By Mary Lynch
It is an interesting time to say the least. Many families are faced with a change in their reality and this doesn’t just go for adults and school age children but the youngest members of our community as well. During normal days many infants get to interact with other babies in a child care setting, or they attend mom and baby classes. Maybe they are at home with a nanny or they are out and about running errands with a parent. Maybe they get to spend time with a grandparent or other family member while their primary caregiver is at work. Whatever the case may be it is safe to say that many infants are probably not getting the opportunity to have their typical level of social interaction.
While working from home, and homeschooling older children it is important to remember that the infants in our lives still need engagement and stimulus. In the first year of life an infant’s brain is growing exponentially. What a great time to initiate play and get those little neurons fired up! Play is the work of children. Even our youngest infants have the right to play, learn and be inspired.
Luckily you don’t need any fancy toys or gadgets to play with your baby. Everyday household items work great. Here are some general guidelines for choosing materials to offer to your baby.
- Choose items that are large enough to fit through a paper towel tube to ensure that your child will not choke.
- Choose items that will not break off if your child puts the object in their mouth.
- Choose items that can be cleaned both before and after your child uses them.
Engage with your baby while they are exploring the materials. Even if your baby can’t talk they can have a conversation with you and with the object they are exploring. Ask questions! “Did you notice that the fabric is smooth?” “Wow! That ball rolled fast, didn’t it.” In addition to offering new materials to your infant, now is a great time to offer your baby ways to engage all of their senses. Play different types of music for your infant. Go for a walk and stop to let the wind blow through your babies hair. Freeze cups and bowls of water to create ice sculptures. Most importantly give your baby time and space to move freely! Find a safe area and put a blanket down inside or out. Of course there are times when it is safest for babies to be contained in a bouncer, swing, etc. but use these tools sparingly and only when necessary. When babies have the freedom to move their bodies I find that they often sleep better and wake less throughout the night. Use this crazy time to get to know your baby better and have fun. I have included a list of ideas below. Please feel free to add to the list. I would love to hear more ideas.
- Plastic containers of various shapes and sizes for stacking and filling
- Empty water bottles filled with small materials or colored water and sealed tight for shaking
- Trays with small amounts of water for splashing
- Large rocks
- Pieces of fabric
- Metal lids and plastic caps
- Various materials frozen in ice, or large ice cubes in various shapes and sizes
- Balls of various shapes and sizes
- Laminated photos of family and friends
- Empty and washed out bottles of assorted sizes
- Large cardboard tubes or pieces of plastic that can be used as ramps or tunnels for cars and balls.
- Materials of various sizes placed in the sun to create shadows
- Sock puppets
- Non-toxic paint and large paper on the ground
- Freeze water and food coloring in ice cube trays to create paint
- Homemade or store bought musical instruments
- Large blankets and flashlights to create a fort
- Invite love ones to facetime with babies to read books or sing songs