Baby development is such a strange thing. On the one hand, babies seem like blobs – they can’t do much and it can be so daunting to do activities and have no idea if anything is sinking in. On the other hand, the period from 0-24 months is when babies develop at the fastest rate. Their brains are growing so much every day, and this is when they’re the most like sponges, absorbing all the information. They won’t remember it when they’re older, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t help or apply. I already shared some ideas for 0-3 months, but of course it’s a continual process.
I love watching Harley develop. Dean and I have had a few instances where we’re sure she wakes up smarter. Her eyes will focus more, her attention span will lengthen or she’ll have some new skill. Now that she’s smiling, I am even more confident about which activities she enjoys and how to engage with her. But with her expanded skills, there’s also room for a bunch for development. Thankfully, I have a ton of activities in my arsenal.
Harley is still so small, so the majority of her development is physical. I have continued to do daily baby massage. It’s great for body awareness, naming each body part as I rub it. It’s also wonderful for bonding and as a “warm up” for the rest of the activities. You can also use it to help your baby relax in the evening leading up to bedtime.
Baby gym feels like such a silly term, but that’s what it’s called when you help your baby do motions that exercise them. Harley’s favorite is anything with her legs. Moving her legs as if they’re cycling, or bending both knees at once followed by stretching them out – not only are these movements great for relieving gas, they also help her move her hips and do early preparation for crawling. Another prep for crawling that is great for development is crossing the midline – I touch her right hand to her left foot a few times before stretching them out. Repeat this on both sides to help your baby learn about moving opposite sides of her body at the same time, as well as to help boost the connections between left and right brain.
Rolling over is an important skills that babies can learn at this point. I start with simple twists that also cross the midline, twisting Harley’s body by placing her right foot next to her left hip a few times, then doing the reverse. Another technique is taking your babies hand and helping them turn over – I hold her left hand and bring it across her body until she turns onto her stomach. After a bit of tummy time, I return her to her back and do the same thing the other way. Even though she doesn’t do the full turn by herself, it helps train the muscles and shows her how her body can move.
In order to boost neck strength and promote sitting, I do baby sit ups with Harley. Holding her hands, I pull her up to seated position. Obviously, the neck has to be strong enough to do this exercise in the first place, but once the baby can support her own head, practicing helps to strengthen it. Once she’s in the seated position, I hold her hands to keep her there for a few moments before slowly lowering her back down, engaging her core.
Speaking of core, one of the most important things at this stage is still tummy time. It’s great for building neck, shoulder and back strength. Not all babies like it, but even if you can manage 20 minutes a day in total, it’s a great boost for your little one.
Mental and Social Development
Just because your tiny human can’t speak yet doesn’t mean they can’t learn the normal rhythms of conversation. Saying hello, asking how someone is, the pause while you wait for an answer, all of this can already be modeled on your small one. Encourage them to “say hi” in greeting. When Harley makes babbling noises, I try to always respond and ask questions for her to babble back about. Of course none of her sounds really have meaning yet, but at least she is learning the ebb and flow of conversation.
Now that she is able to discern patterns, reading picture books is much more fun. She still doesn’t seem to understand what she’s seeing, but showing Harley the colors, pointing out objects in the pictures and the cadence of storytelling all help her understand more about language and the world around her.
Eye tracking is increasingly important during this period. Get your baby’s attention with something black and white or even red, then move it from side to side and up and down. Following with her eyes is helpful with focus and will combine with more skills as your baby grows.
The main thing now, and always, is to engage with your baby. Dean plays completely different games with her than I do, but she loves the variation in activities and has fun with both of us. Plus she’s learning different things when I bounce her on a pilates ball or Dean makes her stand on his lap. She is finding her place in space, figuring out how her body moves, and having fun with her mommy and daddy. What could be better?
What activities did you do with your tiny person? Did you notice them using those skills as they’ve gotten older, or am I kidding myself that any of this makes a difference?