It’s about the process, not the product.


Don’t you just love it when someone tells you how to do your job?

How about when your mom says you are putting too much salt in your the sauce, don’t you just love that?

You don’t like someone telling you what/how/where/when to do your job and neither do babies.  Don’t be a Marney.  As I have mentioned time and time again, play is work for babies and children.  It is what they are good at, its what they spend the majority of their time doing.  PLAY IS THEIR JOB.  Wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, play.

When playing, talking, creating, cooking, reading, or anything else with your child, never expect it to end the way you planned.  (Just like that Pinterest wreath you tried.)  But that’s okay!

If you want to make hand prints with your 18 month old and you end up with more paint on your face, that’s okay.

If you are reading a story to your 3 year old about a fluffy puppy on a camping trip and he asks “Mom, why do you sit on the potty?” That’s okay too.

If you want to play diner with you 1 year old and she ends up just handing you an empty cup a hundred times, that’s okay. (justified purchase for this activity, and many others).

When you sit down to play with your baby, take a minute to just watch them.  Watch how they play.  Maybe he wants to knock on the side of his toy chest with a wooden block.  Or maybe she is yelling into a cup to hear her echo.  The key is, play along!  Allow your child to lead play time.  Let her be YOUR teacher.   Don’t take the block and say, “No that’s not how you play with the blocks!  You are supposed to stack them like this” and don’t say “No, that’s silly, we pretend to drink from the cup like this”.

These two cuties are pretending their closet is a drive through restaurant and their blocks are food.  Watch them play without adults interrupting! (Best to start watching at 2:25 mark).

As always, adult supervision is necessary.  Child led play does not mean, leave your child unattended to play by herself.  Child led play means let your child show you how to play.  Your job, as parent, is to wear the bucket on your head, drive the brush around like a car, and put the nesting block on your big toe, all while singing “Wheels on the bus”.

When a baby or child is allowed to freely play, without you saying “No, not like that!”, he is working on problem solving, learning cause and effect, exploring their environment, and having fun with you, ultimately creating a positive picture of playing with you and will want to do it again, and again, and again!  Think of coming home and her running down the hallway because she’s so excited to see you.  That’s because she remembers how much fun you are and how much she loves you.  Ugh, isn’t that hug the best.

Now, go play!

These are a few of my favorite things…

Apps, activity gyms, electronic toys, busy gyms, e-books, the list goes on.  There are millions of toys available to kids today.  The problem is a lot of these toys can be overwhelming with multiple buttons, flashing lights, music, sound effects, doors that open, or maybe all of the above.  Even more unfortunate, some families can not afford toys at all.  In my experience I have played with A LOT of toys.  And, I have played with a lot of things that are not toys, but instead, stuff I’ve found in my kitchen cabinets.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the essential toys and non toys for ages 0-3.

  1.  Books.  Books. and More books.  Reading is essential to development in so many ways.  Cognitive, communication, social emotional.  And most of all, reading with your child is you spending time with your child and doing nothing else.  For babies 0-12months use board books with bright colors, lift-the-flaps, or touch and feel books.
  2. Containers and utensils.  When you buy those baby safe lock kits, leave one cabinet unlocked, your container cabinet.  This way, baby has a safe place to play and they won’t feel locked out of everything.  They like putting things in other things, pretending to mix, and just making noise by banging.  Your kitchen cabinets are ideal for this.
  3. Toy Phone.  Whether it be a store bought Barbie phone, an old cell phone, or the handle to a paper grocer bag (yup), any toy phone is a great toy to have in your house.  Pretending, practicing hello/good bye, “calling” family members/animals, etc.
  4. Fresh Air!  I once read an article where a mom vowed to go outside with her kids every single day for one year.  No matter the weather.  Just take a step outside for a few short breaths.  Really short if its a blizzard.  Children can receive so much sensory input in just a few minutes outside.  Of course, they will most likely want to stay out longer than just a few minutes.  So crunch through some leaves.  Pick up stick.  Touch a tree.  Smell pine needles.  Say hi to a neighbor.  Wave to a car.
  5. Photographs.  Children love looking at pictures.  Whether you have a tin of random photos on your coffee table, or you make them their own photo album.  This one is really cute but you can also make your own with a binder ring and a hole punch.  Make one of just baby, or use family members and pets.  Before you know it she will be waving, saying hello, and pointing out who’s who.

I could go on and on with my favorite toys and items for babies.  In the future, look for my “Christmas List”, items that make great gifts for babies of specific ages.

Now, go play!