Don’t let stimulating baby become a chore for you or her. Development through play is the best way, writes Shanda Luyt
YOU OBVIOUSLY NEED to stimulate baby from birth, but what kind of stimulation works for a pinkfoot who isn’t talking yet? Here are some ideas – choose those that fit your child’s stage of development.
TUMMY TIME FUN It’s very important for your baby to spend enough time on her tummy at this stage, but it’s not always her favourite position. Make it easier with a game: Place her on a towel, and use it to gently roll her from side to side while you keep the beat by saying: “Roll, roll from side to side.” ➡ Strengthens tummy, back and neck muscles
RIBBON AND FOOT FUN Tie one end of a longish ribbon to a small toy. Place baby on her back on the ground, and put a baby-gym frame above her. Tie the other end of the ribbon loosely around her ankle and hang the toy over the baby gym so she can easily see it. The ribbon should be short enough that the toy moves when she moves her leg. Help her move her foot, and then leave her to do it by herself and see the impact. (You need to keep an eye on her.) ➡ Stimulates visual skills, cause-and- effect understanding, problem solving and gross motor skills
ROLLING RUMPUS Place a cylindrical cushion, a large rolled-up towel or inflatable plastic cylinder (about 20cm in diameter) under baby’s torso. Have her lie like this, with her chest raised, on a soft carpet. See if she tries to push herself up and forward. Hold her feet, lift them slightly, and gently slide her forward, like that wheelbarrow game. ➡ Strengthens tummy and back muscles and gross motor skills. Helps with crawling
KNOW YOUR BODY Put baby on your lap, and support her with one arm. Touch the different parts of her face (and, later, her body) and say, for instance: “What’s this? It’s Nonto’s nose!” Then take her hand and get her to touch your nose while you say: “And what is this? It’s mommy’s nose!” ➡ Stimulates language development and body awareness
BUBBLE BODY BABBLE Let your baby sit on the ground. Blow soap bubbles, and see if you can get them to land somewhere on her body. She will love it! Use this opportunity to name the different parts of her body. “Where’s the bubble? It’s on your hand!” You can also name furniture or other things the bubbles land on. ➡ Stimulates language development, body awareness, hand- eye coordination and motor skills
PUZZLE Your baby can now comfortably sit on her own and will enjoy games she can play while sitting. Give her her first “puzzle” by getting her to pack a bunch of tennis balls into an oven pan.
Show her how to do it, and then watch her doing it by herself. Praise her if she succeeds. ➡ Stimulates fine motor and perceptual skills
ROUND BOOK Stick a bunch of pictures on an empty paper-towel roll, and cover it with plastic wrap. Roll the cylinder and ask her to point out pictures, as in: “Where’s the dog?” Later, you can ask more questions such as “What does the dog say? The dog says ‘woof!’” ➡ Stimulates language comprehension and visual skills
BALANCE! Sit on a couch with your baby on your lap near your knees while she’s facing you. Hold your hands next to her body without touching her (ready to catch her if she should lose her balance). Alternate your legs to the sides, or lift them and lower them (start slowly and pick up the pace as she becomes more adept), or move them in circles, and see if she can keep her balance. If she manages well, you can turn her around, so she faces away from you and does the same. ➡ Stimulates balance and proprioception (the brain’s ability to know in which positions different body parts are located)
TIME TO FLY! Place your baby on the ground in front of you. Hold her body under her arms and ask: “Are we going to fly?” Count to three and say: “Wee!” And roll back until you’re lying flat and baby is “flying” above you. ➡ Stimulates the vestibular system
BABY FOOTIE Place an empty rubbish bin on its side. Hold your baby with your arm under her chest, and help her to kick a ball into the bin with both feet. ➡ Stimulates gross motor skills
HAUL IT UP Your little one will at this point enjoy throwing toys from her high chair and demanding that you pick them up. It’s a fun game, but you can make it easier by tying her toys to the top of the high chair with string. Then show her how she can draw the toys up again herself after throwing them down. ➡ Stimulates object permanence and fine motor skills
SUPER SCARVES Fill a shoe box with thin scarves or ribbons tied together to form one long one, like magicians often use. Make a hole in the lid of the shoe box. It should be just big enough that the scarves can easily slide through when she pulls. Let the end peek out of the box, and encourage her to pull. Talk about the different colours and patterns of the scarves, and point out the constant surprise of another scarf – and another – appearing from the box. (You need to keep an eye on her.) ➡ Stimulates curiosity, fine motor and language skills
MAGIC BOX Choose a shoe box with a loose lid, and show your little one how to put things inside and take them out again. Later, you can make a large-ish hole in the lid and show her how she could throw toys into the box through the hole. She has to take the lid off again if she wants to take things out. Talk about what she’s throwing in: “What are you throwing next? The horse? And then?” You can cover each side of the box inside with a different texture – such as velvet, sanding paper or mesh – and ask your little one to touch the sides. Say: “This feels coarse, right?” Show her how it looks.
Stimulates perceptual and fine motor skills and language development STICKY SITUATION Stick pieces of contact paper all over a hard floor and stick toys to these. They should hold quite well. Encourage her to crawl from toy to toy and try and pull it off. She might struggle at first but will master it soon enough. ➡ Stimulates problem solving and fine motor skills
WHERE’S THE MUSIC? Hide a wind-up toy that plays music (even a cellphone) in a low spot somewhere in the room, and ask your little one to crawl around looking for it. (You can crawl with her!) Encourage her, and make a big deal if she finds it. ➡ Stimulates auditory skills, problem solving and gross motor skills
BOX TOWER Join forces and build a tower of boxes of different sizes, such as shoe and cereal boxes. At first, you might have to do most of the work, but ask your little one to push the tower over. She’ll do that with pleasure. Call out loudly when the tower falls. After a while she’ll be keen to bring the boxes back and build together. You can play the same game with soft blocks. ➡ Stimulates fine motor skills and cause-and- effect comprehension
MEMORY GAME Make copies of portrait photos of family members, and stick them on cards; two per person. Help your baby find the matching cards. As soon as she’s able to put the sets together, turn the cards around, so the pictures face down. Turn one around, find its match by turning the others around and back until you hit the right one. ➡ Stimulates memory, problem solving and perceptual skills
WHERE’S THE LIGHT? Stick thin coloured paper over the front part of a torch. Dim the lights, and shine the light around. Give your baby a chance to find the spotlight. Switch the light off and ask: “Where’s the light?” Shine it in a different direction and say, “There it is – on the cupboard!” ➡ Stimulates visual skills YB