Bonding Through Play
Whether it’s messy play or bath time games, there are many ways you can help your baby learn while renewing that special bond between the two of you at the same time. Here are some great ways to get you started.
At a glance
- Messy play is a great way to have fun with your baby and bond
- Problem solving can help your baby develop new skills whilst bonding
Bonding with messy play
We all know baby play often ends messily, even if it is not supposed to be, but there are some things you can do to have fun and bond with your baby and fun getting messy. Always advisable to have a plastic sheet on the floor to protect it, just in case! Always be conscious of potential allergies and choking hazards, but other than that, there are no limits to what you can do other than your willingness to clean up afterwards!
Here are a few things you could try…
- Try burying uncooked pasta in sand and help him discover it with his fingers. (Later on bury mini animal toys, numbers, letters etc.)
- Put blobs of paint in a bowl and let him mix it around with his hands…or feet.
- Give your baby a bowl full of mashed up jelly to squidge and squeeze (and probably smear everywhere). Seeing you do this too will make him giggle.
- Sponges or paintbrushes on giant pieces of paper on the floor can be great fun as they’re not restricted to the size of a regular page. You baby will love doing this with you and will want to touch you too, so be ready and try not to get cross if paint gets somewhere it shouldn’t, as inevitably, it will!
- Put glitter into playdough to jazz up an old ball of dough and invent ‘recipes’ or make magical creatures out of it.
- Let your baby crush up dry leaves in autumn, or hold ice/snow in winter. Talk about it with your baby using words linked to the sensation, the colour, the noise.
- Give your baby things to play with in the bath where he can practise scooping and pouring.
The list is really endless. Remember when you’re faced with the dreaded clean up afterwards that you have just given your baby an amazing opportunity to develop his hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills which is some comfort as you reassemble the house to some sort of normality.
You've also helped your baby get used to different textures on his hands which may help him be less squeamish about what he touches as he hit toddler age. Best of all you've given him fun and enjoyment, which means quality bonding time with you.
Bonding with problem solving games
Playing games where you help your baby achieve something will show him that he can rely on you for help. It gives him security and confidence to try things himself and, with your encouragement, learn that it’s okay to fail when learning something new.
Start off with simple shape matching games, or use toys with shaped holes cut out of them. Even before that, closing a toy inside your fist, then showing your baby how your hand can open and shut to reveal the toy can be a great game.
Try building obstacle courses around the house or outside, where they have to work out how to get through. These games are harder for your baby so lots of encouragement and showing him how, will not only help him succeed, but keeps re-building that bond of trust and love between you.
Be creative, be happy, have fun
Inventing new toys and games for your child keeps you interested too, which is really important in the early weeks and months. At this stage your baby may not seem like he can do much to respond or show he’s enjoying your efforts. Keep your mind busy with making up new songs or versions of games and the time will fly by.
Your baby isn’t judging you, so try not to get caught up in grown-up constraints like “what on earth would the neighbours think?” Anything you set aside time to do with your baby, where they have your full attention, is going to be brilliant in his world.
If you’re a bit short of inspiration one day, or you can’t bear the thought of another afternoon knee-deep in ‘mud-pies,’ you could try checking out your local Sure Start centre or any drop-in playgroups.
They often have play sessions where you have the option of active toys, quiet reading or messy play. Some of them have a singing or story time session too and all of these places can give you ideas to borrow and try at home.
As your baby gets a bit older, his imagination will begin to fly. Blocks of wood become trains, pillows become clouds and a cupboard becomes the inside of an aeroplane. You can ensure your bond with him stays close by throwing yourself into whatever weird and wonderful adventure he chooses to take you on.
Role play is crucial in developing imagination and can be very useful for children trying to work through an issue which is upsetting or puzzling them. It helps to build the skills they’ll need to play with others and to settle in at nursery and school.
Setting him up for life
The experiences a child has in the first 5 years of life is crucial in forming how they will be able to learn and how their emotional and social skills will develop. Everything they see and do is helping to form their character, their personality and who they will become as a person. The safe and secure bond they develop with you will set them up for life… have fun and enjoy giving them an amazing start to that journey.