If you’ve ever received a gift for your infant and made her part of the unwrapping festivities, you’ve likely noticed that she’s more interested in the colorful, crinkly wrapping paper than the underlying gift. And forget about it if there’s tissue paper or an empty cardboard box involved!
What is it about everyday items — especially ones that aren’t marketed specifically for infants — that intrigue your baby so much?
Here’s the thing: the fact that your baby is fascinated by your real car keys — and not just the colorful toy version — is a good thing! It means she’s a little explorer seeking out new adventures, as well as different textures, strange-to-her sounds and smells, and the cause and effect relationship between her and all of the objects with which she comes into contact. Plus, as she gets older, she’ll also start trying to mimic the behaviors of the special adults in her life, which is why your things bring her such joy.
Certainly, there are a variety of sensory toys or pretend-to-be-like-mom-and-dad toys that delight little ones. But you can also keep things interesting by offering up a variety of non-toy things for your baby to touch, feel, and figure out.
Here are some ground rules to keep in mind as you find the fun in everyday items together.
Safety first! If something is a potential choking hazard, involves an electrical outlet, or has sharp edges, obviously you’ll need to keep it out of reach — no matter how much baby seems to want it.
Don’t stress over the mess. It might create a little more clean-up for you if baby squishes sweet potatoes all over her high chair or gets a little splash happy at bathtime, but that’s part of her figuring out how things work. Try your best not to stifle her excitement.
Follow baby’s cues. You never know what might turn your bundle of joy into a ball of laughter — or a mess of tears. For instance, flipping a light switch on and off or swirling some water around in a plastic bottle could crack her up, while other things can be scary or overwhelming, such as a loud cell phone ringer or seeing a Jack-in-the-Box pop up.
By offering a mix of age-appropriate toys and everyday household items — under your supervision, of course — you’ll be helping introduce and acclimate your baby to the big, beautiful world.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.