Building Problem-Solving Skills in Infants

Childproof the house or specific rooms so that your infant can move around freely and safely. If he spends too much time in a playpen, bouncy chair, or infant seat, it restricts his movement and limits his opportunities to make discoveries about the physical world. Play with your infant on the floor and encourage him to explore with his body. Place infant toys on either side of his body to encourage him to figure out how far he needs to reach to touch the toy.

Offer your child objects with a variety of textures—smooth, rough, fuzzy, soft. Children naturally explore a variety of textures, especially when crawling. Toys with simple buttons, jack-in-the-boxes, and busy boxes help teach cause-and-effect relationships, ex: If I push the button, the toy will light up. If I dump the blocks out of the bin, I will have to pick them up.

Play silly and playful back-and-forth games, encouraging your child to imitate your actions and sounds. You are your child’s best toy! If your child has difficulties with imitation, imitate what he is doing. Once he understands the game, vary your actions and sounds slightly when you respond to him, to expand the play. Remember that children are able to imitate simple actions before sounds.

  • If your child has delays in motor development:
    • Place him on his side, with a soft support behind his back to keep him from rolling backward. Encourage him toexplore materials while lying on his left side, and then on his right.
    • Place materials closer to him so he can reach them more easily. If an object is interesting, he’ll be motivated to move to explore it!
    • To get information on adaptive toys, talk to an early intervention professional or to other parents of children with motor delays. Adaptive toys are modified to make it easier for a child to manipulate them. For example, buttons may be enlarged, or a book may have Popsicle sticks attached to its pages so that a child can turn them with greater success.

    Links & Resources »References:
    Greenspan, S.I., with Breslau Lewis, N. (1999). Building Healthy Minds: The Six Experiences that Create Intelligence and Emotional Growth in Babies and Young Children. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.