baby playing with toys

Every parent wants their newborn to grow into a strong and healthy baby. While every interaction helps them develop, parents can take extra steps to ensure they are maximizing playtime. With the right toys and activities, parents can foster creative growth and development at home, long before the age of one.

Here are six fun and unique activities worth trying.

1. Tummy Time
Tummy time is an activity you can start on the first day you bring your baby home. As the name suggests, you should turn your infant onto their stomach for a short period. This allows your baby to develop vital motor skills while strengthening their neck and shoulder muscles. You should aim to complete two to three sessions each day that last approximately three-to-five minutes.

As your child grows, the time spent on their belly will increase, especially as they become more comfortable with lifting their head. They can use tummy time to explore their surroundings and play with age-appropriate toys. It will also help to prevent your child from developing flat spots on the back of their head.

2. Food for Sensory Development
Developmental activities can be inexpensive and straightforward, such as using food for sensory development. As your child ages, you may tell them to stop playing with their food, but while they’re young, playing with food can be a good thing. Lucky for parents, they can use everyday items—like noodles—which most families have stocked in their cabinets.

As the child feels, smells and plays with the food, adults can rest easy knowing the food is safe and non-toxic. However, as with all activities, parents should monitor their babies to avoid accidents. Since the child is young, you’ll want to use soft foods that are not potential choking hazards. Food games can help to develop motor-function, vocabulary and sensory skills.

For little ones beginning to eat purees, you can use applesauce, pudding or whipped cream and encourage them to draw pictures and feel the textures. As they get older, you can begin activities using more sold foods. An example might be how picking up small foods like peas can help with developing fine motor skills. Another option is to use crushed cereal as if it were sand.

3. Music Maker
Sounds intrigue babies—even if they don’t understand what they represent. Parents can make simple music devices using a plastic bottle or sippy cup and some noodles or nuts. With the lid on tight, babies can shake the noisemaker to their heart’s content. This activity helps to form new neural pathways through neuroplasticity. In other words, learning and playing with music can physically change the way your child’s brain develops.

You can also practice singing with your baby to improve language development and parental bonding. Lullabies can calm a baby since your voice will be one of their favorite and most comforting sounds. If you’d prefer not to sing, you could listen to child classics like the Hokey Pokey and dance with your baby. Dancing can help your baby develop a sense of space, time and rhythm.

4. Reading for Cognitive Development
Reading helps your child’s growth and development long before they can understand the words on a page. As your baby listens, their vocabulary and language skills improve. If you decide to read in a secondary language, that can also help with neuroplasticity.

Even how you read will make a difference. By expressing different emotions and using various voices or personas, you can support your child’s emotional and social development. As they grow, they’ll begin to recognize pictures and may even point at things in the book.

5. Baby-Friendly Obstacle Course
Babies learn through experience, and they love to use their senses to explore. By making a baby-friendly obstacle course, you allow your baby to adventure around the room to discover different textures and sounds. This will help them improve their motor function and sensory skills. You can use various materials like carpeting, a wool sweater and a fuzzy blanket while encouraging them to crawl through the course. Most babies will begin crawling by 9-months-old, but they’ll likely be able to grab materials around them much sooner.

6. Open-Ended Play
Have you ever heard that boredom is a good thing? While children need structure in their lives, open-ended play has numerous benefits. More specifically, it’s an opportunity for babies and young children to explore without restraint and exercise their imagination. As your baby freely expresses their emotions and desires, they demonstrate creativity and emotional intelligence.

Open-ended play materials could include:

Remember to monitor your baby during open-play sessions to reduce the risk of accidents or injury.

As a parent, you can use these six activities to encourage your baby’s healthy growth and development. Every action you show has a response for your child. When you speak, they are learning, and when you hold them close, they are bonding with you. Feel comfortable adapting these games and activities to suit your household. Each second is worth cherishing, so remember to embrace the moments you have because kids grow up quick!