This week, in one of the viber chat rooms that I share with my mommy friends, our topic was: What are the activities that we can do with our children? As I was reading through our forum, it actually inspired me to write about my answer to our topic.
(Special mention to these amazing Moms whom I’ve been friends with through pregnancy, post-pregnancy and raising children. They’ve been a great support group. They readily reply (at any given time) to your most basic question about your child from pooping to feeding, encourage you right away whenever you rant about your challenges as a mom, and shares your joy in your triumphs no matter how small they are. They happen to be Mike’s college block mates. 🙂
As we have discussed in the previous series, play is the primary vehicle in which our babies learn.
But how do we actually play with our children? What are the activities that we can do with my children?
There are so many things that you can do with your baby, and these play activities won’t even take much of your time. No matter if you are working or a full-time parent, here are some tips I have gathered which you can easily do at home and that you can even teach to your child’s caregivers and your relatives. Let me start off with the first stage, the newborns.
Newborn to 3 months:
According to Zero to Three (a global, non-profit organisation that focuses on giving children from 0-2 a healthy start through various researches and advocacies), an important task for babies during this stage is to help them feel comfortable in their new environment. They are still learning how to regulate their sleeping and eating patterns and even their own emotions. In addition to this, newborns use their gestures (body movements), sounds and facial expressions to communicate their particular needs. These can come in the form of crying, gazing at your face or arching their bodies.
Ruth Anne Hammond (2009) in her book, Respecting Babies, stressed that since newborns need freedom of movement at various times during the day, it makes sense that “until babies have really learned to use their hands, toys are not much of use“. Ruth Anne added that newborns need to discover their hands, as it leads to hand-eye coordination and more intricate forms of play. She emphasized that
“when babies are very young, they have a gazing reflex over which they have little control. Therefore, just because a baby is staring at a mobile does not mean the baby likes it or is benefiting from the stimulation. It may just mean that her gaze has been captured and she cannot look away.” (p.95).
Given this, Ruth Anne explains that it becomes more rewarding and beneficial at this particular stage if the newborn is able to see his hands and learn how to actually move them in a specific direction, for example, how to open and close his own fingers at will. She said that only when babies have accomplished such skill then toys will only be then useful to them.
As parents of newborns, you should keep in mind to:
- let your babies discover his/her own hands. Give them time to do this.
- place objects around the baby where he/she can either accidentally pick up or deliberately drop and rediscover these objects. (The next article will feature about these particular objects) For example, a simple cotton table napkin (lay it flat, and lift into a peak) which the infant can grasp and because it is soft, it will not hurt the baby’s face. Peek-a-boo at its earliest stage can be easily observed here.
- Soothe your baby. (When you respond to your child’s cries, you send a signal that he is loved. As you respond, you are also teaching the necessary skills he needs for now, and that later will help him self-soothe. You are also promoting a strong bond and healthy brain development).
- Talk your baby. Smile and repeat sounds-again, and again! Stop between sounds and watch for them to smile or move in response to your voice. If you get a playful response, repeat it. Tell your baby everything that is happening around him.
- Sing to the baby. Make up songs just for this baby. Dance with the baby nestled on your shoulder.
- Play with the baby’s hands and feet, gently patting and rubbing, saying silly soft sounds to match. “Pedal the baby’s legs for a bike ride, describing where you’re going.
- Offer objects that your baby can look at, touch, and grip within his palms. It is said that he can focus best on objects that are 8 to 12 inches away from him.
- Engage in “tracking games” by moving yourself and interesting objects back and forth. (First, the baby will use his eyes to follow. then eventually he will move his head from side to side,. This helps strengthen the neck muscles and exercise his visual abilities.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself which can help you reflect upon the kind of activities that you do with your newborn:
- What soothes your baby? What most distresses him? How do you know?
- How does your baby communicate with you? What kind of interaction that he likes best? How does he let you know that he has had enough?
- What experiences does your baby seem to like best? (ex. hearing animal sounds; when you talk to him; etc)
- What kind of toys/objects grab your child’s attention? How does he let you know what he’s interested in?
- What kind of play do you enjoy most with your baby?
Reference: Charting your child’s development: 0-2 months (2003)by Zero to Three and American Academy of Pediatrics.
What’s working in our little family:
We have a collection of songs that we let Julia and Ellie listen to. I have a variety of Filipino and English children’s songs that we play at home. These songs range from action songs, nursery rhymes, to praise and worship songs. I also let them listen to lullabies and instrumental songs and at times, let them also listen to our favourite songs. You can visit the local music store to avail of cds, you can also try downloading some from reputable sites such as iTunes. My favourite at present is Spotify. There’s a lot of great playlists for children on Spotify.
Because Mike is musically-inclined, he loves changing the lyrics of the song and uses a familiar tune whenever he playfully sings with our children. Our daughters love this and their faces automatically light up whenever Mike starts to sing. We, teachers call that “palit-awit” (wherein we will change the lyrics with another set of lyrics, related to the class topic/theme. For example, using the tune of: Mary Had A Little Lamb, you will replace the words about a particular routine such as washing of hands, or packing away of toys). So, the challenge is to be creative, you’ll be surprised at how many original songs you can come up with and readily, you have a collection of songs you can sing to your baby as you put him to sleep, as you soothe him, or even as you wake him up.
I hope that you can at least try one suggested play activity per day or better try to accomplish most of them everyday. Watch and see how your newborn will react. It will truly surprise you. 🙂
For our next article, I’ll discuss the age group (3 months-6 months) and what playful activities parents can do with their babies.
Sawyers, J. k. & Rogers, C.S. (2003). Helping Babies Play. Young Children on the Web. pp.1-2
Hammond, R.A. (2009). Respecting babies: A new look at Magda Gerber’s RIE Approach. Washington, DC. ZERO TO THREE.