Document 71924

A professional development support resource for early childhood centres working
with Early Childhood Development professional development coordinators.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001
Creating learning opportunities for non-mobile babies
Dedicating an area to non-mobile babies offers an
opportunity to create an interesting and educational
The baby space needs to be in a quiet area, away from
the main flow of traffic. Provide a firm, flat, soft
surface for babies to practice rolling. A carpet or flax
mat is important for warmth and softness, and visually
determines where the space is. A baby play-mat can be
made easily by sewing objects onto an old rug or piece of polar fleece that babies can
touch and see as they lie on their backs or tummies.
A variety of items can be placed on the floor near the baby’s head to create visual
interest. A scarf drawn up into a peak, allows the baby to grab hold and move the scarf
to her face.
Baby gyms can hold interesting objects for babies to
look at and touch. Provide a wide range of visual and
tactile experiences by regularly changing objects on the
gym. Try a beautiful shell, feather or piece of
driftwood, but make sure objects do not dangle in the
baby’s face.
A large mirror in the baby area enables a baby to
explore the image of herself. Ensure it is securely
fastened to a wall. Perspex mirrors are
Babies are attracted to faces and pictures of faces. Providing
a board displaying different faces can be interesting for
babies to look at, and also helps to define the baby space.
One of the best things you can give a baby is another baby.
A good baby area can provide space for babies to interact
with equipment and each other.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001
Creating learning opportunities for sitting babies: the magic of
heuristic play
Heuristic / hewr-iss-tik / ! adj. 1 allowing or assisting to discover.
Sitting babies use their hands and mouths to explore the world. They are focused on
finding out about objects through their senses, and their essential question is:
Heuristic play is used to describe play for babies, infants and toddlers that actively
encourages exploration and discovery. Babies, infants and toddlers are essentially
‘sensory-motor beings’ (Greenman, Stonehouse, 1997, p. 32). They are dependent on
their senses to give them an understanding of the people, places and things that are in
their environment.
By feeling, seeing, mouthing and manipulating objects, babies begin to collect
information that will later lead to identification and naming of objects. Mouths, eyes,
ears, and skin are the vehicles babies use to learn with. Babies develop remarkably
quickly and this development is a complex interplay between heredity and experience.
‘Infants seem to have, from birth, a powerful drive to try to master new behaviour and
skills. But the kind of care they receive and the settings they experience can facilitate –
or impede – this tendency’ (Shore, 2001, p. 4). Providing babies with interesting and
stimulating sensory play experiences, fosters the connections being made in a baby’s
brain that lead to healthy cognitive development.
Mouthing objects is particularly important for babies, but it often creates anxieties in
adults about hygiene. A baby’s mouth is the most sensitive part of her body. The tongue
is teaming with nerve endings and that is why babies are so keen to use their mouths to
explore the world. Parent educator and writer Penelope Leach suggests that a baby ‘will
not fully understand an object unless he does put it in his mouth’ (Leach, 1986, p. 167).
She suggests that regularly washing a baby’s toys reduces the risk of infection by
mouthing objects.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001
Provide heuristic play opportunities for young babies by creating collections of sensory
objects, which are easy to access and can explored by babies at their leisure. These have
been called ‘treasure baskets’ and are most effective with babies who are able to sit
unsupported, and infants up to 9 months. When collecting items and objects it is good to
keep the baby’s `essential question’ in mind and provide things that are different in
length, weight, softness, hardness, roughness and, shininess, so that these different
properties can be explored.
Treasure baskets allow for infants to focus their attention and interest for considerable
periods of time. Sitting beside the basket, infants can make independent choices about
what objects they wish to engage with. Adults stay alongside their infant, providing
physical support and attention, but do not interfere with the child’s play process.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001
Hand out: Making a treasure basket
Collect a range of objects that are safe for mouthing and that can be cleaned
easily. These might include:
Natural objects – cones, feathers, dried gourds, small raffia mat, pumice
stone, large corks, cane bag handles, piece of loofah, lemon, woollen ball, small
woven basket.
Metal or plastic objects – spoons, small egg whisk, bunch of keys, small tins,
tin lids, metal teapot, lengths of different sized chain, lemon squeezer, bottlebrush.
Wooden objects – small boxes, cylinder, rattle, napkin ring, wooden dolly pegs,
small turned bowl, curtain rings, egg cup, cotton reel, honey spoon, spatula.
Objects in material, leather or fur – leather purse, fur ball, fun fur ball,
small rag doll, tennis ball, bead purse, beanbag, spectacles case, bath plug with
Find a large low-sided wicker or woven basket and fill the basket with a range of
these objects. Offer the basket to your baby or infant and sit next to her/him
supporting, but not interfering with his/her process of exploring the basket of
Objects in the basket need to be washed and changed regularly.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001
Early Childhood Development. (2000). Learning environments for playgroups: A guide to
quality practices in playgroups. Wellington: Author.
Goldschmeid, E. (1991). Babies and toddlers: Carers and educators: Quality for the under
threes. London: National Children’s Bureau.
Greenman, J. & Stonehouse, A. (1997). Prime times: A handbook for excellence in infant
and toddler programs. South Melbourne: Addison Wesley Longman.
Leach, P. (1989). Baby and child: From birth to age five. London: Penguin.
Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whåriki: He whäriki måtauranga mø ngå
mokopuna o Aotearoa. Wellington: Learning Media.
Shore, R. (2001). Making sense of the brain debates. Every Child, 7(3). 4-5.
Early Childhood Development – 14 March 2001