Infants sleep up to 15 hours a day, according to WebMD.com, but your baby's waking hours give you the opportunity to engage her. Age-appropriate activities help your infant explore and learn about her environment. With safety in mind, simple activities can aid in bonding and develop your baby''s physical and cognitive development.
Your baby needs play time on her tummy to build neck and upper-body strength and control. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting two to three daily sessions of tummy time from day one. Start with your baby on her tummy only a few minutes as a newborn, with gradual increases in the length of time. A soft blanket on the floor works well as the tummy time spot. Get down on her level so she can interact with you. Place toys around her and give your baby something to reach for as she lifts her head.
Movement activities encourage your mobile baby to scoot, crawl, climb or reach. A tunnel type of toy engages your older infant. Encourage her to crawl through the tunnel by placing your head in the opposite end so that she'll crawl to you. Another idea is to place her favorite toys inside the tunnel so that she crawls to get them. A small pile of blankets or pillows the floor gives your baby a climbing challenge. Stay close in case she loses her balance as she navigates the pillow obstacle course. Playing games such as peekaboo or singing songs like "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" add movement into your baby's activity time. Move her hands along with the actions to these games and songs.
Exploration activities encourage your baby to test out different toys and objects to learn how they work. Traditional toys -- such as blocks, balls and vehicles -- work well for babies. Choose toys without small pieces that could pop off and become a choking hazard. Play with your baby to encourage her to stack the blocks, load a toy dump truck with objects or roll balls around on the floor. Household items also work for exploration play. Grab plastic containers with lids that she can test out. A wooden spoon and a plastic bowl allow her to make music.
Your baby is never too young to enjoy books. Simply reading to your infant builds her literacy base and sparks her interest in books from the beginning. She hears new words to help with language development. Scholastic.com recommends reading at least one book per day with your baby. Board books are thick and chunky, so they stand up to your baby's grabbing, pulling and chewing. Inside the book, images with lots of contrast allow young babies to better distinguish the shapes. As your baby gets older, books with flaps, textured areas and "touch" features make reading time more interactive.
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