Since having Baby D I feel like I’m learning so many things all at once. Now that I have figured out how to organise his play and learning things I now feel more in control and don’t feel as consumed by all his stuff. Only now I am starting to put my teaching skills to good use and treating the area like I would any other learning environment.
This is what has worked for me and my family but we are all different so you can use and adapt these suggestions to fit with what you are comfortable with.
If there is one thing I would suggest for any size of house or play area it is to stream the inputs, by that I mean you don’t want to cram as much stuff as possible into the one place for baby to play. Like adults babies need time and space to process what is going on, by only selecting a few things at once and building up babies will learn how to play with individual things and then start combining play things and areas.
You still want to offer lots of variety so that baby doesn’t get bored. I also like to vary the position Baby D is in too, I always ensure there are standing/walking toys, sitting toys and toys that he can move with or chase.
I’ve found that by creating ready-made play baskets and tubs I can easily swap things around during the day. By doing this it makes his play areas portable so that I can put his things anywhere in the house and he is happy to sit and play for a while at least. I would suggest if you are setting out little areas three or four is more than enough if baby is moving around each station on their own.
To start with babies are quite happy lying on their playmats most of the time, I don’t think I really appreciated this stage enough. When Baby D was pre-crawling he spent ages on hit mat. Again you still need to vary the input and keep it fairly minimal. I always gave him books- he played with his soft books and I read him his hard books either lying side by side, on our tummies or when he began sitting up we curled up together to read. I always had something that made a noise that I could either use or Baby D held- this again can be a baby to or simply a bottle or tub with pasta in it. I also liked to vary the textures- lots of different things for tiny fingers to touch. Baby D loved to lie on his play mat with wrist rattles on and shake away for ages. We also spent ages singing songs and telling silly stories.
Now Baby D gets lots of unstructured play with his toys on his playmat. Although now that Baby D is crawling he never spends a long time on his mat. I put toys like shape sorters, balls and stacking rings. These toys are fairly flexible and allow Baby D to get creative, this mostly involves him smashing everything together to make a noise and then inevitably a big muddle!
Reading areas are a must whenever you set up any play area, long before children can read they can explore different parts of the book, practise turning pages and make up stories about what they can see in the pictures. In every book area I always stand at least some of the books up, this is very inviting and encourages children to come and explore.
In Baby D’s room we have set up a little reading nook. This was actually really easy and cheap to do. We bought photo ledges from IKEA and attached them to the wall ensuring there was a really low shelf for Baby D to reach. Then we used the bookshelf he already had for his larger books, this will grow with him and he can access this when he is older. We added a nice soft rug and some pillows to make the area nice and inviting.
In the living room I simply have a little tray or corner with a few books standing up. Baby D always goes for the books at some point.
Books are also so easy to transport so I always have one packed in the Nappy Bag wherever we go.
We have had lots of these now varying from lots of different things in the same colour but with different textures to themed tubs such as ‘Under the Sea’ or ‘On the Farm’. These are really easy to make up you just pick a theme and cater for all the senses. Think about things that make different noises, have different textures, smells etc. Again don’t overload the tubs or baby quickly becomes overwhelmed and actually loses interest quicker.
These are also lots of fun and we’ve only just started experimenting with them recently but you can start as early as you like. The idea is to fill them with lots of different objects for baby to discover. Just now we have lots of kitchen items like ladles, spoons, pots, scrubbing brushes etc. So long as you supervise baby closely you can put almost any baby safe objects in the basket. Think again about appealing to the senses.
Baby D loves his musical instruments. We have the instruments out pretty much every day. We have a wide variety of instruments including homemade instruments such as pasta shakers and rice boxes, baby instruments such as rattles and bells to actual tambourines. Baby D loves a good boogey too so we often play music for him to enjoy, again he loves a wide variety, he loves instrumental, classical, nursery rhymes and lots of bands Mummy and Daddy like too. I often put instruments in Baby D’s sensory tubs too.
Baby D loves to knock over big towers, little towers, wide towers, pretty much any structure you build with his blocks he will knock over. We have different types too plastic, material and touchy feely. Sometimes I’ll build something for him to knock over or other times I’ll leave the blocks in the tub for Baby D to explore.
This is usually always contained on his Tuff Tray, a wonderful invention that keeps the mess (mostly) on the tray. Again we like to keep this fairly minimal but vary the contents each time. We love a rice crispy tray with pots and spoons. Baby D loves to have a good splash so we sometimes have water, we sometimes put bath toys, cups and anything that Baby D can have fun splashing with.
Ball Pit Pandemonium
This is a great way to tire baby out, especially on rainy days. Baby D got a ball pit for Christmas that he adores. To make it more interesting I like to put little treasures in the ball pit for him to find. Some are very obvious- a favourite toy and some are more subtle like textured balls and chime balls. Baby D got fairly confident manoeuvering around whilst playing in his ball pit. As he gets older we’ll start to introduce more sorting games etc.
I have mainly focused on play areas within the house and how I create play spaces using Baby D’s toys and household items. Baby D also spends lots of time exploring either cruising the furniture, crawling or walking using his push along walker.
I am always open to new ideas and ways of organising things. Please feel free to share how you organise your play spaces.
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