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Allowing our young children the opportunity to make a choice allows them to communicate, and also allows them to feel a sense of empowerment. During the corresponding podcast, Routines & Rituals, I talked a bit about using visuals to aid in choice-making opportunities:
"Today, we can sing one that we probably all know, Old MacDonald, but I want to suggest that you try something you may not already have thought about. Using photos, stuffed animals, animal figurines, peg puzzle pieces, or puppets, offer your baby a choice between two animals at a time by holding them up in front of her face. Based on her gaze (it might linger on one for longer), or her gesture (she might reach, grab, swat at, or move toward one), reinforce what she communicates to you by singing about that animal! I’ll lead the song and provide some ideas for what you might say when you do this at home."
To make your own animal images, here are some ideas:
- A search engine and printer, OR old magazines/catalogues/books/wrapping paper you're willing to cut up OR pre-made images such as those found below - ensure that your baby can really see the image (should be at least 2 or 3 inches for young babies)
- Protective sheet protectors or more durable reinforcement (cardstock or individually sized cardboard from an old box + tape)
- ALTERNATIVELY, use puzzle pieces! Peg puzzles such as the one below are often a good size, very clear graphics and easy for your baby to grasp (and safe to mouth)
- Find the images you desire and print or cut them out, as the case may be.
- Affix them to the reinforced surface that works best for you!
- When you offer them, hold them up two at a time for your baby, far enough apart that you can see your baby distinctly looking at each one and close enough for your baby to be able to move toward / reach either one.
- Based on her gaze (it might linger on one for longer), or her gesture (she might reach, grab, swat at, or move toward one), reinforce what she communicates to you by singing about that animal!
- From around 4 months old, babies typically develop "binocular vision," allowing their eyes to work together and see farther than the previous 12-14 inches. Around this time, fine motor control and dexterity in the hands also tends to develop enough to allow Baby to reach and grasp (and mouth!).
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