If you are an expecting mother or a mum to a newborn, you would certainly have come across tons of ideas for ‘baby play area setups’. But have you ever wondered what this even means?
Do babies really need a separate area to play in? Does a special setup help them? If so, what do you need to add to these setups and where do you get them from?
In this blog, we will answer all the questions you may have and guide you step by step through setting up the perfect play area for your baby!
Why do babies need a play area?
Picture credits: @takea_skillpill on Instagram
Think of how your baby coos and gurgles when you play peek-a-boo, turns their head when they see their favourite plush toy, or tries to reach for a rattle when you shake it next to them. In each of these situations, they are honing a skill while understanding something about the world around them.
Babies are constantly absorbing, experimenting, and learning. For them, every interaction with this world is new and exciting and every attempt at movement becomes a game. Play is the backbone of a child’s development.
Many schools of thought, including Montessori, believe that right from the beginning, we must provide children with the tools and environment that facilitate independent play. Children who learn a certain level of self-sufficiency from infancy onward often grow up to be more relaxed, focused, and joyful people. A play area can help with this!
If you are looking for a Montessori toy to enjoy during tummy time, we recommend our Montessori Rainbow Spinner. Give it a whirl!
A play area or a play space is a room or a portion of a room that is dedicated towards fostering independent playtime for your little one.
Of course, this does not mean that you should leave your baby all alone or that they need to learn how to play with toys on their own. Keep reading to know how exactly you can set up, use, and make the most of play areas.
How to set up a play area for babies
1. Select a room or an area
While you can set up a play area anywhere, consider dedicating a room or a section of a room for it. This will give your child space to play and help build a sense of familiarity and security within the environment.
If you are using a room, make sure it is near your bedroom or kitchen so that you can always keep an eye on them. If it’s a section of a room, let it be a recreational space where older siblings can play and you can engage in your own leisurely activities. This will give your family a chance to bond while you each do your own thing. Either way, remember to ensure the room is babyproofed!
Is your house completely babyproofed? Check out this blog for a handy list of places to babyproof around your house!
2. Add a mat and a mirror
The first thing you will need in a play area is a mat that your baby can lie, roll, and crawl on. You can use a soft cotton mat or simply place a sturdy and comfy mattress on the floor.
Most play areas have mirrors that are placed horizontally for a baby to see their reflection in during tummy time. Since children don’t recognize themselves in the mirror until 15-24 months, your child will be fascinated with their reflection and enjoy playing with themselves!
3. Bring in pictures and cards
There’s nothing like some art to brighten up a space, even your baby’s play area! Remember that for the first few months, babies can only see black and white. This is followed by seeing the primary colours and gradually, the entire spectrum.
This means that a baby has sensitive vision. So it’s important that the pictures in the room are simple black and white designs or of soothing pastel shades. Our set of High Contrast Black and White Flash Cards are perfect to play with, use as room decor, and hone your baby’s visual skills.
4. Have a few toys and books
Select a few age-appropriate toys and books and set them up near your baby. Montessori practitioners recommend having between 6 to 8 toys out and accessible at any given point of time. This will keep the space uncluttered and offer your baby a sense of peace and calm.
Do you know what toys Einstein played with? Listen to this episode of Playtime with shumee to find out!
For newborns, toys like the Gobbi mobile are perfect to grab their attention and encourage them to move their arms and legs. Once your child is a few months old, you can use rattles and safe sensory toys to sharpen their sensory skills. Board books will also make a great addition to your baby’s play area!
5. Set up a baby gym
Baby gyms are simple wooden structures shaped like a tent frame joint with a long rod. You can hang various toys like mobiles and rattles on the gym and place your baby on a mat under it. When your growing child gets bored of cradles and swaddles, a baby gym opens up a whole new world for them!
Your baby can learn to move their arms and legs, turn over, and crawl within the safe boundaries of this space. Playing with the toys on a baby gym encourages ‘circular motion’, where your child will repeat an action when they notice an interesting reaction. This hones their sensory, motor, and cognitive skills.
Using a baby play area
An ideal play area is one that grows with your child. This means that it’s best to keep it minimal and have a selection of open-ended toys that your child can enjoy in different ways over the years.
For babies who are a couple of months old, you can start by laying them down for a few minutes and sitting beside them. Gradually, increase the time by a minute or two until you can place them down for 15 minutes several times a day.
Present different toys one at a time and see how your child responds to them. Follow their cues as you keep playing. Let the play area be a peaceful relaxing zone for your child to experiment and learn in a stress-free environment.
As your child develops a healthy attachment and learns to keep themselves occupied, you can step away for short periods of time. But make sure you always keep an eye on them or have a baby monitor. Ultimately, remember that you are your baby’s favourite person and the best thing for them to have around!