Sarah Norris – The Baby Detective

Why Do We Play With Babies ?
September 5, 2022
Playing with your baby should be simple and fun, not stressful, confusing or expensive but this blog will help get you back on track enjoying your baby.   Play is a pretty simple concept and everyone knows how to do it if they trust themselves and remember their own childhood but somehow it’s all got overcomplicated so […]

Why Do We Play With Babies ?

Playing with your baby should be simple and fun, not stressful, confusing or expensive but this blog will help get you back on track enjoying your baby.  

Play is a pretty simple concept and everyone knows how to do it if they trust themselves and remember their own childhood but somehow it’s all got overcomplicated so I thought it might help to look at why we play in the first place.  

Why do you need to play with your baby? 

Life Skills

Play is a massive part of childhood and it has a very specific purpose…it prepares us for real life as an adult. 

If we get the right play opportunities as a child, as an adult  

We’ll have learned how to fit into the society that we live in. 

We’ll have learned how to form relationships. 

We’ll have learned problem solving 

We’ll have learned how to cope when things go wrong.  

We’ll have learned self-reliance and independence. 

Once we have all those life skills, we have the building blocks we need to be happy, healthy adults with everything we need to be successful in whatever way is best for us as individuals. 

It might sound serious and complicated, but it really isn’t because babies are brilliant at learning what they need to know without any micromanagement on our part…they soak it up like a sponge (including things we don’t want them to learn !) 

They learn to form relationships by interacting with people. 

They learn problem solving by interacting with their environment 

They learn to cope when things go wrong by making mistakes 

They learn self-reliance by doing things on their own.

Common mistakes 

Sometimes though, things can start to go wrong because parents, in our well-meaning efforts to ‘help’, ‘protect’ and ‘improve’, we get in the way. 

We want to keep our babies safe so  

  • we limit who they interact with,  
  • we keep them inside,  
  • we do things for them,  
  • we stop them making mistakes,  
  • we rush to comfort them when they get upset or frustrated,  
  • we micromanage their daily schedules so they are always busy,  
  • we structure their play and ‘show them how’  
  • we keep them on soft, padded mats or in play chairs 
  • we surround them with toys of our choosing 
  • we spend a fortune on toys and classes to ‘increase their IQ’ 
  • we rush them to meet milestones from apps, and worry when they don’t. 

Basically, even though this is all done from love, we are actually often getting in our baby’s way and preventing them learning vital life skills, and causing yourself unnecessary stress into the bargain. 

What can we do to rebalance things ? 

Since I’m known as the Baby Detective let’s stick with something you’ll probably have seen on a tv crime show. 

The detectives always ask themselves whether the suspect had the Means, the Motive and the Opportunity. 

They apply this to someone who may have committed a crime, but you can also apply the same principles to someone trying to learn something. 

For your baby to learn life skills they need: 

The Means  

For your baby, this means providing them with the physical things they need e.g. 

Something to play on, things to play with, people to interact with 

Variety is vital, and normal household items are just as important as bought toys. 

The Motive 

For your baby this means encouragement (physical and emotional) and it means leaving them to figure things out for themselves and try until they succeed because success is the ultimate motivator…the look on their faces when they manage to do something is amazing to see. 

The Opportunity. 

For your baby this means giving them time and space to play by themselves. It means doing less for them and allowing them the chance to learn for themselves, and it means giving them the chance to make mistakes, get upset and learn to cope with it themselves…and this is the thing that parents find the hardest. 

Balance 

Before you all accuse me of being heartless and suggesting we all abandon our babies to get on with it…that’s not what I’m saying. 

What I’m saying is that we need to find a good balance between keeping our babies safe, happy and healthy, whilst at the same time, relaxing enough to give them what they need and allow them to play freely, as nature intended…with courage, curiosity and determination. 

I know it’s not easy when everything on social media and in the media is bombarding you with all the things you ‘should’ be doing, but just remember that most of what you see and hear is coming from people who want to sell you something or are desperate for an attention-grabbing headline. 

This creates the perfect storm of confusion and pressure to be perfect and parents end up scrabbling around trying to do what everyone else is doing, buying what everyone else is buying, and ignoring their own instincts and losing confidence in themselves… we end up trying way too hard.

It also makes us forget how we played when we were children and the simple fun you can have poking sticks down holes or making dens. 

Play made easy

In the next 3 blogs I’m going to use what we’ve talked about here and go into detail about playing with Newborns to 2 months, 2 to 4 months and 4 to 6 months in a sensible, practical, relaxed way that takes all the pressure off you. 

I’ll be explaining how to play, what you do and don’t need to buy along with what you can use from around your house. 

I’ll also be pointing out the common mistakes people make and the problems they might cause further down the line, along with how to correct them, so hopefully you will know more, save money, dump the stress and feel more able to just relax and enjoy your baby. 

If you love learning about your baby, you’ll love my new Facebook baby group Brilliant Baby Solutions

Its free, and you get direct access to ask me anything you like, and I constantly check the group so you can get a quick reply,

Sarah x

The Author

I’m Sarah Norris, a Baby Care Consultant and Parenting Coach.

I have spent over twenty five years, often working 24 hours, 6 days a week, supporting hundreds of families with new or young babies aged from newborn to 12 months old, and often helping with their toddlers and older children.

I help parents discover what parenting style they want to use to care for their baby, and offer advice on different approaches that might suit them and their circumstances best.

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