As a speech pathologist who has a great deal of experience with 1+ year olds my house was filled with toys well before the arrival of my first child. In September 2013, I found out I was pregnant with Baby Roman! Best feeling in the world! But it was definitely not beneficial for the bank account. I had a habit of going into baby stores and buying clothing that I soon found out he would grow out of in a heartbeat. Then I realized when it came toys I had no clue what to purchase or put on the registry for a newborn. I had been in so many apartments where the toys swallowed the apartment whole, so I promised myself I’d go with the “less is more” approach. My goal with this blog is to recommend the most useful & educational toys, books, and activities – ones that can be used from birth and on to get the most bang for your buck! At times I may suggest a specific item that I LOVED or give you ideas on how to DIY. In any case, this blog should be viewed as stepping stones to encouraging further speech, language, and cognitive development.
So here it goes! Ideas for Week 1… Visual Tracking
When it comes to vision, the key here is to have your newborn close to you. Remember they can only see things that are 8 to 12 inches away from them at first. My favorite position is sitting on our couch, leaning back, and putting my feet up on the coffee table. This way I place him on my lap and he is elevated, closer to my face. It is the ultimate position for interacting with babies! (They also love being rocked left to right in this position!) You can start with something totally FREE – wiggling your fingers!
When your child is in an alert state, start in the middle of their eyes then gradually bring your fingers to the left, center again, then to the right. They may not get it right away, but the more you practice the better! In a few weeks, they will be able to follow objects downward and upward with their eyes as well! If your child appears cross-eyed do not worry… It will take time for their muscles of vision to mature. But of course always using your fingers can get boring for the baby and for you. To stimulate your child’s vision development, introduce a variety of items, change their position in the crib, use a nightlight, and walk them around the house as well as in the community while talking about their environment. You are setting the foundations for sight, focus, joint attention, language, and more. And remember try not to over stimulate your baby! Here are some ideas below…
Finger Puppets – It’s never too early for a puppet show! My mother-in-law bought our little man Sesame Street Finger Puppets. At first I thought it was an awesome gift we could definitely use when he’s a toddler, but then I realized Hey! Why not use them now? It is great for the beginnings of visual tracking. When you’re bringing them from left to right you can also give your child language input – “Hi Roman! My name is The Count. I love to count. 1 2 3 4 5!” or “Hey Roman! It’s nice to meet you! I’m Cookie Monster. I eat cookies all day. (YUM YUM YUM YUM!).
High-Contrast Patterns – Infants of course prefer human faces, but it has also been found that they are interested in high contrast items such as black & white images. Make sure you bring it close enough to their face so that they can see it. It is often beneficial to place the cards in their crib, activity mat, or even in their stroller to encourage visual stimulation. We love using the items below during tummy time…
Our favorite cards are from Wee Gallery they are simultaneously simple and eye-catching! You can choose from the original, safari, pets, farm, jungle, sea, woodlands, or garden collections. They are great for visual tracking now and can be used later during their toddler years to label common items. The cards are also very thick and durable, so they will definitely last for a long time.
Here are some of our favorite high-contrast board books that can also be used for labeling and receptive language tasks later on (e.g. – point to the spoon). “Black & White” by Tana Hoban is great because it is an accordion style fold-out book that you can place upright.
We also love “Look, Look!” board book By Peter Linenthal.