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 napping or doing a tot tray.
Around 3-6 months, is when baby begins to move from being a quiet observer to actively doing more. They begin to reach for and bat at objects, or hold and shake rattles. They also become more aware of their own hands and feet.
Activities are in the order they can be introduced.
- 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.
- Simple peekaboo games, such as hiding your face with your hands or a cloth, are perfect for introducing at this age. They are linked to improving observation and concentration skills, as well as building the idea that absent objects still exist.
- Yes and no games, such as hiding a toy behind your back and asking if you have it then encouraging baby to nod yes or shake head no, are the first steps to intellectual analysis skills. They also introduce the concept of turn taking.
- Puppets are an excellent resource for playing with your baby. Animal puppets are useful for helping them to associate animal sounds and names with that animal, hiding them behind your back in peekaboo games improves understanding of object permanence and using them to act out rhymes improves concentration, understanding and speech.
- 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.
- Puff and blow games, such as blowing on your baby's tummy during nappy changes, blowing and catching bubbles or humming on to her fingers, are excellent for building feeling, looking and listening skills. As baby gets older, you can encourage them to copy you and blow and hum herself. which helps her to develop the muscles needed for speech.
- Feet and toe songs, such as "This Little Piggy", are excellent for making babies aware of their feet, a prelude to walking. They're also brilliant for building friendliness, humour and communication skills.
- Once Xiaobao starts rolling on to her stomach, I plan to start doing some tummy time activities with her. This could include lying on the floor facing her and gently encouraging her to lift her head, by modelling it to her or showing her a toy that she likes.
- Bathtimes are the perfect time for gross motor development. Before baby can sit, encourage them to splash with their feet, by showing them splashing. Once they can sit, introduce cups and floating ducks, allowing them to explore concepts such as floating, full and empty. These are all some of Baobao's favourite activities, so she spends her bathtime demonstrating to Xiaobao, who observes.
- Riding games, such as "the way the lady rides" and "ride a cock horse" develop balance and strength, as well as build trust. Always tailor your play to your baby though. Baobao has always enjoyed rough games and liked being bounced quite quickly. Xiaobao prefers to lay games like this more softly.
- Balls are an important tool in gross motor skill development, encouraging kicking, pushing, rolling and hand-eye coordination, as well as, timing, aim and shape recognition. Socially, ball games improve sharing and turn taking. Before baby is sitting, they can hit balls that are attached to a baby gym. Once they are sitting, you can play games together, encouraging them to catch, roll or kick the ball.
- Once Xiaobao is ready and reaching for objects herself, it's time to introduce rattles. As a first rattle, we have a montessori bell rattle. Rattles are linked to improving hand control and hand-eye coordination, as well as baby's understanding of cause and effect.
- Another activity to do once Xiaobao is starting to reach for the mobile, is adding objects to it she 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.
- 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.
- Towards the end of this age bracket, you can begin to introduce clapping games, such as pat-a cake. Just like all rhymes, clapping games improve memory and speech, as well as, hand-eye coordination and bi-manual coordination. They also encourage babies to participate.
- This is also around the time that you can begin introducing bricks and blocks. Younger babies can hold bricks, exploring different shapes and textures. Later, she'll be able to bang them together or knock down a tower that you build for her. This will lead to baby eventually being able to build a tower themselves (around a year).
- 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.
- 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.
- Just like feet and toe songs, hand and finger songs, such as "round and round the garden" and "tommy thumb" (Baobao's favourite) are excellent for improving fine finger movement, coordination, humour, friendliness and communication skill.