Bean Bags for Babies

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we made these sweet little pyramid bean bags, courtesy of The Artful Parent. I filled ours with buckwheat (picked up in the bulk section of Whole Foods) that I had to fill those lovely hot/cold therapeutic eye pillows, so I knew it would work well for these too. These little bean bags would be wonderful for all sorts of things, and in this case they were perfect for fostering hand-eye coordination and the age-old favorite of filling and emptying a container.

While I’m not a professional stitcher, I was able to crank out a full set of bean bags for my one year old during her nap. For full disclosure I’ve been sewing since I was young and studied costume design in college, but my machine has been gathering yards of dust since my kids were born. (Shhhh…if you look closely you’ll see that I made a mess out of my stitching.) If you’re a sewing veteran you’ll crank them out too, and if you’re new to sewing this is as easy as sewing gets — just give yourself time to make these and you’ll zip them out in no time.

My older daughter passed this great Melissa and Doug toy down to my one-year-old, but by the time it got to her we didn’t have all the pieces. Frustrating!

But it turns out that it’s a spectacular tool for babies to sort these small beanbags. If you don’t have a similar toy in your home, you could also try this DIY baby bucketmade from a yogurt container.

Where did they all go?

Wouldn’t these be lovely gifts for babies? It’s not too early to start thinking about the holidays, is it?

This post shared with It’s Playtime

Water Scooping for Babies

Sensory Play: Water Scooping for Babies

While my older daughter tore up the grass with the Slip ‘n Slide, I set my 10 month old up with a bucket of water and some measuring cups. And she got right to work, filling and emptying the cups. It was interesting to watch her attempt to fill the cups when they were upside down, and then exciting when she figured the “problem” out and corrected for it.

And then, presumably, she was proud of one of her many accomplishments.

The provocation is simple — Set your project up outside (since most babies thrive when there are airplanes to track and birds to listen for) and provide your baby with a low bucket of water. Tools are optional. And then see what discoveries come about.

Any other ideas for playing in water with babies?


First Drawing

My kids just reached an age where they hang out and play together. It’s really sweet when it’s sweet, and then not-so-sweet when a civil little game of Row your Boat can turn into vigorous rowing that capsizes the boat and knocks the baby overboard. Or something similar. But here we had a nice afternoon that was full of sketching for everyone, or at least that’s the way I remember it. My memory isn’t so hot these days and the reality is that all hell may have broken loose moments later.

Baby Rainbow (10 months) watched my oldest, N (3 years), make drawing after drawing in her sketchbook, and then she snuck right in, took a pencil for herself, and added marks to her big sister’s sketchbook. As you can imagine, big sister was none too happy about this. So I pulled out large sheets of paper, sat little Rainbow right in front of them, and we had two happy drawing campers.

Baby Rainbow loved this! She seemed to understand that she was responsible for making the marks on her paper, in the same way that she recognizes that pushing a light switch down turns the lights out. It’s remarkable to watch these firsts, full with their “ah-hah” moments, as each succeeding experience builds on these foundations. 

If you have a baby and you’re thinking about this activity, I say give it a go. You could look for signs of interest or just go for it by setting your baby up on top of a big sheet of paper with some crayons or markers (we prefer markers because they move easily and they’re vivid — easy to use and easy to see!). You’ll be rewarded with your child’s first drawing, something wonderful to hang on the wall, and maybe a little marker on the face (look closely and you’ll see it!).

What “first” is your child currently working on?

Baby Bean Bowl Exploration

Baby Sensory Play: Bean Bowl.

My little one is almost 9 months old and her curiosity has pushed her to see past the same ol’ toy basket (do you see it there, hidden under the cabinet?), in search of new stimulation.

“Enter stage left: Bean Bowl!”

I created the bean bowl for my older daughter to sort and sift through while I’m busy in the kitchen, and I was only sort of surprised when little baby Rainbow (my older daughter’s nickname for her) scooted over to see what it was all about. She adores the sandbox, isn’t big on on eating sand (do you hear me knocking on wood?), so I thought that with supervision this would be a fun experience for her curious little mind and body.

The level of focus was palpable.

And refining fine motor skills was in full force! In addition to beans, I threw in some beads, sequins, and mini toys to keep the interest high.

Once she got comfortable with this new medium, she tried several things including pulling the bowl toward her, sifting beans through both hands, pushing her fingers deep into the bowl, and eventually tipping part of the bowl over into her lap. This was all so much fun that we decided to try it again the next morning…

The same experience lasted for about three minutes before all the pieces were dumped on the floor! Sigh. As you can imagine, we haven’t done much with the bean bowl since! Now that I see how much she enjoyed this experience, my next plan is to move the beans into our non-tipping sensory tub.

If you try this with your little ones, use common sense, especially if they’re prone to putting small objects in their mouths.

Sensory play for Babies

It’s exciting to see a baby emerge from the shell of sleepiness and into the world of awareness; a transition that becomes more obvious as she mimics a smile, tracks movement above her head, or is surprised by sounds.

One of our family’s favorite activities for tactile awareness is to gently billow and twirl a colorful scarf above and over the baby’s head, bringing huge waves of joy to her face that we can only interpret as awe. I like silk scarves for their translucent flowing quality, but lightweight cotton works nicely too.

This stuffed bee, with its plush body and crinkly wings, is the first object my older daughter grasped independently. Gaining knowledge through the sense of touch. Soft and squeeky. Tension and texture. I noticed she was especially fascinated by the crinkly wings, which led to this next experiment…

Exploring the sounds and textures of a plastic bag. I know, I know, plastic bags are absolutely not toys, and she was closely supervised throughout! If you try this at home, please use your best judgement. While she was captivated by this bag, even I could see that it was an inappropriate make-the-baby-happy-toy, and I stitched up one of these:

It’s a little plastic bag pillow: two pieces of fabric stitched over and around two pieces of heavy, crinkly plastic. Cute, safe, and noisy!

I found a noisy, crinkly bag. Chip, cracker, and baby wipes bags are usually really good for this sort of thing. Test different bags to find a sound you like, or make a few of these to play with different sounds.

Hand it to your child and see what they think of it. In reality, my daughter was more captivated by the plastic bag, but this still got a lot of use. An easy no-sew alternative is to wrap a bandana or square of fabric around a ball of wax paper or plastic, and tie it off with a yarn. Cut loose ends short, and keep an eye on your child at all times. If you’re up for sewing, you could also follow this ball/wax paper method, and then stitch it off for a more permanent toy. Related baby bonding activities can be found here.

What sensory activities does/did your baby enjoy?