There is a baby toy limbo land - have you gotten stuck in it? Rattles and crinkle toys seem too simple and, well, baby-ish but puzzles and shape sorters seem way too advanced for your baby. A lot of times the “I feel like we need more toys but I don’t know what to get” and the “I feel like I should be doing more with him but I don’t know what that looks like” feelings strike between 6 and 12 months. So let’s look at some putting in and taking out of containers play today to discover what your baby can do!
THe TAKING OUT / DUMPING stage
For many skills, before babies DO, they are able to UNDO.
They dump toys out of a bucket before they put them in. They pull puzzle pieces out of a peg puzzle long before they put them in. If you thought this was just purposeless mess-making - I’ve got great news. This is LEARNING and it’s developmental play that super simple to support.
WAYS TO PLAY IN THE UN-DOING STAGE
Container Play: Start with a big container with a large opening - a food storage container, a plastic storage bin, a shoe box, etc. - and some grabbable toys or baby-safe objects.
Let baby watch you PUT IN (one of the way babies learn is through watching…even if he’s not ready to repeat the action quite yet). Then let baby TAKE OUT. Babies learn through repetition. So do this again. And again. And again. It’s just as simple to make this into a language learning activity - you just talk while you play! You might say “In” or “bye-bye ball” each time you put in or count the objects, ask “Where did they go?” or “Can you find them?” or whatever else you feel like saying to your little - hard to go wrong when playing with and talking to your baby.
Up the challenge by putting objects in a container with a smaller opening - you might see baby shake and turn and try to reach in to get those toys out - problem-solving!!!
Another way to play - let baby take large peg puzzle pieces OUT of a wooden puzzle or tae shapes out of a sorter. These are awesome learning activities that also help baby work on grasping (fine motor) skills.
THE TRYING TO PUT IN STAGE
Next up, baby’s going to start figuring out this whole “things go in” deal but won’t have the hand coordination or spatial understanding to do it well or to turn objects or match them to a shape (like a puzzle or sorter). This is a great time to start with containers with BIG openings.
Your baby will learn through trial and error that he has to turn the objects to fit them into containers. These are called object manipulation and orientation skills. They form the foundation of later visual motor skills like completing puzzles in preschool, writing his name in elementary school, and efficiently packing everything he owns into a tiny hatchback when he goes off to college (*sniffle, sniffle*).
If your little one isn't quite ready for putting in and taking out, keep playing with Grabbing Baskets, try a ribbon grabbing game and hang teether toys from an activity gym. In a few weeks, try putting in and taking out activities again and see if those grasping and two-handed activities have helped prepare your baby for container play.
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