For this week's blog post, we interviewed Tom from Boobobutt. Tom gives us some amazing insight into baby and toddler play. Please check out his amazing website to search for kid and parent friendly playgrounds, parent rooms, restaurants, cafes and much more. This has got to be one of the most useful websites for you to use when out and about with babies and toddlers! Check out the website here.
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1) What age do babies start playing? How do newborns play?
After just a couple of months, babies will start to play. Don’t expect this to be swinging on monkey bars, but infants will play with rattles and other smaller toys as part of their exploration of the world. Playing can start with as little as cuddling a toy, or moving blocks around. Play will start small and subtle before growing as they get more mobile.
2) How can parents make play more exciting for us instead of being bored while playing?
This is a fairly common question, and there are two things I go to –
Children, especially Toddlers, bond with parents through play. As they are developing their communication methods, play is a way for them to successfully interact with parents and other children in a common language. Play will strengthen your bond and relationship with your children. Which will do wonders for their confidence and skills.
Secondly, mixing up the types of play (if you are indoors) and mixing up the playgrounds or adventures you go to outside. Keeping the scenery fresh and will have the added bonus of improving your child’s development with new challenges and showcasing the play equipment they love in different places – encouraging them to grow in skill and confidence. If you are indoors, try mixing up the play other things – such as baking muffins, or playing chasings, play doesn’t have to be with just toys.
3) How can I help my children play independently?
Every child is different, and some may take longer than others to play independently, which is ok.
Encouragement and presentism will go a massive way in the beginning to get them zipping around confidently by themselves. On play equipment, encouraging and lightly helping your child to keep going, when they have doubts, is massive in building confidence, and when they fall encourage them to have another go, never criticise or laugh. The confidence building will give them courage to explore and play independently.
At home, incorporating imagination play and non-closed loop play supports this independent play. For instance, your child may have a car track and car, but there is nothing limiting your child playing with the play on the couch or away from the track. This style of play will open a world of possibilities!
4) What are the best toys for babies and toddlers?
Sensory toys are fantastic for babies and toddlers. We were also very big on non-closed loop toys, puzzles and activities. These toys and activities encourage children to grow their imagination and also increases their development and learning. Be it those crumply books for babies or slime for toddlers, all sensory toys teach children more about the world and hopefully makes them less fussy as they get older.
5) Do we need lots of toys for our babies/toddlers to play with?
We don’t need a lot of toys for kids to play with, as they get bigger, your children will find new ways to play with the same toys. Playgrounds and outdoor adventures are free toys and there are always new playgrounds to explore.
6) How should I expect to play with my child who is on the autism spectrum?
Play follows the same evolution pathway - by themselves, parallel play and then with others, however parents will need to be vigilante and supportive as their child communicates their progression through these stages. Parents may need to provide additional support to help progress their child’s development within each stage and overall progressions to the next stages.
7) What should we do when playing with a toddler?
You can do lots when playing with toddlers – they might even give you a job to do!
A great way to build their confidence and skills is to encourage them to take the lead on activities. My toddler is currently pinballing between, Elsa Lego, race cars, chasings and bike riding. The important thing, regardless of activities, is to be there in the moment and present – chase the imaginary fairy around the house or have a tea party. If the tea parties get too much (for toddler or parent) recommending another activity is a good way to mix it up – for example a bike ride.
All play helps children learn and grow - some studies have even gone as far to say playing is more important to development than reading! – so it’s hard to go wrong if you are there engaging with the play. And remember to go with the flow!
Tom Humphries is the Co-Founder of Boobobutt – Australia’s Fastest Growing Kids Activity Finder and Australia’s #1 Playground and Baby Change Facility Finder. Tom and his wife started Boobobutt after the arrival of their cheeky and adventurous daughter. Together they have been helping parents have great adventures with their little ones.
Be sure to check out Tom's amazing website, Boobobutt.