Playing with infants is always a pure joy for us. And for infants play is the means through which they learn about the vast world around them. Up to the age of 2, all the learning is through senses touching, looking, listening and manipulating. This is the sensorimotor stage. Infants under 2 are only aware of what is immediately in front of them. because they don't yet know how things react. They're constantly experimenting with activities such as shaking or throwing things, putting things in their mouths, and learning about the world through trial and error.
During this stage, infants learn to interact with the world around them. Parents and care providers can encourage infants' sensorimotor development by planning simple play activities. Let's take a look at some such activities that will boost your infant's cognitive development.
1. Peek -a-Boo
This is one game which is universal across cultures and continents. All of us play some version of this with a scarf, dupatta, pillow, etc. Little do we know that an infant who can play this game has attained an important cognitive milestone. Between ages 7 and 9 months, infants begin to realize that an object exists even if it can no longer be seen. This important milestone -- known as object permanence -- is a sign that memory is developing. And it is this anticipation of seeing the other person's face again (even though it is hidden right now) that makes the baby giggle and squeal.
(object permanence, visual acuity, cause and effect, and motor skills)
2. Container Play
Once infants begin to explore object permanence, a natural next step for exploration is cause-and-effect play. Infants enjoy container play -- putting objects in and out of containers. This type of play helps to further develop object permanence, as well as encourage cause-and-effect thinking. You can encourage container play by providing containers of various sizes, shapes, colors, and materials, as well as a variety of objects to drop in. But remember, no matter how many ‘toys' you get them, infants will still enjoy this activity most with kitchen utensils and other household items. After infants drop in several objects, they will delight in dumping them out and playing again.
(Logical reasoning, cause and effect)
3. Stacking Play
During the sensorimotor stage, infants thrive with predictable, enjoyable play routines. Stacking blocks with a helpful partner is a great opportunity for turn-taking, developing motor skills, and learning constructive play behaviors. The more an infant and caregiver engage in a predictable play routine, such as stacking blocks, the more an infant is provided opportunities for mastery. Stacking appears to be a simple task, yet it is challenging for an infant. It encourages persistence, problem-solving, and interactive play. For older infants, you can even introduce counting as you stack.
(Motor skills, taking turns, problem solving)
4. Texture Play
During this stage an infant's understanding of the world around her is through the five senses. As we grow older we rely heavily on 2 senses (audio-visual) and ignore the other senses. But for an infant, the tactile sense can open a new window to experiencing the world. Pick different textures such as satin, velvet, jute sack, jute rope, fake fur, aluminum foil, corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, sandpaper, etc and make a folder for texture play. Choose one material at a time, and invite the infant to touch the material. Offer descriptive vocabulary for the material including color, texture, and other appropriate features.
I have found that seasonal fruits and vegetables are also a fun way to use texture play (jackfruit, potato, custard apple, guava, bhindi, leafy vegetables all have distinct textures).
Tactile sensation and fine motor skills.
5. Shakers and Movers
You would notice that infants love to shake, bang and drop whatever they can get their hands on. This is more so during 6 months to 2 years of age. Though it means a lot of watchfulness, mess and cleaning for the caregiver it implies that your tiny tot is making strides in intellectual development. You can create a play activity that will satisfy your infant's urge to manipulate things. Collect several opaque containers spice jars, coffee tins, hing dibbis, vitamin tablet jars. Pour some dry noisemakers—pebbles, buttons, ghungroos, sand, or seeds,—into the different containers. Leave one container empty. Introduce the shakers one at a time. Encourage them to explore them independently, listening to the different sounds and sensing the different weights. Help the toddlers notice that one of the containers is empty—there is no sound or weight. Just make sure they are not able to open them and take care that they do not put the contents in their mouth or nose.
(Auditory discrimination, eye-hand co-ordination, motor skills)
The best part about these activities is that they do not need a lot of money, or space and can be played even while you are on the go or traveling. You can be as creative as you like in creating these fun activities.
So have fun with your tiny tot and next time you feel exasperated by her mess to remember it's a step in her cognitive development.
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