If you?re like most new parents, you brought your baby home from the hospital to a nursery filled with toys. But you quickly learned that for newborns, nothing brings more pleasure than something good to eat or a snuggle with Mom and Dad. For the first months of your baby?s life, few toys are necessary; your voice and touch are all the stimuli he needs. At this stage in the game, you are your child?s favorite toy!
As your baby grows, you can begin to play simple games with him. Games are not only fun, they also increase bonding between parent and child and help develop language skills and coordination. Through play, your baby will learn to imitate your actions and practice social skills such as eye contact, smiling and laughing.
If you?re stumped for ideas on the games your baby might enjoy, don?t worry. The key is to keep it simple. Most babies love a game of peek-a-boo. It?s a great way to teach the concept of object permanence?the idea that objects continue to exist even when we can?t see them. Drape a cloth over your baby?s head and say, "Where?s baby?" He?ll get the idea quickly and soon he?ll be draping the cloth over your head and "finding" you again! You can also play by peeking over your shoulder or around a corner.
By four or five months, your baby will have gained more control over her body and will be able to focus on objects farther away. She?ll love it when you play games and repeat nursery rhymes such as "This Little Piggy Goes to Market." As you play with each tiny toe, you?re teaching your baby about her body and her ability to control it. And rhyming games like "This Little Piggy" and "Pat-a-Cake" provide a distinct rhythm, something babies love, especially when Mom or Dad helps them move their feet and legs in time to the beat.
Nearly every song or game you share with your baby will contribute to his development in some way. By repeating songs and nursery rhymes, you can encourage your little one?s memory growth. Add a dramatic pop! to "Pop Goes the Weasel" and watch as he learns to anticipate the surprise at the end. Play "Pat-a-Cake" and before long your little one will try clapping along with you.
?Mary M. Bradford
Writer, nurse, mother of two
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker?s man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Roll it and pat it and mark it with a "B,"
And put it in the oven for baby and me.
Clap baby?s hands to the beat. Use arm motions for patting and rolling. When you get to "B," substitute your child?s first initial. Change "baby" to his own name.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetops.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
Down will come baby, cradle and all.
Hold your baby on your lap, rocking him from side to side as you sing. When you get to the last line, let him gently fall back against you.
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