Posts Tagged ‘toys’

Sensory Activities for Baby

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

sensory activities for babySo your baby is 3 months old now.  She seems to be ready to play and learn about her world.  But how do you play with a 3-month-old? Providing her with sensory activities each day helps her develop cognitively, begin to learn language, and gives you the opportunity to play with your baby. Initially, I was hesitant to start using sensory activities because activities that create a big mess are overwhelming to me. However with a little research, I discovered that with slight modifications, many everyday activities turn into sensory activities, becoming opportunities to play with your baby, build foundations for language development, and encourage exploration of her world.

The following are 10 activities I used with both my girls to address the five senses.

  1. Reading touch and feel books together (The That’s Not My… series are my girls’ favorite touch and feel books)
  2. Creating scent jars by filling empty spice jars with strong smelling objects (basil, orange, lemon, lavender, etc)
  3. Creating a ribbon box by attaching ribbons at the opening of an old box (one that is large enough for your baby to lay in/under)
  4. Allowing them to squish and play with their food once they start solids
  5. Providing toys that crinkle, make other sounds, and have many textures (Melissa and Doug’s Flip Fish was one of Juniper’s favorites from about 4 to 7 months old)
  6. Walking outside while talking to your baby about things you see, sounds you hear, and smells you smell
  7. Playing peek-a-boo and other songs that use scarfs
  8. Going to baby storytime and other age-appropriate mommy and me classes
  9. Looking at and making silly faces in mirrors
  10. Talking to your baby while grocery shopping about what color, shape, etc of the items you’re purchasing (sometimes I accidentally do this on solo shopping trips and get weird looks!).  In the produce section, I let my girls touch and smell the produce we intend to purchase as I’m talking about it.

Having your baby do sensory activities does not require a huge mess or a lot of prep before hand.  With little extra effort, you can maximize your baby’s opportunity to use their senses and learn about the world.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to two girls, a three year old and a one year old, in Denver, CO who enjoys cooking for her family, running, and hiking.

Minimalist Infant Toys

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Minimalist infant toysIn today’s culture of mass, cheap consumerism, it’s sometimes a challenge to go against the grain. Whether it’s because of your budget or parental and personal perspective, there is a growing trend in minimal everything, including toys.

By providing objects that foster creative play you actually provide for your child an endless array of options. Some things, whether specifically a toy or not, offer the open-ended opportunity for your child’s imagination to flourish. Fewer toys may also provide opportunities for deeper, more focused play rather than short attention to a great variety of toys. For me there is endless joy of having less clutter around the house in general. Clean up becomes less of a challenge by the mere fact that it takes much less time.

Toys are also opportunities for learning beyond the toy. Fewer toys in the home offer more opportunity for a child to cherish and appreciate something. If it is easily replaceable a child might be more careless with it. Some developmental ages may care less about this than others. Some might think fewer toys mean a child will be stingier in sharing but I’ve found fewer toys mean more storylines, role-play, and relationship with peers. To help your kiddo find more enjoyment in what they have and not how much, below are a few things, but certainly not everything, that work for us.

Flaunt what you’ve got. The kitchen is a great spot for toys that aren’t really toys. Utensils, pots, pans, and more. Nature has craft supplies (sticks and leaves, anyone?) and a variety of time-burning and learning opportunities (what shapes can you find in the clouds?).

Multi-purpose what you can. As with safe household items, everyday kid’s items also offer play opportunity. For example some teething items are also toys, blankets can become tents, and so forth.

Crafts, crafts, crafts. I do not (necessarily) mean pre-packaged crafts where you just do as the instructions say. These have their place, but so do simple paper, drawing utensils, and random things. The possibilities are endless with everything from sparkles to special papers in the craft store to a nature walk’s leaves and pages from magazines, mailers, and old birthday cards. While some of the things mentioned are for older children, even older infants can enjoy a basic color and paper.

Books. You don’t need to amass your own library, though I have found my children like to go back to some books on our bookshelf over and over. You can also establish a book exchange with friends or invest in your local public library. The trip to the library in and of itself offers the opportunity to learn about being quiet, caring for other’s property, and other aspects of responsibility. Many libraries also have story time or other child-friendly activities that spark the heart and imagination of kiddos.

Keep it simple. Investing in too many can be a bad thing. It’s great to have blocks, trains, animals, kitchen/hardware/pretend play items that can serve more than one purpose If you have so many that they overwhelm the child then you defeat the purpose of minimal toys.

Don’t forget yourself. As in, your whistles, coos, goofy faces, and general interactions all can provide your child entertainment and growth, especially for toddlers and babies. Actively playing with your kiddo with a toy can bring it to life in a whole new way.

Lynette is a mom of three children from five months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Managing Expectations Around Gifts

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Managing expectations around giftsAh, the holidays are upon us. There are the classic songs, colorful décor, and tasty treats. Let us not forget the coupon cutting, sale searching, and line waiting. We buy a handful of gifts for our kiddos. Hubby and I discuss a budget and gift ideas, which I try to follow through with before Thanksgiving comes so gifts are not on my mind during the holiday season. We live in a smaller home. I say that not to say we don’t have enough space but simply that we do not crave many toys in our home. We live somewhat simply, by choice.

When I was young, I enjoyed people asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I even flat out made a list and sent it to the man in red, without request. Now I anticipate the inevitable question from a variety of spots (grandmas, aunts, and more!) for my young kiddos. I went through phases. First I felt like I shouldn’t be giving ideas, almost telling people, what to get for my children. It felt selfish. Then I was annoyed that some people felt such need to buy, even when I knew they didn’t have a lot to spend. We’ve settled this last year on what we think is a more realistic, respectful way of balancing other people’s wants for our children and what we hope for them as well.

Keep Perspective

You can’t make other people give gifts the way you want. Everyone understands giving and chooses to do so in different ways. Share how you gift if you’d like, but don’t expect people to suddenly change years of their own beliefs around traditions, giving, and the holidays.

Recognize what you can and can’t control

You can control what you say to your children about gifts and giving. If grandma goes overboard for your children, consider encouraging them to share with others by giving some away or storing some toys away to take out throughout the year. If you receive inexpensive, easily breakable toys with a million small pieces because auntie doesn’t share your love for local, wooden toys, play with them until they break and then throw them away without guilt or donate them to begin with, encouraging a child’s giving heart. If you don’t want grandpa’s extravagant gift to upstage your smaller, hard-earned gift, focus on your giving heart and remind your child that money comes to different people in different ways and amounts. Money does not equal love. Recognize time may teach them this lesson once they grow up and reflect back on childhood, understanding it with an adult’s perspective.

Choose a different centerpiece

Don’t let gifts become the center point. If you stress so much about what others are gifting that it keeps you up at night, figure out what is underneath such a strong attachment to gifting for you. For example, if your concern is keeping up with what other families are providing for their families, remember that love is a far more valuable commodity than a bin full of toys. Perhaps you want children to focus on other aspects of the holiday season or the importance of giving, not money. Know that one day of gifts will not overshadow the other 364 days of the year that you guide them in life.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Toys for All Five Senses

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Toys for All Five SensesBaby showers and birthday parties often include a variety of toys to entertain your kiddo for hours, weeks, and even years.

Some of the most timeless toys—rattles, play mats, mirrors, balls, key rings, and hanging toys—are enduring because they thrive on the action and reaction of your babe and the toy; they are dynamic. Many of them engage most of the five senses. Sophia and Fanfan rank among the popular shower gifts these days, and Dandelion makes just about the sweetest gifts I ever want to share with new mamas; HABA creates some of the cutest and most-loved toys in our home. As our sons grow, we’re also investing more and more in Eco-Kids crafty basics.

Toys that encompass the senses, as well as those that invest time and energy in the making, are pivotal to engage your child’s whole experience. Sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch are all senses that help absorb your growing baby in the surrounding world. Every experience for a baby can be eye-opening, finger-feeling fun!

DIY toys can take moments or hours to put together but also offer unique sensory experiences. A bowl of toys or random (child-safe) kitchen items can offer the doldrums of afternoon new delights. Creating (or buying) books with ribbons, feathers, rough spots, and crackling sounds engage a baby at all levels. Include photos of family pets, family members, or common places you visit to engage a child’s memory and sight-recognition as well.

A walk down the aisles of your local home improvement store offers a variety of sensory experiences. Grab (child-safe) light switches, rope, chains, locks, and other items and thoroughly attach them to a sanded piece of plywood for a sensory board that will delight your child for months to come. Use a cardboard box to create a car with a steering wheel, switches inside, a soft cloth for the seat, and then decorate together for an afternoon that encourages multi-sensory imaginative play. As with all of these ideas, be sure what you provide your babe is lead and toxic free! Also consider what is age-appropriate for your kiddo. Consider potential dangers we often forget about, like ingesting magnets, if you DIY.

And don’t forget, food is food but it can, from time to time, be a toy! Whipped cream, smooshing peas, and berries as paint are just a few ideas. Make edible play dough in the kitchen together and allow your child to experience the feel of each ingredient (e.g., flour vs. salt), warm dough, and the excitement of watching a few drops of natural dye change the dough in mere moments.

As your kiddo ages and the imagination takes hold, developmentally appropriate toys are the stepping stones for a child’s understanding of the world, creativity, and even some skills that can translate into deeper, fuller success in those grade-school years.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Getting the Toy Room Organized

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Getting the Toy Room OrganizedWhen I had my first child, as a rookie mom, I thought the more toys, the better! We had a decent size playroom so why not fill it up? Kids LOVE to play, and the more toys I have, the more they will be occupied, and then I can catch some time to get some work done. Right?

Three children later, I realize that this is not necessarily true. After years of hunting down various toys for great prices on Craigslist or swapping with other local moms, I accumulated a lot of stuff–too much stuff. So much that you could hardly walk down there, and the kids weren’t even capable of cleaning the messes that were made. And worst of all, they weren’t even playing with the 1,000 toys we seemed to own. What I observed was that the more cluttered and disorganized the toy room was, the less likely the kids were to have a productive play experience. Instead they wandered around, looking from toy to toy (mess to mess), trying to find the pieces, tripping over toys, and eventually just whining and not finding anything to engage in. I decided it was time for a purge.

My first aim was to keep some of our bigger items out for the children that would encourage imaginative play and that had multiple uses.  For example, our kitchen set, child’s table and chairs, cottage tent, and train table. The cottage tent could be used to play “house.”  It also served as a little hideout to read books, and made a great hiding spot for hide and seek. My kids also used it to act out the 3 Little Pigs. The table and chairs could be used to sit and color, or to have a tea party. You get the picture.

Second, I moved all the small toys to their own bins. Little People had their own bin. The farm animals had their own bin. Peg puzzles had their own bin.  That way there was still plenty of room to move about the room, and when they chose a bin to take out, there was room to play with it.  The organization really seemed to make it much easier for a small child to see what there is and make a choice–and to actually play with it.

As for what I got rid of, if we had multiples of the same toy, I kept the favorite one or two. If we had multiple shape sorters, I kept the one that the lid stayed on the best, and got rid of the rest. If we had multiple baby dolls, I kept the few in the best shape. We had multiple ride-on toys, and while they were all nice, we did not need that many at one time. I kept a ride on horse and a car and got rid of the rest.

It seemed wasteful to get rid of perfectly good toys, but they were ones that wouldn’t be terribly missed, and I knew they would find a good home when donated to children in need.  Or if I needed some extra cash for an upcoming kids show or birthday party, or something of that sort, an option is to sell some of the toys in good condition to locaI moms. Both of those were motivating factors for me, and I couldn’t possibly feel bad about either of those options.

I also was introduced to the concept of rotating my toys from a good friend. She didn’t have a designated playroom, so she had to make the best of the space she had, which meant rotating her toys.  Even after the purge I was still feeling a bit more cluttered then I’d like, so I thought, why can’t I do that?!  When winter approached and we were no longer able to get regular outdoor play, I put some of the toys in the back storage room to give them more room to run. I also stuck a tunnel in the playroom to give them more movement type activities.  If boredom seemed to be creeping up, I pulled out an old “new” toy, and bam, problem solved. They missed it enough to re-connect with it and find new ways to play with it.

Lastly, I allowed a few toys in the bedroom at a time, and these would be rotated through with the playroom toys. It was usually a set like a Little People farm set. I found that rotating the location of the toys was helpful–somehow moving a toy to a different room seemed to re-excite them about the toy, or make them see it in a different way.

I felt much better after my purge, and even better with the rotating toy system in place. If I threw some kid tunes on, all the better– it seemed to pull everything together in the toy room, and I’d get some good quality playtime out of them. In this case, less definitely turned out to be more.

Michele is a part-time social worker and full-time mom to 3 children.  She lives and writes in Saratoga Springs, NY.