum, very young babies often get slightly dehydrated. The dehydration is usually no longer an issue when the baby begins to drink milk. Brick stain in older babies, though, may be a more critical sign of malnutrition.

Inadequate Milk Intake

Orange urate crystals in older infants are often signals that the baby is not getting enough milk. This condition may result when a mother does not produce enough milk or when a baby does not suck properly to ingest enough. A paediatrician will weigh the baby to determine whether he is gaining weight at a healthy pace. If not, the paediatrician will generally suggest that the mother supplement her milk with formula until the baby's weight stabilises and the crystals disappear.

Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome

In rare instances, crystals in infant urine are the indication of a serious disease called Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome. Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome is a disorder resembling cerebral palsy. Affected children exhibit dysfunctional motor skills, poor cognitive development and abnormal behaviour. Many children with Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome never walk. One major sign of Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome is an overproduction of uric acid, thus urate crystals in urine may signal the disease. Therefore, it is important to identify the disorder as early as possible for the best outcome.

Prevention/Solution

In most cases, urine crystals are the result of faulty diapers. If an infant has clear crystals in her diaper, a paediatrician usually does not need to see her. However, orange or pink crystals may signal a mild to serious problem. Parents should consult a paediatrician immediately if infants have coloured crystals in their diapers.

Common Choking Hazards for Infants

Foods

Hot dogs are more likely than any other food to cause an infant to choke to death. The soft texture and round shape make it easy to obstruct a child's airway and also make it difficult to dislodge. Grapes are also both soft and rounded and pose a similar risk. Other foods that pose a high choking risk for infants are hard foods such as nuts, popcorn, carrots, ice cubes, raw peas and hard candy. These are too difficult for babies to chew properly. Sticky foods such as peanut butter, caramel and marshmallows are also choking hazards.

Toys

If you read the fine print at the toy store, you will see many, many toys labeled "Small parts. Not for children under 3 years of age." Toys and toy parts pose a major choking hazard for infants. If your baby has an older sibling, be especially careful of the elder's toys and where they're both stored and played with. Teach your older children never to share their small toys with their sibling. Watch out, too, for game parts and marbles.

Household Objects

Babyproof your house by putting out of reach all small household objects that could end up in your baby's mouth. Common items to look for include coins, batteries, safety pins, pen caps, buttons, drink caps, screws and jewelry. Foam bean bag filler is another choking hazard that is often overlooked by parents.

Balloons

Balloons deserve their own special section, as they are the most common cause of toy-related choking deaths among children of any age, according to Boston Children's Hospital. Never let your infant play with uninflated latex balloons. If a balloon pops, clean up all the fragments immediately lest one find its way into your baby's mouth. In fact, you might want to pass on latex balloons in general for the first few years.