The book outlines a Golden Hour of Play, an hour of structured play daily, which is especially tailored to each month's development. It focuses on five key areas of development - intellectual development, language skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills and sociability. You don't do it all in one go, but in short 5-10 minute periods through out the day. Many of the activities cover various areas of development, so you can do them more than once, or only at one time during the day. I hope to get Baobao as involved as possible in doing these activities with Xiaobao.
As we'll be going to groups or doing gross motor skill activities in the park with Baobao in the mornings, much of Xiaobao's activity time will be in the afternoon, often while Baobao is doing a tot tray.
Activities are in the order they can be introduced.
- Mobiles are essential for development in the first few months of life. In terms of intellectual development, mobiles are excellent for building concentration and understanding. We're planning on using a series of Montessori style mobiles, hung from a Leka baby gym for Xiaobao.
- There have been various studies over the years, linking classical music to intellectual developmet. It encourages concentration, sense of rhythm and stimulates the parts of the brain associated with maths and logic. We listen to Classic FM daily with Baobao, as part of our less TV time resolution.
- Mirrors are another essential for babies in their first year. Being able to see themselves in a mirror helps baby to begin recognising features of faces and encourages their sense of self. They're also excellent for developing baby's memory.
- We're a high reading family here. Baobao loves books and we're planning on introducing them to Xiaobao early too. At this stage of development, soft books with simple black and white images that you can talk about with baby are the best. Sharing books is excellent for building concentration, conceptual thinking, memory and cognitive thinking skills at this point.
- Laughing games, such as fast and slow tickles, raspberries, round and round the garden and poking your tongue in and out, are excellent for encouraging a feeling of security, enjoyment and the interaction of play.
- One of the most important activities that you can do with your baby from birth is talking to them with focused attention. Do this in a way that allows pauses for baby to respond, as if you're having a conversation. In terms of language development, this teaches baby to listen and respond from an early age.
- As well as encouraging intellectual development, listening to classical music encourages baby to listen and make sounds, the building blocks of language development.
- One of the loveliest activities you can do with a baby, is singing to them. You don't have to have a great voice, baby will love it anyway. We often joke that my husband cannot hold a tune and yet Baobao was requesting he sing songs from Frozen, while we were shopping last week. The simple repetetive language in lullabies helps build listening skills and encourages the parts of the brain associated with talking.
- Children love action nursery rhymes. Baobao is no exception, her favourite currently being Tommy Thumb. Although babies can't join in, nursery rhymes are still incredibly beneficial. In terms of language development, they encourage listening and speaking skills (Baobao's love of Tommy Thumb coincides with her beginning to ask questions) as well as building memory and the anticipation skills.
- As well as having benefits for Xiaobaos intellectual development, mobiles are brilliant for gross motor skill development too. A mobile placed 20-25cm away from baby's face strengthens eye muscles and helps them to learn to coordinate both eyes and head movement at the same time, strengthening their neck muscles.
- Baby massage is another way to help baby make the connections between their brain and their muscles. You can use some of this time to gently help them to uncurl their legs, toes and fingers.
- Once Xiaobao is ready and starting to reach for the mobile, I will add objects to that he can bat. This encourages hand-eye co-ordination and allows baby to slowly gain control over their movement. It also teaches them about cause and effect.
- At this point, babies can't really join in with action nursery rhymes, but, by listening and watching you sing them, they are building up the connections that will improve their fine motor skills. This includes rhythm and coordination.
- Allowing baby to hold and feel different materials, while naming and describing them, is another great activity for babies, once they are able to grasp things for themselves. In terms of fine motor skills, it improves hand control, but also affects other areas, such as the concept of opposites, experimentation and anticipation.
- Talking to your baby with focused attention also teaches them the social side of conversation. Friendliness, forming relationships, reading people's mood and handling emotions are all skills improved by having these thoughtful conversations.
- As well as encouraging language development, singing songs and lullabies to your baby also encourages sociability. Their slow, repetitive nature are soothing, which builds a sense of security for children.
- Baby massage is an amazing activity for sociability. It helps baby to learn to trust their caregivers, forming bonds and relationships, as well as helping them to relax.