Routine. I am not too strict on having an hourly schedule like in the classroom. The only things that are set in stone are nap times, other than that we play it by ear. Having flexibility in your schedule is the benefit of being a stay at home mom and a necessity when there’s also laundry to do, dinners to make, etc. We are not schedulers but we are big on daily routines. For example, in the morning my daughter watches Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at 7am while I unload the dishwasher and make breakfast. And then the cartoons stay off until 5pm. Another routine is meal time. We sit at the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also include cues like saying “all done” and doing the sign for her when we are done with an activity or meal. Having set routines is a way of teaching your child what’s next and what to expect for her day. My 10 month old daughter now knows how to wash her hands because we do it before every meal and I sing her a little song along with it. I put the soap on her hand and she will scrub and rinse!
Activities. Even at a young age, infants can enjoy educational and explorative activities. We have free play and structured play. There are certain toys I save especially for activity time, like Legos and her music set. I will pull out the basket and play on the floor with her, teaching her things along the way. We use her Legos to practice colors, stacking, sorting, etc. She also gets lots of free play with her toys. I try to only give her a small selection at a time to keep her from getting overwhelmed and bored with always having access to all her toys. Additionally, I try to include a special and new activity once a week. Pinterest is a good place to look for ideas and I have a special board just for infant activity ideas.
Reading and Singing. I try to recreate circle time at home. I will pull out all her books and let her choose which ones she wants me to read. We will read them over and over again; believe me I have them memorized. I try to do this at least twice a day, usually before nap times. Reading can teach colors, numbers, and animal noises. My daughter has mastered the noises for sheep, horse and cow thanks to her two favorite board books Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? and Moo, Baa, La La La. We sing and dance a lot too. We have a variety of music on for most of the day that we sing and dance to but I also like to sing the traditional children’s songs to her. If it has hand gestures to go along with it, even better. Her favorite right now is Five Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed.
Outside Play. Even the infants have recess at early childcare centers. As long as the weather is compliant, my daughter and I go outside every day. We go for walks with the dog, runs in the jogging stroller and we always stop at the park. I started pushing her in the swing as soon as she could sit up. And we have just recently tried going down the big slide, which produced the biggest smile. I think I have a dare devil on my hands. She also enjoys watching the older kids run around the park and waves at them. My daughter absolutely loves being outside, even if we are just sitting on the front porch.
Socialize. When children attend childcare centers they learn to share and play with others. I try to recreate as many of the educational aspects of an early childcare classroom in my home and this one should not be excluded. When it is just me and her I emphasize sharing and taking turns. I also schedule play dates with friends of mine who have kids around the same age once a week. This is also fun for mom; while the kids are playing, enjoy interacting with someone who can actually hold a conversation!