Activities to enhance cognitive development in infants
Cognitive development- It is the ability to be able to approach and problem solve, develop the skills to interact with the environment efficiently in terms of sensory, motor, emotional challenges.
Every parent wants to give their child the best and wishes their child to be cognitively very bright. Nothing wrong in that but before that lets understand the necessary skills, support, and stimulation the parent/caregiver needs to offer so that the child can have a better stimulating environment to learn.
Creating safety and calm via Tactile system (parental touch) – Parental loving and soothing touch can soothe the baby and help in creating a safety and comfort in their body. This is the base for superimposing higher function cognitive skills.
Engaging with your baby can enhance eye contact, joint attention, and sense of belonging.
For example, responding to the baby with the same sounds, bending at the baby’s eye level while talking to the baby, feeding time is great for engagement (not doing anything else at that time, full attention on feeding the baby) Games like peek a boo, find mommy, imitating gestures, hide objects around the baby and the baby has to locate it etc.
Tummy time – from the lens of an Occupational therapist – Parents should be encouraged to put their child on tummy. It has huge benefits like straightening the spinal muscles which are in a curved position in utero, strengthening the neck muscles and preparing them for visual skills. Often babies dislike being put on the tummy, so instead of putting them on the floor mat, the child can be on mom’s chest or on her lap.
Once comfortable, it can be put on the floor mat. Lying on the floor with the same position and offering toys to look at or playing with the child can enhance engagement and stimulate joint attention.
Encourage the child to crawl. Crawling is an important stage for building coordination, weight shifts, and strength. Crawling lays the foundation for eyes, shoulder, back and tummy muscles to work together which can sharpen the skills for reading, writing, and motor skills at a later stage.
Use of toys with sound- Using rattles, mom’s sound in different directions to enhance orienting the head to the direction of sound which also helps in developmental process. Using toys with melody can help the baby’s nervous system to calm and remain at ease
Use of toys with different textures- These can aid in enhancing and experiencing the different feel against the skin. Toys like smooth stuffed toys (not furry, some kids develop allergies) to toys that have little rough feel, different textured mats can be used according to the comfort of the child to enhance the tactile experience.
Once the child starts sitting and walking, walking on grass, sand is also a natural way to experience textures. (Please be sure about the cleanliness and take precautions) etc.
Use of different shaped toys (this can include common household things like steel bowl and spoon, which can also be used for developing functional skills) to enhance the use of hands for manipulation, holding and looking at it. Can enhance problem solving to figure how to hold different shaped toys.
Use of water play- looking at waterproof books, squeezing water toys, observing toys that sit at bottom and others which float, catching the floating toys etc can enhance skills.
Last but not the least, allow the baby to explore (be around). Being an overprotective parent, sometimes comes in the way for exploration and, hence the learning process. Need to strike a balance between being overprotective and protective.