Help babies learn with simple activities you can do together
Babies absorb information at an incredible rate, constantly making connections and seeking out new experiences. Even the most common objects or activities are interesting through their fresh perspective. However, as an adult, it can be surprisingly difficult to know what to do with a baby – after all, there are only so many board books or patty-cake games you can go through in a day. How do you challenge a baby in a way that supports their growth and learning without expensive toys or outings? Keep the following suggestions in mind the next time you’re looking for inexpensive indoor ideas to do with your baby.
Show and smell
Provide a unique sensory experience for your baby by exposing them to new smells. Vanilla, mint, garlic, cilantro, and cinnamon are all scents you likely have on hand in your pantry. An empty plastic spice jar will still contain a lingering scent and is safe for the baby to handle independently. Act enthusiastic as you smell the bottle, and then offer it to the baby. Let them hold and play with the container before letting them try a new scent.
Box car baby
If you receive a package, save the box. You can use cardboard boxes to play pretend with your baby. Decorate the box as a car or house, allowing the baby to take part in supervised scribbling, or create a box tunnel to crawl through. If you have several boxes, use them for a larger-than-life building block set. What you see as trash is truly a treasure to a baby’s budding imagination.
Play it again, baby
Babies need to learn cause and effect, and babies love making noise, which is an ideal way to introduce this important concept. Put on music and get out some metal pots, plastic bowls, wooden spoons, closed boxes of macaroni to use as maracas, and any safe impromptu instrument you may have on hand. Create your own rhythm, dance, or rock to the beat, and applaud baby’s efforts in doing the same.
Itty bitty chef
Your baby’s not ready to make a cake just yet, but the kitchen provides some excellent sensory opportunities. Whether it’s a small bowl of warm water, a squishy sponge, a fine sprinkling of soft flour, a small pile of dry rice, or jiggly Jell-O for older babies, new textures and sensations are a fun and easy lesson. Keep a close eye on babies in the kitchen as they’re quick to put everything in their mouths.
Babies are fascinated with mirrors, even before they’re able to recognize their own faces. Place baby on your lap in front of a reflective surface and point out body parts, make silly faces, or play peek-a-boo with their reflection.
Babies learn, grow, and enjoy themselves with even the most basic activities. The best thing you can do to help build a baby’s brain is to be generous with your time and attention while supporting their efforts to take in new information and make connections with the world around them.
The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.