Kids are naturally curious, so why not make learning fun! When first helping your child develop language skills, the relationship between sound and objects should be introduced. Referred to as “learning to listen sounds”, these sounds combine related sounds with the objects (i.e. “moo” with a cow). Once a few of these are incorporated, you can introduce auditory recall games.
Here are a few games courtesy of listeningandspokenlanguage.org.
Plop It in the Water
For this game, you’ll need a small glass bowl (about half full of water), small plastic toys that represent the Learning to Listen Sounds, and a towel- because if your child is anything like mine you’re in for a big splash.
To play, say a sound and have your child pick out the matching toy. When he picks the correct toy, let him drop it into the water. Continue until he gets all the sounds right.
As an alternative, you can use picture cards and marbles instead of toys. Just have your child point to the correct card and let him plop a marble into the water.
Another game to play utilizing Learning to Listen sounds is to show your child a toy and have them make the corresponding sound. Show your child a cow and have them say “moo.” Show them a car and have them say “brrr beep beep.” Point to the clock and have them say “tick tock.”
Follow the Directions
To teach the concept of place, have your child follow simple directions using words like “over” and “under,” “in” and “out,” “in front of” and “behind,” “beside” and “next to,” “on top of” and “above,” “between” and “in the middle of,” and “on” and “in.”
For example, tell your child, “Put the book on top of the table.”
“Take your doll and put her in front of the radio.”
“Put your race car under the chair beside the door.”
You can also switch roles and have your child tell you what to do, but make sure to occasionally mess up and have them correct you. For instance, when your child says, “Put the car under the box,” put it on top of the box, feign ignorance and let them tell you the right way to do it. My daughter loves to correct me when I don’t follow her directions, and it is good language practice.
Here is another game courtesy of mom365.com:
Babies can’t help but be attracted to the movement of bubbles. They also love to see them pop.
Age: 6 to 18 months
Equipment: Soap bubbles - store-bought or homemade
Benefits: Encourages baby to practice some of the earliest consonant sounds - P, B and M - and to breathe more deeply.
How to play
As you blow the bubbles, talk about what’s happening by repeating the words “up,” “pop,” “bubbles” and “more” in short phrases. (“Bubbles go up, up, up! Let’s pop them. Pop, pop! Look - bubbles! Do you want more bubbles? Yes! More bubbles!”) This game also encourages your baby to point to the bubbles and reach up to touch them. That helps open up her rib cage and in turn encourages deeper breathing and increased vocalization.
Singing with Your Baby and the Intellect Behind Nursery Rhymes
The itsy bitsy spider kept going up that water spout and would never stop! Regardless of how many times we cried as babies or wanted to play, that itsy bitsy spider never failed to please us. It’s these rhymes, songs, melodies, and even sounds that stay with us all our lives as we pass it down to our children, family members, and even our pets!
In an article about the musical self, Psychology Today notes that in 2009, researchers from Hungary and the Netherlands reported that, by measuring baby brain waves when listening to rhythms, day-old infants are able to detect differences between them. This wasn’t a learned skill. It was innate.
Innate means that these are skills and knowledge we are born with to survive which means there is a link between music and an infant’s development.
Sing and Play
Introduce your baby to music by singing to them rather than playing music to them. Do not put headphones around your baby as their body is still developing and is fragile. Hum or sing softly as you feed your baby or carry them around to initiate the start of a strong and electric bond between you and your baby.
Continue the harmonious act of bonding by singing with your baby well into their toddler stages as music slowly becomes a natural part of their life. According to KidsHealth, an early introduction to music can kickstart learning, serve as an important cue in a child’s routine, and offer lifelong benefits. KidsHealth continues to state that music contributes to what experts call, “a rich sensory environment,” which means exposing your baby or toddler to a wide variety of tastes, smells, textures, colors, and sounds—experiences that can forge more pathways between the cells in their brains.
Keeping music alive in your kids life can come easily, even if you are preoccupied with putting dinner on the table or preparing a fun and musical adventure for your child. For babies, a nursery center with a built in music center can help ease baby to sleep while stimulating the creative part of their brain and enriching neural connections.
For toddlers and children as well, being exposed to music is like listening to and learning another language at a young age. Learning how to play an instrument has many subconscious benefits that can help a child later in life as well! An About.com article about the Benefits of Education quotes scientists as saying that children who are exposed to music, or those who play an instrument, do better in school than those who don’t. In fact, recent research suggests exposure to music may benefit a child’s reading age, IQ and the development of certain parts of the brain. Adults can benefit from learning to play an instrument too because it helps the mind to be alert and remain active eventually helping to sharpen the memory.
So pick up an instrument or carry a tune and help your baby, child, or toddler whistle along to the day!
Is there a song you or your baby especially loves?
Fun, silly games to play with your baby to aid development
Go to your local coffee shop and you’ll see mothers and their toddlers both with iPads in their hands. Toys and games went from tree houses and binkies to playing with virtual toys on an electronic tablet. Oh, how times have changed.
According to New York Road Runners (nyrrf.org), almost 25% of children do not participate in any free-time physical activity. Although activity among children seems to have decreased, games have become more developmentally friendly and brain-cell engaging.
Parents can use their e-tablets or even just their hands to play games with their baby to aid their development. Also, be sure to consult your pediatrician for best advice.
Light the Torch
Let the games begin with something small and something fun. At first, newborn babies don’t seem to want to do much of anything but eat and poop. Their brain cells are continuing to develop and their neurons are slowly but surely making connections. Playing developmental games with your baby at any age can help prime those neural pathways.
Peek-A-Boo is a simple game that babies seem to love. When you hide behind your hands after they see your face, your baby literally thinks you’ve disappeared. This is because babies are unable to psychologically grasp the concept of object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that objects exist—can be seen and heard—even after they are long out of sight. From about birth to two years of age, babies do not understand this. Don’t let this stop you from playing with your baby, they love this game!
Lights, Camera, Interaction!
Go ahead and let your baby’s curiosity guide you. Does she veer toward colorful objects? Shiny things? Take your baby’s cues and hold objects she might be interested in about a foot away from her face. Let her observe and stare. You might find something new yourself!
Toys and random things lying around the house aren’t the only things that can help a baby’s development. Look into your closet to help your baby develop her tactile senses. Have her feel your clothes and even go outside to enjoy the sun by letting her observe at the park or even touch the grass. All while keeping a close watch on your baby, of course!
Just like their inability to grasp object permanence, babies are unable to understand that who they see in the mirror, is themselves! From birth to three months of age, play with your baby by placing them in a nursery center or bouncer that has toys hanging from the top. Talk to your baby and tap on the mirror to get her to look over. She’ll soon begin to realize that the person in the mirror is her!
These are just a few of the hundreds of baby games you can play with your little one.
Look to the sources below for more ideas!
What are your favorite games to play with your baby?
Understanding how Baby develops verbal skills
Sometimes, the problem with children is getting them to stop talking. Their curious minds rattle on with questions about how something works, or why something looks the way it does. Although we may not know how to get kids to stop talking, learning how they do talk is a science that interests researchers to this day.
Within the first two years of life, your baby will go through several stages leading up to understandable words and somewhat coherent sentences. Based on many developmental studies, learning how to talk is a gradual process. If your baby hits a milestone later than his little baby friend, that’s perfectly fine! Although speech is a gradual process, not every baby gets to a stage at the same time. However, please note that if you baby is significantly behind, consult your pediatrician for best assurance.
Babycenter.com is a great resource for gathering an idea of developmental milestones. Communication with your baby begins from birth, and maybe even sooner according to some resources. Birth to 3 months, a baby will make quiet cooing sounds. Even though they are just slight and elongated coos, your baby learns from reciprocated sounds. Within the following few months, intonation and repetition become a start to communicating with your baby. At around five to six months, your baby will turn that coo into a coo? That little change where they begin to understand questions is a big step towards furthering their communication and learning how to use all those bits and pieces that make their mouth.
As your baby approaches one year of age, they will begin to have “conversations” with you by babbling. Babbling is a developmental term, but also a very matter of fact term. Babies will try to imitate speech by putting consonants and vowels together like dah-dah-dee and take turns talking as if having a real conversation. Babbling is also a great sign that babies are starting to engage their cortical motor system as their brain matures.
Ever notice how when you “talk” to your baby, or come across a cute puppy, your voice gets high-pitched and you start talking nonsense? That nonsensical talk is called Motherese, and it’s perfectly fine to talk to your baby this way! Lay your baby down in a swing bouncer and have them engage with you and their surroundings. Teaching baby to multi-task is a great way to keep them entertained and help their brain development.
Sometimes, talking to your baby about what you are doing, and even what you are doing to them, i.e. I am changing your diaper or I am making your food is a great way to show your baby that objects and actions each have names.
Being in an enriching environment is a great start to helping your baby mature and grow.
Here is a good summary of a baby talk timeline as found on Parents.com:
The Science Behind the Development of Baby’s Personality
Remember growing up with your sibling or a close family member and slowly learning that you both have absolutely opposite personalities; social groups come along and you find yourself shying away while your older brother is the star of the show? Genetics doesn’t necessarily trump where you grew up, but your environment doesn’t defeat genetics either. This gentle push and pull between nature and nurture has been a long standing debate in the developmental world and is studied to this day.
Twin studies, as first researched by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, found similarities and dissimilarities that helped grasp a better idea of the differences between genetic and environmental factors. A study on genetics and the environment found that similar characteristics among identical twins reared apart might indicate that their genes played a major role in developing that trait. Different characteristics might indicate the opposite—that environmental influences assume a much stronger role.
All in all, what does this have to do with your baby? Although your baby’s personality is formed by an unpredictable mixture outside of the womb, certain factors lead to its personality while still in the womb! An expert panelist on early year’s play and child development on BabyCentre UK, Dorothy Einon, stated that the way your newborn behaves may be influenced by lots of temporary factors. Such factors include pregnancy hormones, your own health and diet, the length of your labor, the difficulty of birth, whether your baby was born early, and how quickly your baby’s brain matures.
Hot Headed Baby
Einon also finds that a baby’s temperament can be based on what is going on inside or around him/her: how regularly baby sleeps and feeds, how vigorously he moves, how easily he’s soothed or distracted, and how readily he accepts new food or people. Keeping your newborn close to you in a nursery center and entertained in bouncers as they get older might help them have a better temperament as they age.
All In The Timing
Now that you know that a baby’s personality starts to develop in the womb based on genetics, and the process of growth in utero, when exactly will you see these personality traits start to develop? Parenting magazine suggests that some traits are obvious almost from birth; others will become apparent by three or four months. And some may evolve in intensity. For instance, [your baby’s] low frustration level may improve as he/she gains confidence in their abilities, or their desire for activity may subside a bit as his/her attention span grows. Even the most challenging traits can become less problematic as a child learns to cope with life’s ups and downs and figures out what makes him/her happy — in conjunction with your support and guidance, of course.
It’s Universally Basic
A famous developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, found through his studies that development is based on the epigenetic principle. This principle states that development occurs in a series of stages for everyone and that these stages happen in a predetermined sequence.
In layman’s terms, personality is largely shaped by an infant’s experiences and temperament is a key determinant to the way parents react to the infant’s behavior.
A happy, healthy, bubbly, bouncy baby is the product of much tender love and care. Instead of stressing about having a perfect environment, just be your happy self and your baby too will shine back with a smile.