Babies and toddlers need early learning experiences for emotional, social and intellectual development. But formal classes and activities that push a baby to learn concepts before they are ready do not help their development, according to the Baby Center. The best infant activities involve play and often are sensory in nature. Babies are stimulated by their senses of sight, touch and smell to play and explore the world around them. You can develop your own crafts to create age-appropriate educational activities for babies aged zero to 18 months.
Natural Leaf Mobile
Newborn babies up to 3 months old are developing their ability to visually focus, so good activities for babies at this age are visual in nature. While you are outside, collect leaves in a variety of bright colours, shapes and sizes. You can tape the leaves by the stem to the sunshade on your baby's stroller to make a natural mobile as the leaves twirl and spin in the breeze.
Paper Towel Tube Talk
Even before your baby can utter a word, she is developing her sense of speech through listening to the sounds around her. Use the centre tube from a roll of paper towels to create a listening game with your baby. This exercise is especially good for babies aged four weeks to four months. Place the tube close to the baby's ear and whisper into it. Move the tube to the other ear and whisper something else. Simple phrases, like "I love you," are best. Let the baby see your lips while you whisper if she appears confused about the source of the sound.
Rattles for Rhythm
To help babies 6 to 15 months develop their fine motor skills, use empty film canisters, yoghurt cups, plastic containers or empty milk cartons to create your own noisemakers. Fill the containers with rice, macaroni, beans or a mixture of items that will create sound and seal the container tightly with tape. Seal one end of a toilet paper cardboard tube, fill with the noisemaking material of your choice, then seal the other end to make an easy-to-hold rattle. You can use brightly coloured construction paper to decorate if you choose.
Baby Lava Lamp
You can create your own baby bubble bottle to help the baby six months old and older develop dexterity and a sense of colour. Get a clear plastic water or soda bottle with a tight-fitting lid, water, vegetable oil, food colouring, and a seltzer tablet. Fill the bottle three-quarters full with vegetable oil and add water to just below the top. Add 10 to 12 drops of food colouring. Break the seltzer tablet into small pieces. Drop a piece into the bottle, seal the top tightly and let the baby enjoy watching the bubbles. Older babies will often reach for and handle the bottle, which will stimulate dexterity. When the bubbles stop, open the top and drop in another piece of seltzer to create more bubbles.
To entertain and engage babies 11 months and older, all you need are some inexpensive paintbrushes and a bowl of water. Set your baby up outside with paintbrushes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Encourage the baby to paint a wall or the concrete. Show him how to make patterns, draw circles, or allow him to "paint" an object. If the baby is too young to handle the brushes, just dip his hands directly in the water and allow him to make hand prints or patterns with his hands. Always closely supervise your infant whenever he is around water, as a child can drown in as little as an inch of liquid.