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Save your cash and pull out the pegs

Child playing with pegs rather than expensive toysBabies 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.

READ: Check out Maggie’s awesome post on 7 ways to be a back-to-basics parent

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

  1. Pegs … lots of pegs. When you are hanging out washing, little ones love to sit at your feet and play/pass pegs.
  2. 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.
  3. A sand pit and preferably rocks is a must for any toddler/baby garden or balcony/veranda.
  4. Recycling can be fun! With the exception of tins and glass, let your little one run amok in your kitchen recycling bin.
  5. 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.

About Maggie Dent

Commonly known as the 'queen of common sense', Maggie Dent has become one of Australia's favourite parenting authors and educators. She has a particular interest in the early years, adolescence and resilience, and is ...

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3 Comments so far -
  • Izzy'sMum. says:

    My son LOVED paper…newspaper, gift wrap, even the paper the deli wrapped around our food. And yes, boxes were also a treat…to see how many smaller ones he could fit into a bigger box, hide his toys (or himself), sit on them, wear them on his head, squash them, stack them and ride his trike into them…endless good fun. Give him a couple of big boxes, some newspaper and an entire roll of sticky tape he’d build a cubby with newspaper curtains and door and if I was lucky he’d fall asleep in there. Great stuff! PS he’s now a Childcare worker 🙂

  • Blossom says:

    I have a little one who has loved pegs almost since he started sitting up unassisted. Yes he would hand me pegs to hang the clothes on the line but he often wanted them back but I wasn’t supposed to have another one. Took forever to hang the washing out sometimes. As a toddler he would scatter them everywhere by pushing his hands through them, pick them up and repeat the routine a few times. When he was old enough we taught him to pick them up and put them away.
    At 4.5 years he still plays with pegs inside. He has an old tin they “live” in. After use they go back in the tin and the lid is put on. He has another tin with small toy cars and animals in it.

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