It is exciting to watch your baby learn numerous new skills within their first year, such as walking, vocalization, playing with toys, smiling, and many others. Baby’s brain develops rapidly from the moment they are born and they quickly become a non-stop learning machine. They will look at things wide-eyed in fascination with “o” lips as they are intrigued by the world around them and you watch with joy as they take it all in. The first year can be an exciting time for both baby and parent, and there are many ways in which you can help your little one learn and explore the world around them and grow. Here are some things you can do with your baby within the first year.
1. Tummy Time
This really important activity helps babies learn motor skills, and eventually how to crawl, among other important factors. Whether you put your baby on a blanket or buy a playmat, this is a really important activity to do. Baby strengthens their muscles and learns to push themselves off the floor, as well as lift their head. This will prepare baby for crawling, and the older they get the more they will be able to lift themselves off the floor.
My daughter hates tummy time, but some ways we try to make it fun is to put a toy within her reach, getting on her eye level, and placing her on a half-moon tummy pillow.
2. Listen To Music
Any sort of music is great for baby’s development. Whether you play them popular kids songs, classical music, or Metallica. See how they react! Regular exposure to music is not just great developmentally, but it can build an appreciation and a love for music throughout their lifetime.
3. Read Books
Even though babies may not be able to understand the content of books, my little love enjoys the changes in mommy’s voice as I read, and she particularly enjoys looking at the pictures. I try to pick out books where there are visually stimulating images or where the book contains things she can touch. It’s no secret that the more you read to children, the more benefits they absorb. Starting early and making reading a positive experience can make your child a book lover for life, and within the first year it helps with cognitive and language skills, as well as serves as a lesson and an introduction to many different topics.
4. Exercise and Sensory Activities
Stretching baby’s arms up over their head, bicycling their legs, and moving hips left and right while keeping torso straight are some great ways to stretch baby and get those joints well oiled. Babies tend to lay around a lot and these simple motions will get blood moving and will stretch their muscles. A couple activities I like to do with Liv are letting her push off my hands with her feet while on her tummy as she pushes herself forward, and holding her up as she gently places some weight on her feet to try to ‘stand’. Of course, never push baby past their limits and watch out for when they get tired and don’t want to do anymore as these activities are meant to be fun as well as physically challenging. Sensory activities like massages with oils after a warm bath can be very stimulating to a baby’s brain and very good for their system. Laying baby on their back or sitting them up while you play with their arms and legs lets baby try out these new sensations and can bring attention to their limbs.
During the first year babies develop a lot of their speech patterns and language abilities. They absorb what they hear around them, and this can determine what languages they will be able to pick up on early or later in life based on what they are exposed to.
6. Learn Languages
The dominant language that is spoken in the home is the language that your baby will favor. Some people are bilingual, and this is a great way for baby to be exposed to more than one language, which in turn will allow baby to one day become bilingual too, given that the parents pursue teaching both languages continuously. However if you are not bilingual, this doesn’t mean that you cannot expose your child to more than one language.
Exposing your child to different languages will allow their brain to hear different dialects and thus store the ability to one day mimic these dialects in the future. This makes learning a new language much easier for them later on in life. This also gives you the opportunity to learn something new as well! Exposing your child to non-dominant languages can be easy through flashcards and pictures, foreign songs, and foreign books. There are even some cool apps for your phone.
7. Make Eye Contact and Give One-On-One Attention
When I speak to Liv and look her in the eyes like nothing else exists, she smiles wide and coos back at me. I noticed she favored this time of attention based on her response through our communication. Lay your baby in your lap and look them right in the eyes, and lock in that eye contact while you smile and tell them how sweet and wonderful they are. This will quickly become a favorite way of communicating between the two of you and will foster that special one-on-one bonding time that babies thrive on.
8. Play With Toys
Developmental toys are so important during many years of a child’s life, especially within the first few years. There are some great articles like this one that give you some ideas as to what toys are great for which milestones of your baby’s life, and many more websites that are similar. Toys play a very important role in a baby’s development and as someone once said, playing is a child’s work. The types of toys are just as important as the play itself, so some research into which toys are developmentally fruitful and appropriate for your child, along with the knowledge of which toys your child will really love is essential.
9. Go On Walks
I go for a walk with Liv every morning (provided she lets us sleep). Fresh air is wonderful for a growing baby, and good for mama too. Baby is exposed to nature and different stimuli, or sleeps in a plethora of fresh air. Many cultures in Europe put their babies to nap outside in the day, even in zero degree temperature (bundled up, of course) because of the many benefits of fresh air exposure and exposure to sunlight (indirect and mild). Once it gets cooler I plan on taking my sweetpea out for longer and even letting her sleep in her bassinet stroller while I keep an eye on her. If your child is a bit older and can stand and walk, going on walks can be full of endless learning opportunities. It gives you a chance to chat with your baby and help them touch, see, smell, and learn things about the world around them. If you’re a brave mama, you’ll even let them jump around in the mud!