What can we do to entertain our little ones in a way which suits us? Well, of course, I can only write about what I have experienced myself. But I hope that even that would be a help!
Keep it simple. The days of complex technical skills are far off. Even stuff for digging worms out of the back garden can remain in the box for the now. What you need are bright colours (although high contrast black and white are all you need in the first months) and ideally stuff that makes a noise.
We have a box of plastic rings from the Jako-O store (http://www.jako-o.com/) which interlock in a jiffy and which have various textures. They don’t take up a lot of space and just three, linked together, are sufficient to get Sunshine’s attention. They click and rattle and whizz around and are great as a quick attention-grabber. Very portable too!
Plastic balls are pretty good too, especially, we’re now finding, inflatable beach balls. Of course, brightly-coloured and they go up and down and round and about and are big enough to grab on to. We’ve also got one which is basically just the framework of a ball with lots of holes in. Also great for little fingers to grab and pull to them.
Keep technology out of the game as far as possible. Yup, Sunshine stares in wonder at my smartphone (a thing which is bright, makes noises and seems to do everything). But there were centuries without such technology – those days are yet to come, so put the iPad down, PLEASE!
Of course, you have the best toys and interesting things on you! Your hands, feet and face. Remember, the little one has not necessarily grasped yet that it too has all these things (hands maybe…), but the fact that you can wiggle your fingers, make your hands spin and turn, open and close, you can joggle your feet and wiggle your toes…woah, that’s neat and it costs absolutely nothing. This morning, I was sitting here working, legs crossed as usual, and Sunshine was staring intently at my foot. When I MOVED my foot slightly, he let out a gurgle of joy and his eyes grew large as saucers. And your face? Well, that can make grimaces, kisses, blow air, suck air, roll its eyes…endless possibilities. And HERE, we don’t need to feel like a fool. This isn’t some facile little melody – this is direct contact between father and child. The kid loves it, you love the kid loving it and others think you’re great for wanting to interact – everyone’s a winner!
Sure, everyone will have their own patent recipe on this. I found early on that Sunshine likes NOISE. White noise is great for babies as it reminds them of the blood whooshing around the womb. Indeed, a surefire way to get him to calm down in the early months was to put him under the extractor fan in the kitchen. Worked like an on/off switch. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Then loud music, primarily repetitive synth music, calmed him down. Being a music nerd, I have plenty of everything in my CD collection, but Jarre, Kraftwerk, OMD, Depeche Mode, Neu!, Muse and New Musik helped out quite a lot (oh and the vicious “Scary Monsters” by David Bowie). He didn’t like female voices nor soft tracks (so out were the Baroque CDs I had bought to play in the background while I worked…), but noise and sounds of life worked well.
The other thing which is a guaranteed winner is the human voice. Babies will recognise your voice pretty soon, but the key thing is to show all the amazing things we humans can do with our voices. Make weird sounds, nonsense sounds, blow raspberries, gurgle, sing, speak – babies lap it up!
This can be tricky, as I mentioned in another post. You must keep an eye on the time to ensure that feeding/sleeping/nappy-changing are kept in check. But otherwise, take the baby out wherever you go. There’s only one way to get them used to other people and the sights and sounds of this big wide world – yup, for them to experience them themselves. Ever more places welcome small children (we’ve never had any problems with M. not being able to feed him) and, providing you can manage the pram, you can go anywhere!
Rough & tumble:
Not going to write too much here, but it is important to remember that, although we are conditioned to think so before actually getting to grips with the genuine article, babies don’t break easily. They are pretty hard-wearing and enjoy being tickled and rolled around. Some of their muscles are incredibly strong and they are in constant training, at levels which would put most of us adults to shame. They can be pulled up by their arms, can hold their heads up after a while, even though their heads make up a large proportion of their body-weight!
Don’t overdo it, you can push them too far, but Sunshine loves a good tickle, or being flown around the room.
There you go, some ideas of how to entertain the newcomers to the family which won’t make you feel uncomfortable! Of course, if anyone reading this has any other ideas, feel free to comment!!!