I've heard so many people say babies are boring...they just sleep and eat all day. And yes whilst that might also be true, young babies are growing, developing and learning new skills by the day.
Here are my top tips for keeping your tiniest babies engaged and constantly learning, without the concern of overstimulation.
BLACK AND WHITE
So many new parents rush out to buy bright books and baby toys because many of us don't actually know that babies only see in black and white for a good length of time after they are born, with shades of grey developing before their colour vision at around four months old.
It's for this reason that most babies prefer to look at faces, shadows around the eyes and other round shapes with light and dark borders, than toys for example.
This is why providing young babies with bold black and white images, or age appropriate toys, encourages their cognitive development and stimulates the development of the optic nerve.
Finding good quality black and white print, fabrics or toys (like the Raising Rounded Rascals neutral sensory baskets or vision cards*) is also the best way to extend tummy time; keeping them engaged without the risk of them becoming over stimulated.
TREASURE (OR SENSORY) BASKETS
The concept of treasure baskets has been around years now, with myself putting them together working in the baby room at Fieldside Day Nursery a long sixteen years ago and even making them the first play experiences my own boys were given.
Treasure baskets, like the Raising Rounded Rascals sensory baskets pictured above, are simply a basket of safely selected resources for your baby to experiment with. Careful thought over taste, texture, weight, shape and size can lead to baby using a range of their senses for exploring and learning about how things taste, feel, fit together etc.
For older babies treasure baskets lead beautifully into heuristic, or loose parts, play where they can begin learning simple mathematical concepts that leads into so much more development and discovery.
Another form of sensory play is often referred to as 'messy play' and is usually just as it describes on the tin.
It's a messy form of play that babies can get their hands, and teeth, into.
Using food based products for weaning or older babies, like cooked rice, pasta, oats and cereals, is a perfect way to safely allow your little one to continue exploring with their mouth as the play itself is edible and safe for ingestion.
For this reason alone many older babies love to explore in this way. Using taste as their driving force to see what it is they can do with their planned activity.
Adding sea creatures to blue jelly, farm animals and dinosaurs to oats or crushed cereals, or simply stars and shapes to your play tray can enhance it even the more (stay tuned on the website for themed play trays available to buy soon in the shop).
So many babies dislike tummy time, simply because it's hard work. Young babies learn pretty quickly to lift their head to find the breast or bottle due to survival needs, but for them to develop well and explore the world around them they need to be given opportunities to lift their heads for longer.
This is why tummy time is one of the most crucial part of your baby's play time; forcing them to move their head or lift it up to see things in from of them. This exercise alone builds so many connections that supports a range of development, from physical strength to crossing their midline, to learning to crawl. Tummy time plays a critical part in all of this.
So if your little one is not a fan then just offer short periods at a time with them laid on their tummy.
You can also try a rolled up towel or tummy time cushion under their arms whilst they develop enough strength in their neck to last for longer periods of time.
Remember...any time babe is laid over your knees or skin to skin on your chest, or playing rocket in the air... are all still classed as tummy time experiences and will contribute to the same developmental gains spoken of earlier **
The sweetest and most important tip I can give you on this subject is this...
Your baby has heard your voice and the special voices around you for months before entering this world. Hearing those voices now they are hear will not only calm and soothe them but will also instantly gain their attention.
Chat with them, talk silly and sing with them. Talk through your shopping list or recipe book...it really doesn't matter as long as they can hear you during their waking hours and there are lots of opportunities for face to face talk and eye contact.
I will always advocate singing and rhyming with your babies, and this links on beautifully from the special voices section above.
Your baby doesn't know nor care if you can hold a tune. They simply want to hear from their special voices in a way that teaches them a little about pitch and volume.