Social Activities for Young Infants in Child Care Centers
Understanding the types of social activities for young infants, typically those less than 6 months of age, enables child care center staff to appropriately support their psychosocial development. Personal attention is so important to an infant's early development that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a ratio of no more than one adult for every three babies in a childcare setting. Since young infants are just developing self-awareness, the most effective social activities involve a loving caregiver, rather than interaction with other babies.
Choose brightly-colored toys or mobiles to engage infants as they explore. Talk about the shapes and colors of the object the infants reach for, while making eye contact and smiling at them when they finally do reach the toy. Infants who are too young for tummy time, or whose depth perception is still limited, can practice reaching for toys while lying on their backs. Participating and delighting in a young infant's discovery helps reinforce the value of their accomplishments and also shows them the social enjoyment of sharing the experience with another person, explains the National Network for Child Care.
Even if your singing isn't ready for Broadway, song and voice are effective tools for socially engaging young infants. Hearing you sing soothing songs when they're fussy helps infants develop important social skills like emotional regulation, explains the National Association for the Education of Young Children 3. Songs like "The Wheels on the Bus" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" demonstrate the power of gesturing and hand movements when communicating socially with others. With proper positioning, you can sing to two babies, which is more likely to happen in a child care center setting.
Although young infants can't talk, they quickly learn to vocalize certain sounds. Repeating the same sound back to the babies validates their "words." Engaging infants in "conversation" by speaking or repeating after they've spoken demonstrates the social norms for the rhythm and pace of conversation, as well as the importance of taking turns while talking, explains HealthyChildren.org. Responding to their early, if rudimentary, vocalizations also reinforces the value of their contributions and encourages them to keep talking.
Infants are constantly trying to make sense of their world, watching themselves in mirrors, reading books with baby faces or simply watching you make silly faces. This shows them that social interaction is enjoyable and meaningful rather than frightening or unpredictable. Even something as simple as smiling and cooing to 2-month-old infants supports their sense of self and social interaction. Looking in mirrors helps infants develop self-awareness of their bodies and abilities as they move their limbs and put their fingers in their mouths, explains HealthyChildren.org.
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