by Dawn Johnson, former Paths to QUALITY Coach with Infant/Toddler Emphasis
A lifelong love of learning starts from the earliest moments. Babies love sharing time with their parents or primary caregivers (at home and school) and some babies love to spend time with other babies. Providing a safe, nurturing environment for babies (including positive language) will help develop a love of learning (oh, and build the brain—did you know that by age 3, 80% of an infant’s brain is wired?). When children have a strong desire to learn from the prewiring done from birth to age 3, the brain development will increase to 90% by age 5 AND, will have a stronger chance of staying wired through active learning experiences throughout life.
ACTIVITIES TO PROMOTE A LIFELONG LOVE OF LEARNING (AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT):
Please note infants learn through total sensory integration. The more senses the baby can use to learn about the object, the easier it is for the baby to retain information about the object.
Get a large block of clay from an art store, leave whole or cut in half, put on a sheet of plastic or canvas, add a bit of water and let infants explore! You might need to show your baby it’s ok to touch the clay. While he or she is exploring the clay, you will want to talk about what is happening. “You are touching the clay, and it’s smooth. What do you think about it? Can you poke the clay?”
Cloth strips can be used to weave in and out of a laundry basket (you might do most of the weaving and the infant most of the removing!), for a game of peek-a-boo, to fill and dump from a bucket, as something to hold or chew on. You will find that some children prefer cotton over satin or fleece over Sherpa.
Infants love to hear your voice and they develop a love of math through rhythm and rhyme. While singing with infants, move your head or body to the rhythm, hold the babies and dance with them, clap your hands, pat your legs, etc.
Small balls, bumpy balls, squishy balls, large balls, any and all balls provide so many opportunities for learning! Even our youngest infants can watch balls roll or bounce. Infants will hold, drop, lick, throw, bounce, and crawl after balls. Balls provide opportunities for new vocabulary and multiple opportunities to talk about math and science—colors, size, what’s in the ball, why does it bounce, why does it roll, etc. Adults can describe the balls and ask inquiring questions about the balls.
Infants want to play with YOU! You have fingers, toes, shirts, pants, shoes, hair, eyes, mouths, etc. Infants want to touch you and hear you and play with you. The best thing you can do with an infant is provide the infant with unconditional love and attention, be on the babies level, talk with baby all day, sing with baby, take baby outside and let baby touch the grass, feel the breeze, hear the birds, smell the fresh scent of rain.
Cover image by Flickr user Dean Wissing, Creative Commons license.