At birth, your newborn has all the brain cells he will ever need. The way his neurons connect and the strength of those connections, however, are all influenced by his experiences. As your infant’s learning partner, you can impact his development with simple and fun activities. With the close relationship between social, language, physical and cognitive development, growth in one area promotes growth in another. Your infant is capable of great learning.
Social Development Activities
Gone are the days of letting your baby ‘cry it out’ whenever she gets fussy. Rather, responding to your little one's crying right away makes her feel important and understood, according to Connecticut’s Guidelines for the Development of Infant & Toddler Early Learning. In a nurturing, caring relationship, a strong attachment develops between your baby and you, leading to a confident child with a good self-image. Calling her by name, talking, singing and humming to her during daily activities such as diaper changing all nurture your newborn. By 6 to 9 months, the most important emotional milestone is attachment to you -- stay within sight frequently during this time and interact with her often by making faces, singing songs and smiling. As she approaches her first birthday, support her social development by naming feelings. “I bet you were sad when we had to leave the playground.”
Language Development Activities
Your infant learns language by hearing his family talk, so fill his world with sound. Recite nursery rhymes, sing to him during bathing and explain your routines as you perform them. Imitate the sounds he makes to teach him that communication matters. Point to and identify the parts of his body, pictures in a book and things on the table. Sing silly songs with simple, repetitive rhymes such as my-my-my eye-eye-eye. Lastly, read together every day -- research points to daily reading as the single most important thing you can do to develop language and literacy.
Physical Development Activities
The first year of life is a time of incredible physical growth -- expect your baby to almost triple her birth weight in that time. While nurturing touch helps your infant gain weight, stimulating the senses is also good for growth. For example, you can play soft music while gently moving her arms and legs. At 3 to 6 months, strengthen her large muscles by propping her up with pillows in a sitting position on the floor. Placing your baby on her stomach and back during awake times also supports muscle development. At 6 to 9 months, set interesting things just out of reach, so she has to move toward them. Give her lots of room to move around safely and move her body to music while holding her upright. By 9 to 12 months, you can help her work on small muscle control. Encourage her to pull off her socks, pick up small bits of soft food with her fingers, and grasp small balls.
Cognitive Development Activities
When you sing, read and talk to your baby, his brain lights up with activity. He is busy learning how things work in the world and how to communicate with you. At 3 to 6 months, follow his gaze, bringing him the thing he is looking at. Provide toys with interesting textures and colors. Introduce squeezable and floating bath toys. As he grows, exchange his toys weekly to maintain interest and curiosity. By 9 to 12 months, introduce hide and seek, finger plays and patty-cake. Present cause and effect: “When you pull the leaves off the plant, it gets hurt.” He may not understand what that means yet, but it introduces him to the idea.