If you are an expectant and new parent play skills is one of the first developments to start early. Play skills follow a developmental scale, much like walking and talking. It might be hard to believe but just as babies are taking so much in from the minute they are born, they are also individuals who naturally want to engage in play. Play combines a variety of skill sets: physical, socio-emotional, problem solving, interpersonal, as well as developing curiosity + turn taking.
Here are a few tips on infant play and interactions:
Tummy time is when an awake/alert baby is placed on their stomach to develop their neck, trunk, shoulder and eye muscle strength. It leads to interacting, rolling, crawling and later playing. It is an integral part of overall physical development.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can begin with VERY brief intervals of tummy time on the day they return home. Technically, this is your baby’s first workout!
Physical development and turn taking
Around 4 to 6 months, babies usually begin reaching out and holding items. Around 8 to 9 months, they are a bit more coordinated and may begin sitting upright. It is often a time of great physical growth. Encourage your child’s seated posture (supported or unsupported) and add a simple turn taking routine. Start with a game of peek a boo or step it up and try this noisy toy.
Body awareness and social skills
Try to read books with your children daily. Much like flossing for adults, this does not happen as prescribed. Build a reading routine to encourage a variety of skills: from literacy awareness to social interactions.
Did you know that newborns could see about 8 to 12 inches in front of them? And newborns can imitate facial expressions from as early as 36 hours old? Around 7 to 10 months, full color vision develops + distance vision matures. Use those developing eyes and take a peek at these books.
This book encourages noticing facial expressions in others and imitating skills as well.
Present the black and white books to younger babies (0 – 6 months), as their color vision has not fully developed.
Be sure to hold the books about 8 – 12 inches away from the baby’s face
With facial expressions begin with smiling and showing a happy face. Try other expressions such as surprised or sad. Then see if your baby can stick out their tongue in response to yours. The focus here is on imitation and social awareness. Try to pause and give your baby plenty of time when waiting for them to imitate.
Also keep in mind the baby’s state: if they are tired, hungry or irritated in any way, help the baby get balanced and present the book at a calmer time (or the next day even).
Hope this post helped you become more informed about your infant’s growth. Here’s to many playful moments together.
Vanessa D’Auria is a licensed speech-language pathologist providing home-based services in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. For more information about Vanessa, visit speechtherapyvanessadauria.com or to ask speech/language questions, email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.