Educating your infant doesn’t have to mean popping in a Baby Einstein DVD or trying to achieve the Mozart effect with all the right music recordings. What it really means is stimulating your baby’s senses through deliberate and caring interaction – and that’s something that all parents already provide for their infants. Because infants aren’t quite ready for lesson plans and textbooks, the best way to start their education on how things work in the world is to stimulate each of their five senses, encourage recognition and imitation, and eventually foster autonomous sensory exploration. This is much easier than it sounds, and you can do it effectively by following your parent’s intuition and using some of the following tips.
Each of these sections contains at least two suggestions for stimulating a particular aspect of sensory perception for your infant, and you can use these to come up with more as your baby grows more advanced.
Show your baby picture books and introduce the basics of communication by pointing at items in the pictures and saying their names several times. Your baby probably won’t respond, but starting this process early is conducive to making good connections later.
Visit places with a lot of color and visual stimulation, such as kids’ museums, zoos, aquariums, aviaries, botanical gardens, and more. Places like these stimulate your infant’s sense of sight, but they also provide the opportunity to make physical connections that aren’t enabled by watching TV or experiencing other passive types of stimulation.
Music stimulates both sides of the brain, and it’s never too early to introduce it to your infant. First, try singing consistently – this will get your baby used to your voice while providing aural stimulation. You don’t have to be a great singer – just enjoy making music. You can also make simple drums with empty containers, encouraging your baby to “play” them with his or her hands. It helps if you play along.
If you have access to a farm or zoo, have your infant listen to the animal sounds as you name the animals that make them. This can help your baby start to make important connections among words, sounds and the visual aspect of seeing the animals.
Smell and Taste
Letting your baby try different types of food and drink can be fun, but it’s important to be careful about what you give to an infant. At first, milk and baby formula are the only options, but once your baby is eating semi-solid food, make sure you try a variety of baby foods.
Scratch-and-sniff books are fun and can stimulate your baby’s sense of smell as you say the names of the items that correspond to each scent.
Try giving your baby a bowl of mashed potatoes, unflavored or mildly flavored gelatin, rice, or any other texturally stimulating and edible material. Some play-dough is edible, and you can also make your own with relative ease: just mix together one part water, one part flour, and two parts finely ground oatmeal. Letting your infant play with these materials is stimulating, but watch out for impromptu messes.
Explore the difference between warm and cool temperatures by heating some of your homemade play-dough in the microwave and putting part of it in the freezer for a few minutes. Your infant will be fascinated by this and will enjoy playing with the two different temperatures until the dough reaches room temperature.
Bath time, stuffed animals, and many other toys are also great ways to stimulate your infant’s sense of touch.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.