BABY ROCHEL LEARNS TO IDENTIFY HER RIBS
Baby Rochel began Stellar Caterpillar lessons when she was just a few months old. Her favorite part of the lessons were the proprioception exercises. These are the exercises where we squeeze various parts of the body as we say the name of that body part. For example, while squeezing her leg I would say, “Rochel, this is your leg.” Her mother practiced these exercises with her everyday. They are a fun game for babies. For babies, these exercises are similar to the feeling they get when being swaddled with fabric. The firm yet gentle pressure of your hands on their body feels secure just like the feeling of the swaddling cloth when it is pressing against their body. Rochel’s favorite body parts to identify through touch were her ribs and her toes.
Today Rochel is three years old and attends preschool. I had the chance to talk with her mother recently and she proudly told me a story about Rochel. “Last week at preschool, Rochel fell down. The teacher asked her is she was OK and Rochel told her that her “ribs hurt.” The teacher asked me, “How does 3-year-old Rochel even know she has ribs?” I explained to her that we learned exercises to do with her when she was a baby that taught her the names of her body parts.” Most 3-year -olds would refer to the area of the ribs as their “side” or just say “it hurts here” as they touch it. To identify the ribs by name shows quite a bit of learning. This is why Rochel is one of our superstars!!!
Even though babies may not be able to speak yet, they can learn far more than we can understand. Through the use of the sense of touch, the spoken name of the body part, and with repetition, Rochel and many other babies develop a very clear awareness of their body and the names of their body parts. The development of body awareness is an important part of motor skill development. Through these exercises, many babies can develop a strong sense of body awareness just like Rochel.
FIVE SENSORY STOCKING STUFFERS FOR BABIES
The development of a baby includes the stimulation of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Choose baby toys that bring a variety of sensory experiences for baby play time and daily rituals. These items are from one of our favorite online sites, Bella Luna Toys.
1. BABY HAIR BRUSH
The daily ritual of hair brushing becomes a sensory experience for baby when using a high quality brush with natural bristles. Take your time and she will focus on the sensation of the brush against her scalp and through her hair.
2. SILK PEEK-A-BOO CLOTHS
Small cloths made of silk stimulate baby’s sense of touch. These are great for the favorite baby game of peek-a-boo.
3. KNIT BABY RATTLES
Ad a few knit baby rattles to your collection of baby toys. The variation in texture from the hard wood or pewter of classic baby rattles provides a different sensory experience for baby. Plus, the rattling sound stimulates baby’s hearing. These yummy ice cream cone shapes are adorable!
4. BABY LULLABIES
Connect with baby through your voice. Learn some favorite lullabies that will calm her and facilitate speech development. Exaggerate the words and she will enjoy watching you sing as your mouth and eyes make different shapes. The senses of sight and hearing are stimulated by singing to baby.
5. BABY BLOCKS
Wooden baby blocks in the shape of tiny boats stimulates baby play. The wood is a firm material for the sense of touch and the rocking action stimulates baby curiosity. The fun bright colors are also easy for baby to see.
Enjoy Baby’s First Christmas!
Photos courtesy of Bella Luna Toys.
When developing baby’s first library please include a few counting books. One of Stellar Caterpillar’s favorites, of course, is Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” We love all things caterpillar because it is a symbol of both articulated movement and transformational growth. In Carle’s book the caterpillar of the story has a big appetite prior to going inside his cocoon and eventually breaking free as beautiful butterfly. Several pages in the book are designed to help baby learn to count. They are cleverly shortened and each item of food has a hold punched in it to assist in counting. This uses baby’s sense of touch to learn counting. As you model the touch by taking your index finger and poking each of the holes as you say “1, 2, 3,” she will soon learn to touch the holes in the same way. The variation in page width engages baby’s curiosity and one of the reasons young infants love this baby book.
The story is about the caterpillar’s appetite. The reader counts the foods, both healthy and unhealthy, that he eats. There is a subtle message about baby health and how eating green foods make you feel better as the caterpillar recovers from a binge on pie, cake and other sweets by eating a nice big green leaf. Another subtle diet message is about the need to eat in order to grow. The caterpillar’s appetite turns ravenous prior to the creation of his cocoon. This is useful as baby enters the toddler years and embraces her strong will at the dinner table with forceful expressions of “No.”
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is also a very colorful book. The prominent colors are bright colors that baby sees easily: red, green, yellow, and blue. For the young babies, point out the colors and as you name them, “Red.” Watch the beautifully animated video above from Mandy Banester’s youtube channel, and you will see the colors of the story are the bright colors from the natural world around us. Colors include those of the sun, plants and beautiful fresh fruits.
With every book you read to baby, find two or three words that are simple first words for baby. Each time you read the book, say those words clearly to her and invite her to repeat them. A few easy words in the caterpillar story are egg, sun, leaf, and apple. This is the beginning of speech development for baby. With repetition, she will enjoy saying the words too!
BABY HANDS AND FEET
One of the most important motor skill connections in the development of a baby is the discovery of touching the feet with the hands. Usually baby first learns to touch her right foot with her right hand and left foot with left hand. Later, she discovers how to reach across her midline (the line diving her body in half between right and left sides) and touch her right hand to her left foot or her left hand to her right foot. She will enjoy this new skill and hold her foot and move it around. Sometimes she will grasp one foot with both hands as she bends and straightens her leg.
You can entertain baby with some developmental play by clapping her feet together. When you bring the feet together with a clap, make a funny sound the moment the feet touch. You can also make a facial expression such as a big smile with wide eyes to show her this is an important moment when the feet touch. This means that you will communicate the importance of the moment the feet touch through many senses–through touch with your hands, hearing with your voice, and sight with your facial expressions. Baby will be both intrigued and amused. This is a new sensation–bringing both feet together in the air. Touch the feet together, then OPEN and CLOSE the feet. Soon you can involve her hands and place one hand on one foot as you play this game. Continue making sounds and facial expressions as you touch her hand to her foot. This brings her attention to her hands and feet and increases her proprioception of these body parts. Although she may not clap her feet together herself, she may explore the contact of her hands to her feet. When you have no toys with you, this is a wonderful activity for baby play.
BABY AT THE BEACH
Swimming, sandcastles, and sun are a definite recipe for fun! Watch the above video from socciandpency’s youtube channel to see Shelby prove our point. In the summer, the beach is the largest playroom baby could imagine. Observe Shelby crawling on a very large blanket and then continuing to crawl on the soft sand. She has the uncluttered expanse of the beach around her. Imagine the different sensations she experiences through her skin. She feels the texture, temperature, and dry or wetness of the sand under her hands and knees. She also feels the waves of the sea washing up and receding away as she sits at the edge of the shore with her mother. She anticipates these waves with delight and curiosity. She loves to play in the sand with her fingers and explores the different sensations between the dry and wet sand.
She also enjoys watching the other children splashing and surfing in the water! Her eyes receive a lot of stimulation as she follows the moving water on the sand, the child on the boogie board, or the grains of sand falling out of her fingers. For babies not yet crawling, they will love to watch what is happening around them. As Shelly demonstrates above, the beach is a wonderful playground providing much baby play. Bring her pail and shovel if he has one! Please read our articles “Summer Tips for Babies” to keep baby healthy and safe during her summer fun.
BABY IN THE SWIMMING POOL
Summertime play also includes baby swimming lessons! Children and babies of all ages benefit from the time in the water. Not only is swimming fun, it is also beneficial to motor skill development. The pressure of the water on the skin is wonderful for developing proprioception, which is the ability to clearly feel one’s body move in space. Improving proprioception will improve any motor skill a child or baby is learning. Often babies meet their motor milestones sooner when they participate in infant swim lessons because they improve both muscle strength and coordination. To learn more about babies and swimming, please read our articles “Can Babies Swim” and “Baby Diving Reflex.”
Stellar Caterpillar also loves the environment of the swimming pool. It is fun, dynamic, and confidence building. Swimming is a very productive outlet of energy, develops muscle strength, improves coordination and challenges young children to try new and intimidating activities such as going down a water slide. When conquered, these challenging activities build self-esteem. With both babies and children, learning to swim makes them water-safe as well. Please find a qualified infant swim instructor and learn pool water safety. And, don’t forget to bring snacks and dry clothes along so they can get comfortable after they get out of the water.
Not only does Pat The Bunny make it into Baby’s First Library, it makes it to the top of the list. This is possibly the most commonly gifted baby book. Published in 1940 and with over 6 million copies in print, this story is unique because it involves most of the five senses. Opportunities to smell, touch, and see are found on the pages within. Dorothy Kundhardt’s simple story journeys through activities that you can share with baby. Invite baby to pat the furry bunny, smell the flowers, and look into a shiny mirror. It makes a clever introduction to reading books since baby’s senses are very much a part of her motivation for every movement she makes. She crawls to get to a toy so she can touch and feel it. She reaches to grasp an object so she can bring it closer where she can see it better and fully examine it. Her senses evoke her curiosity which motivate her movement and now her reading, too!
Pat the Bunny: by Dorothy Kundhardt. (New York: Golden Books, 1940)