Our Play Philosophy
We can even think of it as their 'job' (though they're probably having way more fun at their job than we ever have at ours!). Play helps them explore the world and teaches them who they are. Play also allows babies to practice the skills they need for the future.
Playing with your baby helps them to:
- Bond with you
- Build confidence
- Feel loved, safe and happy
- Develop their physical & social skills
- And teaches them to care for others & the environment
"PLAY IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF RESEARCH.”
— Albert Einstein
Our activities for babies 0-12 months have been informed by the following guiding principles of play that we've developed throughout our experiences as mamas:
Play should be easy for your baby and easy for YOU! Most of the Happy Little People activities will cost you zilch and won't take much time to set up either.
Repetition and variety are equally important: your baby needs both.
Provide your baby with a wide variety of safe, natural materials to discover, such as wood, metal and textiles. Also incorporate real objects from around the home. A little bit of plastic in the mix is fine too—after all, your baby is learning about materials that exist in the real world! However, keep in mind that natural materials have a more interesting variety of weights, textures, temperatures and smells to intrigue their little hands & minds.
'Real' play does not require expensive or elaborate toys—in fact these can actually hinder creativity. Babies and children are usually most drawn to everyday, open-ended objects, which is why they will often prefer the box the toy came in to the toy itself!
Try to use sustainable materials where possible: Your baby will grow up fast, so recyclable homemade activities that utilise things you already have are fantastic for this! *Added bonus: you're modelling creativity for your baby!
Allow your baby to have LOTS of open-ended play. Sit nearby and be attentive and unobtrusive. Of course, talking to them and asking them open-ended questions is really important, but it's equally important to give them a bit of space and quiet during independent play time!
Play can happen anywhere, anytime, but we recommend setting up one or more simple, dedicated play spaces in the parts of your home where you spend the most time. Neatly display a small selection of toys and activities (6-8 is a good amount) that your baby can see and reach on a low, multi-level shelf, a la Maria Montessori's teachings. Store extra toys and objects out of view and rotate them regularly.
Mix up different kinds of play, to stimulate a wide-range of development:
Toys and Object Play: When playing with an object such as a toy, babies are using their sensory-motor skills to explore its properties and conduct little "experiments", like a scientist might. For example, to find out if an object makes a sound, they might bang it on the floor.
Sensory Play: Sensory play seeks to stimulate some or all of your baby's senses. To create a simple sensory activity, known as a 'Sensory Basket' or 'Treasure Basket', take a small, shallow basket and fill it with several citrus fruits (cut one or two in half, and leave the rest of them whole). Let your baby explore them and discover their shape, texture, colour, weight, temperature and taste. This is also a good example of open-ended play.
Physical/Interactive Play: Activities that involve just you and your baby, with no other materials needed, are wonderful for bonding, language & physical development. This could be something as simple as saying a rhyme with actions, singing a song, having a 'conversation', blowing raspberries on their belly, creeping up and tickling them, or 'flying' them around the room.
Outdoor Play: Outdoor play is important for motor, sensory, social and cognitive development—and is great for their general health and wellbeing. Even though most of the Happy Little People activities are perfect for indoors, why not take them outside? Nature walks are a beautiful way to help your baby discover the big wide world.
Your baby will teach you many games of their own, so look out for their cues! They may communicate their pleasure by cooing, smiling, or giggling, or they may be really focused on repeating a particular action (such as throwing their spoon from the highchair to see you pick it up AGAIN!). Repeat these special games time and time again. These personal interactions, completely unique to your and your baby, will most likely be their favourite games of all!
Remember, the best toy for your little one is YOU! The shine of a new toy will wear off quickly, but they will never tire of your love and attention.
So Stop. Breathe. Hug your baby.
Now go play!