MH finds out from the experts how to have fun with your little one and what games are perfect for every stage.
WORDS SAMANTHA TAN
Peekaboo! Playing silly little games with your baby might seem like a fun and mindless way to entertain your baby but games bring more to the table than you think. Play is not only fun for baby, but it is also educational and crucial for their development. For a start, it is through play that your baby exercises and develops key skills and qualities such as independence, creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving. Vyda S. Chai, clinical psychologist at Think Psychological Services adds, “Play is pivotal in helping your child explore feelings, values and develop the essential social skills. Play is important for healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.”
Another benefit is that play encourages bonding between
parents and child as they provide opportunities for parents to have fun
and share happiness with their children.
Charmaine Ooi, senior occupational therapist, Child Development Unit at National University Hospital explains, “Smiles, laughter, touch, and interaction which the child experiences during playtimes are important elements to building a secure relationship between parents and child. Playing with your child also allows you to learn more about your babies’ temperament by reading their body language as well as their play and sensory preferences.”
So what are the types of games that you can play with your little one?
At this stage, newborns are just learning to recognise your touch, the sound of your voice, and the sight of your face. You can put on soothing music and hold your baby while gently swaying to the tune or even sing along to a soothing lullaby. Chai says, “Smile, make funny faces and other engaging expressions for your infant to study, learn and imitate. When engaging with your newborn, you can also use sensory toys that make sounds or have different colours or textures. This is a good way of stimulating and developing their senses visually and towards sounds." You can also play tracking games by moving yourself and interesting objects back and forth. First, your baby will use his eyes to follow the movement and eventually he will move his head from side to side. This helps to strengthen his neck muscles as well as visual abilities. Another way that babies explore their surroundings is by mouthing. They learn about the properties of different objects as they mouth toys. However, do ensure that the toys are non-toxic and that it is appropriately sized and can’t be squeezed entirely into your child’s mouth.
From about six months, parents can try to play games that will help develop babies’ gross motor skills. Ooi describes the games, “Give your baby lots of time and a safe place to practise new skills like crawling. You can make a trail of toys in a child-safe place in your house by lining up interesting objects such as a wooden spoon, a plastic bowl or a brightly coloured cloth that your child can crawl to and explore.” Hide-and-seek is another game that you should try. This helps your baby learn about object permanence, meaning that things that disappear also reappear.
Games like this also help them to cope with separation and
feel secure that you always come back even if you
have to be gone for a while.
Other games you can try at this stage are functional play such as offering your child a ball to toss, a rattle to shake, or a scarf to swing. Besides helping children learn how things work, they also build muscles in their hands, which will help them when they are learning to write later on. Make bath time fun by providing a variety of safe toys for the bath (containers, rubber toys, plastic bath books, plastic ladles). This will encourage your baby to explore and experiment with the different easy-to-use objects.
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