A friend of mine who just had a baby (congrats!) requested that I do a post of Emma's favorite activities from her first year. Currently being the mom of a toddler, I feel like my focus right now is on keeping Emma entertained throughout the day, and of course to help her continue learning. When Emma was an infant, I felt like communication and exposure were the main focus. We spend a lot of time talking, reading, and exposing Emma to new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures and experiences in the world around her.
Conversations: Simply talk to your baby all through the day. Talk about what you see, hear, and what you're doing. A great example of this is talking at the grocery store. Show your baby the apples, let them feel a bumpy pineapple, or poke a bag of dry rice. Tell them what you're buying and how you're going to prepare it when you get home.
Silly sounds: In addition to conversations, your baby will love to hear you make silly sounds. Emma loves it
when I make "raspberries" with my tongue. Try whistling, humming, and even whispering.
Baby Massage: After a warm bath, try gently massaging your baby's body. I think that massaging your baby's feet can be especially relaxing for them.
Lightly wrap your hand around one of your baby's limbs and massage in a circular motion. Repeat for all
the limbs. Gently massage your baby's tummy in
clockwise circles. Then turn your baby over and massage their back.
Tummy time: Regular tummy time is important for your baby's development. As Emma got stronger and was able to lift her head and make small movements, we would put a few of her favorite toys just out of reach to encourage her to
move toward the toys.
Body Bumblebee: Act like your pointer finger is a little bumblebee. Move your finger through the air and make a buzzing sound. Tell your baby the bee is going to land on her tummy. We always did a little tickle wherever the bee landed. Do this on other parts of your baby's body.
Peekaboo: Emma could play peekaboo all day long! I would throw a small blanket over my head and ask, "Where's Mommy?" When Emma was very little, I would drop the blanket and say, "Peekaboo!" Now that she is bigger, she can pull the blanket off by herself to reveal Mommy! It is also a lot of fun to play peekaboo by hiding a stuffed animal or photo of a loved one under a blanket and asking, "Where's Doll?" or "Where is Grandma?"
Nesting cups: This is probably one of the best toys you could have for your baby, and odds are, you don't have have to buy a thing! Emma loves playing with my set of measuring cups - stacking, nesting, and scooping!
Ribbon sensory basket: I have a jumble of ribbons in my sewing basket that Emma loves to explore! Playing with ribbon is a great sensory experience because the pieces of ribbon are a variety of textures, lengths and widths. We also have a lot of fun sorting the ribbons by color.
Smelling Spices: I like to have Emma with me when I am cooking in the kitchen, and it is a great way to stimulate her sense of smell. I generally let her smell the herbs that I am adding to our food, but you can also explore smells when you are not cooking. Gather some herbs and spices, and put them in cheesecloth, or create a small ball of aluminum foil about the herbs. Let your baby smell each one. Tell your baby the name of each herb or spice.
Loud & Quiet Sounds: This is a great activity to help your baby learn about sounds. Take a plastic container, such as a plastic mixing bowl, a metal container, and a wooden container. Then let your baby drop a toy into each container and say whether the resulting sound was "loud" or "quiet". A wooden block in a metal bowl makes a loud sound, but a stuffed bear in a plastic bowl makes a soft sound.
Blocks: Babies love to play with blocks! Help your baby build a
block tower or simple structure. When she was younger, Emma prefered to
watch me build a tower and then would knock it down herself. Whatever
your baby wants to do is fine. Building with blocks helps stimulate
Mirror, mirror: Emma loves to look at the "baby" in the mirror. We point out her eyes, nose, mouth, hair, belly button, etc. A small mirror is also a lot of fun during tummy time. Your baby will be motivated to lift their head to see the baby in the mirror!
Rolling balls: This activity helps develop gross motor skills. Gather a number of balls that are not too heavy for your baby to roll - small plastic balls work great, but you could also use golf balls or something similar if you have them on hand. Place an empty laundry basket or clean trash can on its side a few feet away from your baby. Show your baby how to roll each ball towards the empty laundry basket.
Baby Shell Game: This is just like a street shell game, only for babies! Get your baby comfortable in their high chair and place a piece of baby-safe fruit, such as banana, on the
tray. Cover it with a small plastic bowl. Then place two other bowls upside down on
the tray. The first few times we played this, I asked Emma right away where the banana was. Let your child point to the bowl. If they are right, they get a sweet fruit treat! As your baby gets the hang of the game, begin to shuffle the bowls around, then ask where the fruit is hiding.
Crawling together: Simply get down on the floor and crawl with your baby. Emma and I always enjoyed crawl racing. Sometimes I let her win ;)
Pat-a-cake: Bring your baby's hands together, as you recite the poem: "Pat-a-cake,
pat-a-cake, baker's man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. Roll it and pat it and mark it with a B. Put it in the oven for baby and me." You can use your baby's name in the rhyme as well. We always say, "Roll it and pat it and mark it with an E. Put it in the oven for Emma and me."
Singing: Set aside time every day to hold and
sing to your child. Pick some favorite lullabies or songs such as Jesus Loves Me and repeat
them over and over again.
Listen to music: I don't care whether you listen to Mozart or The Beatles, spend some time listening to music. Make a dance party part of your daily routine.
Signing: We signed with Emma from about five months on. She learned the signs for milk, eat, all done, book, sleep, more, and diaper change by her first birthday. The book Baby Talk by Monica Beyer was a great resource for us starting out. We're continuing to add more signs, and it has been a lot of fun. I am sure we also avoided some fussy periods because she was able to tell us what she wanted before she was able to speak the words. (Just FYI, her favorite thing to sign right now is "more book".)
Nursery Rhymes: My mom is a public librarian who does a weekly story time at the library. She's told me how few children nowadays know the basic nursery rhymes and songs, such as Baa Baa Black Sheep, Humpty Dumpty, Little Boy Blue, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Three Blind Mice, London Bridge Is Falling Down, Rock-a-bye Baby, and Jack and Jill. It's such a shame because babies love the sing-song rhythm of nursery rhymes! This one is a classic. Sit in a
chair with your legs crossed and put your baby on your foot. Hold your baby's
two hands in yours while you move your foot up and down and recite, "Ride a horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse; Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. She shall have music wherever she goes." Or place your baby on your lap and bounce them up and down while you recite Humpty Dumpty. Or hold your baby under the arms while you swing them back and forth and recite, "Hickory, dickory, dock, the mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one, The mouse ran down, Hickory, dickory, dock."
Reading: Even if you don't do anything else, READ! Reading aloud to your baby helps to stimulate their developing senses, increases vocabulary, language and literacy, and builds listening and memory skills that can help your baby grow up to be a reader. Instilling a love of books in your child is one of the best and easiest gifts you can give them!
What are some of your favorite activities to do with your baby?