10 Ways to Create Stimulating Environments for Your Baby or Toddler
by: Sara Hunsucker, Director of Art Education, SCCM
1. Rotate your child’s toys often. Keep some on reserve and out of sight, and swap them when your child seems bored with the current selection.
2. Keep toys organized and accessible; the easier they are to grab and engage with, the better! They will also be easier to clean up.
3. Bring color, light, and sound into play areas. Safety mirrors, access to windows, art on the walls, and an IPod doc can liven up a space to spark curiosity!
4. Create fun new areas for exploration by bringing in pillows, couch cushions, or creating bed sheet forts. Encourage climbing and crawling in safe areas.
5. Create varied crawling and walking surfaces with bathmats, throw rugs, play mats, foam tiles, and blankets.
6. Include an area for quiet time, such as a reading nook. If you don’t have space for a rest area, take the child out of the room if over stimulation occurs. Take cues from your child to know when it is time to change activities like: fussiness or agitation, staring, and disengagement. Return to play actives after a sufficient period of rest or redirected attention, (often 15-20 minutes does the trick).
7. Get down on the floor with them! Create space for you and/or your caregiver to interact with the child at times. Inversely, create a space where a child can confidently and safely maneuver alone. Alone time with supervision can build confidence and allow your child explore freely.
8. Stick to age appropriate toys as listed by the manufacturer. Read instructions for proper use, and to understand how each activity can best benefit your little one’s learning experience. If something seems like a potential hazard despite the suggested age recommendation, take it out of the mix! Keep all areas baby/toddler safe and make sure there is always clear access to the door.
9. Encourage a range of different types of play activities such as pretend play/dress up, music time, art time, construction time, etc. This will help nurture different developmental needs for your child.
10. Provide outdoor space for physical movement, mobile toys and ride-along toys, water play, messy art projects, and exploration of nature!
Brought to you by the Southern California Children’s Museum. visit socalkids.org for more information
Resource: Kaplan-Sanoff M. 2002. Stimulating environments. In Jellinek M, Patel BP, Froehle MC, eds.,
Bright Futures in Practice: Mental Health—Volume II. Tool Kit.Arlington, VA: National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health