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Published August 2nd 2015
Babies thrive on good old fashioned play time
Babies and toddlers under two years learn through their senses and by moving their little bodies. Any activities that enable them to use their muscles to grow strong at their own pace are necessary. Place a baby on his/her stomach and they will start to kick and try to move. They take information through the senses more at this age than any other time in their development. They like to look, to hear, to taste, then spit it out. An important sense that babies use is that of touch. Soft toys are appropriate not only for safety, but because they like to feel a variety of textures, and softness brings them warmth and comfort.
From around nine months babies who are able to support their body by sitting up and beginning to crawl will love to be introduced to these activities on a regular basis.
Babies love to roll around the floor with someone they love. Image by the writer.
WATER PLAY I have never met a baby who doesn't like bath time. Water is soothing to them as this is what they know from being in the womb for nine months. When they can stand they like to stand at a water play table and learn to pour and play with small toys in the water. A tub at chest height that they are not going to fall into is ideal. For babies who are overtired and hard to settle, put two or three drops of lavender oil in the bath before bedtime and they will be calm and relaxed, ready for sleep. Don't give any toys as the purpose is to calm down not get excited. Babies can be introduced to more water play activity such as swimming, with a swim for babies program at an indoor heated pool. When they are a little older and walking they will love to run about and touch the water play fountains in some children's playgrounds. For all activities around water very young children must have constant supervision and be within arm's reach.
Babies enjoy water play but must be constantly supervised even near very shallow water such as this. Image by Lisylia on pixabay.com.
OBSTACLE COURSE Research has shown that people of all ages can keep their brains active by negotiating how to get access to somewhere they are walking, or crawling. If the way through or across is challenging, then all the better. This activity would be fun for baby if you lay out some items across their path in the room they usually play in at home, and sit on the floor opposite them with the items in between you and the child. Items can include a pile of soft toys, some blankets piled up, some small empty packets and boxes such as grocery packets. You can make a crawling pathway space with chairs or a blanket hanging down off a table as a barrier. Toy tunnels can be purchased to climb through, or you can make one with some cardboard boxes. Hang some strips of fabric or paper at the ends so they can't see but can hear you encouraging them at the other end. Activity like this needs to be played together on the floor with your child, so join in the fun and hear them laugh with glee.
Crawling on something soft and something of a challenge is fun for babies who are learning to move their little bodies. Image by fkyj on pixabay.com
SOCIAL OCCASIONS (baby style) Yes babies are party goers, but before lunch please or after nap time. Young children cannot cope with being dragged out to evening events for adults. Take them to their own special events such as baby bounce at your local library or a weekly morning playgroup. The playgroup association in your state has a list of local playgroups near you. These are special get-togethers for under school age babies and children who attend with a parent or carer. The kids can play and learn some valuable social skills while the parents can have a chat for support and friendship. Very young children thrive by attending these activities, but allow them to settle in at their own pace. Some will just want to watch what is going on. Don't force them to do an art activity. If you join in, then they are likely to want to do what you are doing. In their world of giant adults, babies and toddlers love to be around other babies. They find security in being with little people just like them. Have you noticed the way they stare at other babies and want to be near them? They seem to have their own way of communicating. Just let them go and stand a few paces behind. They will keep an eye on you, while you are aiding in their adjustment to independence.
Playgrounds provide lots of fun for babies even though most of the equipment is too big for them. Image public domain on pixabay.com
PLAYGROUNDS Babies love to be out in the big wide world, and as soon as they discover playgrounds they will be begging you to go there as soon as they learn to speak the word. If you search around there are many playgrounds with smaller sized equipment such as baby swings with safety harness and low climbing equipment. Babies and toddlers will need the security of a parent close by at all times, and just being there seeing other children is half the fun. Keep in mind that taking a baby out to look and listen and negotiate their way around the playground they are learning all the time. All outings aids in a child's development and they learn though play.
Babies like music, songs and rhymes. Image by niekverlaan on pixabay.com
TACTILE GAMES AND SONGS
Babies love to touch and feel. This is why they reach out to feel everything, and stick their fingers in the bowl of food. Babies and toddlers absolutely love tactile games such as songs and rhymes that use fingers and hands and tickling. Ask a librarian for some books on finger plays or baby rhymes. Play games with them with soft toys and puppets. Any reading of books that involve some tickling and pointing to the parts of their bodies provides lots of learning. Make a tactile play box with different textures to feel, but be careful they are safe for the mouth. Items such as a small clean pine cone, a rough piece of carpet, some wool, fabric, feathers, something metal and cold and so on.
Another thing they love to do when a little older at the toddler stage, is get down on the floor with a parent and do some tumbles and climbing games. Kids love to climb all over you, but if you teach them it is a floor game for 10 minutes only and then time is up, they won't expect to jump all over you all the time. An important thing to learn is "game over" and the word "no" when they are getting a little rough.
So that is my roundup of favourite baby activities- water, playgrounds, obstacle course, tactile and songs and social fun with other babies. Basically if it involves exploring their body and moving or any of the senses of touch, see, smell, feel and hear then you will be providing a rich developmental learning activity. And they will think it just a load of fun.