Holidays are a time to focus on family and close friends. Parties and get-togethers are a hallmark of the season. This time of year is especially fun with a baby in the family. Here are some of the many opportunities you’ll have to engage baby in creative playtime during the holiday season:
Deck the halls. Holiday decorations provide a whole realm of shapes and textures that you and baby can experience together:
- Show baby different shapes. As you decorate, name each shape (circle, square, star, ball, etc.) as you put up the various items. Let your child touch each non-fragile item and run his fingers around it as you say the shape’s name several times. As you and baby pass by these favorites day by day, repeat the shape names to imprint them into baby’s memory.
- Experience textures. Trees, wreathes, and holiday plants offer some new textures for baby to explore. Let baby gently touch and feel, and repeat the sensation several times over and over (“Prickly”, “Scratchy”, “Sharp”) in a playful way to make it a fun learning time.
- Colorful lights. Take advantage of the fun holiday lights to teach baby colors. Lights that blink are a curiosity to kids and will reinforce the learning experience. Use them to teach the concept of on and off as well.
- Candlelight. Candles are a beautiful part of the holidays, but they can also be a temptation for curious little fingers. Take some time to teach baby about the concepts of “hot” and “owie” by helping baby explore the flame safely – just close enough to feel the heat and learn to not get too close.
- Safety check. Holiday lights and decorations give baby more opportunities to get into power cords, breakable objects, and to reach up and pull items down. Be sure to look around the house from your child’s perspective and correct any safety issues before an accident occurs.
Gift time. Gift giving is part of any holiday, and here are some creative ways you can involve baby in the spirit of giving:
- It’s better to give. Babies and young kids are showered with presents during the holidays, and they’ll automatically learn how fun it is to receive gifts. It’s important to focus on the rewards of giving as well. As you shop together, bake holiday treats, make crafts, or flip through toy catalogues, continually focus your child’s attention on what items she could give to a friend or family member, rather than picking out items she wants to get for herself. Be sure to involve your child with the giving process, so she can experience the joy of giving something she picked out or made herself.
- Opening presents. Nothing is more fun than watching a baby try to unwrap his first presents. Let baby take his time to explore the ribbons, experience the feel of the wrapping paper, and investigate the box or packaging. It helps to make a small tear in the edge of the wrapping to get baby started.
- Be thankful. Teach baby the importance of expressing thanks with big hugs and kisses for every gift.
- Safety check. As the gifts get opened, small chokable objects are likely to be left around. Be extra vigilant to pick these up along the way before baby finds them.
Family values. Take the time to teach baby holiday stories and family traditions. Here are some ways you can focus on the meaning of each holiday:
- Story time. Pull out the holiday storybooks and read these at bedtime, instead of the usual favorites.
- Story telling. Use your holiday décor to tell stories that focus on the meaning of the season (examples: nativity scene, candles, special decorations). This helps take your child’s focus off of presents and on to the real meaning of the holidays.
- Keep extended family close to baby’s heart. A creative way to help baby come to know her relatives is to take a picture of each person holding baby during a holiday gathering. Make a little photo album for baby with these pictures. Throughout the year flip through this with baby and playfully name each family member and remind baby something special about each person. It helps to buy a baby-proof plastic toy photo album.
- Keep baby healthy. Relatives love to play “pass the baby” during family gatherings. It’s ok to carefully ask each person to wash hands and avoid baby if they are sick.
Music time. Holiday music and songs have a special meaning and add spirit to the holidays. Here is how you can involve your child musically.
- Singing together. Play holiday music and sing simple songs during the day. Music truly makes an impression on baby’s brain, and repeating songs over and over will help teach baby the spirit of the season.
- Making music together. Bells, drums, triangles and cymbals are a fun part of making holiday music. Take some time each day to help baby explore these various sounds. Sing-along together as you teach baby various rhythms and songs.
- Musical toys. Plush toys that sing holiday songs and play music are especially enchanting during this season. Sing and clap along with baby to help enforce learning the rhythms and songs.