Find out how you can engage your baby’s senses using Montessori toys
I remember being pregnant with my firstborn. I would take all the prescribed vitamins, read aloud to my growing belly and listen to classical music, all to ensure that my baby’s brain inside me is developing well.
Fast forward to several years and two more kids later, nurturing the baby brain development kind of took a back seat to make sure they are all safe, fed, bathed and entertained.
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.
I’m just doing what other tired and overwhelmed Mamas would.
But what I realized later on (with a lot of mistakes and a pile of forgotten toys along the way) is that there’s a way for me to stimulate my baby’s brain while keeping him entertained through sensory play.
How a baby’s brain develops at 0-12 months
Your baby’s brain development starts during pregnancy with rapidly multiplying cells forming the neural plate at three weeks, and increasing by 260 percent at birth.
At birth, your baby’s brain is already fully functioning.
The first sense that a baby’s brain registers is touch, followed by sight and hearing.
After a couple of months, the part of the brain related to language also becomes very active, and by the end of the first year, there is also increased activity in the areas related to social and emotional issues.
The first year is a critical time for your baby’s brain development, which is why sensory play is essential at this time.
Key Takeaway: During the first year, your baby’s brain doubles its size, making a room for more learning.
Sensory play and baby brain development
Sensory play refers to any activity that allows your child to use his senses.
It builds connections in your baby’s neural pathways which leads to his ability to process information and complete more complex learning tasks.
Sensory play also supports the development of language, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills and social interaction.
Sensory play activities for you and baby
Although it might seem that the first few months are all about survival and getting used to the world outside, babies are born ready to learn and explore.
By now, you can introduce Montessori method, a child-led activities that is self-directed and promotes hands-on learning.
Since sensory play revolve around exploring his senses, it is a great tool to start Montessori Method.
Sensory play also sharpens his language and motor skills using simple toys or even items that you can find around the house.
Here are some sensory activities, based on your child’s development stage, to get you started:
As baby gets to know the world around him
- As early as the first week, your baby is already familiarizing himself with the sound of your voice. Lie down beside him and introduce yourself as his number one playmate. Read him a book or play some music.
- While in bed, you can show him a toy, like a soft rattle or a wooden toy like the scoop from Avery & Ruth Kids Mindfulness Calming Kit. Hold it up for him, let him feel the texture and explain what the object is.
- Take a quick trip outside. Bring baby to the garden for some morning sunlight and let him explore as you point out some things – the color of the flower, the sky, let him listen to the leaves and touch the grass. Montessori method emphasizes the importance of nature in a child’s growth.
When he is starting to explore his body
- In his second month, you can start tummy time. This will help strengthen your baby’s head, neck, arms and boost gross motor skills. Find a safe, flat surface where you can lay the baby down on his stomach and observe him looking at his surroundings. Start with just five minutes a day, increasing in duration as he gets stronger.
- As he practices lying on his tummy or sitting down, try propping him in front of a mirror. Let him stare at himself and get used to his own face. Mirror is a must-have in the Montessori method for it teaches the child to explore and to concentrate.
- Play peek-a-boo! Watch how amused your baby gets with such a simple game. Make things a bit more exciting using colorful play silk.
- You can try making sound cylinders (using a can or jar, and some items like rice, beans, bells) and let the baby listen to it.
Key Takeaway: Basic and simple tasks can be a way to introduce the Montessori method, we just don’t realize it.
Learning how to use his hands
- Let him play with sand. If real sand is unavailable, you can use edible sand made of crushed crackers. The texture and feel of the sand in his hands will fascinate your baby, The Avery & Ruth Stack and Pour Set is an ideal companion for this kind of sensory play as you teach him how to transfer the sand from one container to another.
- At around five months, sharpen the baby’s hand and eye coordination by providing Montessori toys like wooden blocks or ball and cup toss.
- Bring him with you to the kitchen. Prop him up on his high chair or your lap and let him play with small pantry items such as cereal or pasta. Help sharpen his fine motor skills as he practices grasping and transferring them from one bowl to another. One of the fundamentals of the Montessori method is the real-life activities where the child can learn effectively through experience.
- Let him use his play silk as you explain to him the different colors and textures. Hold it in front of him and gently pull it away from him. Blow bubbles. Encourage mindfulness as you let your baby quietly watch the bubbles float away.
- Texture bag – fill a bag with sensory fillers (like rice, beans, play silk) and allow him to put his hands inside the bag and without peeking be able to identify what things are inside the bag.
- For babies who can sit, get a plastic container or a muffin tin and cover it with rubber bands around it (like a spider web). Then put some baby-safe items inside the container for the baby to get.
You don’t need ground-breaking methods or the latest toys to nurture your baby’s brain.
You can include baby brain development activities in your daily schedule simply by doing it naturally.
Provide activities and toys that would stimulate his senses. Ensure that it will allow him to observe, explore and focus.