As a mom who tries to be intentional in raising her sweet little baby, I have searched Pinterest numerous times to find activities to do with my baby that will stimulate growth and development. The results that I found were overwhelming – 60 things to do with your baby before they turn one, 30 activities to do with your 0-3 month old baby, and even a week-by-week activity plan with 2-3 involved activities per week. As a mom that also works 20-25 hours a week outside the home, I don’t have time to do prep work for a lot of activities, especially when keeping my baby nourished and healthy is my first priority.
However, I did want to have some sort of intentionality in what activities my baby did in order to stimulate and hone the skills she was developing. So I created a weekly activity plan for baby’s first year. All of these activities you can do (in varying degrees) from 0-12 months to assist their development in different ways at different stages. Some of these things may seem to be a no-brainer or something that you’ve already thought of, but I find it helps to have an organized plan to make sure that we actually do these activities instead of only thinking about them. These are also be great ways for you to play with your baby and strengthen your bond, and don’t require a lot of prep work either. Spending several hours raiding Michael’s and making sensory bags? A lot of us don’t have time for that.
I have organized this plan by categories – movement, touch, watching, listening, body, and smell/taste. Some of the activities may seem obvious, but I will give a brief definition or explanation of each one below.
1) Exercise – This could be your baby watching you exercise, exercising with you, or you helping them exercise on their own. All three of these ways help them to understand that movement and working our body is good, as well as strengthen their own muscles – and yours!
2) Music Making – let them play with pots and pans, shakers, and anything else that makes noise when moved. This will help them understand that they can make noise when moving objects a certain way.
3) Dance – as with exercise, this can be them watching you dance or dancing with them, and has the same benefits as exercise.
4) Walk or Run – same concept as exercise, but some babies especially love being able to move so fast in a stroller! You can also put your baby in a carrier to take a stroll.
5) Swing – until baby can hold their head up and even sit up, an indoor baby swing will have to suffice until they can sit in a baby swing on a playground. My little girl loves to swing!
1) Textures – let your baby feel and roll around in different textures – rough, hard, smooth, soft, fluffy, sticky – and tell them about what they’re feeling.
2) Bath Play – if you’ve read my post on Swimming with a Baby, you’ll know that babies have a natural reflex to hold their breath underwater. Let them play in the bathtub, feeling and splashing the water. If you are still doing a sponge bath for your baby, you can still get them plenty wet and tell them about what’s happening.
3) Water or Paints – Once your baby is old enough to sit up in a high chair or in your lap, they can play with either water or finger paints (mix food coloring with cornstarch and water) in a container or on their high chair tray. Let them get messy!
1) Mirror Play – starting at about 3 months, babies are enamored with their reflection. Over time, they begin to recognize themselves and you in the mirror as well. Make silly faces and movements as your little one takes it all in!
2) Sign Language – you can find videos on YouTube with signs for baby to learn. They can really start picking it up at around 6 months but you can demonstrate it for them even earlier. And even if you don’t do the universal sign for something, you can just make something up and eventually your baby will put the sign and the object or action together!
3) Picture Book – read a picture book to your baby and name all the objects in each picture to your baby. Point out to them colors, shapes, patterns and anything that their eyes can see and that their brain can put into categories.
Tune In Thursday:
1) Music Listening – It doesn’t all have to be classical; expose them to your favorites! Though you may not think you’re such a great vocalist, singing to your baby is fantastic for their little ears and your bond with them.
2) Read Out Loud – this does not have to be a baby book. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be. Your baby does not have to be looking at the book for this one, so read them whatever you’re reading at the time! I used to read my books out loud to Lilly and she would just lay on the bed with me, quiet and playing with a toy, for up to an hour at a time.
3) Counting – this can be in the form of counting objects, reading a number book, or just saying the numbers; either way it needs to be audible.
4) Letters – the same goes for letters. Some parents have even said singing the alphabet song while your child is sleeping helps them to learn their ABC’s faster!
1) Bath – this time the bath is to give your baby an awareness of her own body. Scrub her down everywhere while pointing out and saying each body part. You can even include some hair brushing and nail clipping afterward as well.
2) Naked Time – this also is to bring awareness to the body. When learning physical developmental milestones (rolling, crawling, etc.), it is easier for babies to be aware of their body without clothes on, though I would recommend always keeping a diaper on them to avoid unnecessary messes. J
3) Massage – this is not like those deep tissue massages you spend hundreds of dollars on. Your baby’s muscles are strong but at the same time fragile. You only want to apply light pressure, and be aware that many babies may be quite ticklish or sensitive in several places. Massage helps baby be aware of how things feel different on different parts of their body, and it is a great way for you to bond with your baby.
4) Stretches – similar to massage, but especially when babies are young they like to stretch out a lot. They’ve been cooped up for nine months, running out of room! Help them stretch gently, which will look more like extending arms and legs out fully than straining muscles, and in no way should be uncomfortable or painful to them.
1) Outside Time – let your baby experience the seasons through smelling and taste! Let them get messy, smell dirt, taste flowers, etc.
2) Food smells – even though your baby might be too young to eat solids, they are never too young to smell them! Bring a combination of foods in front of baby’s nose and see what happens. Put similar items together (ex. Salty foods), and then mix it up. Then, as she gets older, let her taste them!
So that’s that! I know this was a long post, but hopefully you’re now set with more organized, simplified activities to do in the future. Don’t forget to download the free printable and comment if you have any other easy ways to stimulate your baby’s development!