Ways to encourage your baby’s development:
As adults, we often write off playtime as just something to fill the day and something babies do without much more thought. Play is actually fundamental to their development and is also great for bonding too. Babies love simple things like making funny faces, singing songs and playing peekaboo – you are their favourite thing. And then as they grow playing and interacting with their toys, with blocks and musical instruments, hiding toys or being animals together.
Take playtime up a notch by getting out in the great outdoors. Going for walks in nature or to a park where they can freely crawl around and explore are amazing learning opportunities. Talk to them about what they can see and show them things you find like leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers and insects, birds etc.
Encourage an active lifestyle
Our kids really do learn everything from us so set them up with positive attitudes towards exercise from an early age by modelling it yourself and encouraging it in them too. Get them involved in a family work out, go for bike rides, play a game of backyard soccer, jump on the trampoline. It’s never too early, even if your baby is only crawling, encouraging them to move helps to develop their muscle strength which they will need as they learn to walk.
Reading is so important and right from day 1 – even if you don’t think they can understand it, they are absorbing everything, trust us! But don’t only read the words, point to and describe the pictures too. This helps develop both their language skills and also their imagination.
When your baby can’t talk back it might feel silly talking to them and having a one-sided conversation but this is actually so great for helping their future speech and communication skills. Talk them through what you are doing, just everyday things around the house – cleaning, cooking, nappy changes, doing the washing – anything. You can also turn it into an activity by walking around the house and pointing things out or grab a bunch of household items and bring them on the floor and let them hold them while you tell them all about it.
As well as talking to your little one – it’s important to leave time for them to respond! At first, there probably won’t be much more than maybe a coo or a smile, but with time your baby will start to babble back to you – this is their first conversation.
Let them get dirty
It pains many of us parents (becasue we think about the washing that comes with it) but letting the kids play in the dirt, getting messy and exploring different textures is so important.
Be a safe space
Be a physical and emotionally safe space for your child. Encourage them to learn and explore, join in some times but also step back occasionally and remember to let them do things for themselves. Some set plans and structured activities are great but also remember to leave space to be led by them, this will help them develop their own interests as well as confidence. And always be there with encouragement or as a shoulder to cry on when it doesn’t always go their way.