Your baby learns through active participation. The more she experiences, the more neural connections her brain makes, and the greater her capacity for learning becomes. Keeping in mind the value of lived experience, you can turn simple daily occurrences into fruitful educational opportunities. For instance, you can stimulate her senses and her brain while playing in the dirt at the park, smelling herbs while shopping, or tasting a lemon while you are cooking. If you are involved in shared experiences with her, then she will be more present in her learning.
You can incorporate learning experiences with your child into your daily routine as you do your own projects. As you clean, cook, or work, invite your child to engage in your activities. By encouraging her to interact with her environment, you give her the confidence to be curious, to investigate what interests her, and to seek new experiences and learning opportunities. Pay attention to dangerous situations, and set limits so that she can be safe in her explorations.
Here are a few ways to make it easy for your baby to discover new things and to interact with her environment:
- Take your baby with you—You can expand her world by opening your world to her. Put her in a baby carrier, or keep her close by as you go about your day—doing chores, running errands, and meeting with people. By your side, she can see and experience all aspects of life.
- Let your baby lead—As you go about your day, encourage her to touch, to feel, and to investigate. You can support her curiosity by talking to her and describing her experiences.
- Make home an interactive environment—Create safe spaces in your home where she can explore and make her own discoveries—for example, in a cabinet, closet, or drawer.
- Visit interactive environments—Children’s zoos, discovery centers, and children’s museums are designed to be interactive for babies and toddlers. Through their exhibits, your baby can use her senses to engage in new experiences and to take in new information.
- Show curiosity—Model a curious mind for your child. Ask questions, and wonder out loud. She can then observe you as you discover answers to your inquiries.
Shared experiences with your child are a delightful aspect of parenting, because these experiences help restore your own childhood freshness and openness to discovery. Mundane objects and daily chores become new and exciting again, seen from your baby’s eyes. By encouraging her to reach out and interact with the world, you nurture her cognitive development and set a pattern for future learning.