How do I offer play for a baby?

Babies don’t play in the traditional sense of what we perceive play to be but offering playtime is just as important for babies as it is for toddlers & children’s learning & development. Through playtime children get to explore & learn about their bodies, abilities & the world around them & we can start offering opportunities from the day we bring them home from hospital (or realistically when we start to feel up to it from our postpartum recovery!)

With playtime for babies we have to be mindful that it is very stimulating & they will only tolerate if for a short time, so don’t expect that an activity will last 10-20 minutes as realistically it will be 1-2 minutes or maybe up to 5 minutes as they get a little older. Even 1-year olds only tend to have an average attention span of 2-5 minutes.

Once they have had enough, take them to a quiet room for a snuggle & they will likely want a little nap & maybe a feed or snack. Also don’t feel the need to provide constant activities, especially in the early days enjoy those snuggles as they are harder to snatch as they get older.

However, for when you do want to offer playtime at home here are 10 activities that you can do with your little one which are simple, quick to set up & great fun.

1. Balloon fun - bounce them, squish them, play balloon tennis, keep them off the ground, the possibilities are endless. A great activity to encourage little ones on the move, chasing the balloons around the room & perfect to play with older siblings.

2. DIY Musical Instruments - make lots of noise with banging saucepans with spoons or shaking rice in a bottle.

3. Fork Painting - Using either plastic or metal forks - dip the end into paint on a plate then stamp onto your paper. For younger ones, concentrate on making marks & patterns with the colours but older ones could use the forks to make flower heads.

4. Hide & Seek - Peek a boo- hide toys under a blanket or behind your back for her to look for - bring them out & say peek-a-boo.

5. Messy/Sensory Play - Enjoy different textures & smells. Ether sitting in a highchair or your lap or as tummy time with the item on a shallow tray. - Gloop, moon dough, aquafaba foam, peas, oats, playdough.

6. Post Box - You will need a large tub or box with a slot cut in the top or side & a deck of cards, encourage your little one to post the cards through.

7. Scarf Pull - Cut a hole in the lid of a container & tie scarves together, place them inside & encourage your little one to pull them out.

8. Song Sack - enjoy singing some nursery rhymes with a song sack - place objects for cards inside a bag which relate to a nursery rhyme, pull one out & sing the songs. For Example: Bus - Wheels on The Bus, Cow - Old MacDonald, Star - Twinkle Twinkle

9. Sticky Mural – Using Sticky Back Plastic let your little one explore & stick different pieces such as feather, felt, foam shapes or paper on.

10. Water Play - Ball Scoop - Either in the bath or a large tub of water, fill with the coloured plastic balls & use a large spoon or ladle to scoop & collect them up. For tiny ones, let them scoop them up with their hands.

I hope you enjoy all of the ideas with your little one & for more ideas & inspiration you can join my FREE Facebook group.

Plus, if you would like to learn more about playtime & in particular how to have a rewarding playtime that doesn't end in disaster then you can sign up to my Free Masterclass on My Guide To A Stress Free & Happier Playtime on Thursday 12th October at 8pm.

Karen Sidell – Early Years Practiti

oner & Founder of It’s Playtime Tots