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TINY LOVE: It’s Not Child’s Play: How to Make Playtime Meaningful for Baby and You

When your baby is given a new toy and you are excited for some quality time to spend with them, many parents aren’t sure how to create a pleasant and supportive play environment or how to interest and stimulate a baby’s curiosity. Creating the appropriate play environment for them will depend on their age and development. Start by listening to your intuition and becoming familiar with your baby’s developmental stages, so you can adapt your play to their changing needs. The following are some basics to aid you in gaining maximum enjoyment from your play time together.

The More They Grow, the More Active They Become

After several months, your baby will learn to control and direct their movements and they become more active in their games with you. At about five months, you’ll notice that they are no longer satisfied with just looking at your face and hearing your voice. They are now more curious and want to examine you using all their senses. A game involving different sounds and noises, played by the two of you, will allow your baby to experience cooperation and interrelationships and to learn their body’s boundaries. This also helps them to begin developing their own identity as an individual, separate from you.

Your Busy Little Explorer

Let your baby decide when to be together with you and when to be on their own.  After the age of six months they become relentless explorers. They aren’t satisfied anymore with simply watching. They investigate every toy in every possible way: grabbing with hands, putting it in their mouth, sucking and “chewing” it and then feeling it with their fingers. They rub it, squish it and squeeze it, and throw it on the floor.  Some parents try to stop their baby from putting things into their mouth but by doing this they prevent their baby from using one of their most important investigative tools for exploring the world available to them. It is very important to allow your baby to play this way with toys and with other household objects that are safe and suitable for this kind of exploration – just make sure that the objects within their reach aren’t hazardous.

You as a Secure Base from which Your Baby Can Explore

During the final months of their first year and afterwards, you continue to have a significant role in your baby’s play. This role will sometimes be less active — the role of companion, advisor, and supporter: a secure base for your child, from which they can go out and explore while returning from time to time for encouragement and comfort when they fail or are afraid. During this period it’s important to allow your baby to act and experiment on their own, and for you not to solve all their problems. Help them, when necessary, to create a safe environment, and of course, watch closely to prevent them from hurting themselves or having serious accidents.

What about Toys?

Toys are not “just toys”, but baby’s learning aids. During the first few months, when your newborn is still totally dependent on you, and cannot yet control their movements, it is important to provide your baby with stimuli that are appropriate for their age and stage. Take a look at the Tiny Love™ 7 Developmental Wonders™ to find out which toys are appropriate for which age and what sort of skills they develop in your baby.

Tips on How to Use Toys

Show the toy to your baby: Hang it above them, placing it in front of them when they are lying on their stomach, or put it next to them. You can also pass it in front of their eyes and place it in their hand. Allow them to spend time exploring and examining the toy in their own way, at their own pace: Sometimes, they will stare at the toy for a long while before trying to touch it or play with it. Don’t overwhelm them with stimuli: Give them one toy at a time and try to remove unnecessary stimuli from the area. When they lose interest in that toy, you can give them another one. Let your baby choose and decide what to do with the toy. One toy, many uses: Over and above the specific task of a certain toy, it still has infinite, creative uses for your baby to try. Remember that each action or experience has developmental value. Don’t try to constantly direct baby towards specific actions that interest you, they will get the message, directly or indirectly, that what they are doing is wrong and may develop feelings of failure.

Let your baby decide when to be together with you and when to be on their own. Your baby needs to spend some time to learn on their own, freely, without your help. It allows them to learn about themselves, to learn to solve problems and develop independence.

Helping Baby Broaden Their Experiences

At this stage it’s possible to offer your baby more than one toy at a time, but it’s also important not to overwhelm them with stimuli. Make an effort to get to know your baby well and to broaden their experiences or to notice the stimuli that they spontaneously turn to. Express this experience in words. Describe what they are doing, expand on what they are doing and try to associate it with other experiences that they’re already familiar with.

For more resources on the specific Tiny Love™ 7 Developmental Wonders™ and to see what toys are available visit the Tiny Love page.

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