Babies have a hard time differentiating between softer colors. The best option for younger babies is contrasting colors such as black and white or a dark and light color combination. When playing with your baby, try wearing striped clothes to help stimulate her eyes. Pick books with bright, contrasting colors so your little one will get the most out of reading. As you read, point to different objects in the pictures so she learns her words. Don't hold the book more than a foot away because young babies can't focus on objects far away.
It's no secret that babies love mirrors. Try a mirrored baby toy or just holding him up in front of the mirror (staying about 8 to 12 inches away). Younger babies will focus on their own face. As your baby grows, encourage him to make faces at the mirror to see what happens. Try moving something behind his back and watch his reaction in the mirror. It's a good test to see whether he's tracking objects and how quickly he can follow them with his eyes as the object moves.
Brightly Colored Rattles and Toys
Again, choose rattles and toys with contrasting colors and stripes for visual stimulation. Shake the rattle in front of your child, encouraging her to focus her eyes on the sound. As she gets older, you'll be able to see a change in her reaction as she tries to reach out and grab the rattle. Help her gently guide it back to her face as she takes it because a baby's reflexes could result in a grabbed rattle accidentally popping her in the eyes.
Peekaboo and Object Hide-and-Seek
This classic game helps your baby's eyesight as he follows your movements and learns about disappearing and reappearing objects. Cover your face with your hands and then move your hands away as you say "peekaboo." When your baby is older and a more mobile, try placing an object under a blanket while he's watching. See whether he'll try to find it himself. If he doesn't try to find it, pull the blanket away, saying "peekaboo." Try the game a few times. Reveal the object and then hide it and leave the blanket for him to pull it away.
Babbling is a sign of normal infant development. Babies "talk" by repeating sounds with different consonants, such as "ba ba ba" and "ma ma ma." Experts at the Center for Early Literacy Learning encourage parents to sit with their babies face to face, and repeat babbling sounds. Parents may also ask the baby questions, such as "how are you?" and "can you say hello to me?" The question itself does not matter; the engagement and interaction fosters both attachment and early vocal communication.
Lap Games and Songs
Babies typically love music. Singing to your baby encourages attachment, communication and even literacy. Hold your baby on your lap and sing a short song, such as "The Noble Duke of York," or any song you are familiar with. Bounce the baby gently to the beat while you look in her eyes and sing. When she looks back at you, smiles and laughs or coos, you know she is enjoying the game and enjoying the social interaction.
Your baby is never too young to enjoy a story. Hold baby on your lap or lie down on the rug next to him. Soft plastic or cloth baby books are better than board books at this young age because baby can hurt himself with a heavy board book. Look at the bright pictures together and say words on the page. Follow your child's lead as to how long to spend on each page. The back and forth interaction encourages both attachment and early literacy.
Finger plays are short, repetitive finger and hand motions performed to song. A good example is "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Babies usually look forward to mom or dad singing a favorite finger play, and will coo and giggle in response. Watch your baby to learn which finger play she enjoys the most. Finger plays teach babies that social interaction is fun.
Babies are born with some protective reflexes that help them survive in dangerous settings. For instance, infants are known to have an instinct to dive in water and hold their breath as a protective mechanism, which usually disappears by the age of 6 months, according to a 2002 report in the journal "Acta Paediatrica." Al Yonas, with the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, said that babies possess innate reflexes and instincts that serve as involuntary protections, according to an article at Minnesota.cbslocal.com. These reflexes are most prominent in the first months of age.
Comfort in Water
''Swimming prevents drowning at all ages,'' according to Dr. Jonathan D. Reich in a 2007 letter to the journal "Pediatrics." He said he believes that the earlier parents start swimming lessons, the better chance children have of avoiding drowning. Putting babies into water and leaving them to swim on their own, however, is strongly discouraged. Children can easily inhale and choke on water. Once infants develop into the baby and toddler stages, they have increased opportunities to grow into swimmers.
Babies have the capacity to learn quickly to become comfortable in water when regularly exposed to it with their parents. With hundreds of practice hours, they can even learn to hold their breath for 20 seconds, according to Babyswimming.com. Nine-month old children have been reported to swim the length of a 25-meter pool on their own, according to a 2012 article at DailyMail.co.uk. Pools and community centers offer programs that teach swimming to very young children and their parents.
According to a 2010 study published in the journal "Pediatrics," because babies' immune systems are not fully developed, they are susceptible to germs in chlorine pools and even at risk of bronchiolitis. Chlorine can affect infant airways. Swim instructors should be highly trained to work with parents of young infants, but if parents are comfortable swimmers, they can consider introducing infants slowly to water.
Babies need to see adults and older children handle books to develop reading skills. The simple task of holding a book and turning pages requires muscle tone and developing the fine motor skills to grab and turn pages. Babies also need to understand book features, including turning pages from the right to the left for books printed in most countries. The simple concept of the front and back of the book also requires exploration by tiny readers.
Looking and Recognition
Books with large contrasting photos and drawings introduce letters, numbers and shapes to baby. The child then begins to identify images on book pages and react to photos or drawings. Babies recognize photos matching the family pet or a favorite toy, and this process helps introduce the world. Babies react to humorous book images by laughing or by pointing at favorite foods or text images showing play the child enjoys.Taking 20 minutes to read to your baby each day helps develop critical literacy skills and a lifetime love of books, according to the McCowan Memorial Library in Pitman, New Jersey.
Babies at approximately four months see books primarily as toys. Children focus more on the book as a story at six months and sometimes help turn pages. Between a year and 18 months, your child might imitate reading behaviors, including mimicking the process. If you read aloud to your child, your baby might attempt to recreate the sounds you make when reading. It may sound like gibberish, but your baby is attempting to recreate the favorite story. Some children use your inflection or the comic noises you make as you read the story. Encourage your child to read to you by asking questions about the story or images. Point and nod at the images, if your child shows you pages from the text. Repeat important vocabulary words from the book as your child "reads," and provide reinforcement when your baby repeats these words.
Understanding Pictures and Stories
Development for babies includes recognition of how images fit together to create a story and how some books feature developed stories. This differs from the process of matching a real animal with a photo of the animal in a book. Babies with language might describe some of the events in the book and discuss events on a simple level. Babies without developed-language skills might act out an action described in the book, imitate a story character or make the sounds mentioned in the text.