What if you could have fun with your bump, baby or toddler and know that in doing so you were making them smarter? Well, you can! Play is a brilliant way to help your baby learn. Whether you’re newly pregnant and in your first trimester, or if they are already a running and jumping toddler, you can use play to help them have fun and get clever at the same time!

Here are my 5 top tips for using play to help your baby’s brain.

Tip number #1

Your baby loves sensory play! That’s play that uses any or all of their senses: sight, taste, touch, hearing, and smell. They Love it because it helps them build their brain and helps them develop (babies are super clever things who are hard-wired to develop and mature). So, when you play games that use any of their senses, you are actually building your baby a strong brain and helping them reach their full potential! You can start while you are still pregnant and continue with different sensory games right the way through until your baby is well into toddlerhood. When you’re pregnant, simple things like having a bath and chatting to your baby can be the beginning of introducing your baby to sensory play. Later, games such as brushing their hair with a brush and then a comb give them a variety of sensory stimulations. Add in the right kind of chat, and you’ll not only be giving your baby a wonderful playtime, but you’ll also be helping them become smarter! One mum told us how much fun she and her baby had while playing this brush and comb game from the Oliiki app and how it led to a whole day of sensory exploration for them both! She loved that the activity was really simple, used things from around the home and showed her WHY she was being asked to do it. Because the Oliiki app provided her with activities appropriate for her baby's age and stage, she found that her baby was really captivated by it, which encouraged her to continue focusing on sensory activities for the next couple of days - something she wouldn’t have thought to do without the encouragement of the app!  

Top Tip #2

Who doesn’t love a story? What’s nicer than the snuggling in of your baby on your knee as you explore a book together? Books can be a brilliant source of exploration and fun! One of the most favourite books we had in our house when the children were little was one called Mrs. Wishy-Washy by Joy Cowley. On the surface, this book is just a lovely, simple children’s book with clear text and pictures, but in our house, it became another wonky donkey book. I would put on a greatly exaggerated northern accent to read it which would send the children into hysterics (and consequently us as well!). It was a constant source of fun for years. Out would come the book, and with it, the anticipation of giggles and sore tummies from too much laughter. That book taught my children about obvious things like animals, mud, and keeping clean, but also more subtle things, such as that text has meaning and that books are fun. It taught them the essence of character as well as the joy of sharing a book. That book led them to want to explore other books, to learn, and ultimately to learn to read. Through the fun, it encouraged them to keep going and keep exploring. Reading develops language, but also can a sense of humour and so much more!

Top Tip #3

Finding a small hole inside the trunk of a tree or a branch that’s low enough to be able to climb is an invitation to explore and investigate. Nature is a classroom for children. It’s a place of untapped adventure, exploration, questioning and investigation. We just need to ensure that we enable our children to spend time in it and allow them to let their natural curiosity thrive. An afternoon spent exploring a woodland is a good chance to enquire and scrutinize to look closely and develop curiosity. When we engage our children in the learning that nature offers, we enable them to grow and develop. How we chat and how we help them on their journey of curiosity elevates the play from a simple activity to a learning opportunity. Seemingly simple activities often build complex skills. When we know how to look at activities, we can unlock the learning they hold.

Tip Number #4

Singing counting songs helps develop number, pattern and rhyme. Who would have thought that the simple singing of a nursery rhyme would have so many benefits for our baby’s development?! When you look at singing number songs, the learning is massive. From singing number songs to songs with made-up words, each one brings its own set of learning. Singing is something you can start doing when you’re pregnant and goes on for years. So, sing loudly, sing often, and sing together. You’ll be supporting your baby’s development in so many ways!

“Playing the games in the Oliiki app gives me sunshine, the whole day! Like oh, my God she reacted like this, she loves it!”

Tip number #5

Making yourself happy helps your baby be happy! Amazingly, being happy is a set of habits that are actually learned. Focusing on being happy helps you teach your child how to be happy too! When we’re happy, we think about the world in a happy way and see more happy things around us. When we feel happy, it also tends to be infectious and rubs off on others around us! Playing with your bump, baby or toddler can support their happiness, which in turn helps them learn and develop, as one mum of a then 4-month-old, who downloaded the Oliiki app, found out. “It gives me sunshine, the whole day! [when we play the games suggested in the Oliiki app], like oh, my God she reacted like this, she loves it!” That sunshine and happiness has in turn helped that mum go from feeling a failure and a bit depressed to feeling happy and confident.

Want to know more? Download the Oliiki app and take advantage of the 7-day free trial.