7 Ways to Ignite Your Baby's Interest in Toys (and Achieve the Goal of Independent Play)
Your Monti Kids Montessori toys have arrived or you just bought the latest toy recommended by a friend. You’re eager for your baby to reap the benefits and develop the ability to play independently. But when you present it, your child is not interested in the toy and looks away.
This is all normal.
Your role as your child’s first teacher is to observe your child’s development and prepare their environment with materials that meet their developmental needs and interests, at just the right time.
This will enable your baby to play independently.
A rich environment helps to cultivate your child’s curiosity, self-directed discovery, and concentration, which lays the foundation for all future learning.
Your child is a unique individual, with unique interests, who develops at their own pace. This means that your baby will not always take an immediate interest in the toys you introduce. If a toy does not present enough challenge, your child may find it boring. If a toy is too challenging, your baby may find it frustrating and avoid it.
When do babies show interest in toys?
A newborn baby is collecting information about the world around them using their eyes, ears, and hands. High-contrast visual experiences will be the first materials on which your baby can focus. The Munari mobile is idea for this phase.
You may have a collection of rattles, books, and other "newborn toys". The way to use them with your baby, since they cannot hold the items in their own hands, is by addressing their sensory experiences. Show them the items, about a foot away from their eyes; tell them about what you're holding; touch the materials to their hands.
Here are some tips to consider when wondering how to ignite your child’s curiosity and encourage play.
Give your child time
If your child does not take interest in a toy right after you introduce it, or loses focus while playing, give her some more time with it. Give your child space to explore and discover the toy in her own unique way rather than encouraging the type of play you want to see, at the exact time you want to see it. Allowing your child to develop their interest in something in their own time will result in more independent play and deeper learning. Dr. Maria Montessori advised teachers to introduce a toy and then sit on their hands to avoid jumping in to assist a child before giving them ample time to explore.2. Offer a break
If your child continues to appear distracted, they likely need a break. Put the toy back on the shelf and try again later. Offer a different toy or move onto something else like reading, singing, or going outside.
3. Role model
If you notice that your child has been neglecting a certain toy for a few days, casually choose that toy from the shelf and begin playing with it yourself. Without saying anything, allow your child to see how you enjoy exploring it. Play with focused enthusiasm and make your own discoveries
4. Rotate your toys
If your child continues to ignore a toy for a week or more, remove the toy from the play area and put it in a closet or storage where your child cannot see it. Reintroduce it a couple of weeks later. You may find that a toy that was previously ignored becomes a new favorite now that your child has developed some new skills and can better take on the challenge the toy presents. This process of rotating toys helps to make toys new again, extending their lifetime value and allowing children to learn more and more from each toy as their skills develop.
5. Remove distractions
Taking a step back and observing where your child’s attention goes can be helpful. Are your child’s tight overalls preventing them from moving easily between sitting to standing? Is the TV on and your child is getting distracted by the flashing images in the next room? Sometimes your child’s other toys can also present a distraction. If you want your child to learn from exploring simple wooden toys, you may not want to place them next to highly stimulating electronic toys with lights and music. More “passive” wooden toys require that your child become an active explorer to activate the toy. Whereas, very “active” toys with lights, sounds, and music often allow your child to slip into passive mode as they push a button and wait to be entertained.
6. Manage your expectations
If your child plays for just a few minutes and then moves onto something else, remember that this is normal behavior for a young child. One of the primary goals of Montessori materials is to help babies and toddlers to build up their attention span, focus, and concentration. Remember that this is a process and you will see improvement over time. Some things that can help to build your child’s focus are: allowing them to play uninterrupted (this includes holding back from praising them), keeping their play area simple and clutter-free, and avoiding over-stimulating media.
7. Retire the toy
If after several months of play your child is no longer showing interest in a toy, even after you remove and reintroduce it a few weeks later, it likely means he has outgrown the toy. It's time to retire it and move onto something more developmentally appropriate.
Each Monti Kids level comes with a toy timeline that recommends when to introduce the toys to meet your child’s developmental needs. You can adapt this timeline based on observations of your child’s interest. For example, your child may need to skip a toy on the timeline and come back to it later.
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