One of the biggest challenges I hear mums and dads having is how to fill the day with a new baby. After all, newborns’ attention spans are SO short, and, quite frankly, new babies, though super sweet, are a little bit dull, aren’t they?! (Yes, I really did say that out loud!!)
Beyond a cuddle and bouncing them up and down, blowing raspberries on their scrummy tummy… what can you do to fill your day with a baby? And with an older baby, you just seem to go from one activity to another constantly, as they never stick at anything so you have to keep coming up with something new to fill the day with. Knowing WHAT to do becomes a daily struggle.
The other thing I hear from parents A LOT is, ‘am I good enough, am I doing enough for my baby?’ alongside, ‘It’s so boring!’
So, I want to show you how the two things are related and what we can do to solve them!
Let’s face it - no one wants to spend hours on Google finding things to do to fill the time just for the sake of it!
I get that you don’t want to spend hours and hours Googling to try and find things to fill your day. That’s just soulless and demoralising! And, if you’re not careful, if you do spend time looking for things to do on social media you end up with a house full of activities that have been ‘created’ to entertain your baby that last a few moments, and then just add to the amount of cleaning and tidying you already have!
The other problem with getting activities from social media (beyond the need to have ridiculous amounts of food colouring and pasta and a massive tolerance for mess) is the feeling of pointlessness about it all. If you are not careful, you spend hours creating a play beach scene (or whatever it is), only for your baby to explore but after spending only a few minutes with it, that’s it - they move on, leaving you with lots to tidy up and wondering what to create next for them to play with.
That’s just rubbish! It adds to the feelings of “Am I good enough?” “Am I doing enough?” and of course, “What on earth should I do with them now?”
For your baby, play is learning.
Your baby needs to learn everything.
The learning (and for that, remember, read play) that you do with your baby RIGHT FROM THE START lays the foundations for ALL THEIR FUTURE LEARNING!!!
And we know that children who have this solid foundation of learning right from the beginning do better in learning, in school, in health, in well, everything!
Did you know? A child’s development at 22 months is a strong predictor of how well they will be doing at 26 years…
So, the early activities you do with your baby really do matter…
Which brings us back to the question of, “what do I do to fill my baby’s day and how can I know what I am doing is worthwhile and what they need?”
The key is to understand what learning your baby is getting from the activity you are doing
You see, when you understand what your baby gains from what you are doing, then you see so much more purpose in what you are doing. You also see that you are helping them develop and you know that you ARE doing the best you can do for your baby!
So, here are my top tips for filling the day with your baby!
Everything you do to and with your baby is a learning/play activity for your baby. So, make the most of all those moments! From nappy changes to bathing, from feeding to tummy time, make them play activities and bring the learning in. You can do this by adding a song, counting their toes, and/or talking to your baby about what you are doing. Engaging them in conversation, getting eye contact and holding it while you chat - all of these are learning opportunities! When you treat these times as play times and activity times, they become much more enjoyable for you both, and your baby will gain so much more from them. Plus, they take a little bit more time, so there is less time that needs to be filled!
Your baby doesn’t need expensive toys. Your baby will love to explore the simple things that you have in and around your home. A plastic spoon and yoghurt pot is just as much a drum to them as an expensive drum kit is. In fact, it might even be better as the yoghurt pot can be explored and investigated and changed into something else as your child plays with it.
You are the best toy your baby can have. Singing, talking, bouncing, walking, reading snuggling - all these ARE activities. AND they are all learning activities!
Doing jobs alongside you is as good as a play activity from social media for your baby. Your baby doesn’t know if they are playing with the washing that you are sorting or if they are exploring a beautifully crafted sensory board. So why spend hours making sensory board when you can use the things that you have in the house and the jobs you are doing to provide the same sensory exploration. And when you KNOW that’s what you are doing, you start to feel so much better because you can get all the jobs done in the house and KNOW that you are doing amazing things to stimulate your child.
It’s about understanding the learning that your baby is getting from the simple things you already do, or that you are doing with them. Because, when you understand that, you are SO much more intentional about what you do with your baby. What you say, what you do, how you are, the things you point out to them, the conversations you have with them, the questions you ask them. All of this builds to create a strong foundation of learning for your child, which in turn gives them that great base for the rest of their life learning. Not a bad outcome from playing with the laundry basket!!!
So, HOW can you know what learning your baby is getting from the play that you are doing?
Well, first up, a lot of the things are obvious. For example, if your baby is holding a rattle then they are developing their hand muscles. What you might not have appreciated is that those are the same hand muscles that they will need to hold their pencil. They will also be developing their hearing as well as their vision. When they watch the rattle go from side to side, what you might not realise is that is the same movements that they will need to be able to follow text in a book and so it’s one of the foundations of learning to read.
So, look for the obvious things that they might be getting from the activity. Then try to look deeper into it and think what they might be getting from this. Ask them questions, develop the conversation. Help keep them engaged in the activity. All of this extends the learning.
If you want a bit of help with it, the Oliiki programme shows you not only the simple activities that you can do with your baby every day, but also the learning your baby is getting from it and it gives you more detail. Not only do you get a bank of simple, age-appropriate activities to do with your baby, but it also helps you feel confident that you are doing a brilliant job! As one of our Oliiki mums said recently:
“It helps to know how valuable my interactions with her are even at this early stage when it doesn’t feel like she’s that responsive. Also, how you don’t need fancy toys or to go to expensive classes, often the things you do naturally like singing to them is really beneficial.”
“It has actually made me feel better about things I have been doing naturally with my baby such as chatting to my baby or pointing things out when outside, and helps relieve the guilt that I am not doing enough to stimulate my baby.”
And finally, another said,
“It helps you be mindful about your baby’s development by explaining how simple interactions, which you are probably already doing anyway, can play an important role if done with a bit more intent and focus.”
Download the Oliiki programme today and fill your day with activities that are brilliant for your baby and make you feel FABULOUS! Who doesn't want that?!