By Jenna Birch
From the moment your baby enters the world, everything is new. New sounds, from lullabies to traffic outside the window. New sensations, from the touch of a blanket to warm water in the bathtub. New sights, from mom’s wide eyes to the wallpaper in the nursery. From this moment forward, your little one will be rapidly learning new concepts all the time -- which is a unique opportunity for parents to sneak in some early creativity and culture.
While your baby is beginning to explore, it’s never too soon to spark a love for subjects like art, music and language. During those first months and years, you have the chance to directly introduce your child to new worlds. Take advantage of it by trying some expert-approved activities and products for a “cultured” baby.
Your baby doesn’t need an expensive paint set to have fun with art. Instead, try a beginner’s take on classic finger painting, says Michelle Hull, an Early Child Development Teacher and licensed Early Intervention Specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital. “Put a canvas down, and then let them play,” she suggests. “Use different kinds of pudding paint or baby food, so it’s okay if the ‘paint’ gets in their mouths. This allows them to explore new textures and materials in a safe way, engaging their tactile responses while building new things.” Plus, at the end of playtime, you’ll have a nice keepsake.
As your baby ages, don’t forget to introduce new items like foam shapes and sponges as painting utensils, or as attachments for the artwork. Hull recommends limiting this activity to a “controlled environment” like a high chair, or Baby Einstein’s sturdy Sea & Explore Walker™. The walker’s tabletop toy station is removable for an easier way for baby to sit and play (with just about anything).
Research has proven that music works wonders on an infant’s overall development. “By simply coupling a lullaby with rhythmic rocking motions, early language development is stimulated, you increase the infant’s spatial awareness, and you strengthen the bonds of attachment from baby to parent,” says Karla Ivankovich, PhD, a psychologist who has studied human development across all ages and stages.
As your baby grows, you can then incorporate simple musical activities, allowing space to practice gross and fine motor movements. “Any object can be used as a musical instrument,” Ivankovich says. “The age-old practice of using pots and pans as musical instruments really does work. If you give an infant a metal spoon or a wooden spoon, and allow them to strike the pots and pans, they practice many of their developing skills.” To keep them engaged with music anywhere and everywhere, try Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes™. Let your baby bop and tap along to classical artists like Mozart and Vivaldi, even while on the go.
Hola, bonjour, hello! Speak to your child, all the time, and in multiple languages if you can. “The greatest gift a parent can give their child is language,” says Ivankovich. “If parents speak to their children and read to them from birth, babies will develop better language skills more rapidly. The more infants and toddlers are exposed to language, the greater their receptive and expressive language skills will be.” So, speak. Constantly!
As an added component to language, Hull recommends singing through your daily routines to encourage comprehension. “You can set anything to a tune,” she explains. “Talk about what you’re doing, whether you’re playing together or taking a walk, and set your words to a couple common melodies, like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ or ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.’” Young children learn language best through repetition, she says, also noting that this practice brings the pillars of language and music together -- just like the Baby Einstein Neighborhood Friends Activity Jumper™. This toy intertwines language and music using common melodies and piano notes, as well as English, Spanish and French phrases to encourage early language development.
There’s a whole world in your backyard, right under your child’s nose. Bring babies outdoors and expose them to nature, which will spark their interest in exploration from an early age. “With your guidance, allow infants to play in the elements -- in the sun, in the grass, in the leaves,” says Ivankovich. “This reinforces the tactile responses, and heightens their sensory stimulation as they feel the sun’s rays, see grass, hear the leaves crinkle, smell the flowers in the garden.” Just make sure the sense of taste is off limits outside, since Ivankovich says babies are definitely apt to “experience the world through their mouths.”
You can also bring the elements of nature indoors if it’s too chilly for little ones to go out. “I love to get a mixing bowl, and put a couple scoops of snow inside it for baby,” says Hull. “This stimulates the senses, and helps them explore nature in a more controlled way.” Bring items like pinecones, branches, grass and fall leaves inside for babies to feel, explore and enjoy -- and don’t stop at just your backyard. Help them discover new worlds, like the ocean, with the Baby Einstein Sea & Discover Door Jumper™. The jumper allows them to safely bounce up and down, while meeting underwater creatures identified in English, Spanish and French.
Shapes & Numbers
Your baby might not need algebra just yet, but you should gradually introduce them to mathematical cornerstones from an early age to get them started, says Ivankovich. “Bathtime is a great time to help your baby explore measurement, weight, and shapes,” she explains. “By allowing the baby to play with basic measuring instruments like bowls and cups in the bath, they will begin to understand mathematical concepts like weights, shapes and sizes.”
Hull says she’s a fan of basic building blocks and toys like chunky foam puzzles to help babies begin to feel and see different sizes, shapes and numbers. The Baby Einstein Rhythm of the Reef Prop Pillow™ offers an easy introduction to these concepts, too. With an underwater theme and fun sounds, this pillow allows your baby to relax while examining numbered flaps and hanging shapes in bright colors.
About Baby Einstein
Baby Einstein was created by a mom who wanted to share a love of learning and exploration with her child. Centering around five core pillars of development, the brand’s products encourage all babies to have important early experiences with art, nature, language, music, shapes & numbers -- because “great minds start little.” Visit BabyEinstein.com to get your child started.