Best developmental activities for your infant

If you are wondering what to do with your infant to develop his senses while he is awake, not hungry and not dirty, then keep on reading. I have discovered a couple of activities that take 5-10 minutes a day that will contribute a LOT to your baby's brain development.

Here is the chart:

1. Lamaze cards - black and white cards with simple images. They are called "infant stimulation cards"

How to use them:

- choose a time of a day when your baby is happy (not sleepy, not hungry, dry). Suggestions: after diaper change, after a walk.

- stack 5-7 cards and start showing them one by one to your baby, naming the items. Spend no more then 1-2 seconds per card. Make sure the baby is looking.

- repeat whenever is possible. Use the same cards. Add more if you can keep baby's attention longer in a week or two.

Where to get the Lamaze cards:

1) Brillkids website. - they have proved to be the best so far for me because:

a) you can choose the ones that are most appealing to your baby or collect images by topics. The collection is updated by members from time to time.

b) The images are black and white, formatted for A4 paper. They are all in one PDF document. So you can print them all at once at home on a usual paper  (no need to go anywhere and no special skills needed). Saves time and money.

c) they are two sided and actually show the change / progress of an object. Ex: a full apple/ same apple with a bite. So when your baby is good with just looking at the cards, you can show one side and then flip it explaining the difference between the 2 images.

2) Baby Stimuli cards from Zorger - they are free too. Just download them. But they are more abstract (shapes, simple objects). Otherwise, it is a good option too.

a) they are black and white. Easy to print. One-sided.

b) they may be too big for your baby. I found that babies are ok with half the A4 sheet size. Bigger paper size (full A4) is not easy to hold (paper rolls) with one hand and takes too much space. It is unnecessary and unsafe.

3) SoSmart website has a lot of fun activities for your baby. You can get your cards here. It is free. The only trouble is that you need to download them one by one.

a) they are showing geometric shapes most of the time. I think it is not enough. I noticed that my baby enjoyed the images of real things more then weird patterns that did not make sense. I was enjoying it more too. It means I was more inclined to use those cards more often with him. Besides, real objects can be described, so when I got bored from just showing the cards, we started to describe those objects a bit adding verbs ("batterfly is flying"), naming parts ("batterfly with 2 wings") etc. Endless really) Try everything though.

b) you need a color printer. The cards have black, white and red colors. I should note that babies start to see RED color at about 1-3 months and they do get involved with it more. But at the very beginning it does not matter that much. Those cards may be good later when you notice your baby distinguishing colors.

c) good thing they have other options of card games with an infant (tracking games for example)

4) Amazon, ebay, baby stores - you can buy ready-made lamaze cards by topics online or in a usual store. You can also include a couple into your baby registry list. Good idea. They go for $4 - $14 usually.

Not a bad option. The cards are harder, have special case and can be more fun for you and your baby.

2. Read books

How to read to your baby:

- lay down on a bed/sofa

- lay your infant next to you so he/she is laying down under your armpit (kinda)

- hold the book with two hands so that it looks like you are hugging the baby with a book. That way you are creating the safe and relaxing atmosphere for your infant. This ensures longer reading

- point to the words as you read them with one hand.

Here are some guidelines I have successfully used with my baby:

a) Make sure you read something you would read for your older child (1 year old).

b) choose poems and rhymed texts over just texts.

c) Use intonation to intensify the rhythm

d) use 5-10 minutes of reading every day. To make sure you do it, just put a couple of books next to your bed (on night table) and keep them handy.

e) do not let a baby play with books unless you are reading them to him/her. I mean let them touch the book when you are reading, but do not give the book out just to hold, play with at other times.

It is great way to relax yourself and have a quality time with your baby. If you cannot do it, put your partner to read for the baby while you can have a break. Dads need straigt directions on what to do. Reading is the easiest for them so far.

PS: you are also forming respect for books in your baby from the very beginning. It is very important.

3. Morning exercises

It is so easy and fun to do. And you will probably think there is nothing to be added to it. But you are wrong.  Here are a couple of things to do to develop your baby's brain when exercising:

a) name body parts as you touch them.

Example: lifting hands you are saying "hands, hands" etc.

b) check the milestones that your infant has to meet when he is 6 month old for example. Look way ahead. Then add those exercises into your daily routine to help faster development.

Example: the baby needs to roll. So add the hips exercise: jently hold one knee and push on it so baby starts to roll to one side (saying "rolling") and then to the other side. The possibilities are endless.

c) repeat the same movements in a bathtub for example saying the same words you were saying for different parts of a body when doing it outside the water. This will make the bathtime fun and not that scary for the baby.

4. iPad apps.

I know they are saying no screen time for babies but... there are 2 apps that I would recommend:

Baby Doesn't Count - This baby app encourages the development of math in early childhood through simple dot flash cards for babies.

a) it has a free trial good enough for you and your baby use it for 1-3 months.

b) comes in lessons (1 a day) - perfect for parents.

c) the dots are red - very infant friendly

d) a parent can record other languages for numbers or just voice numbers herself (so baby recognizes the voice better)

e) worth the purchase

Infant Visual Stimulation - another version of Lamaze cards. It contains high contrast pictures in flashcard format, especially designed for newborns and babies. Great to be used on the go.

a) portable, no paper

b) has red and black/white colors

c) has real objects and abstracts

d) you can teach a baby to read words there too

e) you can record your voice there too

PS: tried a lot of other apps. They were either a waste of time, or too much graphics or too much ads. Useless. Those 2 proved to be handy. I can still see effect from them in my 2 year old. He somehow counts things correctly but he is not too good with counting 1-2-3 in order.

Hope this helps! Feel free to add your own experience.

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