Playtime during your baby’s first year is not just about fun and games; it’s also a training exercise for his or her brain. Making silly faces, tickling toes and even cuddling are important building blocks to mental and emotional development, and your role as a parent is very critical during this stage.
Although love and affection should come naturally, you need to understand the essence of playtime and how it impacts your child’s growth, as well as his or her behaviour later on in life. You may think that just about any “physical” activity can amuse your baby, but think again. Why not settle for mindless games when you can enhance playtime into a more brain-stimulating activity, yet still fun and treasurable?
Below are some tips on how you can achieve that:
Gradually allow baby to learn what “playing” is about
There are plenty of opportunities to initiate parent-baby playtime. During nappy changing time, for instance, you can start by stroking baby's tummy and talking to her while making eye contact. Tell her "You have such a pretty tummy" and "You're such a cute little baby." Using a higher-pitched voice, delighted tone, and drawn-out syllables attracts attention to your speaking and encourages language development. Eventually your baby will associate that tone with “pleasure” moments and she would know that it’s time to play.
Follow your baby’s lead
Provide an object, toy, or activity for your baby or toddler and then see what she does with it. Don’t worry about her not doing things the “right” way. For babies, everything is new, so however they want to play with toys, you should never interfere. The correcting part can wait.
Make it all about sounds, too
Whenever your baby babbles or coos, make sure to repeat the sound she makes, and then give her time to respond. This demonstrates to her that what she's saying is important to you and boosts reciprocal communication.
Learn proper timing and know when it's okay to play
Playtime is more effective when your baby is well-rested and alert. It’s never a good time to play if she's drowsy, crabby, or hungry. There are basic signs you can observe to know when your baby isn't ready to play. Normally she'll turn her face or her entire body away from you, will divert eye contact, or will arch her back. As a parent, you should never force your baby to play and respect the signals. Don’t worry — your baby will show you when it's a good time to play.
Flex your baby’s ‘brain muscles’
Develop your baby's attention span by encouraging exploration. While reading together, emphasise details about the characters and objects, such as their color or the sounds they make, and ask your baby to turn the pages. With toys, give her something basic, like a rattle, blocks, or stacking toys, and let them chew, bang, and shake the toys to their hearts' content so they can determine what the toy does and learn about cause and effect.
Overwhelming your little baby with several toys at once can do more harm than good. That will cause her to run from one thing to the next rather than fully exploring a single toy. Stick to one or two toys at a time.
Get to know your baby better
By serving as a persistent companion for your little one during playtime, you cultivate good observational skills that help you understand your baby better. It could also allow you to detect potential problems, such as language problems or other special needs. You are the first line of defense for your baby, and playtime is the perfect activity to make sure your baby is doing fine.
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