Play is good. What do kids play with? Toys. Play & toys teach kids how to explore and interact with their environment. Play develops a range of skills: problem solving, movement, language, social skills, motor skills (fine and gross), how to explore their senses (sound, vision, touch, smell, taste) and thinking. Just to name a few!
Children learn by doing. So, how can we support this?
Before we can decide what they should play with, we need to understand their development milestones at this time and build off of that information.
Birth to 6 months of age:
- Language, Cognition, & Hearing: Children are beginning to make noises, smile and laugh.
- You can support this by mimicking their noises and facial expressions.
- Have them look into a mirror.
- Use musical toys and instruments.
- Sing to them. Talk to them. Read to them.
- Vision: Up to about 3 months of age, babies are near sighted so they hold toys closer to their faces. Babies should begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things at around three months of age. They are attempting to use their vision to explore objects, you and their environment. Children begin seeing an array of colors by 3 months of age.
- Consider using brightly colored toys with lights on them.
- Fine Motor Skills and Textures: They are beginning to use their hands to reach, grip and explore objects.
- Use different textures such as feel-and-learn books and crunchy/foil paper (I like to use foil balloons or pompoms).
- O-balls are really easy to grip.
- Dangling toys encourage them to reach up and grab.
- Along with their hands, remember to let them explore with their feet, face and the rest of their body.
- Gross Motor Skills & Movement: They are beginning to roll, lie on their side, lie on tummies and sit by themselves.
- The best way to promote development is lots of floor time.
- Help children roll to the side and provide support behind them.
- Tummy time can start with their chest propped up on a boppy pillow and then advance to flat on the floor.
- Begin sitting activities by having them sit in your lap, in a corner of the couch, or with cushions or a boppy pillow around them.
- Remember to always supervise child during floor time play.
- Taste and Teething: They are exploring things with their mouths.
- Consider a vibrating teether or teething rings.
Blocks are very similar and can do a lot. Think simple and be creative!