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Magalog Flashback: Let’s Play!

What do you get when you combine a catalog with a magazine? Our magalog, Surprises, is your guide to the best of our baby gear selection and the top toys of the season. But there’s more: each issue of Surprises is loaded with informative articles about babies and kids, and common-sense advice that you can use.

Just in case you missed them, we’re reposting our magalog backlog here on the Spilling the Beans blog. And we’ve got a great new issue on the way, launching in November 2012. Go here and sign up to make sure you get yours!


Let’s Play
By Jayne Beker, Psy.D
Dr. Beker is a NY-based psychologist who spent over 20 years doing early childhood consulting for The Family Center at the Bank Street School. (She’s also Sheri’s mom.)

Playing with your baby may not come naturally to you, but playing with you comes quite naturally to your baby – and interacting with you, and with toys, is how he develops his motor skills and communication skills. Here are some tips, tricks, and toys to get you started.

From birth to 3 months, babies sleep most of the time, and spend their waking hours acclimating to the world outside of the womb. Depending on temperament, some babies have an easier time with this transition than others. A parent’s goal at this stage is to get to know your baby and to learn how to stimulate your baby’s senses without overwhelming him.

Mobiles help babies learn to track with their eyes, and accompanying music taps into your baby’s already well-developed sense of hearing. However, baby’s favorite toy is you, his caregiver! Experiment with touch – some babies like the tickle of a light touch while others love the pressure of a firm massage. Watch your baby’s face and let him watch yours. Play with facial expressions, sing songs or hum, stick your tongue out. When you elicit his first social smile in response to something you’re doing, congratulations! You have just facilitated the first circle of communication between you and your baby.

Tummy time is also important: he’ll need to spend time on his belly so he can work on lifting his head, developing the muscles that he’ll use to crawl.

At 3 months to 6 months, some babies will actively try to engage with the world while others will passively wait for the world to come to them. Most babies will hold rattles or soft toys placed in their hands, and they begin to experiment with cause and effect. The first shake of a rattle may be accidental, but once your baby discovers what he needs to do to make the noise recur, there will be no stopping him. Give him time to sit with support – play mats, Boppy seats and car-seat mobiles let him see and interact with the world.

Games of peek-a-boo delight babies, but don’t hide yourself completely, because at this age, if you are out of sight, you are essentially “out of mind.” Babies love looking at themselves, too, which is why so many infant toys have mirrors. Now is the time to start reading books to your baby, so he becomes familiar with the rhythm of reading.

By the period between 6 and 9 months, you should be able to play with your child for several minutes in a game of peek-a-boo, or rolling a ball back and forth. Start imitating his sounds, and watch him respond in kind. Babies’ main mode of exploration is oral, so your baby is going to mouth everything. Offer a range of textures – smooth, bumpy, hard, squishy.

From 9 months to 12 months, mobility takes center stage. Babies work on crawling and the precursors of walking. They delight in toys that enable them to be more mobile, like wagons that they can hold onto and push. Your baby is also making huge cognitive strides. While he may still mouth toys, he will also explore toys in other ways, trying to understand their unique properties. Shape sorters, blocks, stacking toys, and pounding toys are all popular, as are rudimentary music toys, like xylophones. Build block towers and watch your baby’s excitement as he knocks them to the ground. At this age, babies love to fill containers and empty them, too.

By the end of the first year, your baby is on the verge of becoming an effective communicator, using gestures and vocalizations to get his needs met. Expand your baby’s language by reading, singing songs, and talking about what he sees. Spend time on the floor each day with your baby, and position yourself so he can see your facial expressions and delight in the social interaction.

Of course, the first year is only the beginning of a lifetime of play for your baby. Allow his curiosity to lead the way, guide him gently towards the experiences he’ll need, and enjoy watching your child grow!

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