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How to help develop your baby’s tracking skills

Visual and auditory tracking is a major development for your baby. As adults we underestimate how often we use this skill. Turning your head in the right direction when someone calls your name or following the direction of a ball during a game of tennis, we are constantly looking and listening. 
You can easily help develop these skills by having your newborn track objects and noises you make. 

When your baby is alert, try these steps to help his visual tracking skills:

  • Begin by holding black & white cards about 30cm away from your baby's eyes.
  • Wait patiently for his eyes to focus on the cards. Shaking the cards might help get their attention.
  • Move the card slowly to the left and to the right and notice if your baby is following with his eyes. This is hard work for your baby as he is still developing the muscle strength to move his eyes, so take it slow and be patient.

Visual tracking is about much more than following an object with our eyes. This skill lays the foundation for future milestones such as direct hand movements and balance as it requires control of eye movements.

With stronger neck muscles (thanks to all the tummy time) your baby might be interested in following sounds from about 4 weeks. Hearing “real-world” sounds will make stronger connections in your baby’s brain than any toy or recording making this a great activity to try outdoors. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • On a picnic blanket, have your baby on his back. Gently shake a rattle in his view before moving it slowly left or right. Notice if he follows the sound by moving his eyes in the direction of the rattle or even turning his head. As he develops, he will show more curiosity by looking at the rattle longer.
  • Flowing water is a beautiful and natural sound that can easily be recreated during bathtime. Simply pour water from one cup to another for your baby to enjoy.
  • Talk and sing to your baby! Once he locks his eyes on you, let him stare to his heart’s content. 

These activities seem simple enough, but they help your baby develop listening skills, visual tracking skills, sensory skills, motor skills, and attention span.

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