There are a few toys, among the many that fill our family room, that I can steadfastly say were good investments. Toys that have entertained Maya for years. Old favorites that are still played with. Toys that may collect dust for a while, all but forgotten, but are always returned too eventually. The two that first come to mind are her dollhouse that she got for Christmas when she was 2 and this little Fisher Price tea set that was one of her first non-baby toys. They are the toys that through the years have been played with most, loved most and are returned too often, even now as she is so quickly growing up.
I love watching her play with them. I love watching her imagination at work as her dolls, princesses, or ponies use the dollhouse. I love drinking tea and eating cupcakes with her when she puts on a little tea party with her tea set. And now, I get to watch a whole new person explore these old favorites. Anna has taken a liking to both the dollhouse and the tea set. It is no surprise that these toys are among her favorites since she loves to do whatever her big sister is doing and she has been treated to tea and cakes from very early on her life
The best is when I get to watch them play with them together.
By the time Anna outgrows these toys they will have been loved and played with for a long, long time. They will be well worn I’m sure. I’ll tuck them away somewhere so that one day when my girls have kids of their own I may get the chance to watch a whole new generation play with these toys that have already been so loved.
Tomorrow afternoon Maya starts t-ball! She is so excited. And, you know what, so am I. I can’t wait to watch a group of little 4 and 5 year old kids whacking a ball around the baseball diamond and trying to figure out how a baseball glove works I can remember watching my youngest brothers playing t-ball when they were Maya’s age. Really, is there anything cuter than a little kid trying to remember what they are supposed to do after they hit the ball.
A few weeks ago Maya asked for a baseball bat. I was a little surprised because it wasn’t a typical toy department request from my princess and pony obsessed little girl. I was happy to oblige and off to the sporting goods aisle we went. She picked out a red bat and a ball. She was so anxious to try it out. Later that day when Lorne got home from work they headed to the backyard to play.
Admittedly, I hadn’t expected her first at bat to much of a success, but boy did she surprise me. She hit the ball her very first try and went on to hit it at least 50% of the time. I was super impressed. We may have a Little Miss Baseball on our hands. I’m really looking forward to seeing her play t-ball. If she can hit a ball being thrown at her, I’m pretty sure she is going to kick butt at t-ball.
We learn so much while we are pregnant and reading all those baby care books about the basics and about what not to do. There are endless chapters on feeding, changing, bathing, sleep habits, baby proofing, etc, etc, etc. What we end up not learning about is having fun with our babies and doing things from the beginning that make them (and us) happy. Perhaps these chapters are left out because the experts think it will come as second nature to us (and part of it does), or perhaps we are just meant to figure it out as we go. Many parents face those first days and weeks with their babies wonder “Ok, what next?”, you’ve fed, changed and burped the baby but it isn’t sleep time, so what do we do now.
Happy babies come from parents who spend time with them, engage them, foster warm, loving, fun environments for them to explore. The things you do when you aren’t feeding, changing, bathing, burping or trying to get the baby to sleep are the things that will make you both smile, laugh and love.
Here are a few tips on things you can do with your baby once you’ve settled in at home:
- Get to know each other. Watch as your baby, play with your baby, talk to you baby. Let your baby listen in as you and your partner talk. Keep the baby around as you go about your chores. All of these things can help you get acquainted with one another.
- Talk, sing, be silly, laugh and dance. Your baby loves the sound of your voice. Talking to her helps with language development and lets her know you are there with her. Babies love singing, dancing and silliness it is very entertaining to them. If you want to hear that first giggle dance around and making silly faces, it is bound to work.
- Read to your baby. As I mentioned above, babies love the sound of your voice, and reading to them is a great way to help them learn new things through the words you say and the pictures they see on the page. Use books with bright colors and different textures and let your child feel the book as you read it. Make reading part of your routine.
- Give her room to explore. It can be tempting to just hold your baby all the time or keep them in a bouncy seat or a swing because you feel like they are safer that way. Babies love to explore their environment and learn so much from this exploration. So, set up a space where he can get down on the floor and roll around, crawl, and play with toys. Get down there with your baby and watch has she gets acquainted with her world and enjoys some free play.
- Get out and about. Being home with a newborn can feel a bit isolating. Don’t be afraid to get out of the house with your baby. Go for a walk, have lunch with friends, do a little shopping. Your baby will love watching all the new things going on around him and you’ll feel refreshed after a trip out of the house.
- Spend time with bigger kids if you can. Maybe a playgroup with kids of all different ages or if you have friends with older kids invite them over for some play time. Babies love watching bigger kids play. They get such a kick out of it and will be learning so much through their observations.
Having a new baby around is so much fun. Remember to spend time getting to know each other and exploring the world together. Just as you are your baby’s biggest fan, they are your biggest fan. They will love spending time with you reading, singing, playing, laughing, so have fun.
As parents I think we all struggle to find the right balance of play and learning for our toddlers. The drive seems to be towards having the best, brightest and most gifted toddler so you can brag to all the other moms at the park. It drives me crazy when parents compare their children, especially when they hype up what their child can do, like saying their child can say the entire alphabet at the age of 18 months when really all their child can do is repeat the letters after them. Parents who don’t see through this think their child is behind and start stressing about it, not a combination for parent or child.
For toddlers the best approach to “teaching” them things is through their play and their interactions with you and others throughout the day. Toddlers learn by watching what others do, hearing what others are saying and repeating those behaviors. The more you talk to your child throughout the day be it by reading books, narrating your day or having a mini conversation with them the more your toddler will learn about language and how to use it.
Here are some great ways to use your every day interactions and playtime with your toddlers into teaching tools:
- As you are out running errands point out things of different colors and have your child tell you what color it is. Like point at a yellow bus and ask your child what color it is. If they don’t get it right tell them the color and keep doing that. Eventually as your child learns their colors more they will be able to identify them better in the real world.
- Another great errand game is asking your child if they see something that you have spotted, say a picture of a dog. Ask your child if they see and dog and to point it out. My daughter loves this game, she will play with me now by saying she sees a bear and then I have to look around to see if I can find it.
- You can practice number recognition as you are putting the dishes away. Ask your child to pass you two (or whatever number) spoons from the dishwasher.
- As you are folding laundry practice colors with your child by seeing if they can find and pass you the red shirt, or the blue socks, etc.
- Shapes are every where and as you are out and about or in the kitchen working on dinner or out in the yard playing point out shapes, as your child begins to recognize certain shapes like squares and circles ask your child to point out certain shapes. For example, ask your child to show you where the square window is, or the circle cup, etc.
- Sing with your child while you are going about your day, songs like the ABCs, twinkle twinkle, and the wheels on the bus at great.
- Just talk to your child and tell them what you are doing as you go about your day, they will learn so many new words just by listening to you.
My daughter is big into identifying shapes, naming colors and pointing out objects as we are walking around a store. She loves to “help” with household chores as well and has learned so many new words just be listening to me tell her what something is. Toddlers are little sponges and love to learn. Their learning doesn’t have to come from structured lessons at this age, they learn so much more just by interacting with you and others and watching what is going on in the world around them.
What games do you play with your children to help them learn new things?
When it is nasty and rainy outside kids can get antsy, any parent who has tried to entertain a bored child on a rainy day can attest to that. There’s something about not being able to get outside and burn off some energy that makes them go crazy. It is hard to keep them entertained with all their usual toys, games, movies and books. So what is a parent to do? Rainy days are just a part of life, how can you make them fun for the kids and easy on your sanity? Try a rainy day toy bag.
What is a rainy day toy bag you ask? Well, it is basically a bag of toys that only come out on rainy days. Since the kids don’t get to play with the toys all the time they feel like they are a special treat and will work wonders on curing their inevitable rainy day boredom. My good friend, Heather, recently became a stay at home mom and babysitter to a couple of kids. She told me about this rainy day toy bag idea and I thought it was a great idea. I’ve even seen it at work at her house and it does a great job of keeping the boys entertained. I’m going to put one together for Maya.
What you put in your rainy day toy bag will depend on your children; their ages, activity level, etc. You want to make sure you are putting in items that will keep them entertained, be fun for everyone, and can be played with inside (of course). Here are a few suggestions:
- Board Games. This is a great idea for older children and will occupy them for quite a while.
- Crafts. Things like paints, cut & paste stuff, coloring books. Really any craft that is age appropriate.
- New coloring books and crayons, markers and colored pencils.
- A new movie they haven’t seen before or that you know they really love.
- Inexpensive toys.
- Cards that say “Let’s make cookies” or “Let’s bake a cake”.
I would recommend hitting your local dollar store to see what you can find. The stuff in the rainy day toy box doesn’t have to be expensive. The idea is that it is new stuff to the kids so they will have a great time picking out what to play with. If you have multiple kids in your home consider letting them take turns picking out the rainy day toy that way everyone gets a turn to pick out something that will be fun to them and share it with everyone else.
Do you have a rainy day toy bag? What sorts of things do you put in your toy bag? What things have you found to be the most successful with your kids?