It can be daunting to come up with infant classroom ideas. There are so many ways babies learn, and so many things to teach them! One of the most universal things educators can work with is problem solving activities for infants. Problem solving strategies can be introduced to children pretty early, usually starting around 6 months. These activities can apply to universal problem solving—determining that individual actions can effect and fix problems—or specific problem solving like communicating with a caregiver. Cognitive activities for infants build these skills and pave the way for effective problem-solving abilities later in life.
There are several books that focus on puzzles for babies. One of them is Jackie Silberg’s 125 Brain Games for Babies. This book serves as an excellent resource for parents and educators seeking advice on how best to engage with their children. Below are a few brain activities for babies that provide a foundation for problem-solving skills.
Pick Up, Throw Down
Infants are very observant. They notice when two things happen close together and strive to make a connection. When babies begin to hold and drop things, they notice if people stop to pick them up.
What to Do:
- Sit your baby in her high chair and give her several large toys to play with. Play with her and talk about the toy’s texture, what they are, and how they look
- After a while, drop one of the toys on the floor. Draw your baby’s attention to it by saying “Uh oh” or “Where did the rattle go?”
- Bend down and pick up the toy. Do this a few other times if your baby has not yet caught on
- When your baby drops or throws one of the toys on the ground, immediately pick it up and give it back to her. Over time, you can encourage her to point or vocalize to tell you where the toy is
Seek and Find
Once infants discover object permanence, a whole array of problem-solving opportunities open up. This activity facilitates that knowledge by encouraging babies to look for an object they can hear but not see.
What to Do:
- Find a wind-up clock that makes a ticking noise. Hold it up in front of your baby and say a little tick-tock rhyme, such as: “Tick tock, tick tock / Goes the clock / Tick tock”
- After a few moments, cover the clock with a scarf, blanket, or towel. Ask your baby where the tick-tock went
- Encourage your child to locate the clock using the sound it makes. When he pulls on the scarf, reveal the clock and say “Hooray!”
- Practice the game a bit more until your baby gets the hang of it. For an added challenge, move the clock to different places that your child can crawl towards
One-piece puzzles help build motor skills as well as problem solving. Infants have to use trial and error as they attempt to figure out which way the piece fits inside the puzzle.
What to Do:
- Provide your baby with a simple one-piece puzzle with a wooden knob for them to grasp
- Talk to your baby as she tries to put the piece in its place. Ask her what she is doing and periodically turn the puzzle board slightly to help her put the piece in
- When your baby finally puts the piece in the puzzle, celebrate with clapping and praise