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10 Fun Ways a Baby can Learn

Yes, we’re grateful for healthy, happy babies but surely we all want our kids to be brilliant too?

We are not talking about the level of genius that lands national talk-show appearances or gains early admission to Harvard. We would just like our children to be blessed with brains that let them breeze easily through life with minimum struggles and lots of opportunities!

As it turns out, we parents have a hand in making that happen — and not just in the genes we pass along. Science clearly shows that baby’s brain development depends largely on early experiences and not experiences with fancy DVDs or brain-enhancing toys.

Simply engaging with baby daily in positive ways helps build the trillions (yes, trillions!) of brain connections that lead to language development, problem-solving skills and the emotional IQ that’s so important for getting along — and ahead! — in the world.

The key element here is not to try too hard but to have fun with your little one and open up his or her senses to the world around us. Try these 10 easy and fun baby learning activities you can use on the go and during snacktime or playtime.

WHEN YOU’RE OUT AND ABOUT

Play tour guide

Narrating your day helps baby pair words with what he’s seeing. Speak slowly and simply, in that higher-pitched tone that slips out naturally (research shows it enhances baby’s learning). Don’t worry, you’re not talking to yourself – You are in fact talking to your baby, for months before they talk, babies understand much of what you’re saying and may even start making incredible connections.

Help him take it all in

If you’re on a walk and hear a dog, ask your baby, “What do you hear?” Then give the answer: “Dog. Bark. Woof, woof!” Do this every time you encounter a barking dog and your child will probably start answering with the sound (Woof, woof!). Eventually, he’ll refine his response to “dog.”

Try a similar approach to teach him about physical sensations. If it starts drizzling while you’re out, before you run for cover, let your little one experience and feel some rain drops on the face. Say, “See. It’s raining! Rain. Wet.” Then cover the stroller and hustle home.

Be polite and engaging

Smiling and waving to the man bagging your groceries not only teaches baby cause and effect (he smiles and waves back), it also helps develop baby’s social IQ. Children watch you for clues on how to interpret a situation.

Waving and smiling are friendly things you do when you see someone you like. You don’t have to, however, parade around town like a politician! Just remember that your little one is watching and learning from your actions.

Keep some things constant

A baby’s brain processes new information most efficiently when in familiar surroundings. Then, the brain goes into autopilot and take in only the new details. Try variations on common themes.

For instance, go for a walk every day at the same time but switch up your route. It must be fascinating for a baby to realize that there are so many different flowers, trees, vehicles, etc. Slowly, baby begins to categorise these.

AT SNACKTIME

Initiate a two-way conversation

Have free-flowing ‘conversation’ with your little one during meal or snack times. Ask your child about the food he or she is eating and give them a chance to respond. It’s important that a child feels that his or her response mean something to his parents, so show the little one, in any way that’s best for you, that you understand what he feels about the food.

Also, you can try out the idea of reciprocity by playing back-and-forth with a spoon or cup: You ask for it by name, she gives it you, you thank her. Then give it back and encourage a “Thank you” in return.

Incorporate counting

As early as 4 1/2 months, babies have a “number sense” that allows them to notice changes in the number of objects in front of them, according to a research at Harvard University. Count out baby biscuits or peas as you place them in a line on his tray to speed up this connection of numbers in correspond to how many objects he sees.

Get a little messy- It’s ok!

When baby tosses a cup to the floor, say, “Oops, you threw it down,” and, as you lift it, say, “So we have to pick it up.” Getting messy and tossing things around are how babies learn. They’re not testing your patience (or testing what happens to the mash when it hits the floor). Before you feel compelled to correct, ask yourself if the constant reprimanding is really necessary. Research shows that when parents say things like “don’t” or “no,” baby’s language is slower to develop because these commands inhibit exploration.

DURING PLAYTIME

Hands on, hands off

Show him how a toy works, then back off. When you see your child playing with a toy ‘incorrectly’, so to speak, resist the urge to fix the situation. After all, it’s his playing and learning experience to enjoy!

He’ll also learn that, with effort, he can solve problems. If a situation seems to frustrate him, offer emotional support. Acknowledge when it’s a difficult situation, applaud his effort then help guide him to a solution.

Expand the idea of ‘educational’ toys

Yes, shape sorters teach spatial reasoning and problem-solving, but then again, so does letting him figure out how to retrieve the ball that rolled under the couch. You don’t need to buy expensive brain-boosting toys to let your kid have a learning experience while playing.

Turn on the tunes

Sing and dance with your baby! Some research suggests that, from birth, babies respond to the rhythm and tempo of music and may even find it more engaging than speech. The sheer joy of singing and dancing together is what makes these activities so beneficial for brain development.

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