Child Development #3
As announced in my previous article about child development, today I write about the play area in your home. During the pre-birth period and then when Baby has arrived, a lot of questions might overwhelm you, such as : Where will the baby play ? How do I/we organise the play area ? Does an infant need an area ? What do I need ?
Maybe at the announcement of the arrival of a baby in your family, some of your relatives took the opportunities to empty their garage and give you boxes full of toys and books. This comes in addition to those you received as birth-gift.
Guess what ? There is no problem and we will see how to manage all of this. Set up a play area for your baby: why? Where? What? When? I answer these questions now.
WHY set up a dedicated space for my new born ?
When your baby is not sleeping, eating, not in your arm, they have solitary moment of observation, listening, feeling all what is around them. It’s the moment when they are in their own place. Quickly in the following months it will become the play area with some toys displayed around them. This place answers different criteria:
1- It is a safe place so that means their physical security is certain. For this you can place a thick mat and then a light soft cover or a thin mat. The mat insulates the baby from the cold floor and is hard enough to allow them to turn and crawl when necessary but also a bit soft to cushion a little fall. The cover will protect the mat and will be easily washable when baby will dribble and/or vomit. This space measures about 120x120cm. If you have twin, this space is still enough. If you have triplet or more babies, of course you can adapt the size for a larger area.
Playpen or not playpen ? It is your choice. I recommend to use it if you have pet and avoid any accident. If you wish to add cushion between the mat and the wall, feel free to do it. They can be used to support your back when you sit here with your baby. Be sure there are well stuck and won’t fall down on your baby (risk of suffocation).
2- This place is dedicated for early learning. Its like a professional office for an adult. Everything is thought to offer the best encouraging learning conditions. Don’t forget, playing is the children and babies work. It is a serious matter. If they have bad condition and bad material they can’t explore fully their potential.
3- Finally, the cot is a sleeping area, it can’t be use as a dedicated play area, even if you dont have a lot of space in your home.
Where set up a play are ?
This play area must be arranged in the room you spend most of your time and where you can fully see your baby. The most common is the living room, it can also be the kitchen if it is spacious. Also, set up the play area in a corner of the room rather than in the way. Finally, have a look along the day to see if the sun shines on the chosen place. If yes, use a curtain to obstruct direct light and avoid dazzling your baby. You can also use a thermometer and check if the temperature is between 19° and 21°C. Avoid to set up the play area behind a patio door. It will be too hot when it is sunny and too cold in winter.
Why not use the bedroom ? Before the 2nd birthday, your child will spend few time in their bedroom as they can’t be seen. Remember your child must always be under your supervision or someone responsible of their wellbeing.
WHEN use the play area ?
The life of your baby is split in different moment : sleeping, eating, hygiene care, comforting, playing with you ( cf : previous article about play time ) and being by themselves observing, listening, touching and trying, basically: learning the world around them. It is these moments your child will be in their play area doing all of this.
What material ?
As we’ve seen in the first part, you have now dedicated a space for you child. It is also the place for all toys, books and material of game. We will see now how to display the toys. Indeed, it is not necessary and even not recommend to leave all the toys around the baby. Learning is a long process. Too much material means too much stimulation and Baby can’t properly focus their attention on anything. Quickly they will be tired, bored, frustrated.
The idea is to select a sample of toys that you propose with a rota with to your baby
- From 0 to 3 months, your baby has few moving abilities and their sense are not fully developed. hang some rattles on a baby-gym that you display above their tummy (not the head).
- when Baby start to move and try to turn, display 5 toys maximum around them to encourage body motor function (round to the side, stretch the arm to grab a toy). As we have seen above, a big choice is to much for a baby. Use a system of rotation. By your observations, you will see what your child likes to use and explore. When they don't use anymore an object, remove it and keep it for later. Baby's do like to rediscover some ‘old’ toys later.
- Close to the play area, leave some little baskets where the toys are kept. These baskets are accessible to a crawling baby so don’t fill them to much. Indeed, from 12 to 16 month old babies and toddlers love to empty boxes, drawers, baskets … Remember you tidy the room at the end of the day, save your time ! You can also use the lower cases of your bookshelf or tv cabinet to keep these baskets. Remove all what could be dangerous for your child or what is precious to you and could be damaged by their little hands and mouth.
- Keep the other toys in the bedroom.
- Discard the broken toys. Remember playing is a serious matter and material that is in good condition is necessary. If they can’t be fixed and guaranteeing the child safety, discard them. Don’t give them to a charity shop. If a toy is broken and in bad condition for your child it is the same for all the other children.
You can find HERE the first article I wrote to guide you how to chose the toys for your baby.
Once your baby starts to crawl confidently and is able to sit by themselves, you can remove the thick mate from the play area but keep this space. Indeed, it became a cocooning and personal area, your child knows it. Later, you will also teach them to tide the toys and books with you at the correct place.
In this article, first, I make propositions that don't take up a lot of space or cost a lot of money. When you are preparing for the arrival of a baby you can see your list of things-to-have growing quickly and many questions come: do I/we really need this ? Can I/we afford this ?
The catalogues and specialised online shops are full of attractive accessories and gadgets and we can be tempted to buy everything and realise later that at the end you didn’t use them or it is bulky for your room. It is important first to meet your baby and to get to know them. Then you will be able to identify what you need and what you wish to add to your essential equipment that I presented in this article : a space and material that are essential to welcome Baby in good conditions.
Finally, what to remember here ?
- The play area is a work place for Baby. It must answer their need to grow and explore their abilities. Choose good condition materials, don’t hesitate to change something if you see it doesn’t suit your Baby. Trust yourself to do what is the best for your child. You are the person who know them the best and so you are the best to answer their need.
- The play area will change in the following months to be adapted to Baby development.
I hope this third article was helpful. I recommend you to read the previous one: