I’m so pleased to discover your blog. I’m slowly reading through it bit by bit. I came across it when I was searching for more information about Magda’s teachings. I have her book “Your Self-Confident Baby” and I find that your website adds a wealth of information to the book.
I have many parenting books and I tried the attachment thing, but ended up so tired every day that I was starting to resent being a mother and my baby girl is only 6 months! That was until I found the book and your website. It makes perfect sense!
I have a question I wanted to ask you. As I have only discovered this method a week ago I have already managed to buy whole lot of toys, some of them only a few days old, like a baby walker and a baby bouncer as well as some baby chairs and a baby swing from earlier. I now feel that I have wasted my money, but at the same time I don’t want to wastefully throw these toys away. Will there be much damage done if I let her use them (the brand new toys) for, let’s say, only about ½ hour per day, and not teach her about what the different buttons do, let her figure it out for herself ? Or do you think that this is counterproductive, and I should just be happy that I stopped spending money sooner rather than later? Also, what sort of objects or toys do you recommend for a 6 month old baby girl? Should I still use scarf and a ball? And should she have just one item at a time and a different item to explore each day?
Many Thanks and Best Wishes,
Thanks for your kind words about the blog. When I first learned about Magda Gerber’s child rearing approach I had a similar reaction. I was surprised and relieved to find a philosophy that so thoroughly appealed to my common sense. Respecting a baby’s innate abilities was in complete accordance with my instinct to trust nature. With my first baby turning 18(!) in a couple of weeks, I can say beyond all doubt that Magda’s guidance continues to make “perfect sense” and has had an unbelievably positive effect on all 3 of my children. Go for it!
Magda Gerber believed in “busy babies rather than busy toys”. She suggested we keep toys simple so that our babies could investigate them thoroughly, use them imaginatively in multiple ways, and be encouraged to be active explorers. As she explains in Dear Parent – Caring For Infants With Respect, “…entertaining kinds of toys (such as mobiles or, later on, wind-up toys or battery-operated items) cause a passive child to watch an active toy. This trains the child to expect to be amused and entertained and sets the scene for later TV watching,”
I would never call the push-button toys you bought “damaging”, but as you say, they are counterproductive. Even with your wonderful idea to allow your daughter to discover the buttons rather than showing her how they work, those kinds of toys can undermine independent play because they are mysterious, complicated, and babies are limited in their ability to investigate them. Since our babies can’t make sense of those toys, they aren’t inclined to learn much from them either. If we want to encourage curiosity and learning, it’s better to provide simpler toys and objects and give our babies extended opportunities to choose what interests them and be enticed to examine those things further.
If you want to keep the new toys, my advice is to save them as an “ace in the hole” for a long car or airplane ride, a waiting room without an aquarium, or a particularly bleak late afternoon at home. That’s what I did with some of the “entertaining” toys that were given to me. (Admission: when my children were older, even much older, they flocked with glee toward baby toy aisles in Target or the toy store, finally able to experience the joy of all those magic buttons. It was a little odd.)
You also mention equipment like bouncers, swings, and seats, all of which restrict movement, encourage passivity, and undermine natural gross motor development according to the approach advocated by renowned pediatrician Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber. They also inhibit independent play, because they require adult assistance. Your baby cannot be safely allowed to “explore” a swing without being placed in, strapped in and positioned. (For more, please read Set Me Free.)
Whatever we believe about parenting, we’re going to allow our babies to do things from time to time that we know are less than ideal, knowing that it’s the steady diet we provide for our children that matters most (not the occasional snack!) But we must also recognize that infants and toddlers are in the process of forming lifelong habits. It’s easiest to instill the habits we want for our children by practicing them regularly in the beginning. If we value natural gross motor development and independent, self-directed play and learning, it’s best not to place babies in swings, seats or bouncers, even for half an hour each day. Your baby will ultimately be occupied much longer playing in a safe space, moving freely, and actively engaging with simple objects than she will be with ‘entertaining’ toys and equipment that require assistance or intervention.
For your 6 month old baby, these toys (which Magda Gerber preferred to call “play objects”) can include cotton scarves, balls of all shapes and sizes, plastic chains and empty water bottles, stacking cups, bowls, colanders, wooden toys, inflatable beach balls slightly deflated for grasping, manipulatives, teething rings — almost anything that doesn’t have sharp edges, is safe to mouth, not heavy, not long enough to reach around a baby’s neck, and is too large to choke on. (I share many more ideas and links in 7 Gifts That Encourage Child-Directed Play)
A baby your daughter’s age needs only a few objects placed nearby and maybe a couple more that are beyond her reach. Make some the same each day and maybe change some up, too — babies appreciate familiarity more than we do. Allow her to choose what she wishes to grasp, rather than handing a toy to her. Then let her do what she chooses to do with the toy, and don’t interrupt while she uses it as long as she wishes.
If independent play is new for your daughter, she may take a little time to get used to it, but soon her play time will blossom. You’ll be glad you tried this.
P.S. I sincerely hope that you can be happy you “stopped spending money sooner rather than later”. And I’m wondering…is there a resale store that might buy some of your brand new items?