Babies and toddlers are learning constantly from everything they see, hear, taste, touch and smell because our senses are VITALLY important in brain growth.
Have you ever noticed a young child’s face the first time they taste something new, touch a kitten for the first time or see something bright and unusual?
That’s a WOW moment to them. Parents can build as many WOW moments as possible from real-life experiences like plastics cupboards, peg baskets, cardboard boxes, cellophane paper and human interaction.
Unfortunately, the consumerist, information-overloaded, perfectionist world around us encourages us to believe otherwise.
The consumer world has put enormous pressure on parents to buy toys and ‘stuff’ to make their child stimulated and smart. Also, in some places there is pressure to schedule lots of classes and activities — also designed to make your child smarter and cleverer.
Parents do not have to buy things to or create highly structured, supervised activities to stimulate their baby or young child.
Naturally, their sensory world is constantly processing because almost everything is being reviewed and explored.
By playing with something simple like the plastics found in the kitchen cupboard, your little ones will be developing their fine and gross motor skills, improving sensory awareness and memory skills and enjoying being independent autonomous learners.
Indeed, there are some child development experts who argue that we are overstimulating babies and toddlers with too many toys, too many screens and too much talking, and this could be contributing to higher levels of children with ADHD and anxiety disorders.
In our materialistic culture this concept of not needing to buy things to stimulate our children must seem foreign.
However, in a way it is good news — parents can get back to basics, save their money and invest in high-quality food and fuel for the car so you can take your child out on adventures in the real world and allow them to find truly fascinating things that exist in nature.
On a family visit to my sister’s home a couple of years ago, I watched her two-year-old granddaughter do some amazing brain building right in front of us.
She was wandering around in my sister’s garden and found an empty ice-cream container.
When she picked it up you could almost hear her brain ticking over, “What is it? What can I do with it?” Then she put it on her head and walked off, and it fell off.
She tried it twice more and obviously that was not very exciting or interesting. She paused, again looking at this container. And then she put it on the lawn upside down and stood on it. She then jumped off with a, “Ta dah!”
When she had fully engaged with this new experience she looked to her nanny as if to say, “Wow, look what I can do”.
She proceeded to do this several times until she tired of it, and then just left it and went in search of something else she might be able to explore.
This is learning and mastery at work—and all it cost was a tub of ice cream.
Here are my top 5 awe-inspiring toddler opportunities at home
- Pegs … lots of pegs. When you are hanging out washing, little ones love to sit at your feet and play/pass pegs.
- Don’t throw out boxes. If your neighbor is getting a new fridge delivered, ask if you can have the box and let the fun begin.
- A sand pit and preferably rocks is a must for any toddler/baby garden or balcony/veranda.
- Recycling can be fun! With the exception of tins and glass, let your little one run amok in your kitchen recycling bin.
- Make sure there is one cupboard (or even a box to pull out of a cupboard) in your kitchen where your child can have free reign to sort, stack, bang and experiment with unbreakable items while you cook.