At Cherieswood we deal with babies and learning. Yes, we do that building wooden toys, but we spend a lot of time thinking how we can make them useful to improve babies cognitive and motor skills. Understand how babies discover the world around them is important to encourage or even accelerate their development process.
The first months of learning
Baby’s development starts during the pregnancy period, different studies have shown how around the sixth month the baby is able to activate some brain language-related regions if it perceives particular sounds or sequences of sounds. Going on with the pregnancy, this capacity increases together with brain development.
how does a baby of a few months learn and, above all, what does it learn?
In the first week of life, newborns are not able to understand our words but, they are able to understand our mood. Is it useless to speak to them? Not at all! On the contrary, it’s an important step that allow them to memorize our voice and recognize us. This process improves months over months and around the forth-sixth month of live, babies are able to distinguish people and recognize familiar faces.
There are no particular learning activities in these periods, newborns have to start to relate with parents and with the environment around them. More they are exposed to people, objects and words easier will they will start to absorb and identify them as part of the surroundings.
From 4-6 until 12 months everything goes faster, babies start to understand how some gestures and actions they made affect your behavior and will begin to “test” them in some situations (like when they through food on the floor).
The first months are fundamental and it’s important to talk to the newborn since the first days together: smile, explain what you do and, somehow, start treating them as if they were already much older, for example by reading them stories (we will help you with the Goodnight Stories on this!). Obviously they will not understand your words and stories but their brain will memorize those moments and associate them with pleasant, relaxing times.
Remember to highlight the positive behaviour of the baby and a little bit less the negative ones.
The phases of development from 0 to 24 months
Assuming that every child has different development paces, we can identify some high-level stages of growth. Development accelerates every two-three months and you eill notice that your little ones do or say things that did not happen before or that they learn more and more elaborate concepts. After the first year of life, they will be albe to understand some of your requests and, above all, they could begin to use few words, even if in a very confused and rudimental way.
After a year of life they have a favorite toy, they use their hands to greet and interact with you and above all, they are able to stay focused longer than in the first months. It is essential that you continue to stimulate them with new activities and games that make them even more receptive.
Your baby development continues to evolve and, around 24 months you will be faced with a child who knows how to interact with you, understands your wishes and his in all circumstances, and will be ready to start talking, using more and more words.
Toys to stimulated baby’s development
Finally, let’s talk about which toys (and therefore activities with them) you can set up to stimulate your child’s development. In Cherieswood’s blog we talked about 20 outdoor activities for your kids, but in this paragraph we focus on something more specific for the baby’s first 0-18 months.
What we can suggest is to select toys with a strong educational component, oriented to teach the child something like sounds, figures, colors, animals or anything easy to recognize and connect (with your help) to the environment they live.
Before giving some advice on toys, I also remind you to try to think about the Montessori principles, not so much for the individual games but for what they explain in terms of approaching your child.
Let’s start with a classic toy that we often talk about: the baby gym. A classic toy for the first months, great to stimulate vision and fine motor skills in the early days. You baby can look at the charms, listen to your voice while telling a story about an animal or a figure. This toy can be used from the very first days of a baby’s life. If you want to deep dive more on all the benefits, I suggest you to read this article. The baby gym is a game that should not necessarily be used together with parents. Let your child observe and explore the pendants independently or, in an active way, spending time with the child, moving the pendants or talking while playing. Personally, I think it’s one of the coolest toys to start spending time with babies.
Not only the baby gym for the first months, you can think about playmat, special carpet with whom your baby can interact as it produces a sound when passing over it (even if not electronic). Playmats are useful to help babies to understand the cause-effect logic. Finally, there are two games that should never be missing.
Books and shapes to fit together. Books clearly have to be designed for children and they are a great way to start showing your newborn stories while you comment and explain them. Listening to your voice will help them a lot, as well as connecting it to what you are indicating in the book like animals or other children inserted in more or less simple stories.
For the first months, black and white high-contrast books are a must have. As babies cannot see clearly in that stage of life, black and white figures are excellent to stimulate vision.
Geometric shapes are a game that helps babies to think and “touch”: on the market there are dozens of products with geometric figures to be assembled and disassembled continuously. If you can also choose a wooden toy in this case, it will add a further feeling to the experience for the child.