Your baby’s first year is filled with so much developmental growth and change. In the blink of an eye, your infant will quickly go from a tiny, helpless newborn to a walking, talking toddler. Although we all want our babies to stay little forever, seeing them pass through each milestone makes us so eager to watch them grow and develop. As you experience their first smile, roll, or steps, you realize how amazing it is to see your little one accomplish a new skill. Milestones are a significant part of your baby’s journey and show you how well they are physically developing. Babies learn these new skills through everyday play. Exposing your infant to stimulating toys and interactions that provide loads of sensory experiences can help them make connections, problem solve, and develop new skills. It’s important to note that every baby develops at their own pace. There is a wide range of what’s typical at all developmental stages. However, if you are concerned about a developmental milestone, speak to your pediatrician.
The Benefits of Play
Play is a baby’s way of learning about the world around them. They learn through objects and toys and discover textures, sounds, cause and effect, spatial relations, and so much more. Along with improving their strength and coordination, play develops their cognition, hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, sensory processing, and social/emotional skills. How to Maximize Milestones Through Play You’ll want to give your baby as much opportunity as possible to practice new skills.Their wake times will get longer as the year progresses, so they should have plenty of time to play. Here are some tips on ways to improve your baby’s physical, cognitive, and social emotional skills as they reach new milestones along the way: 1. Start with Tummy Time!
Tummy time is one of the first activities that you can do with your baby to give them a head start on developing their physical milestones. Tummy time is vital for babies to strengthen their neck and back extensor muscles. These muscles allow them to hold their head and trunk upright. Tummy time also provides sensory stimulation to all the joints in their arms and front of their body. This will help to develop arm, hand, and finger strength for fine and gross motor skills, including crawling, grasping, and precise hand movements at later stages of development. Not only does tummy time provide infinite benefits for babies, but it is shown to make a huge difference in children’s motor skills down the road, which become more evident when your child reaches school age. These muscles are important for good posture, handwriting, and even athletics. 2. Use age-appropriate and engaging toys You can start your baby very young with their development by providing them with stimulating and developmental toys. VTech® offers some of the best electronic and interactive toys for babies and toddlers. They provide age-appropriate, developmental stage-based toys that will get your baby learning in no time! I use VTech® toys on a daily basis to stimulate my baby and help him reach his next milestone. Here are some of my favorites:
● VTech® Lil’ Critters Soothing Starlight Polar BearTM
This cute polar bear projects a soothing starry night sky onto the ceiling while providing peaceful sounds and tunes for your baby. This toy is perfect for helping your little one visually track objects within the first 3-4 months, as well as self-soothe when he or she needs comfort. Having objects or toys around that your baby can look at or hear are great for sensory stimulation, as well. Objects with contrasting colors and different textures are perfect for young babies as their vision and tactile senses are developing.
● VTech® Tummy Time Discovery PillowTM
Allow your baby to get comfy while having fun with this soft crescent-shaped pillow featuring a friendly giraffe, bright colors, textures, lights, and sounds. As mentioned before, tummy time is so important and this pillow provides the support that your baby needs to strengthen his or her muscles while stimulating his or her senses. Put the pillow under your baby’s chest and neck with their arms in front of them. The slight incline may make tummy time a little more tolerable for them. If they have some head control, you can also try to bend their elbows in front of them so that they are resting on their arms, instead of positioning their arms behind them. As your infant gets a little older, they can use it to support themselves while sitting up.
● VTech® Turtle’s Busy Day Soft BookTM
Babies love turning the pages of a soft book, especially when they provide bright, colorful images and crinkly textures. Each page of this book offers something new for your baby to discover: lifting the flap, new textures and sounds, a peek-a-boo mirror, and a finger puppet. This book will provide endless play for your baby while they develop fine motor skills and cognition.
● VTech® Explore and Crawl ElephantTM
Ready for your baby to start crawling? This is the ultimate motivator to develop that gross motor skill around 7-10 months! This soft, plush animal walks around while providing lots of sensory stimulation with textures, patterns, and sounds. Your baby will love crawling around the house to chase it while strengthening their arm muscles as well as learning about colors, numbers, and daily life through music and tunes.
● VTech® Stroll & Discover Activity WalkerTM
Once your little one starts learning to walk, this interactive activity walker is great. The light up piano keys and activity panel provide endless entertainment whether your child is sitting in front of it or walking with it. Your baby can use it for support when they are sturdy enough to stand and begin taking small steps. Soon they will be cruising the whole house with it!
● VTech® Drop and Go Dump TruckTM
As your baby starts getting an understanding of cause-and-effect around 8 months and up, this is the perfect toy to improve their overall cognitive and problem-solving skills! Your baby will drop a colorful rock into the top of the toy dump truck and watch it tumble around into the bucket. The truck is also interactive as it counts each rock and plays fun tunes.
3. Demonstrate and Model New Skills Children learn by seeing, feeling, touching, and doing. Their curious, little minds love to take in everything through their senses and imitate what they’ve seen. Therefore, you need to show (not tell) them how to perform a new motor skill. It can be as simple as crawling on your hands and knees right in front of them or putting blocks into a bucket for them to see. Demonstrating the actual action is a great way to let your baby see and understand what their body is capable of doing. If they have siblings or even other babies at a play group, it’s helpful for them to see others their own age doing these skills, as well.
4. Repeat each skill often
Give your baby maximum exposure to the milestone you are trying to teach. If you want your baby to learn a new motor skill, repeat it as often as you can throughout the day using engaging and stimulating items, such as the VTech® toys above. Practice during your bedtime routine, diaper changes, meal time, or free play. Room to room and hour by hour, there are plenty of opportunities to practice different skills.
5. Be Patient
It may take your baby some time to reach the new milestone that you have been waiting for. Some will pick it up quickly while others need a lot of practice. Every child learns at their own pace. The best thing you can do is let your baby learn new skills on their own time. Applying these tips is sure to help them learn quicker; however, it’s important to remember to be patient and it will come. Don’t push them too hard or get frustrated with them and try not to compare them to other babies. There are many factors that contribute to your baby reaching a new milestone, but they will get there when they are ready. . . . . . Watching your baby make their way through various developmental stages is something that every parent absolutely loves. As they reach each milestone, you can be proud that they are developing just as they should. Try the tips above while using VTech’s amazing toys to give your baby that head start he or she needs to develop during those critical early months. Author Bio:
Marissa LaBuz is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist turned stay-at-home mom and full-time blogger who loves sharing her advice and experience with the world. She runs two blogs, Just Simply Mom and Teaching Littles, and an Etsy Shop, all while starting tickle wars and dance parties with two energetic toddlers and calming a newborn baby. When she doesn't have her hands full of children, she enjoys a glass (or 3) of wine, reality tv, and country music.