This is the thing I always find the most challenging with any of our playtimes – how to involve little baby F whilst still challenging the older two? L and N are old enough to enjoy the same activities and even (shh, don’t jinx it!) co-operate on occasion. I don’t want little F to be watching from the sidelines – she is 8 months old now, and old enough to want a part of the action. And she is so delighted to be included.
Babies love, and need to investigate new materials. they need to explore them with their senses, find out what they do, how they feel, as a part of working out how the world around them works.
So this is how we have helped F to join in some of our playtimes recently. Some of these ideas have been included in previous posts but I still thought it might be worth putting them all together in one post.
While big brother and sister made paper snowflakes, F played with paper. We started with the offcuts of the snowflakes, then gave her crepe paper and card for some different textures. She enjoyed crinkling, ripping, banging, rubbing, and generally exploring.
To involve F in our Christmas preparations, we have put together a collection of Christmas things which act as a very basic sensory tub for her to explore. It includes:
- a felt stocking with a textured snowman
- our winter themed discovery bottle
- Some shiny baubles
- A length of tinsel
- A plastic Christmas mug
- A wooden spoon (for Christmas baking)
- A ribbon from our wrapping box
- Some wrapping paper
She has also played with pom-poms, coloured sparkly pasta beads, and glittery pipecleaners.
F has very recently enjoyed being given a lump of play dough to investigate, whilst big brother and sister are busy using it in their own play. Here, she is exploring play dough whilst N plays tea parties. F enjoyed the tools as much as the dough – we gave her cutters (plastic, not sharp), a small wooden rolling pin, and a chef’s hat to make her part of the game.
Sometimes, it pays to be creative, and since F doesn’t like playing with ice (brother and sister have spent a lot of time investigating ice this winter), she has preferred exploring winter hats and scarves.
Plenty of “touch and feel” type books in our Christmas book box have ensured that it is just as much for F as the other two. Our favourites are That’s Not My Snowman and The Usborne Touchy Feely Nativity.
It’s worth mentioning that babies are never too young to enjoy a good story. Even when they can’t follow the story, they still seem to love the attention and the rhythm of the words. By now, F is old enough to explore and investigate books, and enjoy pictures too, so board books with bold or textured illustrations are perfect – but she still enjoys listening to longer stories, even though she will not understand the content for a while. L and N enjoy reading to her too, and I think it is a great way of involving her, to involve the older ones in looking after her and teaching her.
Nature walks are another activity that can be enjoyed by all ages – F just loves being out in the fresh air, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, but I especially like getting her out of her pushchair to play, letting her explore the surroundings freely just like the others can (which is why a warm, waterproof suit is a must!)
Indoors, whilst we played and learned about the Autumn, F played with leaves, and investigated her own pumpkin:
While we read Flat Stanley and made our own Stanleys to send off around the country, F investigated a range of flat objects:
While we painted, she made handprints:
While we made music, she joined in with rattles, bottles of dried pasta, jingle bells, and a xylophone:
When we learned about the water cycle, F played with some coloured water:
And she loves to get in on the action with themed sensory baths – the bath is another great leveller in terms of play, with all three children being entertained and playing at their own level.
I think the golden rule with babies is that doing something is better than doing nothing – getting them out of their pram or sling, encouraging them to get active and interact with their environment, including them in the family’s activities rather than carrying them around as a passive observer – well, that is the valuable thing, and all experience is a learning one when you’re this tiny. A tiny bit of extra thought to including F in our playtimes has made the whole juggling act much easier and meant that we are all focused on the same thing rather than my having t6o divide my attention between different activities. I also think it is better for the older children to see F as a playmate rather than an unwelcome interruption to their activities, and better for her self esteem too! And also, we’ve all had a lot of fun!