In addition to getting tons of books to read to your baby for free, I urge you to visit your local library to find out what classes they offer. I discovered a Baby Yoga class last week offered at Houston Public Library‘s central branch. Not only was it fun, but we were the only ones there! It was like a private hour-long yoga session for free! (Okay, I had to pay $3 for parking, but still!) The instructor introduced basic yoga poses for mom which incorporated the baby (like stretching while looking down and smiling at your baby). These were mixed with gentle baby stretches (NOT to be confused with this creepy video) which made Joaquin smile and giggle. Yoga and massage also aids digestion. I even learned an awesome move called the Divine Drop, which instantly calmed him down and made him laugh when he started to get a little fussy.
Any baby book or website will tell you that in the beginning, babies’ eyesight is not very well-developed. Uncluttered black and white images are much more captivating to an infant than, say, a page from Where’s Waldo?
There are many available books targeted to babies that take advantage of this concept. Two examples that my son loves are Round Trip by Ann Jonas (actually, just a really neat book in general!), and Hello, Animals! by Smriti Prasadam. There are many, many others out there, as well as numerous websites with printable images. Additionally, there are apps for that! (Yeah, I went there.) Baby First Look app is one, and has a free version.
Babies also like to look at faces, and can see objects best within close range.
How can a parent take advantage of this knowledge? One simple way is just by placing pictures around the crib. Before my son was born, I dug through my collection of postcards and magazines and grabbed as many high-contrast black and white images as I could find. (I have a ton of art postcards (art teachers have everything!), and even though he’s just a baby, I had to restrain myself from using Edward Weston photos.) Colors work, too, as long as it’s two distinctly different colors (red and green, as opposed to pink and red). I stuck the pictures around the crib. Every time the baby lies down in the crib, he studies the pictures. Routinely change out the images and place your baby in different positions within the crib so he gets a variety of visuals. It’s a cheap and simple way to stimulate your baby, and visitors get a kick out of seeing pictures of Slash and Bob Dylan decorating a crib.
Now that he is almost 5 months old, I placed more colorful pictures around the crib. You can also make a mobile to hang over the crib or changing table. Just one more way to trigger your baby’s curiosity.
FYI: Images seen in the photos:
Untitled, Christopher Wool
Photo of Adam Ant from Rikki Ercoli’s Legends of Punk: Photos From the Vault
Bob Dylan, Los Angeles, 1966, Lisa Law
Bruce Lee, The Dragon, Bettmann/Corbis
Acoma Pot, National Museum of the American Indian
Virtues of Obesity, Donald Baechler
Leafy Sea Dragon
Portrait of Paul Schreber, Martin Kippenberger
Untitled, n. d., Diego Rivera
Kutenai Parfleche, American Museum of Natural History
Untitled, 1989, Richard Prince
Navajo Weaving, Denver Art Museum
I realize that at this young age, babies cannot truly “make” art. However, it does not mean we should limit their exposure to the arts. Reading is strongly encouraged for infants in order to stimulate your child, improve communication skills, and get your baby used to the rhythmic pattern of language. Although he may not understand the story, he is listening to the sounds, viewing the images, and spending quality time with you. Additionally, books such as Pat the Bunny and My First Batman are just a few examples of touch-and-feel board books that provide a total sensory experience for baby (and are also durable enough for chewing). So if reading is so important, why can’t art be included? Show your baby art images and describe the art to him. Another excellent touch-and-feel book that also focuses on art: Catch Picasso’s Rooster.