Many parents complain about their little ones always picking up random objects in the house, moving everything around, and making a big mess. Many parents may not understand, but this is a natural behavior and part of their child’s development. They are exploring new things and touch is a way of discovering and making sense of their new world, which until recently, they had no access to. Not to mention that this sense of curiosity, when properly nurtured and celebrated, is something that will inspire their learning throughout a lifetime.
Notice that they strive to reach objects and when they manage to hold it, they turn it from side to side, shake it to see if it makes any noise, throw it, to see what happens. This inquisitive behavior is fundamental to the child’s development.
Many of us, professional educators and caregivers, know this, but there is also a study by the University of Pittsburgh that recommends 3-month-old babies play a lot of picking up objects and exploring them, as this will develop a great ability to explore new things and focus later.
Other skills are being developed with a cascade effect on the child’s development. We may even think that this would not make much sense, but, for example, fine motor coordination is directly linked to the construction of a vast vocabulary and a better language in the future. Learning never depends on a single factor, it is always something integrated.
Although the baby is already born with some reflexes of survival, they are still involuntary; these reflexes only become intentional over the months. There is a substance called myelin, which is directly linked to the direction of nerve impulses and which spreads throughout the body over time. As the myelin spreads through the body, the baby gains more control over their body and how they move it. This substance is spread in our body until as late as 30, but 90-95% of this substance is rapidly created and dispersed in the first two years of life.
How do I stimulate my child?
You do not need to train your child or stay on top of it so that they can pick up objects; this will be a natural behavior that your little one will gradually develop. You can help them by creating and preparing the environment and placing certain objects within their reach but in a way that it is not forced, that the child does not feel pressured. Until 3 months, having rattles or even a toy hanging from the ceiling above the changing table will help to stimulate this desire and your little one to keep the attention on it, working the focus. Following the 4th and 5th months, when the baby already has motor coordination to be able to hold the things they see around them, leave the objects, which do not pose any risk to their health, on the floor so that your child can reach and catch them.
As much as the baby’s brain works like a sponge, which retains everything it sees and does it faster when it has an incentive, try to do this, only after 2 months, so that the child does not feel overwhelmed and over-stimulated. As I mentioned in previous articles, if we stimulate our little ones before they are ready and without being prepared for it, we can harm, instead of helping their development.
The best way to contribute in the early years is to give and create the ideal conditions so that your little one can develop their skills in a free and healthy way. It is important that the child can explore this new world without being molded all the time with repressions regarding the mess or work that will give parents and caregivers to keep the house tidy, clean clothes, or anything like that.
Create an environment that offers security and that has toys and objects around it so that it can be picked up and explored. Try to give a toy at a time and watch how the child will react and interact with it. As a general rule, I don’t leave too many toys at once; I advise leaving no more than 3 or 4 toys so they can choose the one they prefer and not being distracted by many options. Having many toys at a child’s disposal can leave your little one dispersed, and the purpose of the game is just the opposite, it is to keep them focused. But do your best to diversify the toys so that they can discover new textures, sounds, and shapes.
You also don’t need to give your child just factory-made toys; offer other things like ordinary household objects that they can play with. Notice that children prefer objects that, for us, are random, like cups, pots, pans, spoons, keys, etc… Anything else that is much simpler than those elaborate toys, which cost a fortune, right? This is precisely because they want to research and learn about new things that challenge them, that can be tested. They turn on one side, squeeze, throw – laughs -, put it in their mouths so they can feel the textures better and so on. This is their way of getting to know our world, everything is new for them, and even these objects that are already part of our environment, but likely still out of their reach.
Many factory-made toys, on the other hand, may not offer much room for little inquisitive minds because they may already have a defined way to use it, or play, and often it is not necessary to use your imagination and explore all the possibilities that other items may offer. There is already directions there and it does not challenge them. And this, in fact, can make children learn only one way to play, and restrict them into seeing new possibilities. That is why I love open-ended objects and toys. A few of my favorite toys in this category that stimulate creativity and open imagination are building blocks, play dough, balls of different sizes, textures, and weights.