• Deana Rosaia

Let Them Play Peekaboo

Updated: May 16


My degree is in pediatric physical therapy. We are all about rolling, crawling, jumping, tummy time and climbing stairs. But my favorite component of development as both a mom and therapist is to study how play & cognitive development of a child are intertwined with motor development. Full disclosure, in physical therapy school we learned very little about development beyond a motor component. Goodness, we learned very little about development at all! To become a pediatric clinical specialist has taken many years research, teaching and learning well beyond my degree.


The most amazing mentors I have encountered to link the connection between cognitive development, play and motor development have been pediatric occupational therapists & pediatric speech language pathologists. If you have not had the pleasure, let's chat. They are amazing. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.


Children learn through play. It is their primary occupation {don't worry, we DID learn that in school!} One of the most influential ways we can effect a child's cognitive development during those early months is to maximize our communication with "one step commands" and link them to action. Let me explain


When your baby hits about 8 months old, they start playing with covering their face, or hiding behind the couch, popping back out looking for a massive reaction from you! Peekaboo! Your face lights up at the cuteness overload, they smile, and they learn "wow, mom thinks that is fun, let's do it again!" It is cause and effect. It is learning action produces reaction & engagement with my most important world - mom.


While this isn't their first exposure to cause and effect (that begins at birth) it is one of those first extremely gratifying milestones we note in the momma records. From here, play explodes. By 10 to 12 months your baby is ready to learn simple one step commands and connect play with motor action.


So, what does this look like? By 10-14 months, your baby will be ready to play games and connect words to action. My favorites? "Put In & Take Out" "Take Off & Put On" "Push Down" (on a lever or toy), " Close & Open" - these are all commands connected to action. When your lovely Little is pulling all of the pots & pans out of your kitchen cabinets, take a moment and look at their play.





Can you connect play to action? Can you watch them take that wooden spoon and say "put IN!" as they naturally put the spoon in the pot? Then, as they move to grab the spoon again you say "Take Out!" They smile, you beam, and your heart bursts. They are learning.


Here is the trick. Be a "sports broadcaster" when it comes to recognizing the actions of your little. Narrate and over emphasize their movements as they relate to action. The simple act of talking openly, explaining in words what is happening as they play, narrating - it will move mountains to progress a child's understanding of cause and effect as it relates to movement


So, Here are my 5 top tricks to link motor development & cognitive development


1. Narrate like you're watching your favorite sporting event {Or Desperate Housewives event}


Talk about all the things, even the happy accidents (Bob Ross... anyone?) "Look, Adi is putting the block IN the bowl. Take OUT."


2. Show them your moves!


Demonstration or "learning by watching" is such a powerful tool in teaching out littles new skills. Don't forget that demonstration coupled with narration will trigger learning in your little as they watch and hear you speak.


3. Helping Hand - Hand over Hand assist


If the happy accidents are not happening, or you want a specific motor action - give a helping hand. Use your hand over your child's hand to guide them through the activity (While also narrating, of course! Sensing a theme yet? Talk about all the things!) This works great early on with "PUSH down" on the shiny toy or "OPEN the box" or "TURN the page." Using your hand to help your little will communicate action with command.


4. Start big and move small


Provide them with the easiest opportunity for success. Learning to "take out?" Make sure to use a large box or bowl to minimize navigational challenges! Same with "putting in." A large open target is hard to miss. Once your little has solidified the connection you can make it progressively more challenging until they are pro's.


5. Gestures count too!


Waving bye bye, blowing kisses, baby sign language - the concepts are all the same. Narrate, demonstrate, & assist! My fav baby signs to start early on are "more" and "all done!" I find them really helpful for early communication during meal time!



#motordevelopment #play #letthembelittle #Cognitivedevelopment

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