This guestblog taught me so much as a parent. I knew that to get a good night's sleep, I needed to stimulate my little one during the day. However, I hadn't really thought about how I may be overstimulating at times too.
I knew Joanna Wells had all the expertise needed to write a guest blog on sleep and play so I asked her to work on something and am so glad she agreed. Enjoy.
Childminder for 21 years
BA in Early Years
Early Years Teacher, trainer, and assessor
Mum to two ‘men boys’ – wish I had known this when they were little!
Many aspects influence and impact a child’s sleep, not least the quality and variety of play they have engaged in during their waking hours.
This play is a child’s ‘work’ and will ideally include time indoors as well as the opportunity to explore nature and the outdoors and should preferably incorporate a mix of adult initiated or directed activity combined with plenty of child led free play. The opportunity to socialise with peers across a variety of activities, is also a key aspect in social and emotional development.
If you are reading this, there is every probability your child is not yet enjoying settled sleep, and my thoughts on play could contribute to a more settled and clam routine.
After years of professional childcare experience and much study into the theoretical benefits, I am a firm advocate of the value of loose parts play, natural resources and a Hygge inspired environment which is calm, soft and soothing.
It is beneficial for both parent and child.
If children are routinely offered brightly coloured, noisy, off the shelf, primarily plastic and often character based toys, I honestly believe they enter a state of sensory overload. This not only affects their day but also their ability to relax at the end of it.
Consider for a moment how differently we, as adults, feel at the end of a hectic day in a busy city filled with neon light and noise and lacking green space as opposed to one which has been spent enjoying a county walk, enjoying observing nature and then relaxing, wrapped in a furry throw in a warm and comfortable room, which smells beautiful and looks inviting.
The environment is key to how we feel at the end of the day, it is no different for your baby or young child.
Most ‘play toys’ have a single prescribed use, meaning that children are not encouraged to really be creative, investigate, explore, or think critically.
Subsequently, many of these well intended purchases or gifts, often influenced by strong advertising campaigns, end up being one minute wonders and children quickly become bored and frustrated. This impacts behaviour during the day and their ability to settle at night.
Furthermore, they often set children up to fail since right and wrong ways of playing are traditionally attached to them.
If this is something that sounds familiar, think seriously about a more natural approach. Consider wooden resources, blocks, bricks, second user safe treasure[*] or investigation baskets filled with tactile and sensory real life items like stainless steel tea pots and milk jugs, whisks, egg cups, rolling pins, curtain rings, ribbon, bells, brushes, or lids. There is no right or wrong way to play, babies and children instantly achieve and succeed!
Offer sensory dough, natural mark making opportunities, listen to mood or massage music and avoid screentime.
You will be amazed as to the effect it has on you all.
Also consider stripping away at least half of the resources you offer your child on a daily basis. Do not overwhelm them with choice, instead encourage, scaffold, support and extend creative and imaginative play with a small range of really carefully chosen equipment which you can change daily. Let them to become highly proficient and really absorb themselves in one activity.
Allow babies to unravel naturally, reaching for and exploring calm coloured natural objects or two tone / back and white resources. Babies will crawl when they have had the opportunity to practice and sit when they are able without the need for brightly and chaotic activity seats.
Allow them to exercise their body and mind with plenty of tummy time or cocooned in safe sensory supports.
Less really is more!
Pare back your day and you will set yourself up for a successful night.
[*] Charity shop finds, real life items, checked for safety, cleaned, and sanitized.