Five Special and Easy Ways to Explore the World with Your Baby
By Kathleen Strom, MA, PCD(DONA), LE, and Early Parenting Specialist
Beginning at birth, babies are active learners who explore the world around them through all of their senses.
The first year of your baby’s life is filled with amazing growth and development. Every time babies encounter something new, it is not only delightful to their sense of wonder, but it actually helps them learn about their environment and how to navigate through it. You can learn simple methods to explore the world with your baby.
If you wander around your local box store toy department, it will not take long to discover that toys designed to promote sensory development almost seem to compete with each other on which one can be the brightest, flashiest, and loudest! In reality, these types of toys can often have the opposite effect as babies can often become easily over-stimulated and overwhelmed by the blinking lights and constant noise.
The good news is that you really don’t need flashy battery-powered playthings to stimulate your baby’s brain growth—you’ve got plenty of low or no cost possibilities within arm’s reach! Consider these simple ideas to help your little one explore the world around her in a new and fun way.
Everyday household objects can provide hours of entertainment for babies of all ages. Make a treasure basket with different types of objects with different textures that are safe for babies to explore (think: clean balled up socks, spoons or other kitchen utensils, pompoms or balls of yarn, bits of fabric, ping pong balls, giant dried pasta shells…the sky’s the limit!) Change the contents on a regular basis to keep it fun and stimulating.
Make a shallow plastic bin (like ones you store under your bed) into a texture tub and fill with things that have different textures. Try oats and water, dry rice or rice crispies, Jell-o, soapy water, shaving cream, balls of various sizes, even dirt! Add cups, scoops, spoons, and toys for never-ending enjoyment. (Tip: lay a tarp underneath the tub for easy cleanup. And if you’re using something slippery place a towel underneath your baby for added traction).
Tape a piece of bubble wrap on the floor for your baby to poke, sit on, and crawl over and listen to the popping sounds. Save packing paper, tissue paper, and wrapping paper and let your baby crinkle it with her hands, roll in it, and crawl on it while she listens to the noise it makes. Create shakers using plastic Easter eggs or plastic spice jars. Fill each one halfway with something different like rice, beans, buttons, pennies, pebbles, corks, bottle caps, etc. (Tip: be sure to glue together whatever container you’re using so it doesn’t come apart). Make music of all types and from all over the world part of all your daily routines. Listen to an album of animal noises and pretend to be the animals. Your local library offers endless CDs to borrow or download—make it a habit to choose a few every week.
Try coloring bath water with a few drops of food coloring (add scent with a couple drops of essential oil—but take care not to use too much in case your baby might be sensitive). Or use food coloring to create different colored ice cubes and let your baby play with these in the texture tub or use them as a fun bath time toy. Color unscented shaving cream and use as finger paints in the bathtub. Fill empty plastic water bottles about three quarters full with colored water for your baby to shake and roll. For added fun put beads, glitter, or other waterproof objects in the bottles. (Tip: be sure to glue the bottle lids shut). Or make your own color prism--string a few old CDs together vertically, hang in front of a window, and watch the reflection around the room.
And last but certainly not least, get outdoors! You and your baby can have a lovely sensory adventure simply by taking walks around your neighborhood and discovering all the things you can see, hear, touch, and smell (and tasting a stick or two probably won’t hurt!) Or plan a nature walk at your local park. Bring a picnic blanket and take your time. Try to imagine seeing the world for the very first time as your baby might see it. Pick up a blade of grass, a fallen leaf, or a small rock and help your baby look at it, feel it, and smell it. Lie on your backs together and look up at the clouds. Wiggle your toes in the grass or in a mud puddle. Watch for squirrels and birds and listen for any sounds they might make. Touch different tree trunks…how do they feel and smell? Don’t be surprised if you have as much of a magical experience as your baby does!
Please enjoy all of these possibilities by keeping safety in mind at all times. Always supervise your infant and never leave your baby unattended when doing these activities. Adapt any activity to be appropriate to your baby’s age and developmental level. Have fun as you explore the world with your baby!
Join Kathleen for Play Group Thursday at 11am and 11:45. Click here to read more.