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  • Techniques to keep your cool during difficult parenting moments.
  • How to discipline your child so they learn to desire to do the right thing.

 

Gentle Parenting is the long term discipline strategy so many parents are longing for. If you feel like tradition punishments just don't work, you'll be excited to learn the strategies that do. Gentle Foundations will teach you how to discipline with love and respect, without becoming a permissive parent.

Lizzy Mash, Course Creator

What's in the course?

  • Gentle Parenting introduction.
  • Strategies to prevent tantrums and outbursts.
  • Techniques to keep your cool during difficult parenting moments.
  • How to discipline your child so they learn to desire to do the right thing.

 

Gentle Parenting is the long term discipline strategy so many parents are longing for. If you feel like tradition punishments just don't work, you'll be excited to learn the strategies that do. Gentle Foundations will teach you how to discipline with love and respect, without becoming a permissive parent.

Lizzy Mash, Course Creator

6 Steps to Creating a Baby Play Area Intended for Learning

by | Oct 19, 2017 | Early Childhood Learning, Motherhood | 0 comments

(This post might contain affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy a product I love then I may get a commission - at no extra cost to you! For all the Ts and Cs go here.)

Is your baby starting to crawl? It’s an exciting time but it certainly makes us see our house differently as our baby’s world gets so much bigger. For this reason, many parents start to think about how to make a baby play area so their baby can move around without getting into anything dangerous or breaking anything. I’m going to teach you how to create a baby play area that will be not only safe but will also stimulate your baby and promote a rich learning experience.

These principals can also be applied to walking babies and toddlers, but it’s great to start when they begin crawling.

Why is a Baby Play Area Important?

I am a strong believer in the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, and one of their philosophies is that the environment is the third teacher. The idea is basically that we can intentionally create a space for the children that will naturally promote learning. We can prepare the environment to stimulate their curiosity in a way that will lead them to rich learning experiences. Our babies will learn a lot if we create the right baby play area for them. Besides keeping our babies safe, and our breakables in one piece, we can create a baby play area that will help them in their next stages of development. Opportunities to practice their gross motor skills by pulling them self up on larger objects until they start to cruise, a mirror for them to look at their reflection and so much more will help our babies to learn every day.

6 Steps to Creating a Baby Play Area

#1. Think about YOUR baby

Before you get into setting up your baby play area I want you to think about YOUR baby. What skills do they already have and what skills are they still working on? What sort of objects do they like to play with? (If you’re not too sure on that, check out this free observation checklist to learn your baby’s interests and development.) 

Everyone’s baby is different so the advice you get from someone might be based on their experience. As an example, my best friend has a daughter 3 months older than mine. We were visiting them one day and I kept having to stop my daughter from pulling down all the books that were in her reach. I assumed my friend must be exhausted from constantly having to chase her daughter around so she wouldn’t do that, but it turns out her daughter never pulled down the books, so she didn’t have to worry about it. Different strokes for different babies right?

So think about anything special about your child that may need to make their baby play area perfect for them. Will they do anything they can to get to the electric cords or is it out of sight, out of mind for them? Do they have any physical limitations or any physical exercises they are supposed to be doing? Only you know what your little guy or gal needs in their baby play area that’s specifically just for them.

#2. Choose space

When it comes to choosing your space this will, of course, be specific to your house and your usual schedule. I use my baby’s room for her educational baby play area, but if I had an open plan kitchen/living room I would probably find that easier. I also have a mini area in our bedroom that I have to prepare every morning to make it safe (move our phone chargers, close the bathroom door etc). This works for me because I have a large bedroom and often have work to do in the room, so it’s good to have a safe play area for my daughter.

You will want a space that you will be able to make safe but also big enough that your baby will be able to practice their quickly developing gross motor skills. For this reason, I would recommend against using a playpen because most don’t offer much space for your child.

When it comes to choosing a space for your baby play area, it will probably be where the two of you already spend the most time.

#3. Make the baby play area safe and functional

Once you have chosen the area of your house that you are going to set up your baby play area in you need to make it safe and functional. Cover electrical outlets, move things out of reach that you don’t want your baby to touch and anything else that will make it safe. I also say functional because your house still needs to function for the adults and older children who live there. For example, in my daughter’s room I also have a desk and chair so I can occasionally get some work done while she is playing. In our bedroom, I have a nightstand that she doesn’t have access to where I can put my coffee without her knocking it over.

Whatever you need to do to make the baby play area work in your situation then do so. After you have set it up you may notice things that aren’t practical about it and you can make changes as needed.

#4. Choose materials to go in the baby play area

Yay, now this is the fun part! Another part of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning that I love is their use of open-ended materials. An open-ended material is something that has more than 1 use or purpose; something that you can be creative with. A toy with buttons to make sounds or light up wouldn’t be considered an open-ended material. You can reuse items like plastic containers as open-ended materials. My daughter went through a phase where she loved plastic container lids specifically, and she did all kinds of things with them.

What you can do is go around your house looking for items. You don’t need to go out to the store to buy expensive toys. If you do want to buy stuff though, you’d probably find some really good stuff at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby – any of those big craft stores. As you search for items, just try to think if the object has a lot of different possibilities to be played with. The more things you can do with an item the fewer toys you would need to buy anyways!

As you choose your items think about their purpose for aiding in your child’s development. Listed below are 4 areas of your baby’s development that you are going to want to consider while you prepare the baby play area.

As a few examples, I used a footstool in my daughter’s play area to encourage her gross motor skills, books of course for language as well as a mirror and a comfy place for me to sit for her social and emotional development.

You don’t need to have a lot of items you just need to have a variety. Make sure there are opportunities for each area of development and you should be good.

#5. Organize the space

Time to put it all together! When you start to lay out the baby play area it is good to consider that difference spaces should serve different purposes. This becomes especially important as your child gets older. You will want a space for rest, a space to read, a space where you can see outdoors, a space to think and reflect, and more as your child gets older such as a space for writing, a space for crafts, etc.

When you create a space for rest it’s nice to create a spot on the floor that your little one can go to at any time. Now of course not all babies will utilize this. My daughter so far never has, but the mat we use on the floor is big enough for the two of us, so sometimes I nurse her to sleep there, or it’s just a nice place for me to relax and play with her.

I have also ensured that she has access to look out the window and see the outside world. As she gets older this will be beneficial as we discuss seasons and the passing of time.

A reading space is also important. A comfortable place to sit and read and an appropriate place to display the books.

When it comes to storing your babies items there can be some strategies to this as well. Display the items within your child’s reach. A child-sized shelf with a few baskets in a neutral tone would be ideal, but you can improvise with what you already have. I would try to put items relevant to each other per basket (blocks in one, wooden kitchen utensils in another, etc). At this age, you can start to encourage your child to clean up. Have fun throwing items together in the basket (even if it’s just to be dumped out again). I started singing a cleanup song with my daughter when I put her toys away before bed. My hope is that she will start to associate this song with putting the items away, but I’ll have to get back to you on that one at a later date!

#6. Adapt  and grow

Now that your baby play area is set up you can enjoy it with your little one, but it’s important to keep watching what they are learning and interested in so you can change the environment as their needs grow. Don’t forget to download the child development and interests observation worksheet to keep up with their changing needs. As they engage with the environment and learn, you may start to notice that some aspects of the baby play area are not functioning well so it would be best to make sure it is best for you and baby. If your little one needs more practice in a certain area of their development then you may want to rearrange that area to stimulate their curiosity in the favour of that skill. For instance, if you want to see them practising pulling their self up to stand then I would put an interesting object on something like a footstool so they would have to pull their self up to get it. Just try to stay aware of the area so you’ll always be open to changes.

So what’s next?

Now your baby has the benefit of an optimal environment that will promote learning and development. Your environment is officially a teacher for your baby! There is so much more you can do for your baby to help them to continue to learn. For activities for 6-12-month-old check this out, and for the toddlers, you might be interested in this.

You can be your child’s first teacher and offer them a rich learning environment at home – and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Do you want to be more intentional about teaching your child at home? Then check out my free mini email course all about that!

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The Moving Mama

The Moving Mama

Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.

She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.

Read more about Lizzy here >>

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