I really struggled when Phoebe was first born for lots of reasons, but I was really looking forward to her being able to play, as I thought it would be really fun, kind of like having a kitten. How I laugh when I look back on this! I actually found it really difficult to know what to do, as I think I lost my ability to ‘play’ quite a few years ago. I don’t even play any computer games or anything. It brings me no joy. I just like to talk and laugh really. So having a little ‘un to entertain was a bit daunting when I realised she wouldn’t just do it on her own, she needed help from me too.
Throwing money at this problem, which retailers would love you to do, doesn’t really work I find. I have bought loads of toys- not as many as some people!- and she quickly loses interest in most things. Mums swore by jumperoos, but Phoebe is only entertained by them for very brief periods of time. She likes her walker, but can’t quite figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. What she really likes are musical/noisy toys or things that she has to figure out.
I spent quite a bit when she was born on toys that were largely redundant, and I wish I hadn’t, because it seems just as you start to have less money (SMP isn’t a heck of a lot) your baby requires more stimulation. I went to a ten-week block of baby sensory, which I am really glad I did, because it gave me loads of ideas of what to do with my little monster. At £7.50 a pop though (30 minute class), they were pricey, so I’ve taken lots of the ideas and put my own spin on them. Here are my suggestions to get yourself started.
This is a really straight forward idea, and a great way to give new interest to old toys, or to encourage interest in toys that you baby has never been interested in. All you do is get a suitable box- I use an old nappy bin cassette box! If you are really crafty, you could cover it with shiny paper or bright wrapping paper or something. Mine is just plain. Then fill it with interesting items. Mine currently contains:
- A velvety soft fluffy doggy
- A deflated balloon (more on this below)
- A Humpty Dumpty wooden toy with jangly legs
- A Miffy rattle toy
- A chunky beaded necklace
- A silky scarf
- A cupcake baking tin
Inside the box, I also have a wee mini jute bag that I got with a bunch of flowers I was sent when Phoebe was born. It will be perfect for using for playing shops when she’s older! Until then I use it as a wee discovery toy inside the box. In that I have:
- A piece of scrunched up baking parchment
- A mini rubber ducky
- A pair of baby sunglasses
You could put loads of different things in. Everyday things, household items, anything that poses no danger from choking etc. Obviously this idea is for supervised play only.
Some other ideas:
- A large, fluffy feather
- A wooden spoon or any other robust kitchen item.
- An artificial flower
- Some dried out leaves/cones
- Some faux fur/different materials- bubble wrap, brown paper, wrapping paper etc.
- Fruit- Apples, oranges etc. You could even try a coconut!
I bought a set of three nursery rhyme CDs when Phoebe was tiny and have tried my best to learn a few. For some of them, I put them on and I just sing along animatedly, while pumping her wee legs on the change mat, for others I have made up actions that incorporate lots of tickles and ruffling and she loves that. I also have a lovely big book of nursery rhymes that I use to just sit with her and sing them and point out stuff in the pictures.
There is nothing nicer that just picking up your wee chunky monkey and bouncing up and down to a few ditties that you enjoy! You can only listen to “Pop Goes the Weasel” so many times before you have to be sectioned. I find dancing in front of the mirror provides entertainment for Her Majesty until I feel like my arms are going to fall off! I remember a friend posting on Facebook that her 2 year old was wandering around the house singing “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga. I hope Phoebe will be the same!!!
Rattle– Get a clean, empty, see-through bottle. Fill it with whatever you can find- lentils, peppercorns, rice, marbles, pasta, bird seed, peanuts… anything! You can also add brightly coloured things like beads, confetti etc. This is lots of babies’ favourite toy. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m thinking about using this idea to make a kind of slow globe idea with glitter and coconut!
Scarves stuffed in a tissue box– Tie the scarves together, and try to make them as different and varied as possible. You could also use old ties. Or new ones, if your husband has annoyed you.
Wooden spoons– They make brilliant teethers, and they are good for banging on things to make a loud noise!
Tupperware– Really good as well if you can get those ones that fit inside each other. You could hide bits and pieces inside them for you baby to find.
Balloon– Make balloons more baby-friendly by blowing them up nice and full and tight, then let about half of the air out of them. You could put rice or pasta etc. inside them to make a noise and then tie a soft baby bobble around the bottom and put it around their wrist. They’re very fun.
Basin of water- You can have hours of messy play with a simple bowl of water. Put some water-safe toys in, a wee flannel, and a sponge and a cup. Have a towel to hand! You could dip their wee toes in the water and experiment with showing them different temperatures of water-obviously not too hot.
Den– make a wee hidey-hole by covering a table with a blanket or sheet and play peekaboo. As the get older, they’ll enjoy crawling in and out!
Food– Get some jelly, chopped fruit, or any other baby-suitable food, put it on a large plastic-covered mat, strip your baby down to his vest, and let them get on with it. Eek!
Phew! Hopefully all this effort will make you feel less guilty about them watching Baby TV (Sky channel 623- if you’re interested) for half an hour here and there…