Who's in the Mirror?
Position the baby and yourself so the baby can see the both of you in the mirror. Help him learn the parts of his face by naming them as you point to them. Also point to and name the parts of your face. Encourage the baby to touch his face and yours, as well as their reflections in the mirror. Wave, make silly faces, and talk to the baby's reflection.
Back and Forth
Begin a "conversation" with the baby by encouraging her to hand you an object and then handing it back to her. Talk about what you are doing. Go back and forth as long as the baby is interested. This interaction lets the baby get to know you as someone who responds to her beginning efforts at communication.
Take a white cotton glove and add small colored pompoms to the tips. Put the glove on and place your hand at a distance where the baby can see it. Slowly move the glove so the baby can follow it with her eyes. Gently rub the fuzzy pompoms on the baby's body. .Sew brightly colored pieces of yarn on a different glove. Capture the baby's attention by wiggling your fingers and letting the yam wave. Talk to the baby, describing the colors and your actions. Keep the gloves in a container by the changing table so you can take advantage of those important one-on-one moments.
Take a box large enough for an infant or a toddler to crawl into and cut out face-size openings. Attach fabric scraps with heavy-duty tape at the top of each opening. As the child pulls back the fabric to peek out, say "peek-a-boo." Share in the delight and laughter this will elicit from the children.
Cool Wind Blows
Sit with a toddler and recite this poem together:
The wind blows on you (blow gently on the child's hand)
The wind blows on me (the child blows gently on your hand)
We give a little shiver (shiver and hug)
Wind, you let us be! (shake your finger sternly)
The child will enjoy the interaction with you while he practices his language skills.
Row, Row Your, Boat
Ask a child to sit across from you with your legs apart. Hold hands and gently pull the child toward you as you lean back; then, lean forward as the child leans back. As you rock back and forth, sing the song, "Row, Row Your Boat." This game will strengthen the toddler's arms and lower back and allow you to play together.
Cut three-inch strips of fabric three feet long. Give toddlers these streamers to hold in each hand. Go outside and run in the wind. Stay inside and put on music and swirl and dance with the steamers.
Jack Be Nimble
Recite the nursery rhyme "Jack Be Nimble," inserting a child's name instead of "Jack." Hold the child's hands and squat down with her when you say, "[Child's name] be nimble." Stand up quickly as you say "[Child's name] be quick." Then say, "[Child's name] jumped over the candlestick" as she jumps over a "candlestick." Start with a taped spot on the rug, then replace it with a small object, gradually increasing the height of the object to several inches as the child's jumping ability grows. Younger toddlers will need you to hold their hands as they jump.
This activity originally appeared in the August, 2000 issue of Early Childhood Today.