Overwhelmed. Oh, you were so excited the day had finally come. You loved this tiny, precious human with all your being. But, on the day you met your baby, you probably felt overhwhelmed. This defenseless child was depending on your choices to grow and thrive in a big world. Did you know that 80% of brain growth happens during the first three years of life?
Take a deep breath. You are already doing so many of the things that will help your baby and toddler be ready for school and for life. The Basics are five fun, simple and powerful ways that every family can give every child a great start in life! Here are some very practical ways you can do even more to help your infant and toddler develop at home.
Thank you to Spartanburg County First Steps for sponsoring this article.
Maximize Love, Manage Stress
Infants (0-12 months): Hold, kiss, and cuddle your baby. You cannot spoil babies with love. Respond in a loving voice to their sounds and movements. Play peekaboo or make silly sounds and faces. Rock them or sing to them when they are fussy. Create a routine.
Toddlers (12-36 months): Toddlers need routines as well as boundaries. Focus on safety-related rules, and offer a few choices on things like what they wear or eat. Discuss their feelings and let them know you are there for them when they feel upset or angry. Try to let them help you when they can. Don’t forget to hug and cuddle toddlers and encourage them when they try new things.
By the way, you need to take care of yourself too! Share tasks with friends or family, take walks, practice deep breathing, participate in a hobby you enjoy, and get help when you need it.
Talk, Sing, and Point
Infants (0-12 months): Describe what you are doing to your baby when you are changing, feeding, and bathing him. Exaggerate the words you use. As your baby starts to make sounds, excitedly respond to him with words. Point and name the things around your baby, especially those items that seem to interest your baby. Sing songs with lots of repeated words or rhymes.
Toddlers (12-36 months): Point to objects as you describe them and everyday life around you. Be sure to respond to your toddler’s questions and expand on what they say. Ask your toddler questions. Sing songs with hand motions, read nursery rhymes, or make up your own rhymes. Sing the same songs when it’s time for special activities like a bath or bedtime.
Don’t worry! Speak in whatever language you are most comfortable.
Count, Group, and Compare
Infants (0-12 months): Tap your baby’s tummy or simply rock to the rhythm of a song. Count and wiggle your baby’s toes or count as you bounce. Let your baby shake containers that make different sounds or touch diverse textures and talk about the differences. Give your baby a container to fill-up and dump water in the bathtub or pool and use words like “in” and “out.”
Toddlers (12-36 months): Talk to your toddler about “big” and “little” objects and see if your toddler wants “more” or “less”. Look for shapes around you. Play matching and sorting games. Let your toddler help you count and measure when you are cooking. Clap a rhythm and have your toddler repeat you. Encourage your toddler to stack blocks and other items and discuss what he is doing. Count objects together, regroup the object, and count again.
Explore Through Movement and Play
Infants (0-12 months): Give your baby tummy time during playtime. Gently move your baby’s arms and legs during changing time. Bring various objects to your baby to touch and play with. Play peek-a-boo. Let your baby crawl, scoot, reach, and roll in a safe place.
Toddlers (12-36 months): Roll a ball back and forth. Make a simple obstacle course out of blankets, pillows, and boxes for your toddler to go “over”, “under”, “around”, and “through.” Go on a walk and let your toddler touch things he sees as long as it is safe. Let you toddler create art with crayon and chalk and folded or torn paper. Imitate the way your toddler pretends. Play guessing games with objects inside a bag. Don’t rush to help your toddler figure things out.
Read and Discuss Stories
Infants (0-12 months): Hold your baby in your lap and read to him regularly with expression. Talk about the pictures and don’t worry about the words so much. Simple board books with bright pictures are best. Let your baby hold the book, turn the pages, or pat the pictures. Simply stop when they lose interest.
Toddlers (12-36 months): Find a regular time to read with your toddler everyday. Look at the title page and pictures with your toddler before beginning. Use different voices for different characters and ask questions. Don’t worry if your toddler turns the pages before you’re ready. Re-read.
Find Out More!
Spartanburg County First Steps is a non-profit and state agency focused on school readiness and life success for children 0-5. They are a child and family first organization! You can find out about events and learn great tips by following them on Instagram.