Oh the early days of parenthood! The midnight feedings, the exhaustion…the snuggles, the first smiles. When your baby is only a few months old I honestly don’t think that’s the time for learning anything but how to love and care for them well. Everything else should take a back seat (except your prayer life and marriage of course!) Show yourself grace and just rest in the fact that you fed, changed and loved your baby well that day. Take naps! (this is trickier with two littles…but still doable, especially if you have family members close by to watch the kids!) And don’t forget to care for yourself too. I’m really bad at asking for help, but that’s why God gave you your family and friends network. Get support if you need it or you might end up in tears at 4 am because baby was awake every hour all. Night. Long. And you’re now beyond the point of exhaustion!
After a few months, however, when baby is sleeping better and you find yourself at home all day…all alone…what do you do? I think if you reach this point it’s a great place to start implementing a few simple learning activities to keep yourself sane- and to help baby develop! Here are some of the simple things we did almost daily when the boys were babies:
–Read: This is my number one must do with any child at every age and stage, including babies. If you read to your newborn and continue to read to them through infancy, toddlerhood and childhood they will start school with a great advantage over their peers who aren’t read to in the areas of vocabulary, phonics, communication and even empathy. Plus it’s a great way to bond with your baby. If you have a wiggly toddler, don’t fret! Just read to them at snacktime or mealtime after you’ve finished eating (read- when they’re captive in their high chair!). My kids eat so slowly I can usually finish eating and get in a book or two before they’re done! Now that they’re a bit older they’ll actually sit and listen to stories in my lap no problem (and they are only 1 and 3!) and even bring me books to read them and choose to look at books themselves throughout the day. Both of them were early talkers too- my youngest was saying 50+ words at 18 months at his doctor’s visit and the survey they had us take to make sure he was “on track” developmentally wanted him saying 6! I attribute it all to reading to them daily!
-Talk to baby: With my oldest child I kept up a constant stream of chatter when he was an infant describing what I was doing, things around us, etc. (I probably sounded like a crazy person in the grocery store, but I didn’t care!) With my second child I had a toddler who already kept up a constant stream of chatter in the house, but I still tried to point things out to him and talk to him as an infant (and now that HE’s a toddler too!). Talking to your baby, like reading, helps build vocabulary and is another way to get them talking to you earlier!
–Take a walk: It’s SO important to go outside and get some fresh air with baby! This also boosts your own mood and is a great way to get out of a funk!
–Sit outside on a blanket: Just a change of scenery is nice sometimes! Throw a blanket and some toys outside on your lawn in a shady spot (or drive to a nearby park if you don’t have green space where you live).
–Song time: Listen to some music with baby- this doesn’t have to be kids music (although my boys love the channel “Toddler Time” on Amazon Alexa!) It’s even better if you can sing along to baby. The words will build language skills and vocabulary, especially songs with hand motions.
–Tummy time: When my boys were young we’d spend a few 10-20 minute blocks each day doing tummy time. This builds neck and back muscles that are used for rolling, sitting and walking. You can use a tummy time mat, or just a blanket with some toys placed around baby for them to look at.
It’s a little bit hard to have an actual schedule with an infant because sometimes they’re just all over the place! My second baby never took consistent naps- he’d nap twice a day but they were never the same length so sometimes afternoon nap would get bumped back throwing our schedule off. That’s ok- just go with the flow! We never did the above things at a certain time each day (other than the walk because it’s cooler in the mornings), we just made sure they got done at some point!
That being said, sometimes you just need to get out of the house and there are enrichment activities you can bring even a 2-3 month old baby to. The two we enjoyed most were:
–Swimming lessons: Our swim school gave free lessons to any baby from birth to 6 months old. Many pools do infant swimming lessons too. Not only do these lessons teach your baby to be safer around water (both of my boys fell in our pool as toddlers and didn’t even cough because they knew exactly what to do!), they’re also a great way to bond with baby and meet other parents. We had both boys in lessons by 3 months old. My oldest was able to independently climb out of the pool and swim about 5 feet alone at 2 years old, and was a proficient swimmer by 3 (ie. he could independently swim the length of our pool which is about 25 feet). It’s worth every penny to have that peace of mind around the water!
–Library toddler time: Our local libraries all have groups for babies and toddlers filled with puppets, stories, songs and chatter- and I’m sure yours do too! They’re free and a great way to connect with other local parents and have some fun! I started taking our oldest when he was about 3 months old and he loved watching all the older babies run around. Our youngest was a bit more tricky because of his nap schedule, but we still made it from time to time and made sure to also read at home. Be sure to check out some new books to read before you go home! (I know with COVID still around, most libraries have closed their children’s areas and programs, however, you may still be able to check books out- they even do a drive through curbside book pick up at our local library! Call yours to check availability and stay safe!)
Along with these activities, caring for baby and our home I found myself busy enough each day to feel like I accomplished something! Some days we didn’t get to any learning, and other days we only did a few of the activities and that’s ok! The most important part of infancy is to be flexible and to love them well!