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The Hood Magazine

Encouraging Infant Development

Aug 31, 2020 ● By Jessyca Conaway, MS, OTR/L, Lifescape

Author: Jessyca Conaway, MS, OTR/L, Lifescape

Many questions arise during the months spent preparing for the arrival of a new baby. As a new parent, you may wonder how you can best support your newborn’s development, while also nourishing your mutual bond. Luckily, there are many activities you can use to promote motor skills, socialization, and emotional regulation with your bundle of joy.  

As an occupational therapist, I am always touting the use of tummy time, as it impacts overall development. Tummy time is an essential activity that builds strength, improves cognition, and allows infants early control over their world. Newborns can begin tummy time within the first few weeks after birth by lying on your chest. 

Over time, you can move your infant to the floor for tummy time. You should continue to be actively engaged with your child during this time by introducing toys, talking, singing, and playing games. Infants love to socialize, and you can promote brain development and language skills by engaging in these activities both during tummy time and throughout the day.

Providing lots of opportunities for floor time also limits the amount of time your child spends in “containers” such as swings, bouncy seats, and car seats. While the use of these pieces of equipment is sometimes necessary, your infant will gain strength and motor coordination much faster when seated on your lap or playing on the floor! As much as possible, allow your child to safely explore the world around them. Describe what they are seeing and interacting with as they explore. Offer toys and experiences that stimulate the senses.

A variety of textures, sounds, smells, sights, and movement also promotes development in your newborn. Infants often explore their world through touch and taste, as their vision is quite poor at birth. Provide toys your baby can safely mouth, but also present high-contrast toys (reds, whites, and blacks) near your infant’s face.

Children will transition from simply watching toys to grasping and bringing the toys closer to inspect as they grow. These activities promote cause and effect relationships, develop strength, and promote visual motor control. One of the most important ways to promote infant development is to respond to your child’s needs promptly and consistently to encourage emotional regulation and a sense of control. When your infant cries, help to solve their problem. When they babble, acknowledge their communication by imitating the sounds they are making and adding to it. Including these techniques and activities will promote development in your infant as you transition into the incomparable world of parenthood.