With the current state of our country (and the world as a whole), many parents are worrying about how they will manage to keep their kids occupied at home should they need to self-isolate. Seeing as we are now also being advised to avoid unnecessary social interaction, the need for indoor activities has risen significantly.
I was recently asked if I knew of any resources I could pass on to parents of babies – specifically those under 1 year old. It’s a tricky age, because they are only just starting to engage with the world around them, and it’s only closer to the 1 year birthday that they really start to play.
Off the top of my head, I couldn’t really think of anything. There’s plenty of toddler and preschooler activities that sprung to mind, but nothing really with infants. So I decided to do a bit of research and put my own list together for you!
Come to think of it, bubbles is a pretty obvious one. Many baby groups use bubbles to engage interest and stimulate interaction. They can be exciting, and also calming. If you are unable to get out and buy your own bubble liquid, then try washing up liquid and water.
Sensory fairy light box
This is a great one if you have a large cardboard box hanging around. Turn the box on its side, and make some small holes in it – then poke some fairy lights through. Sit or lay baby in the box (still on its side, so they are not enclosed), turn the lights on, and voila! They have their own light show. The best lights to use for this are LEDs so that they don’t heat up – and if you have some that twinkle, even better!
As soon as my youngest could sit, she loved to post things. Balls down a ball run, cards down the sofa, toys into shoes. You name it, she would post it. We bought her some Grapat rings and coins (we got ours from Yes Bebe), and cut a slot in the top of the box. I soon lost track of the amount of time she spent posting the rings and coins through the slot, taking them out and starting all over again. Empty tissue boxes also work, as well as PVC pipes and wrapping paper tubes with balls – just make sure to supervise them, especially if you are using small balls or pom poms.
There are so many different ways you can make sensory bottles. When my son was tiny, I made some him shakers. I used some old fizzy drink bottles (washed out first of course!), and some beads that I’d had lying around for who knows how long. Hot glued the lid to the bottle, and he had his own sensory shakers! Using difference size/material beads gives each bottle its own sound too.
There are so many ways to make sensory bottles – some people use water and glitter glue, others use small toys, oil, or other materials lying around the house. You can make them with a theme in mind (sea life is a popular one) or simply throw together whatever you can find. This is also a great activity if you have older children – they can help make them! Just ensure that the lids are fully secured – gluing them is the best option.
All children should have access to wooden blocks! They are so much fun for babies, and have so many benefits. They make great toys for learning to grasp, banging together, and stacking. As children get older, the possibilities for building are endless!
For some reason, babies like to put round objects in holes. Setting up a muffin tray, with balls that will fit in the holes, is a nice easy activity. It also works well with egg boxes. You can even start introducing colours, by putting a coloured sticker or piece of paper in the bottom of each hole and see if they can match them with the right colour balls – this is great for toddlers and preschoolers too, especially when they are learning their colours. As the kids get older, try substituting the balls for pom poms and add tweezers!
Mirror play is a fantastic activity for those doing tummy time. Simply lay a mirror on the floor, and place a few toys on it. Your baby will be able to see the reflections! Standing the mirror up will also encourage those who are learning to hold their head up.
I think it’s fair to say that most young children have a slight obsession with knocking down towers – even as an adult, the temptation is still real! Whether you are stacking blocks, cups, or boxes, babies get so much joy from being able to topple it over.
When my daughter was tiny, I managed to find a beautiful set of Djeco stacking cubes in one of our local charity shops. Each cube also came with a matching animal! My eldest loved stacking them all up for her and matching each animal to their little house, and she loved knocking it all down. We also still have some plastic stacking cups and saucepans that my son had as a baby, and when they are out they get played with often.
Saucepans make great drums, especially when hit with a wooden spoon. Let your babies have access to your (clean and safe!) kitchen utensils, saucepans, and tupperware. Let them explore how they feel, and what sounds they make. Let them make their own music!
For those who like sensory/messy play, play foam is a fantastic resource. Mix washing up liquid and water in a food processor (the less water, the thicker the foam), and poor it out into a tray or bowl. Add in scoops, water safe toys, or simply let baby sit in it!
For the older babies who are starting to enjoy cars and pushing toys along, try taping a pen to the back of the car and get your baby to push the car along the paper – you can make all sorts of marks! You can do the same with paint and a paintbrush too, depending how brave you are feeling.
Do you have an under 1 at home? How do you play? Let us know i the comments below, or come and join the conversation over on our Magic Mayhem Play Facebook page!