Baby Learning Games: Fun Ways to Teach Your Infant
byKathleen GasiorDec 05, 2012
The time you spend with your baby may make you feel like you're the one that's always learning—how to calm, entertain, soothe and teach. Some days go more smoothly than others, but each new day is an opportunity for you to engage and enjoy your child while you help him develop and learn. You don't need fancy flashcards or expensive toys, just a focus on having fun and stimulating baby's senses to help him learn about his world. As John Betjemen, author of Summoned by Bells says, "Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows."
Keep It Simple
When you set your mind on teaching your baby something, you may feel pressured to have the knowledge of a childhood educator before you begin. Relax! Babies learn by playing and watching you. Su Livingston, an early childhood education instructor for the television show, A Place of Our Own, says, "Play and games for children under the age of two is about experimenting and exploring. They play through their senses and movement. This kind of play has no end product with no way to fail and that's important toward building a sense of self."
A baby's sense of touch is one of his most important teachers. Livingston affirms, "Infants and toddlers are sensory learners. They're learning through their senses and movement. Sometimes we forget that there are things around the house, the yard and nature." Try presenting your baby with different textures and mimicking and describing his reaction. For example: rub a soft blanket or toy against his cheek and mirror "Ooh, soft!" Give your baby a handful of dry, crinkly leaves and see what reaction it provokes. Sand and water are other favorites for sensory play. Take some paper cups, a small bowl of water and a cup of sand or gravel outside and let your baby touch, dip, pour and sprinkle. Just be careful he doesn't try to eat the sand.
Your kitchen is a wonderful place to play smell and taste games with your baby. It's easy to clean and your infant will love the adventure. Take a few jars of sweet spices from your cabinet, show your baby how to sniff them and let him smell if he wants to. If your baby has started solid foods, let him squish, handle and taste different age-appropriate foods from the refrigerator such as gelatin, applesauce, cooked rice, mashed potatoes or peas.
Look and Listen: Cause and Effect Games
Games that use your baby's visual and auditory senses often become favorites because they can be repeated over and over until your infant has his own "light-bulb moment" of the connection between two actions. Livingston says, "Cause-and-effect games allow children to discover that when they push this button, it lights up or this happens. They start connecting relationships that way." Try "peek-a-boo," switch on and switch off sounds or lights and "tap and listen" on different surfaces such as metal, wood and plastic. You can also use simple musical instruments.
Color and Word Games
Babies love to sort, stack, topple and throw. Try using brightly colored rings, blocks or board books to let your baby distinguish colors and objects with visual and verbal clues. Give your baby a stack of items and watch what he does. As your baby begins to move things around, narrate his actions to help expose him to more language. For example, "Oh, should we put the blue blocks here?" or, "These are all of your books!"
Livingston says, "It's very important to read into your child's responses. You're watching to see if they're interested and delighted. Don't keep pushing your idea if they're not engaged in it—just try something else." Watch your baby's reactions and make corresponding noises when he is thrilled or excited: "The blocks go boom! That's funny. You're so silly."