May 22, 2022

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Play for babies doesn’t mean flashy toys and expensive gadgets, says NI expert

A play expert in Northern Ireland is urging parents to “bring it back to basics” and not to worry about buying flashy toys and gadgets for their babies.

Agata Young, who runs Bangor-based education company Simply Grow, said parents don’t need all the expensive gadgets that are advertised.

Speaking on the Be parenting podcast, Is This Normal, the mum-of-two said her first piece of advice is “less is more”.

“So focus on less, don’t go out and buy all the flashy toys, less is more and have a look around the house at what you have first,” she said..

“I remember this video I recorded when my firstborn Amy, she is now almost five, she was five days old and my husband picked up a little squeaky toy and wanted to play with her, but obviously a five day old baby does not respond very much.

“Take everything back, you don’t need all the flashy button pressing gadgets from shops, what you need, especially during the first few days, weeks and months, is what you can find around the house.

“Think about your baby as this completely new visitor to the world and try to really slow down with them and show them the world around them before you introduce everything that you are not familiar with. Show them the world you know.

“They are this visitor coming in and you want to take the best care of them.”

Agata compared this to an adult visiting Paris for the first time, you want to slow down and take everything in, she said.

“Imagine seeing Paris from a really fast car, get in the car and go around a few times and that’s it, that’s all you see,” she said.

“You definitely would not appreciate it as much so it is the same, think about that with our babies, we want our babies to really have a look at everything, all the things we take for granted and see every day, our babies have never seen before. All the things we touch and smell, listen to, they have never.

“Strip it all back and take your babies on a journey through your world. Let them touch the wall, let them see the shadow on the ceiling, let them see the blinds and how the light plays with the blinds. Keep everything really basic, especially at the beginning, just put yourself in the shoes of that little baby who is 9 months inside and for the first few months they are still really adjusting to the reality of the outside.

“Less is more, slow it down and get to know your baby. Every single baby is different. You can buy all the parenting books in advance and try to prepare yourself for this big event, you can watch all the shows in the world, but nothing can really prepare you because your baby is unique, just like you are.

“Having your baby at home is about building the relationship, just like you did with your partner, your parents, your siblings, friends, it is exactly the same with your baby. It is a unique person you are getting to know so see what your baby likes and get to know your baby.”

When it comes to items around the home that you can use for playtime with your baby, Agata said a comfortable mat is important as you will be spending a lot of time on the floor.

Cushions for tummy time were also high on her list, as well as IKEA plastic bags for making props. Agata would put things like tin foil, pasta and things with different textures inside the bags for your baby to explore.

Agata is also a big fan of using shallow plastic trays as a base to let your baby explore different items from.

“In the first few months your baby is really going to mainly operate with their vision, hearing and touch, so they are not going to physically be able to play with different toys so really don’t worry, get to know your baby and once they start grabbing things then you can invest in things like a simple rattle,” she said.

“Having said that would can make your own with a little plastic bottle, put rice or pasta inside, make sure it shakes and makes a fun noise, make sure it is closed correctly and that’s your rattle done.

“Look around the house, your baby hasn’t seen a colander, a wooden spoon, they haven’t seen a fluffy cushion, so use all the things that you have in the house and don’t stress about going out and spending a fortune.”

Series 2 of Is This Normal? is packed with advice from experts on a wide range of parenting topics.

There are five episodes now live covering sleep, pregnancy in the pandemic, first aid, breastfeeding and play.

Listen and subscribe to Is This Normal? on Spotify, Google Podcasts, ApplePodcasts and Deezer.

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