As you enjoy the snuggles that only a newborn baby can bring and those eyes staring back at you, do you ever wonder where to next? How can you stimulate your baby’s learning and help them discover the world at this young age? Where do you even begin to organize play? How do you create a stimulating and inviting play space for your baby? What type of play is suitable for your baby as they move beyond the newborn stage?
Today I’m sharing with you the ideas, templates, and systems we use to help organize play for our babies, ways to stay organized in the home to fit more play in a day and add fun to our family life with our little learners along with fifteen of our favorite play ideas that you can create in your very own play space for your baby. This is a blog you don’t want to miss, so grab a cuppa, a notepad, curl up and enjoy!!
‘Create a space that fits your life.’
8 Ways to be Organized for Play at Home
We strongly believe it is important to “Create a space that fits your life.” Why? Because the space we live in has a remarkable influence on us…it nurtures relationships and connections, creates ambiance, persuades our moods, and in some cases, even provides us with a sense of belonging. In the early years, children often spend time playing and learning in a playspace – whether this be a dedicated playroom, corner in the home, or the nursery. And like us, they are influenced by the space they live in. Let’s deep dive into how one can start creating a playspace that fits their life?
Grab a pen, notepad, and your preferred drink – this is going to be a long one, and you will want to jot down some notes.
I’d like you to decide on an area in the home that will become the play space. Now, think about the shape and size of it, the available wall space, the amount of floor space, the safety of the area, the area’s versatility, and the quality of light at different times of the day in the area. Once you have decided on the suitability of the playspace, you can begin setting it up. This is often the most exciting and fun part as it involves color, creativity, toys, decor, and shopping.
Here are some tips to help you start the process:
- Little spaces don’t mean little furniture. A large cupboard or cube storage unit (IKEA Kallax, BUNNINGS Clever cube, KMART cube storage) can store lots of toys and display them so babies can see and reach them. Remember to secure furniture to ensure your baby’s safety.
- Collate all of your baby’s toys before buying any storage solutions. It helps to know exactly what resources you have and what type of storage will work best, particularly if you are in the market for new furniture.
- Have a look around the home to see if any furniture can be repurposed. E.g., We recently repurposed our nappy change table into an outside toy storage unit.
- Ensure you have adequate light coming into your play space-can you tie curtains up, open blinds further (remember to follow blind and curtain safety procedures with cords and ties), use brighter light globes, install a skylight.
- Think vertically – can you utilize wall space with shelves or artwork. This can create the impression of a larger room/space.
- Can the inside of cupboard doors be utilized?
- Display children’s literature- it adds color and sets up culture and enjoyment of reading.
- Will nature work in your play space-greenery can add color and encourage creative play.
- Can you create an art gallery to display children’s artworks? Again adding color but also providing babies with a sense of achievement.
- If you are on the hunt for new toys, aim to buy open-ended toys-toys that allow active explanation and many different play types?
- Add a splash of color with artworks, colored baskets/boxes/cubes, baby rugs, playmats, bunting, or mobiles.
Please don’t try all of these ideas, especially if you instinctively know it isn’t going to work in your home-that is key to creating a space that fits your life. The best way to find inspiration is by trying ideas that you are confident will work in your play space, which will vary from mum to mum and home to home.
Toy rotation system
A toy rotation system is excellent as it provides babies with various learning experiences, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. I have found that low line cube storage is an ideal height for babies to see/reach their toys, and they can be displayed in themes such as animals, transport, farm, kitchen accessories, colors, balls, etc. As your baby grows, you can move into using boxes in the cube storage with each box labeled and color-coded to assist with the ease of packing away. Why labels? Besides loving labels from a pretty and practical perspective, they also provide children with spontaneous learning opportunities to focus on colors, shapes, and reading. Toys can be rotated weekly/fortnightly, allowing babies to consolidate, develop interests, and learn new concepts.
How to create a toy rotation system
- Choose a location – I recommend choosing the area where your baby plays the most.
- Collect all the baby toys – Take a look at what toys you have and want to include in a toy rotation (toys you don’t mind seeing on the floor, age-appropriate and are safe on the floor for babies).
- Choose the toys – choosing age-appropriate toys, versatile, durable, fun, and foster higher-order thinking (problem-solving, decision making, and critical thinking) are ideal for including in the rotation. Some examples are blocks, soft toys, nesting cups, books, posting boxes, mirrors (safe glass is needed).
- Organize toys – There are many ways to organize toys, but our favorite way is based on themes. E.g., Animals, transport, dramatic, imaginative, construction, etc. Our daily play plan is based on a weekly theme, which links nicely to how the toys are organized, and it makes for easy packing away.
- Decide on storage – there are a variety of ways to store toys that fit your space. Our favorites are plastic tubs with lids, flexi tubs, cube storage with boxes/baskets, and shelves. We currently use three sets of cube storage (one in the common space and the other two in bedrooms) for both storage and rotation. Once you have finalized storage of your choice, place toys in their allotted spot.
- Choosing a rotation system – there are a few different ways to rotate toys-cyclic, swap, interest-based, or random. And the frequency could vary from daily, weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly. I suggest trying one way and sticking with it if it works and changing it if necessary.
What works for us at the moment is a cyclic mixed interest-based rotation weekly. Our toys are rotated at the beginning of each week. Toy Rotation Systems take time and trial and error to work smoothly. If at first, things aren’t going to plan, take some time to reflect, seek solutions, and be persistent while recognizing the limitations.
‘One of the many keys to play organisation stems from household organisation.’
A daily plan is a fabulous tool to help new mums stay organized, particularly in those first few months, while adjusting to a new schedule. It is a place to track feeding and sleep patterns, document important details about your baby’s development, milestone achievements, and record appointments for both you and baby. Having a daily plan helps establish suitable times and activities for play (talking to your baby, making eye contact, cuddles, singing, reading, or telling a story).
Hands up if you find yourself running back and forth in your home, returning misplaced (aka stray) belongings? If this is you, this idea is just what you need. It is a box in a central spot to place those loose items, eliminating the constant back and forth until you have the time to return them in one go. This has been a huge organizational success in our home.
Have you heard of zone cleaning? This is a concept originally seen at www.flylady.net. It involves dividing your home into zones for cleaning. In the beginning, it is encouraged to set a timer for 15 minutes and to de-clutter that one specific zone – in baby steps. Don’t tackle a job that you instinctively know will take longer than 15 minutes to complete. Once that selected zone is de-cluttered, there are set daily missions to complete within that zone. When a zone is completed, the same steps are applied to a new zone. Once all zones have been finished, the focus shifts to maintenance. It sounds like something of interest to you, and you are keen to get started http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/.
Morning and afternoon routines
Mornings set the tone of the day for us – they either energize us or drain us. Our morning routine came about with the combination of trial and error and inspiration from our favorite authors and bloggers. And even now, it still doesn’t always go to plan – as that is the nature of life, but the key to success has been to keep it simple. We have kept it simple by choosing five things to complete each morning (aka Daily 5) because this is what we can manage. The intention was to keep these five tasks the same until they became daily habits and once they were a part of our everyday life, consider introducing new tasks as needed. Leanne inspired this concept over at her website. Check out her page to learn so many more handy tips on organization, particularly Project 14.
Afternoons – work much the same way with daily tasks. However, there are only three tasks. This fits in our current afternoon schedule.
Visual timetable for mum
Visual timetables are often used in the classroom with young children to know what is happening and what the expectations are for them throughout the day. Taking on this idea for yourself allows you to see where you are within the day, maintain a routine as best as possible with a baby, and to help reduce the feeling of overwhelm when things aren’t achieved (which is to be expected with children). Visual Timetables can be written with pen and paper, typed on a device with an app, or upon a wall in the home for easy viewing…whichever way best meets your needs and will be something you use.
Pack away routine for mum & baby
While a pack away routine is a handy way to stay organized, particularly as your child moves from the baby stage to toddler stage and as you both embark further into the journey of play, we recommend in the baby stage, starting with the concept of ‘everything has a place’ rather than a set pack away routine. Why? It allows for more time to be spent on playing and completing other mummy duties while still role modeling ‘packing away’ and feeling organized. For example, when a play resource such as a cloth book or rattle has finished being used, put it back where it belongs.
‘Excuse the mess we are busy creating memories’
10 PLAY IDEAS FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY
…so now that we are all organized, let’s talk about what activities are suitable for your baby.
- TREASURE CHEST – Putting together a themed collection of items with different textures, colors, or shapes is a great way for babies to explore. e.g., a basket of shiny objects
- SENSORY BOTTLES – Filling plastic bottles with water, glitter, confetti, sequins, hair gel and water mix, oil and water mix, colored water, grass, sand, and dirt can make great sensory bottles for your baby. (We like to use the store-bought empty travel size shampoo and conditioner bottles because they are an ideal size and weight).
- NESTING BOXES/CUPS – One of the most versatile baby gifts we received were nesting boxes. We have used them to build towers during tummy time, push and pull objects, carry objects in them, and shake objects (later baby stage)…endless minutes of fun. Remember, your baby will only play for minutes at a time until they are a bit older.
- POSTING & DROPPING BOX – Remember the Tupperware Shape O-ball? The red and blue ones with yellow shapes? This is a type of posting box, and these days, they come in a variety of designs – boats, boxes…basically, any shape that allows objects to be dropped into them and retrieved to repeat. This activity is a great one when your baby begins sitting up.
- STORYTELLING – Reading books with your child or telling stories is an exciting opportunity to bond with your baby. When telling stories, you may recite some of your favorites from your childhood or retell a popular children’s story. You might use silly voices (babies love this) to represent different characters and create a sense of anticipation. You may even extend this idea and add some finger and hand puppets when telling the story.
- MIRROR – Babies love looking at their reflections, poking their tongues out, and playing peek-a-boo with a mirror. When choosing a mirror, make sure it is suitable for design and make for your baby to use.
- MUSIC AND SONGS – This activity is perfect for newborns right through to young children at school and perhaps beyond. As a newborn, this play can be in the form of cooing, making eye contact, singing, and playing music. As your baby moves into the toddler stage, it can be in the form of movement to music, singing together, and playing with musical instruments.
- BUBBLES – This is a simple and easy activity for you and your baby to play with. Making bubbles with a bubble wand, watching them, popping, and chasing them can create lots of fun.
- TUMMY TIME PAINTING – A great way to introduce painting to babies is through paint in an envelope. Check out this idea at MamaPapaBubba.
- MESSY SPAGHETTI – so we know messy play isn’t every mum’s cup of tea – it is messy and time-consuming. For those that attempt messy spaghetti, find a time that bests suits you and the family. This play experience is one for outside and in-play/housework clothes.
…so I know the Baby Appear community has some great play ideas and organizational tips to help and inspire their fellow Baby Appear members. I would love to hear about them; please share below. Got any questions, pop them in the comments, and I will be back to answer them.