Play Dates for Days

Play dates are a great way for parents and children to get together.  Whether infants or toddlers, all children benefit from the socialization of others.  As newborns, there won’t be much playing other than reaching out to another on a blanket.  And even some early toddlers are reluctant to play with others.  Below is a simple timeline of how play skills develop followed by some ideas to encourage socializing.

0-2 years: Sensorimotor Play
Play the is characterized simply by sensory and movements.  ie. chewing on toes, dropping a toy out of the stroller to hear it crash, stomping in a puddle

12 months: Pretend Play
Pretty self-explanatory.  Pretend drinking from a cup, feeding a baby doll a pretend bottle, talking on a plastic phone

0-2 years: Solitary play
Children are playing independently with separate toys, mostly unaware that another child is playing next to them

2-4 years: Parallel Play
In this stage, children are still doing their own thing while playing next to one another but may begin to imitate their friend.  ie. banging on blocks, going to the play kitchen and getting fake food for a baby doll.  They may even swipe toys from one another, because they’re two and they don’t know what sharing is yet.  Did you hear that? Up until 4 years old, children have yet to grasp the idea of independently sharing.

4-5 years: Associative Play
Finally!  They’re playing together! At this age, children are actually playing from the same bin of blocks or wooden trains.  While still somewhat doing their own thing, there isn’t much coordination to build a tall tower together but are sharing (and fighting over) the same toys.


Play date Ideas:

Newborns: Set them up for tummy time facing one another, or looking into a large mirror together, pour you and your mom friend a coffee.

6-12 months: Bins of sensory materials ie: a bin of different brushes, a bin of stuffed animals, a bin or flash lights/push lights/christmas lights, a baking sheet of water, a bin of musical instruments, a bin of books

12-36 months: Play food, muffin pan, tea set, blocks, trains, anything that provides enough materials for everyone while they are able to play on their own, remember, there is no such thing as sharing yet!

Now, go play!

Seriously, let’s play.

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a hundred times, a child’s sole job is to play.  If they are not eating or sleeping, they should be playing.  Children don’t have to fold laundry, run errands, or check emails.  All they have to do is play.

When their little eyes open at the crack of dawn, read a short book in their room, sing a song, do a little stretching/massage to wake up their muscles.

After breakfast, and coffee of course, lay some toys on a blanket, on the couch for standers, in front of a pillow for tummy time, or using masking tape to attach light weight toys (or every child’s favorite –random household materials: plastic cups, coasters, sponge, wipes package, deck of cards) to the walls of a hallway to encourage standing and walking.

Get outside!  Go in the yard, walk to the park, drive to a trail.  Allow your newborn to feel the warm sunshine, the breeze, fresh air, a few rain drops.  Follow your toddler’s lead.  What they are interested in.  Picking up sticks? Throwing rocks? Playing in the dirt? Running?  Back home, create a sensory bin with their favorite outdoor items.

Time to cook dinner?  Baby wearing comes in handy here.  Baby can observe the senses in the kitchen while you get check off your to do list.  More on baby wearing later.  Let your little one play with pots, pans, and wooden spoons in the kitchen while you prep.  Supply toddler with some plastic cups and a small amount of water, pouring back and forth will intrigue him.  Paper towels on stand by.

Being a parent is exhausting.  But the more active baby is, the happier and healthier (and more tired) baby will be!

Now, go play!

Move Your Body

Who wouldn’t like a morning massage to wake up your muscles?  How about a nighttime rub down to settle stress and set a calming tone for sleep?  From babies to adults, we can all use this addition to our daily schedule.

Each morning, help baby to wake up muscles, alert their senses, and recognize body parts each morning.  Provide small repetitive squeezes up and down their arms and legs, wiggle toes and fingers.  Sing a little tune naming body parts as you do.  Before bedtime, repeat squeezes with a calmer, slower pace to set the tone for sleep.

Toddlers can give squeeze their own bodies or participate in a short series of yoga poses.  Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga are great books with simple poses for children.

Similarly, when singing songs throughout the day that contain hand/body movements such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” don’t simply put on a show for your baby.  If he is too young to complete the movements himself, move his hands with yours.  Using “hand over hand”, he will begin to learn the movements not just from watching, but from feeling his muscles move in the repetitive motions.

Now, go play!