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Child’s play

One of my friends has grandchildren this age and her house, always very elegant and beautiful, has taken on a cheerful, colourful baby hue, with strollers and play pens, bells, balls and bears, scrunchy-books and toys liberally decorating the couches and every space.

As parents, our own homes are often totally given over to being places where our children can just be themselves. It's often difficult to have a sacred place in which the children are not allowed, and I know in some houses, men and guests can only be in a child-free place in the ‘Parlour’ of olden days in UK – or here in Dubai the Majlis. However, not everyone has this luxury, and homes are often full of babies and children and their play.

Babies of one to two years are at a crazy stage of learning – and are at the fastest stage of development of their lives – when you need to be constantly aware and predicting what they will do next.

Usually, your child is just beginning to get around, if not yet walking, and s/he is pretty agile on his fours!

It’s a time when Grandparents remove all precious objects at about a 3ft height, and cover the electric plugs, and put gates on stairs, and even then, the miniature mountaineer manages to climb up onto what seemed an insurmountable sofa and grab a shiny ornament he wanted, that had been omitted from the security trawl!

Your child may be the shy, clingy sort who doesn’t want to leave his Mum’s lap, or the outgoing, independent type.

But this age is the time when s/he is making huge leaps in learning in every area: physically, cognitively, emotionally.

It is a magical time of exploration.

Remember that, at this stage, everything will be first explored in the mouth, so you cannot take your attention off this little adventurer! Your baby is not yet able to just amuse him or herself, at least, not for longer than a few minutes at a time.

The easy temptation is to pop out and get a new toy or activity to keep him or her interested, but this is not always wise or sustainable. A reader recently asked me for ideas that don’t involve giving in to that temptation – let’s leave that to the grandparents if we are fortunate enough to have them!

This is when you can be really imaginative and find the sorts of activities that will engage your tiddler and give opportunities to learn as well as have fun.

So here goes – let’s use what we already have in our homes:

Water play: a never ending source of fun and learning for your children.

Paddling pools



Whilst the ducks, and boats, water pistols and hoses are all great fun, your child will also enjoy having ordinary household things to play with in water:

plastic dishes and bowls for filling, emptying,

sieves and colanders to make impromptu showers and fountains,

ladles, funnels jugs, bottles.

Sponges and cloths.

Empty wash-up liquid bottle – or part-empty so they can make bubbles.

Try different things each time, so they are not bored

Kitchen fun

Pots and pans

Baking trays, tart tins, plastic pastry cutters, rolling pins.

Utensils: wooden spoons, ladles, small spoons, funnels colanders, sieves

Dough – a lump of the dough you are making roti or bread from, or playdough.

(There is a good recipe the same as the one I used to use at the end of this post)

Bedroom make-believe:

mirror play,

brushes and combs,

dress up clothes: scarves, hats, slippers/shoes

Pretend Housework!

Dustpan and brush, duster, empty tins of polish or spray

Tents, hidey-holes, peekaboo places

Using blankets, sheets, etc to cover chairs or tables

Even a 1 ½ year old will enjoy playing most of the games above even if very simply at first. As they enjoy and progress, the ideas and fun can become more complex.

Get the child’s nanny involved too! So when you are not there, she will have ideas of things to do – and the way you play - to keep your little one actively learning and having fun.

The best games are always when you are involved or admiring their games! Use the opportunity to talk about what they are doing and using, and to respond to them when they want to tell or ask something.

Finally, getting them to help tidy up is part of helping them learn as well – it can best be done still in playing mode!

Have fun! And share ideas with us – there are endless possibilities!

Margi Kulsoom


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