Toddler Play at the Park: Follow the Leader

Location: Outdoors

Promotes: Cognitive and motor skill development

When you think about toddler play locations, your local park probably comes to mind. And it should! It’s a great place to head to for fun and games, but did you know it’s also a smart spot for encouraging motor development and helping your child reach other milestones? Swing by the park’s playground to play this fun game -- while helping your tot burn off some energy.

What to play

Use the playground’s landscape as a setting for an outdoor game of follow the leader. Children this age love to mirror the people around them, so your child should jump at the opportunity to be your copycat.

Step 1: Tell your toddler to follow you around the playground and copy everything you do.

Step 2: Start moving! You could run under the monkey bars, crawl around the slide, or climb over steps. Whatever you do, be sure to call out directions as you do it (“Now let’s hop like a bunny to the swing set!"). If your child is too young to follow your directions, you can hold her hand while you move around instead of having her follow after you.

Step 3: Once you’ve navigated the entire playground, give her a big hug and congratulate her on doing such a good job.

Tricks and tips

To ensure safety, stay close to your tot, and keep an eye on the other happenings in the playground. You don’t want your little one running by the slide as another child is coming down. To keep your toddler motivated, be enthusiastic. Cheer, clap -- even play some music using your phone’s speakers!

Learning and growing

At this age, kids are pushing their physical limits and discovering new ways their bodies can move, so climbing, crawling, jumping, and hopping around the playground will help encourage your child’s motor development. Following instructions while being active may also help your child learn new concepts such as up, down, over, and around.

What you’ll need

Just your local playground -- and a solid pair of sneakers.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Activities for Your 3-Month-Old

You're greeted with a happy infant when your 3-month-old wakes in the morning, and you find that your baby is playing more than ever. She is interacting with you all the time, cooing, gurgling, and smiling when she sees your face and hears your voice. Here are some ways to make playtime together even more fun.

Floor time
You're still working on tummy time, so she should be spending a lot of time on the floor working her muscles. Place colorful toys in front of her -- while she can't grab for them yet, she enjoys looking at the bold, bright colors. Toys with music and lights are entertaining, too, but be careful not to overstimulate your baby. She's still very young, so introduce things slowly to her and watch for her reaction.

Check her out
Your baby loves to look at faces, and she may start to be intrigued by mirrors, too. Attach an unbreakable mirror to your baby's crib so she can look at her own face. As the two of you are looking into the mirror, talk to her about her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and point to them, too.

Sing and move
Clap her hands together and recite nursery rhymes or sing. Your voice is the most important sound to your baby, and whatever you sing is music to her ears.

Reading rules
If you haven't started reading to her yet, now’s the time. She'll love brightly colored books like the ones that feature babies just like her.

Track the toy
A great activity to help your baby focus her eyes is to lay her on the floor and hold a toy about 10 inches above her head. Move it from side to side and let her follow it with her eyes.

As you and your baby are enjoying the fun and games, she is reaching milestones and accomplishing so much already. Go, baby, go!

Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

What Your Baby’s Talking Means

Your baby’s talking and babbles don’t just sound adorable, they also mean something. Even when your new baby is just an infant, his sounds can help tell you a lot about what’s going on in his life. Wondering what "goo" and “ga" mean? This baby talking advice for each age should help clear up your confusion.

Baby talking at 1 month: Right after birth, most babies communicate when they are reacting to something. After spending approximately nine months in a calm environment, your new baby is probably startled by all the new noises and sensations. His crying, quick movements, and sighs can all mean that he is experiencing something new. These tiny communications are a great sign that your little one is developing and alert. They can also help you better understand when he is hungry or tired.

Baby talking at 4 months: At around 4 months, your new baby may begin imitating the noises he has been hearing since birth. This is often referred to as babbling and is another sign that your baby is developing at a steady pace. Listen for your baby to drop and raise the pitch of his voice when babbling, a sure sign that he is copying the inflection in your voice. Encourage this by talking slowly and carefully to him as much as possible.

Baby talking at 6 to 8 months: The 6- to 8-month period is a busy time for baby talking. At this age, your child may begin to crawl, and you might notice him pointing at his toys while simultaneously babbling, a prime example of early communication. This can be a good age to introduce baby sign language, if this appeals to you. Pick up an instructional book or video and start signing a few words that you use on a regular basis when talking to your baby, such as drink, eat, sleep, and diaper. If you start around 6 or 7 months, your baby may start signing back when he’s 8 or 9 months. Finally, some babies come out with their first spoken words at this stage, often “mama” or “dada.”

Baby talking at 12 to 18 months: Your baby will probably pick up a few more words over the next months. He may also start mimicking conversation by babbling with pauses and “responding” to you after asking him a question. Although his vocabulary is still limited at this age, know that he understands quite a lot of what you say -- so keep chatting away to help boost his language development.

Baby talking at 18 to 24 months: Now that your child has mastered a good number of words, he’ll start to string them together to create early forms of sentences (“all done”). As your tot gains this added ability to describe what he wants (“milk mommy!”) or what excites him (“go swing!”) you’ll find that it becomes easier to communicate, which will be a welcome baby milestone for both of you.

As with all baby milestones, remember that children develop language at different speeds and in different ways. Your new baby is unique and may require more or less time than others to begin making sounds and gestures. Before you know it, your child will hit the chatty preschool stage, and peace and quiet will be a thing of the past!

Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

The Best Baby Products for New Moms

When you’re a new mom, less stress is best. But purchasing gear and essentials for your new baby can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if you’re on a budget. What do you really need and what can you leave on the shelves? To help make baby shopping easier, here are five items that are must-haves for every new mom.

Baby carrier. A good-quality, sturdy, and comfortable baby carrier is not just a necessity for keeping your hands free, it’s also a soothing place for your new baby as it keeps her close to you when you're running errands or just walking around the house. Consider asking to try a few on at the store so you can find one that’s the perfect fit for your frame.

Baby books. Your new baby doesn’t need an overflowing chest filled with baby toys to stay entertained, but baby books are worth splurging on. Story time is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, and reading to your little one builds listening and vocabulary skills.

Changing pad. Don’t stress if you are tight on space and don’t have the room for a changing table. Any area of your home can be transformed into a diaper duty station with a changing pad, Pampers baby diapers, and a box of wipes. Wash the pad (and the cover) regularly, especially if gets stained during a diaper change.

Diaper bag. A sturdy, do-it-all diaper bag will be your best accessory during your baby’s first few years. Choose a spacious bag with a stroller attachment and easy-to-access compartments so you can quickly locate your child’s pacifier or favorite baby toy. Tip: You’re going to be toting this bag around for awhile, so pick a pattern you love! And if Dad is going to carry it, too, be sure to get his input.

Burp cloths. Stock up on a tall pile of burp cloths. They'll protect your outfit during each feeding and will come in handy for wiping up messes or cleaning your baby’s sticky hands.

Photo by Octavian Dan on Unsplash

Toddler Play Idea for a Rainy Day: Treasure Hunt

Location: Indoors

Promotes: Cognitive and motor skill development

Toddler play doesn’t need to take a rain check on a drizzly day. Use the time stuck at home to your advantage with a rainy-day treasure chest hunt.

What to play
Toddler development -- both cognitive skills and motor development -- can benefit from a rainy-day treasure chest hunt. First, decorate a spare storage bin with stickers and fill it with age-appropriate toys for your toddler. You can throw in puzzles, which will help your child with shape recognition and hand-eye coordination, as well as playthings that encourage your tot to use his imagination (e.g., toy figurines and pretend food). Finally, toss in some items connecting with reading, such as alphabet letters, books, and even some catalogs he can flip through. Then, send your toddler on a treasure hunt -- under your supervision -- to find the specially decorated box.

Tricks and tips
Provide easy-to-follow clues for your child on pieces of colorful paper. Don’t make the clues too complicated -- your toddler isn't quite able to follow long or detailed instructions. Instead, opt for pictures instead of words. If you hide the treasure chest in his room, draw a picture of his bed; if it’s in the bathroom, draw a picture of the potty and let him find his way to the hidden treasure.

After your toddler plays with what's in the box, put it away and out of your child’s reach, and don’t take it out again until the next rainy day. This will help make the contents seem very special. Dreary, wet days may even become something he looks forward to!

Learning and growing
Use the treasure hunt to help promote problem-solving skills, a key part of toddler development. If your toddler is having trouble finding the box, talk through the problem with him instead of just providing the answer (e.g.,“This is a picture of a potty. Do you know where in the house you can find the potty?”).

What you’ll need
A medium-sized storage bin, fun stickers, and a few small toys to encourage toddler play, such as blocks, books, puzzles, dress-up clothes, and soft animals.

This indoor game can be so much fun, you might find your child longing for rain to come, not to go away!

Photo by ???????? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash