Baby’s Playtime by Tessa Litttle
My six-month-old daughter wakes up most mornings with a look in her eye that says ‘I am ready to play!’. Pre-coffee, I tend not to always share her enthusiasm. We attend a variety of playgroups and baby classes but as these are only for short periods, there is a need to have activities that will stimulate her development at home. If you’re like me, you may not always feel confident that you are doing a good job of ensuring that baby’s playtime activities at home keep her entertained or give her enough to do when she is playing on her own. You will be pleased to know that helping your baby develop through the important medium of play may be easier than you think.
Your baby’s playtime can begin from birth with the most important ‘toy’ being you. Your little one will begin learning about the big wide world (and as a lovely big bonus get comfort and security) when you play with him or her by talking, reading stories, singing, smiling, laughing and touching. Your baby will have zero comprehension of what you are saying but will find enjoyment in the sound of your voice and your facial expression. You don’t have to worry about doing it ‘wrong’ and it is the way that you and baby learn about each other. The best thing is that you don’t have to box yourself into a specific time or place since baby’s playtime can happen at any time: bath time, feeding time, nappy change time. Anytime you spend with your baby can be turned into an opportunity to bond, smile and learn.
When you are ready to introduce toys, always choose ones that are age-appropriate. Newborns see black and white more distinctly than other colours so you can choose soft toys such as fabric sensory blocks or books that have black and white patterns. These toys can be used part of your playtime with baby. Engage your baby by telling them what they are looking at and as you do so you will be building the foundations for speech.
As your baby develops coordination and muscle strength, you can be part of the baby’s playtime by holding your baby on your lap as you play with toys together. As your little one learns to sit, you can use a nursing pillow or cushions to support them while you sit facing them during playtime. You can show him how to shake a rattle or you can hide toys under a blanket, ramp up excitement levels (where have those toys gone?), then remove the blanket for the big reveal!
For older babies who are crawling or even walking, your baby’s playtime is an excellent opportunity for them to get even more involved in playing. Roll a ball to your baby and encourage her to roll it back to you. Build towers out of blocks and enjoy knocking them down. Have your baby turn the pages of the book. The possibilities are endless.
During baby’s playtime, one of the best perks for adults is that you can be as silly as you want and you won’t get judged. In baby land, silliness=laughs (or in my case the occasional look that says “What is mummy going on about?”)! Enjoy the freedom of making up ridiculous songs, pulling funny faces or just having a dance with your baby.
It is equally important for babies to learn to spend time playing on their own as it allows them to explore at their own pace and without overstimulation. Dare I say, it is also a great opportunity for you to put your feet up for five minutes.
A baby left on their own will discover the art of chatting to themselves, realize how great their toes taste or take the time to explore toys. This sets the foundation for an older child who does not need to always have someone entertain them.
Toys that were used when the baby was a newborn can get a new lease of life as older babies use them in independent play. Before you had to hold the toy but now your growing baby can grab, pick up, chew or stack.
Safety during Baby’s Playtime
When encouraging your little one to play on her own one very important factor to consider is your baby’s safety. Ensure toys are suitable for your baby’s age, have no loose parts on which your baby can choke and no sharp edges. For battery-operated toys, make sure that your baby cannot pull the batteries out.
Baby’s playtime is only fun when your baby is enjoying it so check your baby often to make sure they are not hungry, tired or otherwise uncomfortable. Do not force a crying or agitated baby to continue playing.
Lastly, create a safe place that your baby can play. A firm but cushioned surface will help protect against harm when they inevitably topple/fall over. You can acquire a good quality playmat or a thick blanket and this will take you through from birth till toddling.
The months fly by so remember to make the most of the time you spend with your little one.