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Early Childhood Today

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Infants & Toddlers: Activities That Support the Senses

INFANTS

Babies like to explore textures. Silky cloth, furry and fuzzy material, the bumpy surface of an old washboard, lukewarm air from a hair dryer blown over their arms-these sensory experiences are wondrous to the baby just learning what the world is like. Of course, loving touches, calm music, and soft conversation are a wonderful combination to satisfy baby's need for contact and listening.

Babies prefer soft, melodious sounds. Coo with a baby, pausing so she can coo back to you.

Play waltzes and soft songs. By 8 months, babies often have a wonderful sense of rhythm, and bounce on their bottoms as you sing a melody they've come to know. Young babies also like the soft, strumming sounds of a guitar. You can even try sitting an infant on your lap as you play familiar piano tunes. They will often press keys along with you.

Babies have hundreds more taste buds for "sweet" than adults do. So it's understandable that they love such sweet food as homemade applesauce and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Provide tasty biscuits for teething babies. Use feeding times to satisfy their need to experience food textures and tastes, including the crunchiness of Cheerios, the slippery feel of a cooked spaghetti strand, and the stickiness of mashed potatoes.

As you know, babies pop most anything into their mouths to taste, chew, and teeth on. As teachers, we need to be alert that there are no tiny objects, such as paper clips, or any poisonous leafy plants, such as poinsettias, in infant rooms.

Babies stare with big eyes right from birth at this world they have entered. With your face about 12 to 18 inches away from baby's, talk lovingly, and she will regard you closely and try to communicate with cooing sounds. Provide enticing sights to look at each day. Put babies safely on a warm floor, with interesting toys near their hands. They'll reach to touch and grasp each one as well as enjoy the bright colors and different shapes. Safe hanging plants, such as ivy, make a drooping green cascade that attracts an infant's upward gaze. Babies also love to reach for and kick at crib mobiles.

Babies respond to being rocked and moved. Use safe baby swings that give a gentle back-and-forth rock. Push a baby on a trike so that she feels herself moving through space, and watch the delighted grin on her face!

TODDLERS

Toddlers are great explorers. Cornstarch goop, with its silky texture, is a favorite among toddlers to squeeze and explore, just as they relish squishing, pounding, and rolling play dough with fingers and palms. Cookie cutters and a small rolling pin enhance children's attraction to this experience.

Toddlers enjoy humming along to familiar tunes. Many not only have a good sense of rhythm but can also pick up melodic lines by listening to favorite nursery songs each day.

Toddlers are curious about tastes, textures, and scents. Try experiments with smell. Put cinnamon on buns you are warming for lunch. Encourage children to sniff the new scent as they enjoy the taste. Bring a vanilla bean in a little jar and invite them to smell the wondrous aroma. Bake challah bread, muffins, and cookies with older toddlers. The smell of freshly baking snacks will engage their wholehearted participation in rolling, squeezing, and pounding dough-as well as in eating the finished product!

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