NEWBORN BABY TOYS
A baby needs time to learn the motor skill of grasping and reaching which is required to hold a toy and play with it. Even the most simple rattle takes time for a baby to learn to grasp in their hand and shake with their arm. Baby learns to hold a rattle for the first time around 2 or 3 months of age. What toys will a newborn baby enjoy if she can not hold one very well yet? The answer is simple: a toy with a very clear face on it. “Clear” means easy for the newborn baby to see. A newborn baby’s eyes can see high contrast best which is black and white. A face with large eyes in black and white will be easy for her to see.
Toys made from soft materials that can hand from the edge of a baby carrier or a stroller are fun for her to look at. Some play mats have an arch above baby’s head from which to hang these soft and colorful toys. Eventually she may begin to reach out a hand or foot to try and touch the friendly looking creature smiling down at her. Often they are in the form of insects or bugs such as caterpillars or bees. Sometimes the smiles are hidden inside of a flower. There are many creative options on the market today. Choose a couple of them for the newborn developmental stage. These toys also are practical and colorful baby shower gifts.
Question from a mother in class:
My 3 1/2 month old baby is getting more used to tummy time, but she still does not love it. Do you have any ideas?
Stellar Caterpillar answers:
Try baby’s tummy time in different locations in your home so she has different environments to stimulate her vision. Sometimes place her facing a big window such as a sliding glass door. This is wonderful because at this age babies see light very well. If you have a pet you might place them where they can see the pet moving since babies also see movement very well. I highly recommend to all mothers to get down on your tummy in front of your baby so that when she lifts her head she can see your face. The different environments to stimulate her curiosity through the sense of sight which will motivate her to keep her head up a bit longer.
One week later, the mother returned to class and said “Changing the environment definitely helped. She seems to stay with her head up a bit longer and is enjoying it.” (Some tummy time solutions may be more simple than you think.) Even if baby is enjoying her tummy time you it can be interesting to place her so she has changes of scenery when she lifts her head. The motor skill of lifting the head is one of the earliest skills baby develops. When she is intrigued by the fact that when she lifts her head she can see something interesting or someone she knows, she will want to keep her head up longer. The action of lifting her head strengthens her neck and back muscles and prepares her for many motor skills down the road. It is worth the effort to try and get baby to the point that she not only tolerates tummy time, but she enjoys it!
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.
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)
“Babies Read Lips Before They Can Speak, Study Shows,” Lauran Neergaard and CBS News Staff, cbsnews.com, 1/17/12.
On the first birthday of one of my Stellar Caterpillars, the father asked me, “She walks so beautifully! Now I can’t wait for her to talk. Do you think you can teach her to talk? I answered, “I can show you how to teach her to talk.” Learning to talk can be broken down into micro-skills they way movement can be broken down into mini-milestones. Recently a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University confirms that babies learn to speak not just by hearing sounds but also by reading lips.
baby TALKING: ANATOMY LESSON
The moving body parts involved in the action of talking include the lips, tongue and jaw. The lips create the shapes of the mouth that help make the different sounds in speaking. The jaw opens and closes in this process. The tongue moves around inside the mouth to different locations which assists in creating the various sounds we make as well. The intricate coordination of these three body parts create the “movement” of talking.
BABY LIP READING RESEARCH STUDY
The study led by Lewkowicz involved 180 babies at ages 4, 6, 8, and 10 months. Researchers observed babies changing focus on a woman speaking on video in their native language of English and their non-native language of Spanish. The babies’ shifting focus from the lips to the eyes was closely monitored by a gadget placed on a headband.
The researchers found a pattern demonstrating dramatic shift in attention based on the babies’ ages. The 4-month-olds gazed mostly into the eyes, the 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth, the 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth, and at 12 months attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes. When the babies observed the non-native language being spoken, it was necessary to focus on the lips for longer periods of time in order to gain extra information to process the unfamiliar sounds.
BABIES AND LIP READING
The research study led by Lewkowicz is very important because it teaches us the importance of “face-to-face” interaction with baby. Face-to-face interaction can be defined as time when a parent or caregiver puts his or her face quite close (less than 12 inches) to baby and exaggerates words with his or her lips. The words should not be spoken too quickly as babies need time to see what you are doing with your mouth. This visual observation of the moving parts involved in speaking is called “lip reading.” It is the involvement baby’s sense of sight in learning to speak.
Try some face-to-face time with baby while singing a favorite song or repeating one word a few times and exaggerating it with your lips. Don’t be surprised when she reaches out to touch your lips or stick her hand into your mouth. They want to know how you are making those sounds. Next, she will try and imitate you. She will be talking soon!
AAP GUIDELINES FOR BABIES AND TV
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement in its November 2011 issue of “Pediatrics” regarding guidelines for babies and television. The first guidelines issued by AAP in 1999 recommended avoiding “screen time” for babies under the age of two years old. Current research findings confirm their previous recommendations. “Screen time” includes watching TV, the computer, a DVD, a cell phone, a tablet computer, or any similar device.
According to AAP research 90 percent of children under the age of two watch some media on a screen, averaging two hours a day. Some infants are subjected to even more screen time since TVs and DVD seem like convenient babysitters for some parents and due to the exploding market of videos claiming to increase baby’s intelligence. “Second-hand screen time,” the time when the TV is on in the background, was also discouraged. The AAP highly recommends keeping children under the age of two as “screen-free” as possible.
CHOOSE MOVEMENT PLAY FOR BABIES INSTEAD OF TV
Key research findings include poor sleeping habits when TV viewed just before sleep, language delays from exposure to TV instead of live humans talking, and brain development negatively effected from the constant noise and pace of the TV. In their report, doctors strongly encourage movement play and interaction with humans at home. Activities recommended include talking, singing, playing, and listening to music at home with baby while keeping the TV and computers OFF. Stellar Caterpillar lessons encourage these activities and teach parents simple techniques to encourage movement play for baby.
TV AND BABIES IN THE NEWS
Because of the significance of the research findings the AAP guidelines were reported in several major national news outlets. In addition to the AAP report, you can read more about the research findings and expert opinions on the AAP guidelines for babies and TV at the links below:
- “Educational TV for Babies?, It Doesn’t Exist!”, Bonnie Rochman, TIME, 10/18/11.
- “Parents Urged to Limit TV For The Youngest.” Benedict Carey, The New York Times, 10/18/11.
- “TV Guidelines for Babies Under 2: AAP Says Can Harm Development”, Jessica Samakow, The Huffington Post, 10/24/11.
- “No TV for Tots, Doctors Say.”, Rachel Emma Silverman, The Wall Street Journal’s online blog, 10/19/11.
For more in our series on babies and technology please read “Electronic Gadgets Pose Safety Risk,” “Baby Toys: Unplugged vs. Electronic,” and “Baby Books: E-Books on iPads.”