Play that's great for infant development doesn't have to be complicated or involve expensive toys. In fact, there's the common observation that young children enjoy the box the toy came in as much as the toy itself! Make use of the greeting cards and holiday cards that arrive in your mailbox (or at your baby shower or child's birthday party) with these fun play activities:
Greeting Card Play for Babies
Tummy Time Play Ideas
Greeting cards are perfect for babies to look at in Tummy Time, since they stand up on their own and often have bright, bold designs. Don't feel limited to placing a card right in front of baby - promote head turning (important for neck strengthening and stretching) during belly-down playtimes by propping cards off-center for baby to visually explore. Looking for more Tummy Time play ideas?
Many parents have never heard how wonderful sideyling (baby lying on her side) is for infant development! If needed, use a rolled towel or a 1 lb. bag of rice behind baby's back to prop in sidelying position to visually explore greeting cards.
This position helps your little one stretch each side of her torso and neck, balance strength on the front side of the body and back side of the body (flexor and extensor muscle groups) and bring hands together at the middle of the body (called the midline), which is awesome for brain development. It's also super important to help prevent head flattening! Want to know more about how to keep your baby's head round and avoid a helmet?
Changing Table Play
Did you know that diaper changes are a great time to encourage your newborn to turn her head both directions to reduce flat spots and the risk of neck tightness?
A common recommendation is to change the direction your baby faces on the changing table to encourage head turning both directions (since baby often looks toward the parent or caregiver). BUT... I'm a terrible left-handed diaper changer and my husband and I failed miserably at communicating which end was the "poopy bottom end" of the table for the day. So, instead we added a string and some clips to the wall beside the changing table and hung different greeting cards. I used the cards to encourage baby to turn to the left and used my voice and facial expressions to encourage turning to the right (toward me). Bonus - the string of cards turned out really cute!
Seated Greeting Card Grasping Play
Once baby is able to sit, she'll start to work more and more on developing her hand skills - manipulating objects by grasping, passing objects from one hand to the other and more. Months before she'll be able to turn pages of a book on her own, your little one will be able to shuffle through a basket of greeting cards and enjoy grabbing, shaking, turning over to look at the pictures, crumpling, ripping and more. Choose cards without embellishments (plastic jewels, etc.) and always closely supervise so that your little one doesn't eat cardstock!
Greeting Card Play for Cruising and Walking Babies
Tape greeting cards to the edge of a counter or piece of furniture above baby's shoulder height (our crib rail worked great - see photo collage above) for your little one to pull up, cruise and grab! You can also use painter's tape to secure greeting cards (and other lightweight objects) to the wall for your little one to reach for.
Greeting Card Play For Toddlers & Preschoolers
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