9.3 Helping Infants Learn

Five Ways to Encourage Learning

1. Learn about child development. Caregivers should understand how an average child develops. Caregivers should also know what is age appropriate for a child so they have reasonable development expectations.

2. Give the child time and attention. Give the child attention when he or she cries. By responding to a child's cry, caregivers are helping the intellectual development of the child. Intellectual development is linked with responsiveness. Babies learn more and learn faster when caregivers comfort them.

3. Provide positive feedback. Respond positively when a baby tries something new or learns a new skill. Showing pleasure and praising the child will encourage them to keep trying new activities and learn more.

4.  Read. Caregivers should make reading a daily routine. Reading teaches speech in these ways: pictures in children's' books helps infants to connect the sounds they are hearing to an object, rhymes help children remember words, children especially learn through repetition, and reading to young children increases their vocabulary and promotes their ability to read aloud.  


5. Talk. Talking has many benefits. Talking to an infant helps the baby learn language and learn more about their environment. Research shows that talking to an infant actually helps his or her brain develop faster. However, caregivers should avoid using "baby talk" because this will make it harder for the infant to learn and develop normal speech skills. Talking also makes the baby feel more secure. Before being able to use words, babies babble and repeat syllables and sounds.

Average age range for other milestones.

A. Puts two words together: 1-2 years

B. Voices excitement and displeasure: 4-6 months

C. Talks about activities: 3-4 years

D. Says one or two words: 7-12 months

E. Tells stories: 4-5 years

Learning Through Play

Ways that play benefits babies:

  • Play helps the baby's intellectual development
  • Babies like to play, it's fun for them
  • Play is a physical necessity for babies. Physical tasks let infants strengthen their muscles, refine their motor skills, and learn about the world around the.

Age Appropriate Toys

Birth to Three Months

Babies at this age need things to look at and listen to. Bright colors, moving objects, and interesting sounds stimulate development of the senses. Some examples are bright wallpaper, pictures, and hanging toys that babies can follow with their eyes.

Four to Six Months

The sense of touch is important at this age. Babies need objects they can touch, bang, handle, shake, suck, and chew. Toys need to be not too large but also not small enough that the baby can put it in its mouth. A good rule is that it should be too large to fit into a paper towel tube. Some examples of good toy at this age are: teething rings, cups, rattles, plastic toys, and stuffed animals. Babies at this age also like simple picture books and love being read to.

Seven to Nine Months

Babies at this age still need things to handle, throw, and bang. Anything that makes noise fascinates infants at this age. Children at this age enjoy blocks, balls, large plastic beads to that pop apart, and toys that can be pushed or kicked. Safe household items are also a cheaper alternative as toys such as pots and pans with lids and plastic containers to stack.

Ten to Twelve Months

By this time in a baby's life, he or she needs things to crawl after. Those who can already walk enjoy toys they can push or pull, such as a toy lawnmower. Children at this age also enjoy things they can manipulate. Baskets, boxes, and other containers are fun. Babies like to put things into them and then dump them out again. Floating toys for bath time are also great choices to play with.

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