By Claire Russell, Early Years Specialist and founder of playHOORAY
When your first baby comes along, you are without distractions, you can spend your days lost in a (sleepy) fog of feeding, savouring little one’s soft skin and sweet smiles, but when baby number two arrives, it’s not quite the same! It can be tough to balance the needs of a newborn with that of a toddler who is still very much craving attention and entertainment! You in turn, want to show them that they are still just as important to you as they ever were, not to mention the fact you might be feeling a bit fragile and not quite up for tearing around a soft play! Luckily, there are lots of simple, fuss-free ways to keep child number one busy and happy, that don’t cost the earth and can be easily set up (even one handed!) using everyday items found around the house! You don’t have time to be trawling Pinterest or setting up some complicated game, but basic household items can offer so much ‘play potential’! Who has ever found their child happily playing in a cardboard box or tapping away on the pots and pans with a wooden spoon?!
Build Your Play Cupboard
First and foremost, start building up your play cupboard so it’s ready for those early days as a mum to two. Some of my essentials are good old fashioned play dough; puppets; small world animals; tea pot and cups; pretend food; flashcards; musical instruments; chalks or crayons; and notebooks. A baby doll is also a great addition if you don’t already have one, enabling your son or daughter to join in with the bottle feeding, nappy changing and naptime routine! Have a scour of your house and see what else you have which may offer up some play potential – boxes, paper bags, tablecloths and bed sheets, baskets and old gadgets (mobiles, calculators). Don’t forget the recyling bin too!
Use Your Outdoor Space
If your baby is due in the summer months, think about how you can best utilise your outdoor space. Can you create a mud kitchen or buy a big bag of sand and add to some oversized buckets for sand play? Make a magic key and hide it in the garden for your little one to discover and use it to tell a story. Gather together some kitchen utensils and containers – muffin trays, bowls, jugs, ice cube trays, then simply add pasta, rice, cereal or water and watch the filling and pouring fun begin. Enjoying outdoors minimises the need for clearing up afterwards! Also, when you’re out for a stroll invite your child to start a collection of natural materials – sticks, pebbles, shells, pine cones, bark, leaves, conkers. All great for using in everyday games when back at home.
Once Baby Arrives…
If the neverending to-do-list can be put on hold and you have a slither of energy, try to take the opportunity sit and play one-on-one with your toddler for 15-30 minutes a day. And as baby grows and is more wakeful, there are plenty of ways you can keep them distracted too, giving you time for your first born. Babies love anything sensory – hang items above their bouncer or play mat for them to watch or reach for; place them on top of some tissue paper or newspaper which will make lots of interesting noise as they wriggle; stick post-it notes on windows or a highchair tray for your baby to grab.
Be By Their Side
Finally, never underestimate the power of simply being by your child’s side as they play. You don’t always have to be joining in. Being in the same room alone will give them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play. Try to comment on what they are doing, perhaps suggesting a few things you like about their playing i.e. I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower, or the way you are trying to get that to stick, I can see you are persevering. These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary. Similarly, keep up a dialogue, and help to boost their speech and language development, by telling them what you are doing too.
playHOORAY! was founded by fully-qualified early years specialist, Claire Russell, with the aim of equipping parents and carers with realistic, quick and easy to set up activities for keeping children entertained with an emphasis on using items you have around the house or easily located in pound shops. The playHOORAY! playPROMPTS range of activity cards now features over 20 themes including messy, sensory, and outdoor activities.
Find out more about playHOORAY! at www.playhooray.co.uk and download the new playHOORAY! app.