Boxes and Balls

It’s really called “object play.”  It’s not a very fancy name, but that’s what it is – playing with objects of any kind.  The truth is kids will play with anything, especially when they’re babies.  Pots and pans, paper, Dad’s shoes, your car keys, your cell phone.  It really doesn’t matter too much what it is.  And, interestingly that’s part of their job as babies to explore and play with everything.  The more freedom you give them to do that job, the more they learn.

You see, being allowed to explore and experiment within safe limits is of extreme importance to brain development. Those babies who are allowed to explore generally tend to become eager and flexible players.  Not only that, but object play is a huge component of language development.  Through object exploration babies learn about shape, size, texture, and color.  Through play baby learns to differentiate between objects and even comes to differentiate her own body from objects.  Of course, fourth month olds still think they’re toes are convenient toys!  So, take every opportunity as your Baby plays to label.  The more language you shower her with in those moments of interest and engagement, the sooner she’ll be talking, reading, and writing.

That’s why we’re always bringing in interesting things to play with in class.  We want you to have some ideas of things that are great to explore at home, plus we try to keep things interesting and to constantly give you and Baby new things to “talk” about.  That being said, here are four things you might play with in class, the purpose behind them, and an idea of how you might extend the play at home:

  1. Scarves. Yes, we play with these all the time because they are just so fun.  But there are many benefits to scarf play.  Baby can develop
    hand-eye coordination, pre-dressing skills, and visual discrimination.  He can develop hand-eye coordination through placing the scarf over somebody’s head, which may also aid in developing pre-dressing skills.  He can explore the textures and develop visual
    discrimination by looking through the scarf and seeing a recognizable object on the other side (adorable Mom of course).  And language development can be aided as you describe scarf movements (such as up and down) or colors.  (You can replicate some of these activities with baby blankets or other pieces of fabric which add a different texture experience as well.  One teacher this week was telling me she actually used clean tea towels at home one day to many giggles and squeals of delight.)
  2. Egg shakers, drums, and various instruments. Baby learns a great deal from instruments even if she is not the one playing them. As you or Baby play instruments in class, Baby learns about cause and effect. “If this is tapped, it will make a noise.” She also exercises
    her eyes as she visually follows the sound source.  When the instrument is out of Baby’s view, she may be compelled to search
    for the object that was making so much noise!  When Baby begins to search for and retrieves a hidden object, this indicates that Baby remembers that the object continues to exist even though it can not be seen. This is known as object permanence. Object permanence
    is memory of behavior and/or things seen but out of sight.  (from Educational Psychology: Principles and Applications, by Jeanne Ellis Omrod, p. 40.)  Though you may not have drums at home, pots and pans and tupperware or other plastic containers make a great substitute.  You can make your own shakers with empty yogurt containers or other small plastic containers filled with rice or beans.  Just be sure to seal them up well enough that Baby can’t get them back open!
  3. Baby Bells, held or worn on the wrist or ankle. As Baby handles and moves the bells, he experiences cognitive and physical
    challenges and reaps benefits as he overcomes these challenges. He has the opportunity to use his fine motor skills
    to grasp the bells. He can also practice using whole arm movements and simple wrist movements. Finally, depending on his
    age, he may practice transferring the bells from one hand to the other or reaching for the bells at a distance.  Older babies begin to practice matching a steady beat with bells, while younger ones can feel the beat being tapped on their toes or arms.  And exposure to various instruments from bells to drums to shakers, teaches babies about musical color or timbre.
  4. Chime Balls. Balls are classic children’s toys, and Chime Balls have the added interest of a sound contained within them. When
    Baby plays with the Chime Ball, she experiences tactile and auditory stimulation, and her play helps her along the path to developing an
    understanding of cause and effect, eyehand coordination, and sound localization. All this while she’s having fun!  Regular balls (or those cute new Duck Gertie Balls you got if you’re in this summer’s Village class) are also great for rolling, bouncing, patting, tapping, and mouthing.

May these ideas fuel even more as you share, explore, and “discuss” your world together!

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