What is it about being a new parent that just eats time?! It seems that babies are BRILLIANT at making the day super long and super short all at the same time. And for a tiny thing that can’t move, boy do they make a mess - and you only ever seem to have one hand free to sort it out!
I get it! So, I’m here to help take one thing away from you: the need to have designated play time with your baby. Don’t worry - you can make those special moments part of the everyday things that you do, you just need to know how!
Below are my 8 simple ways to make those everyday moments into precious learning moments.
Use the jobs around the house as learning moments. Your baby has no idea if they are playing with a super expensive toy or a bit of kitchen equipment. There are a huge number of things you can do with your baby using the things you have around that can easily be used to create learning moments when you know how! So, as you cook, why not give your baby a pot and spoon to play with. Ask them about their cooking. As you do the laundry, let them play with the clothes and feel the fabric. When you are in the garden, let them have the hose and water the plants (you might want to make sure that only a small amount of water is coming out so you don’t get too wet when they point the hose at you!). When you are cleaning the house, give your baby a duster and get them to clean the floor. Chat as you do; you’ll be building your baby’s language skills and building their brain in so many other ways too!
Make each moment matter. Even if you are just changing a nappy, it can be an amazing time for connection and development. Your baby is seeking you out to connect, so make sure you take the time to connect with them. Watch their eyes, see where they are focused and talk about what they are interested in. As you change their nappy, tell them what you are doing and why. The more you chat, the better your baby will learn. Don’t forget to leave space in the conversation for their response - responding to them appropriately is how you build their brain and make these tiny moments matter.
Get into a routine to check the Oliiki app each day and plan in your one focused activity with your baby. Really focus in on them during that time. You’ll find it really rewarding and you’ll learn so much more, like Shubhi, who, when she really started to look, realised quite how much her baby was wanting to watch, observe, focus and learn. When she did that, she felt so much more confident about what she was doing. She realised that with the help of the app, she was able to give her baby the age-specific activities that she knew her baby needed and she was able to really support her development through the way she played and talked to her baby.“The activities from the app were something to look forward to, because there was a task every day, so each week there were things to do. And then after doing that task, the reactions my little one showed were AMAZING, so it keeps me busy and happy as well; it brings me sunshine!” Or another Oliiki parent, Sophie, who found that because it showed her what her baby was learning in each activity she was more focused in on that. It made her bring that learning into other things she was doing throughout the day which helped her baby develop more!“If an activity is about the senses, when we play, I am more attuned to that, and that doesn’t stop when the activity stops, I then am more aware of it on that day and throughout the day, but there’s also a growing general awareness that kind of carries on afterwards!”
With your toddler, use craft time to make the basis for homemade gifts and cards. Keep creations and drawings stashed in a drawer, and bring them out when you need an unexpected or forgotten card or gift. Grandparents will love it, godparents will be delighted and you will have saved a fortune and not had to do that last minute panic buy!
With your toddler, make walking to the shops a chance to count, collect, chat and comment. Count your steps, count the ducks, count the cars, count the windows in a shop, count the busses, count the streetlights, count the cats that you see along the way. If you find them losing interest, change what you count. See if you can remember the things that you were counting along the way and make a book when you get home. Get your child to draw simple pictures of the things you counted (or cut the pictures out of a magazine) and stick them on to paper. Now, write on the page, ‘4 ducks’ (or however many things you happened to see) in clear, bold, writing. Do the same for the other things you found along the way. Staple the book together, make a cup of tea and settle down in your story corner and enjoy the book you wrote together!
Comment on what you see, smell and hear. ‘Look at all the red cars! Look at the catkins, leaves or flowers - they’re coming out on the trees, can you see them? What colour are they? Have you noticed all the cats we’ve seen today are black?! What a noise the car horns are making! Can you smell the bread in the bakery?
If you have a cat or a dog, or you encounter one while on a walk, chat about it you’re your child. What the cats say, how they feel, what they want when they rub up against you - explain that they’ve come to say hello - ask what your child thinks the cat is saying. ‘I wonder where the cat is going now? Do you think he is going home for his tea too? What do you think he will have for his tea?
Collect things you find along the way. Collect the little shiny stones, the acorns, the leaves that you find. Put them in a bag and make them into a collage of your walk when you come home. Talk about your walk as you stick them on. Or, make a crayon rubbing of the things that you found. Talk about the textures and the shapes that they make. Discuss where you found them and what you saw, see if you can recall the whole walk together. Can your toddler tell you which you saw first and where you found it? This is helping your baby’s development in so many ways - it’s not just a way to fill half an hour, but when you understand why you are doing each activity, you can see the learning that it’s providing your child, which in turn means you do more of it, which helps your baby have more experience in doing things which helps to strengthen their brain connections and helps them to develop to their full potential. Clever, isn’t it?!
Activities like this are on the Oliiki app. We not only show you what to do, but we also show you what your baby is learning from the play that you’re doing, which helps you know you’re doing the right thing for your baby and helping them learn. That makes you feel super confident that you’re doing the very best for them, which means you don’t feel judged or anxious: you just feel confident that you are being the best parent you can be, and that’s an amazing feeling!