Being a “stay-at-home-mom” means we have to get very creative in keeping our days productive yet fun!
After S turned one and he became very mobile we focused a lot on exploration. We never really limited S from exploring around the house (except once he broke a few glass bottles in the kitchen – then we added some safety locks). But otherwise, we tried to create an environment where he could explore on his own and we didn’t have to say no or stop him. Of course, this meant we had to move things that would be dangerous such as our mess of laptop & phone chargers which used to crowd our side table in our living room, clearing out our coffee table/ottoman of important mail and any other items we didn’t want him to grab.
In his room – I would put out 2-4 toys and try to rotate them out every few weeks.
In our living room – we had a bit more stuff for him to play with him and I wasn’t as good about rotating out these toys but we still did limit how many toys were out at a time versus having everything he possibly owned accessible.
Again, as I mentioned before, we try to expose him to activities that tap into various areas of development such as: Sensory Play, Fine Motor Skills, Life Skills & Developmental activities.
Here are some of the things he really enjoyed doing at around the 12 to 18 month phase:
Sensory & Fine Motor Skills:
Shapes Sorter – this really helped him recognize shapes, learn the names of them, identify colors and enhanced his motor skills since he had to place them through the bin.
Stacking Rings – initially this toy was just about the colors and the fun of removing them from the stand they sat on. But in no time, he was figuring out how to carefully place them on the stand even though they were not necessarily in the right order at first. This takes a lot of coordination for babies. As he advanced this skill he did learn how to stack them in the right order and also recognize the colors.
Sound toys – Exposing him to various sounds, basically anything that makes noise, whether it was store bought rattles, or containers filled with beans, water etc. He loved shaking them on his own and discovering the different ways it would make noise.
Play-Doh – we made some simple playdough at home for him to mush, squeeze and have fun with, without worrying about it going in his mouth since it was (gross but) edible.
Finger Painting – On a good day, I would let him get his hands dirty with some home made finger paints using food coloring. On a lazy day, I would just give him water and a paintbrush to “paint”. He enjoyed it just the same.
Rice Bin – to save money and the thought of dealing with a mess, I refrained from buying a water/sand table and instead got a sterilite bin and filled it with some Rice so he had something to play indoors. It was a hit. He would sit there and pour, transfer, feel and of course make a mess. It was a good temporary solution for what I wanted to do with him. I would also dump a handful of beans which he would try to pick out (this took him awhile). Great busy activity for momma to take care of other things.
Sorting Pasta Shells by Color
Putting laundry in the washer & transferring them into the dryer
Pushing the laundry basket after clothes are washed
Sorting & transferring beans using fingers and spoons
Handing us clean dishes, spoons to put away
Books, books, books – every and all books. We would read a lot. Showing him the different things in the book and vocalizing the colors, shapes and things on each page was more important than just reading. He would later flip through the pages on his own and go through the same things we “read” together.
Colors – we made a conscious effort to always mention the color of objects and doing sorting activities. Although he was good about knowing the colors because he would sort them well. He didn’t actually start properly identifying colors by their appropriate names till closer to 20 months. For a long time, everything was either “laal” or “bhuru” (red or blue).
Alphabet – Magnets, books, puzzles, these were all fun activities for him all while he was learning. He knew all the letters of the English alphabet and a good chunk of the Gujarati alphabet by about 22 months. Again, it was just a matter of pointing out the various letters as we see them and spending some time on each letter on a ongoing basis
Numbers – We actively started numbers by numbering his cars and made a garage for them which also had numbers on it. Idea was to park each car in it’s right number associated spot. (this is available on Pinterest somewhere) We didn’t emphasize numbers till a bit later than the alphabet but at 2 he comfortably recognizes most numbers from 1 to 12 but will still mix up the order once in awhile. He also has a clock puzzle from his 1st birthday which he enjoys doing by matching the pieces to the matching numbers on the clock.
Puzzles – at 12 months he did a lot of chunky puzzles and probably mastered most of them by 15 months. We continued to give him different ones to keep him engaged but quickly moved on to small 12 piece puzzles to challenge him a bit more. By 2 years of age, he is now able to identify all the right pieces needed to complete cube puzzles and 12 piece jigsaw puzzles. He on the most part will also put together the bottom row or top row of the puzzle on his own. It’s amazing to watch their brains work!
We also spent a lot of time outdoors once he became more mobile. Some of our favorite outings between age 1 and 2 years –
Library – we were regulars at our neighborhood library story time, once a week. We also went to a few other local libraries for storytime and/or music and movement sessions. We easily spent 2-3 days at a library. Story time is generally 20 minutes long, and we would hang out for another 30 -45 minutes after story time for play or picking out books to take home.
Petco/PetSmart – basically any pet store would work. It was like going to a mini zoo for S. He loved seeing the various birds, fishes, dogs and other little animals. We tried to clump this together with other grocery trips or post library trips.
Barnes & Noble – we loved going to B&N to play with the trains and legos at this age. We went when he was cruising too but he enjoyed it even more after he started walking.
Parks – we spent a lot of evenings going to the park, he would meet a lot of kids his age and also enjoy exploring new heights on the play structures.
Backyard – Sometimes it was nice to just open up the backyard and let him explore. I’d tell him to collect rocks, or leaves and he would collect them all into a container.