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Playtime baskets with baby

When it comes to your baby, I want you to remember that you are your baby's most important toy. Babies have an absorbent mind in that they are soaking up everything around them effortlessly. Maria Montessori discovered that children are in the unconscious absorbent mind phase during the first three years of life. They can absorb vast amounts of information effortlessly without any awareness of what is actually happening. Children learn by mimicking us - their parents and caregivers - during those first years. So keep in mind that you are, in fact, your baby's most important toy; interacting with your child is how they learn.

During the first year of life, children are in the sensitive period for movement, which means they are in a developmental window where it is easier to learn those early gross motor skills. It is really astonishing to think about how much babies develop and learn to move within that first year. From rolling over, grasping, sitting up, and even walking, babies are constantly moving more and more. This is why we need to help them meet their full potential during this developmental window. It is imperative to set aside time in your day when your baby is rested and happy to interact intentionally with them. Intentional interactions are moments where your sole focus is on your baby. To encourage movement while interacting with your baby, you can create an Exploration Basket to use together once they can sit up independently.

This basket doesn't need to be complicated. They are meant to be an easy and affordable way to engage intentionally with your baby. To create an Exploration Basket, you first need to find a basket with low sides. Having a short basket lets your baby see what is inside easily, motivating engagement! Once you have found the perfect basket, it's time to find some engaging items to add to it. The easiest way to do this is to use safe objects from around your house.

The options are endless, but here are three rules to follow when choosing items for your baby’s exploration basket:

  1. Choose multiple textures and materials. Nothing small enough for your baby to swallow and have no more than five objects in the basket.

    My go-to items are:
  • A type of fabric. A small towel or facecloth works well.
  • A small metal bowl. Metal is a great sensory experience for children as it warms and cools to the touch and makes a great noise when banged or hit by another object.
  • A large wooden spoon. Wood also warms and cools to the touch and makes lots of noise.
  • A plastic whisk. The loops are fun for your baby to touch and squeeze.
  • A small stuffed toy.
  1. When choosing the objects for your exploration basket, find objects that engage multiple senses at the same time. When your baby engages multiple senses at the same time, they use different parts of their brain simultaneously, which is an excellent way to boost brain development.

    If you don’t think you can find items that will engage multiple senses at the same time, manipulate the items. A couple of easy tricks I recommend are: Warming up a cloth in the dryer or microwave (you can wet it first). Placing the metal bowl or wooden spoon in the freezer for a little while. Adding a drop of a safe essential oil to a stuffed toy to engage the sense of smell.
  1. Once you have put together a fun and safe exploration bin, it’s time to use the items to help you interact purposefully and intentionally with your baby. Your interaction with your baby is the essential part. Remember, they are learning through mimicking you in these early years, so every interaction is a significant opportunity for your baby to learn.

    Sit on the floor with your baby and place the basket in front or between you and your baby. Take the items out of the bin one by one and overemphasize using and playing with each item. Talk to your baby about each item and invite them to explore with you. Use simple but real language. Avoid using baby talk. Children at this age are in the developmental window where they are effortlessly absorbing and learning language, so it’s important to give them the tools they need to build their vocabulary and cognitive skills by using real words.

An exploration bin is an easy and excellent developmental boosting activity for you to use to interact with your baby intentionally. Happy exploring!

Jenna is a mother, Montessori teacher, and the owner of Evolve Montessori. Evolve Montessori is proud to offer unique and exceptional Montessori programs for kids ages two to four. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit evolvemontessori.com. Feeling Social? Follow on Facebook @EvolveMontessori and Instagram @evolvemontessori.

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