The Role of Play in A Baby’s Life
Play is most essential in a young child’s life for building his confidence as well as developing physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills. Babies are born ready to experiment, especially with their bodies. Play and movement are some of the primary ways in which babies learn what their tiny bodies can do.
Newborn play is simple, but it has a purpose. When a baby instinctively reaches for a colourful object in close proximity, he learns that;
- he can move his arms to touch nearby objects
- he can clutch and un-clutch his fingers to grasp and release objects
- he can coordinate his eye and hand to do this action
- his environment contains objects that are hard, soft etc.
Newborn babies need to improve their fine motor skills and gross motor skills on a continuous basis. Play serves as an excellent way to practice their limbs and sensory organs in order to improve these skills for survival.
Physical Abilities of a Newborn
In his twelfth week of existence, a baby can do the following;
- Look at your face
- Follow side-to-side movements with his eyes
- Lift his head for a short while when lying on his tummy
In the following weeks, as he gains more control of his movements, he can do the following;
- Uncurl his fists and swipe at dangling objects
- Lean on his elbows while lying on his tummy, to look at an object in front of him
- Follow an object that is moving slowly from side-to-side or in a circle with his eyes
- Move and kick his legs
- Wave and watch his hands and feet
- Move his hands towards an object at around 12 weeks
Giving your baby lots of encouragement and praise will help him improve his physical skills efficiently and gain better control of his body in order to try lots of new movements and experiments. Your baby loves to imitate you, especially your facial expressions! Therefore, always encourage him by giving a big bright smile!
Baby Play Ideas to Help Improve His Physical Skills
Introducing Baby toys that are suitable for the baby at each stage of growth is important to encourage them in fine-tuning their fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Here are some play ideas to help your baby improve these physical skills;
- Put a toy or rattle in your baby’s hand for him to hold
- Dangle some bright and soft toys from a frame, within his reach
Give your baby time to play on the floor or in the playpen
- Introduce a play/activity gym
- Sing nursery rhymes with simple actions
- Give your baby tummy time, so that he can practise pushing up on his elbows and lifting his head.
It is equally important that the baby’s toys appeal to the senses of sight, hearing and touch. Introduce toys and mobiles with strongly contrasting colours, patterns and symmetry to stimulate your infant’s developing vision. Rattles, textured toys, musical toys and unbreakable crib mirrors can help you achieve this. As your baby’s vision improves and he gains more control over his movements, he will interact more and more with the environment so that the learning process may begin!