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Health Stories

Won't You Play With Me?

So, you’re looking at your tiny newborn baby and wondering how long it will be before you can play ball with him, teach her how to ride a bike, read a bedtime story, or play dress up. The truth is, it’s never too early to stimulate your child through play. Your baby will learn through seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting. There are countless things you can do to stimulate his or her development through play. Aside from the hundreds of toys on the market developed to stimulate your child, you can also use a number of everyday items in your own home to enhance the learning experience.

The coordinator of CHEO’s Child Life Program, Nora Ullyot, believes that “as mothers and fathers, you are the most important factor in shaping and enhancing your baby’s environment. You can introduce your child to countless safe, happy, warm and comfortable learning experiences.”

Here are a few ideas of games and activities to play with your developing baby:

Birth to Six Months

  • Sing to your baby. The sound of your voice is comforting.

  • Exercise with your child while singing.

  • Make a textured board for baby to see and feel. Glue different shaped textures (fur, fleece, silk, corduroy, nylon) on strong cardboard.

  • Use bright coloured socks and put them on her hands and feet. You can sew a face on them using different coloured thread or yarn.

Six to Nine Months

  • Play peek-a-boo with a blanket.

  • Hide a toy under a blanket and see if your baby will hunt for it. Start by showing your baby part of the object to stimulate his interest.

  • Put different textured materials, different shapes, or different objects in a brightly covered box for baby to discover. Part of the fun is emptying the box.

  • Read books out loud that have large pictures and not much writing.

Nine to Twelve Months

  • Give baby her own cupboard with pots, lids, wooden spoons, tin foil plates, etc. You can decorate the cupboard door so baby knows it is her special spot. It might help with making dinner, if she has her own little area while you’re busy doing other things.

  • Build a little obstacle course of chairs, blankets, boxes and crawl through it with baby.

  • Encourage baby to imitate your actions (clap, stamp your feet, shake your head, yawn, cough).

Twelve to Eighteen Months

  • Make a cloth book using things such as velcro, zippers, snaps and buttons. Make sure everything is sewn on securely.

  • Make baby’s own book. Paste bright familiar pictures such as animals, food and people he knows. A picture of a face can also be used to teach baby facial parts. Make sure they are on strong cardboard, or it can also be laminated to withstand wear and tear over time.

  • Talk or sing using different sounds such as high, low, squeaky, and raspy. Encourage baby to imitate your voice.

  • Fill clear containers with things like sand, rice, pasta or other “noisy” items and glue the covers on. Water bottles work well. They’ll enjoy seeing what is inside, shaking them and rolling them on the floor.

Eighteen to Twenty-four Months

  • Make music sounds by filling glass containers with different levels of water. Add food colouring for visual interest. Sound them with a metal or wooden spoon. The different sounds and colours of water will peak baby’s interest.

  • Make a baby book he can call his own. Assemble a whole bunch of photos taken since he was born. Find some of baby with the people he loves such as mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, caregiver, pet, brother and sister.

  • Make a play vessel out of a large cardboard box. It can become a house, boat, spaceship, train, or bus. You and your child can paint the outside and make doors and windows. You can also decorate the outside with paint and stickers.

Twenty-four to Thirty Months

  • Put a shower curtain on the floor in front of the fridge, tape large sheets of paper to the front of the refrigerator and let your little Picasso create a masterpiece.

  • Pull out a bunch of “mommy and daddy” clothes from your closet. Hats, chunky jewelry, and just about anything will be fun for them to wear.

  • Grow a plant with your child. Let her plant a seed in a glass dish, water it and watch it grow. When the plant is large enough, transfer it outside. It can be her job to water it and watch it grow.

For more information, this website may be of interest:

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