When you’re pregnant, you can’t help but notice the INSANE amount of books on the topic of pregnancy. My favorite book was Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman. It was all about an American who was raising her children in France, and noticing the differences between the American and French approaches to parenting.
I got a lot out of this book, but one thing in particular was the difference between the two approaches to education. Many American parents have adopted the notion that you have to start educating your children practically from birth, playing classical music and multilingual tapes to them so that they’ll be off to the “right start”, and thinking ahead to college.
French parents, however, typically have the goal of helping their babies just explore the world around them, putting less pressure on education, but rather helping them to discover and figure things out for themselves. I love this idea.
Really, every new thing is educational to babies. They learn and adapt as they go, figuring out new ways to interact with the world around them. Here are some ways you can help your baby to explore their world, and help them as they grow and change.
1. Play peek-a-boo, with your hands or with a blanket.
2. Sing classic songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “The Wheels on the Bus”, with movements.
3. Read a book. Point out characters and colors, count objects, make silly voices.
4. Play with the mirror.
5. Look out the window, and note cars that pass, trees, animals, weather, etc.
6. Help them press buttons on toys that give some sort of response (music or lights).
7. Bounce them up and down.
8. Introduce them to family and friends. Say people’s names.
9. Bring them to different rooms in your house, and show them what you do there (i.e. the kitchen).
10. Roll a ball or a toy car to them.
11. Let them feel running water under a faucet (test temperature first).
12. Give them toys or objects with different textures.
13. Experiment with different foods and flavors.
14. Take them outside (with sunscreen) and let them sit in your lap, or lay on a blanket.
15. Help them stack some blocks.
16. Find tickle spots and point to different body parts.
17. Give them their own space to play, and let them play with toys on their own (but don’t go too far).
18. Turn up some music and have a dance party.
19. Take a walk or hike.
20. Count fingers and toes.
21. “Wear” your baby. We have the Ergo baby carrier.
22. Let them swat at a blown-up balloon. We got some of the foil ones that reflect. Theo was fascinated!
23. Get out some non-toxic, washable paints and make handprints or footprints. Keep lots of wipes handy!! You’ve been warned.
24. Use a stuffed animal and silly voices to “talk” to your baby.
25. Go for a bike ride with a trailer or baby seat.
26. Let the baby play with baby spoons and bowls to get used to the idea of using them to eat.
27. Talk them through putting on clothes – “Where are your hands? There they are!”
28. Give them things to gnaw on – teether toys, or even a damp washcloth.
29. Do a puzzle together (one of those big wooden ones). Tell them about the pictures on the puzzle.
30. Let them splash around in the bathtub. Introduce bath toys.
What ideas am I missing?
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