Under-threes play ideas - activity centres and mobiles

Why buy activity centres and mobiles when you can create your own

Centres of attention

  • Create activity centres and mobiles to hang above or beside cots and changing mats.
  • Make them interesting and challenging. Add, for example: * lengths of ribbon, fabric * spirals of tin foil, strips of newspaper or plastic bags * aluminium containers * small soft toys * balloons – you could fill them with sand, beans, rice, etc * laminated photographs of the children, familiar adults, animals, toys, etc * objects of the same colour  and * objects that offer a range of colours, shapes and sounds.
  • Attach the objects securely with brightly coloured ribbon or strong string to a curtain pole on the wall or to the side of a cot.
  • Ensure that the baby can reach each object and is supervised and supported if needed.
  • Encourage the baby to grasp and reach, stretch and squeeze the objects.
  • Alternatively, remove your and the toddler’s socks and shoes and lie together on the floor or on some cushions. Lift your legs, wiggle your toes and suggest the toddler does the same. Touch the items on the line with your toes and encourage the toddler to do the same, stretching their toes up to touch the objects and naming each as they touch them.

Stacking rings

  • Create your own stacking toys using a kitchen roll holder or mug tree and napkin and curtain rings, plastic rings from stacking towers, fabric and textured rings, bangles and large hair scrunchies.
  • Encourage the babies to manipulate the rings. Hide them under your hands, their legs, the corner of a rug or cushion.
  • Place one or two of the rings over the holder and encourage the baby to copy.

Wall hangings

  • Display a variety of landscape photos, pictures of people and animals and prints of famous paintings around the walls. These should be hung at a level where the toddler can touch, reach, analyse and appreciate them easily.
  • Attach a variety of textured materials above the skirting boards and explore their different textures with the children. These 'pieces of art' can be bright in comparison with the whole room to support the development of children's appreciation of pattern, colour, texture and art.

See also 'Bottles and tubes'

When using these suggestions, make sure that your resources are clean and safe for young children and that the activity is age appropriate - the ideas outlined cover the birth to three age range 

Based on ideas by Alice Sharp, managing director of training and resources company, Experiential Play, http://www.experientialplay.com

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