There is a lot of pressure on parents to "make" their babies smarter; there are infomercials, toy aisles, and internet sites all devoted to selling us expensive products to help stimulate baby's brain! Many parents worry that they aren't doing enough for their little one because they can't afford to buy many fancy toys or DVDs, or even just because they don't know any structured learning activities to do with baby.
Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: you can help your child's development and learning without buying a thing! The loving interactions you're probably already having with your child are helping him learn and grow day by day! So, what exactly should you be doing to encourage your baby to be a smarty-pants? Here are a few things to try throwing into your daily routine:
- Baby Talk. Forget the fancy DVDs and just talk to your baby (in fact, this is probably better for baby anyway)! This is one a lot of people have a hard time with, especially in the beginning when baby doesn't really respond, but talking to your baby is so important to his cognitive and language development... and on the plus side, it's free! Try describing the things around your baby, tell him about the colors, shapes, and textures in the room. When you do an activity like diaper changing or bath time, talk to baby about what's happening. Recite nursery rhymes and poems. If you get tired of that, try thinking out loud and just say whatever pops into your head! If you need to read something (anything from textbooks to cereal boxes), read out loud to your baby. He loves to hear your voice, and it will help him learn about language! It takes a while, but eventually you'll get the hang of it, and you'll be so good at "talking to yourself" that people will be giving you funny looks in the grocery store ;)
- Go for a Walk. Put baby in the stroller or carrier and head outside. There are new and exciting things to see, hear, touch, and explore, and you can burn a few calories while you're at it! The movement and sights are stimulating, it gives you more things to talk about to your child, and the fresh air and exercise are good for you too.
- Sing-a-long. Ever want to be a Broadway star? Well here's your chance! Or maybe you can't stay on key to save your life, and that's perfect too! Lucky for you, your baby won't judge ;) Sing your favorite children's songs and nursery rhymes (Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Mary had a Little Lamb), or just sing a long with your favorite songs on the radio, either way your baby will love it.
- Imitation. Did you know that even your newborn can imitate you? If baby sticks his tongue out, stick your tongue out too, copy the sounds that your baby is making, and make crazy faces, before you know it your baby will be copying you too!
- Snuggles and Massages. Human beings in general need physical touch, but for babies especially, touch is an important way that they experience the world around them, and how they bond with their caregivers! Infant massage is great for your baby, and there are a lot of books and websites to show you how to do it. Even if you just improvise and gently rub your baby's back, it can be helpful to have that touch. You can also designate some skin to skin snuggle time with baby, especially in the first couple of months. Just hold and snuggle that cute little baby every change chance you get!
- Read a book. Your baby may only be a month old, but even from the very beginning you can both still appreciate reading together. It's great for your baby to be held close, hear your voice, and see the pictures. Lots of helpful stimulation in one easy activity! In the beginning, read what interests you, and as baby gets older, you can read books that have lots colors and pictures (and are made for chewing!). No matter how old your baby is, reading is a great way to help him learn and grow!
Info taken from: Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)