May 29 , 2022
Babies 18 months older and up are constantly searching for a new adventure in their environment, so let’s start building their independence one (little) step at a time.
Fact: Studies have shown that the best engaging toys for little ones are the simplest ones, like cartoon boxes, wrapping paper, or everyday household items (as you probably know already). Why is that? Well, they simply learn through play about the world around them.
Instead of focusing on gates, covers, and other accessories to limit their freedom of movement and exploration, try to offer a safe and friendly environment to satisfy their need to investigate, discover and learn that will help them grow.
Why the need of self-exploring the environment?
To learn about how our world works and to discover more about it.
To develop emotionally, socially, and physically.
To engage in hands-on learning.
To be active throughout the day when they feel like it.
What’s the difference?
Just think about showing your toddler a picture of an apple and saying, “It is red, has an roundish shape, and tastes like…”. Instead, think of offering the opportunity to hold, feel, smell and taste an actual apple you have in your house. Well, that’s a whole other story. So much learning occurs when they can handle and play with real-life objects.
They still need our supervision, but the freedom to freely explore their house it’s an excellent opportunity to develop, grow and enjoy every experience, building a strong sense of competence, no matter how big or small your baby is.
How to start?
You can simply start by creating a household items box where you put different safe housekeeping items like sponges, spoons, cloths with different textures, and plastic containers with lids.
The free exploring shelves or cabinets. This is a shelve or cabinet that your toddler can easily access, and it’s filled with safe items they can play with and explore. The more texture, shapes, and colors, the better.
When possible, arrange the certain household items to be easily accessible for your child, easy to reach for things that could help them get involved in preparing snacks, using safe kitchen tools, and having a cup and step stool to get water.
If possible, child-sized furniture, like chairs and tables, to have a comfortable place to do different activities, eat, and prepare snacks.
Open toy shelves to have easy access to games, toys, or art supplies and put it back when they are done.
Use the low-drawers for their clothes, so they can change when necessary and make their own decision about dressing.
Bits of Advice for enjoyable exploration and learning
Supervise but do not interfere if not necessary.
When dangerous things are about to happen, calmly react and offer the necessary instruction to avoid any harm or damage, like “The fork is for eating the potatoes, not throwing potatoes to the wall.”
Don’t get stuck on YOUR PLAN of exploring, but let your child do their activity at their own pace and style. We already know what the item does, but your little one might need some time to see how it works and do some “tests” independently.
Start from day ONE. Yes, a simple scarf can make your baby want to move and improve focus. Once they get a little bigger, they can get involved in the different activities around the house like putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, dust cleaning, etc. Or they can get creative and build gigantic towers from paper towels, using your laundry basket to throw rolled socks, or start singing using a spoon and a pan.