Looking for ways to keep your baby engaged just before mealtime? Try these five low-prep ideas to boost learning.
- Measuring cup scoop and splash. Give your cutie a plastic measuring cup and two small plastic bowls or containers, one partially filled with water. He’ll love scooping the H2O and moving it from one container to the other. (Ignore the mess for now—you can clean up later.) Variation: Use yogurt, rice, or uncooked oatmeal instead of water. Let him try scooping with kitchen spoons for a bigger challenge.
- Pot and pan symphony. Hand over a few pieces of unbreakable cookware and a couple of spoons for your baby to bang or drum noisily. Plastic containers half-filled with dry cereal make merry maracas (don’t forget to tape lids shut). Encourage your tiny musician to perform a capella, or flip on soft background music for an orchestral experience.
- Ice block skating rink. Fill a small plastic deli container with water, freeze it, and then ease it out of the container. Place the ice on a high chair tray and help your baby turn his tabletop into a slip-and-slide surface. (Small pieces of ice can be a choking hazard.) For even more fun, add food coloring to the pools of water as the ice melts, or use 2-parts water with 3-parts cornstarch to make a goo your baby can moosh.
- Baby kitchen duty. Give your budding scientist a fresh sponge dipped in a little water. Demonstrate how to squeeze and squish the sponge and how to “wash” the high chair tray. Add a drop of baby bath soap to the sponge (and a bit more water) for some bubbly fun, as long as your little one is past the mouthing phase.
- Edible mix and sort. Spill a handful of different foods onto the tray for baby to sort or group together. Super-soft canned beans, boiled pasta, room-temperature steamed veggies, and tiny pieces of cooked or mushy fruit have interesting colors and textures. Name the foods and describe differences, or challenge an older baby to sort by shape or color.