Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby
Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. Below you will find some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is part 1 in a 3 part series on this topic. Go to Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby or Toddler to see part 2 of the series.
I will cover the following topics in Part 1:
Enormous Potential: A Baby's Brain, Intelligence & Genes, Classical Music, Reading to Your Child, Repetition, and Narration
Enormous Potential: A Baby's Brain
After I had my first child, I spent many hours reading all the books I could find on how to raise intelligent children starting when they are babies and toddlers. What I found out is amazing! Children from a very young age, as young as infants, are capable of learning much more than we usually think is possible. Did you know that your child is able to learn the most in their entire lives between the ages of 1-3? 75% of your child's brain growth, their ability to learn, occurs by the time a child turns 3! After that, learning actually becomes more difficult and slows down a bit, with only a brief increase during the teen years.
Great Books on Children's Brain Development
There are so many fascinating books out there written about how babies brains develop and what to do to maximize their learning potential at young ages. Also look for "Baby Minds: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love" by Linda Acredolo and "What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life" by Lise Eliot.
Is Intelligence Completely Determined by Genetics?
Is intelligence completely determined by genetics? No!!! Numerous studies have shown that providing an emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment for a toddler can have a vast affect on their academic abilities as they get older. Working with your 18 month old can have a drastic influence on how they will perform in school and later on in life. Can you really educate a 6 month old baby who has just learned to sit up? YES!!! I'm going to share with you what I did mainly with my oldest child, when I only had one child, though I'll touch on things I continue to do now that I'm juggling five children. We'll start with what I did with my oldest son as a baby and continue on with what I did with him when he was a toddler and then a preschooler.
Babies and Mozart
Let's start with babies. Have you heard that classical music makes babies smarter? Do you think that it might be true? If you think it might be true, are you listening to classical music? It's actually called the Mozart Effect. There's been a ton a research on it, and yes, some (not all) research has show that even infants as young as 3 months seem to benefit from listening to classical music. It stimulates the same part of the brain that deals with spatial reasoning, or solving multi-step problems. Basically, it's what you use in science and math. Does it have to be classical music? Yes, it does. Scientists think the complexity of the music is what really helps to stimulate brain development. I used to detest classical music, but for the sake of my oldest son's brain, I started listening to the classical music station all the time. I now actually love classical music. It can grow on you. I still usually pull out a classical music CD each day and we listen to throughout the morning.
Classical Music That Includes Stories
It's easy to find great classical music, but it's not always easy to find classical music that young children and adults will enjoy together. We own all of the below items (and most of the complete series of each item). We have owned them for years and have not grown tired of listening to them over and over again. They are a great way to become familiar with classical music!
Also look for the Vox Music Masters Series: An Introduction to the Classics, with each CD interspersing a composer's biography with their music. Titles include The Story of Beethoven in Words and Music, The Story of Mozart in Words and Music, and many more.
Classical Kids has put out a series of CD's that combine classical music with a fun story-line, always involving a fictional child who gets involved in the life or music of a famous composer. These are wonderful! I own then all, and my children (ages 2-9) enjoy listening to them. They are a great way to introduce classical music in a fun and memorable format.
We've enjoyed this CD since my oldest child was 2. It combines the story of Peter and the Wolf and the Carnival of Animals with the music, and does a good job of featuring the individual instruments so that your child will be able to recognize each instrument's sound.
Do You Like Classical Music?
The Classical Child at... series does a great job at selecting the best pieces of music from operas, ballets, all done in a quality format.
Anna Harwell Celenza has written a number of picture books that tell the story about how a particular classical composition came to be and then includes a CD of that piece of music.
Read, Read, Read
Something that came up in every single book I read on raising smart children was that the single most important activity you can do with your child is read to him/her. I read over and over and over again in books that if you want to raise smart children, you need to read to them. Babies around the age of 3 months and older LOVE board books that have photographs of babies of them. When my oldest son was a baby I read to him for hours. Instead of falling asleep with a pile of stuffed animals in his bed, he would fall asleep with a pile of books in his bed. Now that I have more children, which means more divided time, we still read a lot together, but I spend less time reading books geared toward babies. I do still make it a point to read a few board books to my babies before their afternoon nap time and before bed. Board books are the best because they are a bit more durable and not as easy to tear. Some of my favorites are the DK Touch & Feel Books and books by Sandra Boyton and Eric Carle. I also love art books like the ones from the Mini Masters series and books by Lucy Micklethwait.
My Absolute Favorite Authors/Sets for Babies
Also look for board books by Eric Carle such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," which is one of our absolute favorite board books! I also especially love art books created for babies and preschoolers such as the ones from the Mini Masters series and books by Lucy Micklethwait.
My Absolute Favorite Authors/Sets for Babies
The DK Touch and Feel series is usually the first set of books I use with my baby, starting when they are about 6 months old. They love the touch and feel spots on each page, and I love that they learn to love books! They also learn counting, the alphabet, shapes, animal noises, and more through each one. Even as my children get older, they continue to enjoy these books.
Sandra Boyton is one of my favorite board book authors. Her books have delightful illustrations that keep the attention of my baby (and older children as well), and they teach a concept during the brief text (colors, opposites, counting, etc.)
How frequently do you read to your young child?
When you have a young baby, one of the best ways to teach him/her is by repetition. That means, yes, you will be reading the same books over and over and over and over again. That's okay, though, so long as you're reading books that are actually teaching something. What topics should you be teaching your little baby? Animals and the noises they make, colors, the alphabet, counting, shapes, and body parts are a few topics I focus on.
Narrate the Day Away
You can continue the teaching throughout the day. I narrate the day away. When my oldest son was a baby, he was either asleep or by my side. As I sorted laundry, I pointed out all the colors: "This is a black sock. Say, 'Black.' This is a red shirt. Say, "Red.'" As I bathed him, we would go through body parts: "I'm going to wipe your nose. Here is your nose. Say, 'Nose.'" Can you touch your nose? Next let's wipe your lips. Say, 'Lips.' Can you touch your lips?" Notice that I told him to say specific words. I did this even before he was speaking. At first he didn't speak back. He eventually did, though. Some advice I have gleaned from some wise moms is, "Speak to your baby like you'd speak to an adult." They will develop a larger vocabulary much faster and will be able to understand more complex ideas at an earlier age.
Looking for more of my posts on what to do with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers?
- Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby or Toddler - Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your baby or toddler? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. I have included some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is Part 2 in a 3 part series.
- Creative Activities to Do with Your Toddler or Preschooler - Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your toddler or preschooler? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. I have included some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is Part 3 in a 3 part series.
- Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten - Are you considering homeschooling but don't know where to start? Do you have a preschooler who is eager to learn but you have no idea what to teach or how? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the options? I have laid out what I do to homeschool my children when they are ages 3-5 and have also included my favorite resources for preschool and kindergarten learning.
- Taming Toddler Tornadoes: What to Do with Toddlers and Babies While You Need to Focus on Other Activities or Children - Are you homeschooling older children and you have a baby and/or toddler at home as well? I currently have three school age children along with a preschooler, toddler, and baby. A question I get a lot from homeschooling families is, "What in the world do you do with your toddler and/or baby?" Read below to find out what I do to keep my babies and toddlers busy and happy while still covering algebra, sentence diagramming, dissections, and more with the older set.
- Training Your Child to Sit in Church - My children sit in church with us each Sunday. They sing and pray with us and listen to the sermon. Many families have asked, "How in the world do you do that?" That's why I'm writing this. Let me clarify that I am not writing this to explain why we keep our children in church with us. I am writing this to explain how we keep our children in church with us.
- Getting My Children to Ask for Violin Lessons - The violin is my favorite instrument. Even Albert Einstein agreed: "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy." Convincing my children of that, however, isn't the easiest task...especially when drum sets sound their siren call from their earliest age. Find out below what I have done and continue to do to lull my children into sharing my love of this stringed instrument.
- Bible Verses Set to Music - Are you looking for fun and easy ways for you and/or your children or students to memorize Bible verses? I want my children to hide the word of God in their hearts. What better way to do this than to have them listen to fun songs with words that are. On this page you will find some of the best CD's out there to do this.
© 2012 Shannon