It feels like weeks have been packed into the past couple of days here at my house. As out baby girl (2 years old) doesn’t go to school yet, she hasn’t really noticed that much different is going on, but I’m already starting to feel restricted. I spend all day every day working with kids of all ages, but when it comes to my own it feels like she’s already seen all of my tricks, and the things that I show her aren’t as enriching as they could have been.
For babies too, it can be hard to figure out how to entertain them. Their abilities are limited, and the amount of toys that we have to give them that would be safe for them to play with, and basic enough for them to interact with, can be restricting. It’s important to remember that kids are creative, and finding new ways to play with old toys is a great way to stretch both of your minds.
Babies are naturally fascinated by the world around them, because there is so much of it that they haven’t gotten to experience yet. When trying to come up with ideas for babies, I try to focus on some specific elements in their toys and environments, including:
- Bright Colors
- Repetitive Shapes and patterns
- Unique Textures & Sounds
- Safety (Especially for Tasting…)
A large box to sit inside of, or a cozy blanket on the floor creates a great space for you and your child to explore the items that you’ve chosen. Boxes are great for coloring, pretending, and so much more, even as the kids get bigger, but they also provide a space that will limit distractions, letting the baby focus on exactly what you want them too. Blankets are nice because they can be soft or silky, bringing a sensory element to the party at the very earliest stage. in either case, you can surround the baby with objects and let them explore each one.
My go-to activities with babies tends to be providing them with objects stacked on top of one another, whether it is a toy that was designed that way or not. I think this is because I have so much fun stacking them, and it gives children the opportunity to have fun “un-stacking” them.
Blocks are a great early learning activity because they teach children about balance, utilize fine motor skills, and give them an attainable goal to reach for (like the tower or house they are trying to build.) Block activities are also super easy for parents and caregivers to expand on in a multitude of ways.
- Discuss the Color, Size, Shape etc. of each block as it gets added to the tower.
- Ask the Child if they can stretch really really tall like a tower, or curl up really really squat like a house.
- Compare the sounds blocks make as they fall and hit each other, the carpet, hardwood floors, kitchen pots, etc.
Sorting Activities are also great fun, and can be done with virtually any toys that you already have in your house. Sorting is a great activity because it teaches kids to draw comparisons about their objects, and can get more complex as the kids get older. Our Etsy shop currently has one sorting game up for grabs, and more will continue to be added in the future (Most likely when we can get out for a materials run again…) Some elements to sort by for beginners could include:
This last picture started out as a texture activity, before the baby girl turned it into a sorting activity. While it is hard to show the texture of these objects, there is a foam sheet, a paper sheet, and a felt sheet. We surrounded her with the objects so she could touch them, scratch them, crinkle them, etc and learn about different sounds and feelings. We’ve been doing a lot of sorting activities lately, so she tried that instead, but we will give it another go soon.
Sound is another element that is tons of fun for babies. Almost all objects can be knocked together to make sounds if you don’t possess any instruments. A good way to demonstrate this is to spread objects out on a blanket and show the baby a few of the sounds. They are likely to want to try to recreate the sound on their own.
Studies also suggest that early exposure to music will help children with academic skills later on in life.We listen to a lot of music in our house, because the benefits are practically endless. C loves to play the piano, but we are holding off on lessons until she is older. We want her to simply enjoy it for now. We also play music throughout the day while we are home. She has dance parties to kids music every day before nap-time, but also listens to classical music, e-books, natural sounds, etc.
The baby stage is also when Children learn object permanence, and their sense of self, which is all technical language for “I’m the baby in the mirror, and my stuff still exists if i put it somewhere out of sight.” Encourage your baby to watch you crawl in and out of forts, walk behind walls and back again, and put toys inside of toilet paper tubes and let them roll back out. If you have a children’s mirror its great to set it within their view while they are playing, even if it isn’t the main focus, so that they can see themselves and their objects at new angles.
And for my final trick, anything that is both messy and edible will be a huge success. Adding a drop of food coloring to some yogurt and letting them smear it around their high-chair tray will create tons of taste-safe joy for them, and some super-adorable Instagram content for you. You can even include more than one color, allowing them to move and mix.
When you’ve exhausted all of these options, check out our earlier post about sensory boxes for more great ideas, and remember than sensory play doesn’t have to happen in a box. Laying in the grass could be wildly sensory for a baby, as could the bathtub.
We’ll be trying to stay active on social media during all of this chaos and have shifted our focus to finding new ways to play and learn with the items we already have in our home.
Thanks for reading, we hope you survive, stay safe, wash your hands, and stay in touch!