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Finger Puppet Parade
You may have noticed that your newborn's vision is a bit limited. She seems unaware of things that are far away, but bring something right into her line of sight (between 8 and 10 inches from her face is ideal) and suddenly she's all eyes. This is a survival skill: Babies come into the world equipped to find food, and 8 to 10 inches is the distance between her face and yours when you're nursing! Explore your baby's developing visual skills with a simple game of finger puppets.
Appropriate for: Newborn to 4 months
Skills developed: Visual stimulation, interactivity
What you'll need: A set of simple finger puppets – you can make your own out of construction paper and felt-tip pens (see instructions below).
Lay your baby on her back or put her in a reclining bouncy seat. Put a finger puppet on the index finger of each hand.
Bring your fingers slowly into your baby's line of sight and wait until she focuses on the faces. Then, speaking slowly, introduce each puppet. Something simple like, "Hello, I'm Clover the cow," will do.
As each puppet speaks, bend your finger forward so the puppet bows to your baby. Wait a moment, as if your baby were answering, then continue conducting a one-sided conversation between her and each puppet.
In the beginning, don't expect your baby to be able to follow the puppets' movement with her eyes and head – it'll take her about two or three months to develop this skill. Instead, just let her enjoy the interaction with you. At this age, the most important thing is to play, engage, and have fun with your little one!
How to make finger puppets: Use stiff paper, such as colored construction paper. Cut out small rectangles and make simple cylinders the size of your fingertips, taping, gluing, or stapling the paper together so it fits around your finger. Paste on ears, whiskers, or a hat for the animal or character you want to create.
A man in a top hat is fairly simple, as is a cat with pointy ears. Finally, draw faces with a felt pen, keeping the features fairly plain: Babies react most directly and dramatically to simple, graphic faces. (Note: Don't feel you need to do this when your baby is a newborn – but it may be fun later on.)
Rattles have been around since ancient times, and it's no wonder: Babies love to watch and listen to these percussion instruments.
Appropriate for: Newborn to 3 months
Skills developed: Auditory
What you'll need: At least one rattle, and preferably a few
Gifts for new parents often include a rattle almost as an afterthought, but you can put any noise-making object to good use. When your baby is lying on his back, hold a small rattle in front of his face and shake it gently. Move it to one side of his face and shake it again, and then do the same on the other side of his face.
At first, your baby may only notice the change in location, though it'll certainly get his attention (try not to make it too loud – that might scare him). Depending on how quickly she develops, your baby will eventually be able to track the rattle with his eyes.
He's too young to grasp an object, but if you place one in his hand – particularly a light one made of fabric or plastic – he may involuntarily curl his fingers around it and move his hand. In this way he discovers that he can move something himself. You may see an expression of delight that's priceless!
Remember: Each baby develops at a different pace, so if yours isn't quite ready for this week's activities, don't worry – just try them again in a few weeks.
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