Babies are a lot more interactive than you think, they do much more than just eat, sleep, and soil their diapers. Newborns respond to their environment as soon as they are born; to music, to toys, dad’s voice, mom’s touch, and even to the patterns on the ceiling from the lights. These first few months are extremely important for their development through one-on-one interaction.
While your baby can’t do many things in the beginning they do love having interesting things to look at. They focus in on high contrasting shapes and patterns(black and white) and mobiles with bright colors. Musical toys for babies will catch their attention and help them calm down while fussy. Small soft rubber or plastic items with handles are great to help baby learn how to grasp objects. Toys are wonderful for holding baby’s attention and help provide specific developmental milestones.
While your baby is still in the womb they are compacted in their environment, once they are born they begin to relax and open up their posture. They will start to extend their legs and arms more and will start lifting their head more to develop head control. Some great ways to help develop these gross motor skills with interactive play are through; face to face tummy time for head control and neck strength, a baby play gym with dangling toys for baby to kick and swing their arms at, and small toys placed near baby to encourage then to reach and roll.
As your baby develops they will being to develop more and more fine motor skills. Their once tightly closed fist will start to loosen and open up, ready to grab anything close to them. They will begin to suck on their fingers and reach for objects on purpose. Some interactive play activities that will help develop their fine motor skills are; have your baby grab a toy out of your hand, encourage baby to explore items with all of their senses, hold a toy away from your baby but still in reach for them to grab, or let them grasp your fingers.
A newborn can see about 10 to 12 inches clearly. In these early months a newborn’s vision is perhaps their most underdeveloped sense. As your baby grows within the next few months they will begin to focus more. First on you, then they will start to follow moving objects. Here are a few ways you can help develop your baby’s visual skills through interactive play; start baby off with movements in front of them using your hands and fingers to catch their attention, high contrasting colors help the retinas send stronger signals to the brain which help increase visual and brain development (these can be toys, flash cards, or mobiles), moving an item slowly back and forth in front of your baby helps them learn to follow an object.
Over the first few months, you will begin to notice your baby’s reaction to sounds. First by startling towards loud or unexpected noise, then eventually looking towards the sounds. Your newborns first communication skills are their cries, and you will gradually notice that different types of cries have different meanings. As time goes by your baby will begin to laugh and “coo”. Help your baby develop their hearing and language skills even more with these fun interactive play examples; hum along with a toy or sing to help calm your baby during quiet time, talk to your baby throughout the day, provide your baby with toys and rattles that make various sounds to encourage them to experience sounds on their own.
All of these skills are crucial for your baby’s over all development. Be sure to spend an ample amount of time with them playing and just have fun!
-Dr. Kenneth Akey