As Archer grows older sometimes we struggle with new games or activities to keep him challenged and learning. My Mommy & Me instructor gave us some suggestions to group types of play and then introduce one type for a few weeks then switch. For example there is Cause and Effect play, there’s reading, there’s stacking, there’s “balls”, there’s hike and seek, etc…
Archer loves anything that makes noise — whether by shaking it or slamming it on the ground. Such a boy! I bought these toys for him as his first set of “cause and effect” toys. He LOVES them! Especially the drum. He has figured out how to use the drum stick but mostly chews on it. It’s so cute though to watch him try to coordinate hitting the drum and when he does, he gets so proud of himself. He also loves to shake the bells and smiles doing it and the maracas, those are his second favorite behind the drum. Not only are they interesting shapes, but they make a nice sound and are fun to clack together (if you buy two).
Recently I was given an article titled: How to Raise a Happy Child. It occurred to me that I never really thought about this as a goal, raising a happy child, and always just assumed that it was out of my control whether my children ended up being happy. It was their job to make sure they live and participate in activities that make them happy.
It was interesting to learn that as early as 6 months of age you start impacting whether your child is set up to live a happy life. Simple things like smiling a lot at your baby so the act of smiling is imprinted in their brain or acting calmly and loving to an upset baby helps the baby learn that there is calm and soothing world around them.
You can read the article for all the details, but here are some of the highlights:
- Learn to Read the Signs:
- Learn their reactions so you can better address them when their emotional intelligence develops.
- “While the youngest infants don’t really feel happy when they look happy, the good news is they’re not emotionally aware when they’re screaming, either. Eliot explains that the “cortical emotion centers” of your baby’s brain don’t begin to function until he’s 6 to 8 months old, when he starts to feel the emotions that seem so vivid on his face.”
- Make Room for Fun:
- “Connect with your baby, play with her. If you’re having fun with your baby, she’s having fun. If you create what I call a ‘connected childhood,’ that is by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy.”
- Unstructured play will allow her to discover what she loves to do — build villages with blocks, make “potions” out of kitchen ingredients, paint elaborate watercolors — which can point her toward a career that will seem like a lifetime of play.
Today in my Mommy & Me class there were a few of us that said we were running out of tricks! Our babies who were 6-8 months old were getting bored of our usual games and their usual toys. We joked that we better buy more toys and our instructor gave us many ideas that are pretty much free! Now that got our attention. Here were some of her ideas for babies that around 6-9 months old:
Hide & Seek is a really great game during this age because it helps babies understand that even if they can’t see you, you’re there which is important to understand when they start getting separation anxiety. Here are a few iterations:
- Put your baby in their car seat and step out of the room saying “Where’s Mommy, Where’s Mommy [insert your baby’s name]?” Then jump back in “There she is!”
- Get a cloth napkin and drape it over you head saying “Where’s Mommy?” and revealing “There she is!” Once your baby is getting it then put the napkin over your baby’s head and say “Where’s [insert your baby’s name]?” and them removing it “There she is!”
- Hide and seek with food! Get 3 dixi cups and place a piece of rice cereal or a piece of fruit under one of them. Ask Baby where it is and reveal it. Later you can move the cups around to see if they can track which one has the food.
By this time your baby is getting a lot more fun and responsive! They should be smiling back at your, trying to talk and able to grasp toys — albeit clumsy they’re working on their hand to mouth sills. The games below are all things we’ve been playing to help Archer develop his muscles, coordination and start to better understand language and interaction. During this time they are also start to roll over, first from tummy to back then back to tummy, so their movement needs to be encouraged.
- Toy wagon wheel: this is just how it sounds. On the floor we lay a blanket down and place his toys all around him in a circle, all slightly out of reach. This encourages him to look around and try to move (roll) to reach something. You can place your hands behind his feet to give him something to push off on so he understands he can push himself forward. We do this every day with Archer, however it wasn’t until the last week or so (he’s almost 5 months) where he became interested in reaching for his toys on the ground. Before that he was only interested in people. Timing on this depends on your baby.
- Pull ups: you may have already started to do this or notice your little one flexing his stomach to try and sit up. You can help them along by holding out your fingers and saying “up” then wait until they pull with their arms and flex their neck until you slowly pull them up to a seated position. Then lower them down and do over again. Eventually they’ll learn to pull their legs up too which helps them sit. (sitting up on their own doesn’t happen until 6-8 months) Archer loves doing this, he gets so proud of himself when he’s sitting!
- Scanning: when babies are on their tummies they scan the room. When they’re on their back and you’re dangling toys, it’s important to dangle the toys across their body, from side to side, passing their midline. Not only does this help with coordination, but it helps their brain develop properly so they understand full cross body range of motion. We just learned this important tip so will make more effort in this area.
- Peek-a-boo: we all know this game. This is a great game to help them learn their name. Take a thin slightly see-through scarf and hold it up between you and your baby. Call their name. When they look at you drop the scarf and say peek-a-boo!
- Patty cake: Archer loves this game! It’ll turn him from crying to smiling in 10 seconds flat. Basically start by holding up your hands in patty cake stance, fingers wide and exaggerated, then start tapping their hands and singing Patty Cake. Eventually your baby will mimic you and open their hands, hold them up and sing along.
- Tickling: around 4 months you may have gotten your little one to laugh. Some do it on their own others need to be prompted. Usually you can start tickling them under their arms or on their sides and get all sorts of giggles and laughs. It shows playful human interaction and “cause and effect”.
- Reading: you may wonder what your newborn is gathering from books at this point, but it’s important to start showing them pictures and getting them acquainted with books. Sit them up in your lap, hold the book in-front of you and show them the book while singing or reading in an animated fashion. I will do a separate post on reading books to your newborn, we just learned about this in class today.
- Of course all teh games in 0-3 months also can be played during this phase as well.
Have fun playing with your little babycakes. They won’t always be willing or able to sit and play with you so enjoy it while you can. They’re little sponges and you’ll see them learn and develop so fast!
Here’s Archer and I playing patty cake. He didn’t always hold up his hands this way but learned quickly!
Here I am playing peek-a-boo with Archer:
Wagon wheel set up where Archer plays:
Tummy time will be a topic of many of your first doctor’s visits. I always found our doctor asking if we’re doing tummy time, how much of it, etc… Friends of mine also got this question every time they went in for a check up in the first few months. The reason doctors ask is because most babies hate it and therefore parents don’t want to do it. It’s important to do so that your baby develops muscles to help support their head and back. They also want to prevent flat head syndrome which is more common now that babies now sleep on their backs.
We did tummy time every day and several times a day. In the beginning Archer would only last 5 minutes at most on his tummy. We’d keep trying throughout the day and slowly he became more comfortable. Still, at almost 5 months, he doesn’t like being on his belly, but we still do it.
The play gym was where he did most of his tummy time. Get down on the floor with them so they can see your face and so they know they’re not alone. Encourage them and pick them up when you think they’ve reached their limit. When your baby can see better you can dangle some toys or put a mirror below them for entertainment — it might help them stay longer on their bellies. You can also place a small rolled up towel under their armpits across their chest to help prop them up until they become stronger.
According to my Mommy and Me instructor it’s very important that your infant gets plenty of time on the floor. Whether on their belly or not! I don’t think we did this enough and it something I would change next time around. So get used to sitting on the floor with them and encouraging them to move — it’ll help them develop strong muscles and research shows that they’ll be more athletic and active when they grow up.
I found myself wondering how I could play with my newborn — there is so little they can do! When they start focusing on your face, for Archer that was around 5 weeks, I felt I could finally start to play with him. Here were the different things I came up with that were part of our everyday:
- Music time: we’d choose a few upbeat songs and then sing and dance for him. Sometimes leaning over him while he laid on the bed. He loved it and would kick and wiggle his legs. He also loved head banging.. great if you have longer hair.
- Singing anything; literally make up any song and sing it. I have a terrible voice and it kept him quite entertained, especially in the car or when I couldn’t run to him right away if he was getting fussy.
- Mimic: stick out your tongue and make a funny noise. If you don’t get a smile you’ll start to notice in the days following your newborn trying to stick out their tongue.
- Tarachi: this was made up by my father-in-law, it’s a fun game where you twist your hand back and forth and sing this song “Tarachi, tarachi, Archer can make a tarachi” (pronounced ta-raaaa-chi)
- Open hands: put your hands in a fist front of your baby and slowly open them and say “open”. I’d do this over and over and slowly he started to mimic me.
- Dangle toys: Archer didn’t become interested in toys until after 2 months old, but we’d dangle his toy Moose in front of him and he’d begin to swat at it. Same type of activity he’d have in his play gym, but more portable if you’re not home or want to change the scenery.
- Tracking toys: take a toy and move it side to side up and down and watch your baby track it with their eyes. It’s good for them to practice following objects and fun for you to see them being able to track the toy’s movement. We used the Lamaze butterfly toy and had it ‘fly’ around, the sound of the crinkle wings flapping also helped him start noticing sounds and turning toward them.
- Massage: this was one of my favorite things to do. I’d get Archer just in his diaper and then I’d do some baby massage while singing a song about all this parts. I never took an actual baby massage class, but I did read up on it and wanted more of the human touch, skin to skin, so I did baby massage every day. Here was my song “We rub your chest, we rub your chest, then we rub your tummy, we rub your tummy, then we rub your sides, we rub your sides, then we rub your thighs, we rub your thighs, then we rub your knees, we rub your knees, then we rub your calves, we rub your calves, then we rub your feet and we rub your feet, then we kiss ’em we kiss ’em we kiss ’em and we kiss ’em.” I of course would smooch his feet. I did the same type song for his upper body too. This usually got lots of smiles and squirms.
Those were our main activities in the first few months. If you have any more ideas or fun games you played share them here!
Donavan having music time with Archer.
I watched a documentary a few years back about an autistic girl who never spoke, but then once she was given a computer was able to type and begin to communicate. Her parents couldn’t believe after all these years of no talking how much she had to say and how well she articulated her thoughts. They also realized how much they shouldn’t of said around her, they didn’t think she understood or heard them. I remembered this story and now try to talk to Archer all day, tell him what I’m doing, what we are about to do, how wonderfuly handsome, smart and important he is. He may not understand every word, but I guarantee that he will be better off because he’s been spoken to.
At just two and a half months he was a chatter box! I’d talk, then he’d jabber, then I’d talk and he’d jabber back. A friend of mine said that she noticed a big difference in her child’s communication when she changed nannies – the first nanny didn’t speak to the infant much while the second one spoke to her all day. The result was a more talkative baby! I am not an expert, but I’d think that would be good for their mouth muscles for speech later on if they try to talk when they’re infants.
When you speak to your baby, pause and give them a chance to speak back. You can also choose one phrase to repeat over and over, they likely will try to say it too. My phrase was I Love You Archer! After weeks of saying this 10+ times a day my husband and I were amazed when Archer made sounds with the same intonation. We couldn’t believe it! More proof that they’re listening so watch what you say and say a lot!
If you’ve taken a labor and delivery class then I’m sure you’ve been told about the importance of skin to skin time between Mom, Dad and Baby. If not, well I’m really glad you’re reading this because it’s very important! Skin to skin is exactly what you think, it’s your skin directly on baby’s skin – no blanket or clothes in between.
Right after you give birth they will be placing the baby on your chest, skin to skin. It’s the first step of bonding between you and your baby. My Doula (labor coach) said that during the first 3 months of your babies life you should do skin to skin every day. You can do it when you’re breast feeding or when your baby takes a nap on our chest, just do it! What else are you supposed to do while on maternity leave besides love and snuggle with your newborn?
There are also other benefits like warming your baby, regulating their breathing and rousing them to eat if they’re lethargic. Make sure Daddy gets his skin to skin as well in the hours after birth — it’s important that baby bonds with both of you!
Everyone seems to have Sophie the Giraffe teething and chew toy. We registered for it as it’s kinda expensive, $22-$25, and were gifted it by a friend. It definitely catches his attention and he loves to chew on Sophie’s ears. He still has some trouble handling it and getting it into his mouth the way he wants to, but as he gets old and has better motor skills I am sure this will be among his favorite things to chew on. This toy does squeak so if you have issues with that, I’d skip on this one.
Sophie The Giraffe: Toys & Media ~ Infant Toys | giggle.
A friend of mine gave us this crinkle owl as a gift (but in blue) and Archer just loves it! I usually lay it on his lap when he’s in his car seat. He can chew on it, crinkle it and explore the different textures of the fabric and ribbons. It’s the best take and go toy I’ve found yet because it easily fits into my purse, I can just give it to him or dangle it for him to swat at and most importantly it’s super easy to clean! Just throw it in the washing machine.
He also has a smaller crinkle monster, affectionately known as his slobber monster, that he also loves. It’s not as much the crinkle sounds at this point but that he likes to suck and chew on the fabric — it’s easy to grab while their motor skills develop.
Olivia the Owl Crinkle Crackle with ribbons by twigsandtweets.
Links are a must have! They are great for baby to chew on, rattle when linked and you can add them to almost any play gym to help mix up the activities for baby.
Around 3 months of age when their vision starts to develop better, their eyes beginning to work together you’ll notice they starting reaching with boy hands toward toys. Maybe 3 month olds’ favorite toy is a simple ring! Archer had a black and white one he loved to reach out and grab then chew on.
Amazon.com: Bright Starts Lots of Links: Toys & Games.
I just ordered this toy for Archer, came highly recommended by some other Moms in my Mommy and Me class. Hope Archer likes it as much as their kids do!
Amazon.com: Manhattan Toy Winkel: Toys & Games.
According to my Mommy and Me instructor this is the best toy for developing minds — usually good from 4+ months when they can really grasp things. It’s also great to chew on when they begin to teeth and other than most painted wood toys, the pain on this never comes off so you don’t have to worry.
Amazon.com: Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic: Baby.
All Lamaze toys are pretty awesome, here is Archer’s favorite.
Archer loves his Moose. It was especially interesting to him at 3 months when he really began swatting at things — we’d dangle the Moose and he’d swat at his legs which have bells in them. He loved it.
Amazon.com: Lamaze Play & Grow Mortimer the Moose Take Along Toy, Colors May Vary: Baby.