Once your baby has become a functional sitter (meaning he or she can transition into and out of sitting), it’s time to start having some fun with container play!
You may have noticed that your baby has become particularly interested in taking things out of containers and maybe even putting them back in. You may have also noticed that he has begun to show interest in the sounds of objects. If this is the case, then he should be ready to try out his very first shape sorter!
To make baby’s first shape sorter, all you need is a can with a plastic lid and a few lightweight balls. A formula container, tall yogurt or cottage cheese container…whatever works. Just make sure the lid is wide enough to accommodate the width of the balls and tall enough to fit them all in. Keep in mind that a container with a metallic-type base will create a fun sound when your little one drops the balls in.
Cut a round opening in the middle of the lid and that’s it. In less than 30 seconds, you should be ready to play!
Check out this video demo from my 8-month-old’s first day trying out this new toy:
Depending on your baby’s age, hand skills, and problem solving skills, you may need to demonstrate how to drop the balls in since he may not know what to do or may not be very accurate.
Though this may seem like an incredibly simple activity, it actually promotes several developmental skills.
First of all, your baby will need to be able to sit up without the support of his hands for several minutes at a time (a skill that is expected to emerge around 8 months).
Your baby will have the opportunity to develop an interest in sounds (emerging around 5.5 months), as well as learn how to localize sounds by looking directly to the noise coming from down by his waist level (emerging around 9 months).
He will learn the concept of object permanence (emerging around 7 months) as the balls “disappear” into the bucket, yet still exist.
He will be able to practice taking objects out of containers (emerging around 9 months), as well as putting objects into containers without having to put his hand in or lean it on the container (emerging around 10 months).
He will be able to practice dropping objects systematically (emerging around 8 months) and releasing objects voluntarily (emerging around 9 months) in order to accurately place the balls in the hole over and over and over again.
And he will be able to start practicing coordinating the use of both hands together, which is a skill that gets a lot of practice in the toddler years.
Betcha didn’t realize there was so much involved in such a simple, repetitive activity!
If your baby is a functional sitter but isn’t quite ready for such a small target, simply take off the lid and let him experiment with taking out and putting in.
I almost guarantee your baby will knock this container over while playing with it. That’s great! It will give him a chance to exercise his problem solving skills and challenge his mobility as it rolls away. In fact, he may even intentionally knock it down while sitting or push it and roll it around while learning to crawl because he likes the way it sounds. As long as you supervise for safety, there’s really no wrong way to do this activity.
If this activity seems to be too easy for your little one, try upgrading to the next level of difficulty with this toddler block drop activity, which requires a bit more manipulation and problem solving skills.
For more simple yet great playtime ideas for your baby in this developmental age range, check out the books From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills (by occupational therapist Barbara Smith) and Retro Baby: Cut back on all the gear and boost your baby’s development with more than 100 time-tested activities (by occupational therapist Anne Zachry).
I hope you have fun being a part of your baby’s development!
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