I have a reverence for babies at play. Actually, any child at play. Even when my 9-year old builds forts, or creates stories with his soldiers, knights and dragons (sadly, becoming a rare occurrence) my husband and I are careful not to interrupt.
So, I had very mixed feelings about filming the 7-10 month old babies playing during “observation time” in my RIE parent/infant class. As I’d feared, holding up my new Flip camera (thanks for the early Christmas gift, Mike) distracted these ultra-aware infants a little. But when I saw the videos, I decided it was worth it for the thrill of sharing a sample of the wonders we experience with babies every week!
I’ve isolated the clips below because they provide different examples of babies “playing” together, sometimes (when we want to sound fancy) referred to as “infant-infant interaction”. Infant expert Magda Gerber strongly believed in giving babies time for free exploration with their peers and recommended forming play groups. “Children have different agendas with adults than with their peers, and they learn from each other.”
I think you’ll agree after seeing these videos that watching babies play together is good for parents, too.
1. Ouch!… My Ear. (When we allow babies the freedom to interact, there are going to be minor bumps and upsets. Babies learn from these, too. We can’t have the wonderful, spontaneous moments if we over-intervene or micromanage.)
2. Like Feet. (Each parent/infant group has its own unique dynamic. The babies in this group are particularly fascinated with each other’s feet.)
3. Lean On Me. (Making friends, infant style.)
Tips for encouraging self-directed infant play…
Safety. Create a safe, enclosed play space. For group play, babies have the most freedom to interact safely when they are grouped with children of a similar age or stage of development. At RIE we use a lot of light, plastic, cleanable toys for safety reasons.
Give babies your focused attention. To be able to play independently and confidently babies need periods of our undivided attention, especially during feedings, bathing, diaper changes. (At RIE we have a separate area for parents to nurse, bottle feed or change their babies.)
The play habit. Provide plenty of opportunities for uninterrupted, independent play each day. Groups work best for babies when they meet regularly and include the usual suspects.
Minimal interruption. Stay in responsive mode. Intervene calmly and gently when babies are hurt (or better — about to be hurt), as beautifully demonstrated by the parents in the first video clip.
For more about play groups, please read: The Baby Social Scene.
Please share any thoughts or questions about the videos!