Before your baby is ready for a shape sorter, he'll discover the magic of putting things in containers and taking them out again. Which will lead to....dump containers out. Your home may never be tidy again - but your little one is learning and having fun, so it's worth it! Let's take a look at how simple DIY toys can help your little one learn and develop putting in and taking out skills and why they're important.
What to expect from your baby's play:
This activity is perfect for 5-10 month olds. And as you know from the trail of drool in your home, babies at this stage love to mouth toys! Choose a container with an opening a bit bigger than balls or pegs, plastic links or any other smaller toys you choose. Or make your own from a small shoebox (Learn how you, too, can become a baby toy scavenger in your own home). Hand it to your baby pre-filled with a few toys. Your little one will likely assume what he assumes of anything he finds in his hands these days, "Great! A new teether toy!" But while he's holding and turning and mouthing the container, toys will inevitably tumble out. Your baby may or may not notice right away. Babies learn through repetition. Given lots of time with his new toy, he'll realize that something is rattling around inside and that toys seem to be falling out of it. Then the fun really begins as he shakes, bangs and reaches inside to retrieve toys.
One thing to know is that typically babies learn to take out before they learn to put in. You'll have to reload the container periodically until your kiddo figures out how to do that on his own. Once he's gotten good at putting items in the container, you can extend the activity by choosing a narrow-mouthed container and longer toys (rectangular blocks, pegs, plastic spoons). 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.