By Rae Pica
Babies need to move in order to learn! Following are several
activities – all of which promote motor and cognitive development and deepen the
bond between baby and you.
You can encourage rolling over by providing a little incentive.
While the baby is lying on his back, sit behind him, holding a small toy over
his head. Once you have the baby's attention, move the toy very slowly to one
side, all the while encouraging him to get it. If the baby rolls over, present
him with the toy. You can then repeat the game on the other side.
Provide your baby with bright, colorful objects to watch. Finger
puppets or a brightly colored sock placed on your hand can be used to gain and
keep the baby's attention. Then slowly move your hand up and down, in circles,
and to the right and left. Blow bubbles for the baby to watch. When the baby's
old enough, encourage her to reach for the bubbles – or any other object of
desire you place above her.
Body awareness is essential for babies. Sing and demonstrate
"Where Is Thumbkin?" Play games like "This Little Piggy" with both toes and
fingers. Touch her nose, exclaiming, "I've got your nose!" Then proceed to play
the game with such other body parts as toes, ears, fingers, and legs. When the
baby's developmentally ready, ask her to find your nose, ears, mouth, etc.
There's nothing like the game of Peek-a-Boo to help the child
begin to see himself as a separate individual. It also makes babies laugh! Once
the baby is familiar with this game, you can move on to "Where's Mommy [Daddy;
Nana; etc.]?" Begin by placing your hands over your face, just as you would with
Peek-a- Boo. Later, hide your whole self behind a piece of furniture, asking,
"Where's Mommy?" You then pop up, answering, "Here's Mommy!"
Crossing the Midline
To encourage crossing the midline of the body, hand your baby
desirable items in such a way that she has to reach across her body to retrieve
them from you. Later, when the baby is crawling and creeping, place a brightly
colored object or favorite toy on the floor, just out of reach, encouraging her
to go get it. Then, as long as she seems to enjoy the game (she's laughing
instead of fussing), keep moving it!
Any activity in which the baby is reaching for or batting an
object promotes eye-hand coordination. Another option, appropriate for infants
as young as three months, is to sew a bell or bells onto an elastic band that
you can slip on your baby's wrists or ankles. Once on, gently shake the body
part until the baby looks at it.
Also, when your baby is able to sit unassisted, make him
comfortable on the floor, legs apart. Sit opposite him in a similar manner and
roll a large, brightly colored ball toward him. Describe what you're doing, and
encourage him to push it back toward you.
To provide opportunities for kicking, place a stuffed animal or
a small pillow by your baby's feet, close enough to touch, and encourage her to
kick away. Give her plenty of soft objects to throw as well, retrieving them for
her as long as she stays interested. Once she's walking, you can place an empty
laundry basket on the floor and suggest she toss soft balls, rolled- up socks,
or similar items into the basket.
Babies are great at mimicking, and at about 10 months of age
they have a greater understanding of what they're doing and really enjoy it.
Play the Mirror Game with your baby while sitting and facing each other. Stick
out your tongue, wiggle your fingers in your ears, wave your arms up and down,
all while encouraging the baby to do likewise. When your baby is ready to figure
out how the game is played, encourage him to lead, while you imitate.
Later, when your baby is mobile, Follow the Leader is a
wonderful game to play. It will encourage imitation while also providing
practice with walking.
Rae Pica is a children's physical activity specialist and the author of Your
Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development
through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Rae speaks to parent and
education groups throughout North America. Visit her and read more articles at