I was probably the world's most clueless mother, but it never really occurred to me that baby would need playtime. More, I mean, than a rattle. Sure, I knew that my son would want to throw a few bricks around, and gum a toy giraffe, when he was starting to sit up and explore his world. But the fact that at two months he'd want to do some entertaining on his own was a surprise.
We spent two weeks staying at my sister's where he had two slightly older cousins - my son was two months old, one nephew was a year old and the other was two years old. And that was more than enough really. I could just prop him securely on the sofa and he would happily spend a half hour or so just watching the older boys running around the room.
If you don't have older siblings or other children to hand, then there's a few other popular ways of letting your baby explore his or her world on their own. Baby bouncer chairs, baby bouncers, baby walkers and play pens. What are the pros and cons of each? What do they do? Are they right for your baby? And for you? Here I'll try to answer some of those questions based on my own experience, that of our PlayPennies parents, and the vast amount of knowledge that's available out there on the good old internet.
Now, I have to admit that my personal favourite for baby playtime is the baby bouncer chair. My son utterly adored his, and I've reviewed here on PlayPennies before - click HERE. With a toy bar attachment, little babies can have quite a lot of fun by themselves, and also with mum or dad or another child to play with them.
The pros of these chairs are that they have a lot of support for babies who still can't hold up their heads on their own, and can be used from newborn. You can move them around the house with you quite easily, if you've a baby who doesn't like being on their own for even five minutes. You can usually buy new toys to put on the toybar too, for a bit of variety.
Baby can quickly learn to rock themselves as well as they get a bit older, and my son definitely seemed to enjoy having that amount of control over his own environment. They're handy for short naps, and also for when you first start feeding them solids.
On the downside, they are restricted in movement, and once they're able to sit unaided, many babies may no longer enjoy the chair as much. This gives them a limited lifespan.
A baby bouncer is kind of like a swing crossed with a bungy for your baby. They typically hang from a door frame, and have a seat in which baby can be strapped. The baby is then able to push themselves up and down.
Now, I have little experience of these. Although I bought one for my son, he didn't like it. So we only used it for about a week before giving up. His bouncer had a material 'seat' but you can also buy ones with a moulded bucket style seat. Some of the parents I talked to had one of these and felt that baby felt more secure in it than with a fabric harness.
Babies do bounce sideways as well as up and down, so if you've a period property with narrow doorframes you'll probably want to avoid these!
Now the press on baby walkers has been a mixed bag over the years. Are they a good or bad thing? Well, if you just plonk baby in them, and leave them there, then they are definitely a bad thing. But I think that has more to do with parenting issues rather than the walker itself.
On the downside, they are only suitable to babies of around six months and upwards. Also they do make baby more accident prone than the other play equipment looked at here. You really do need to make sure that the baby can't get near the top of any stairs in one, and that they're well supervised. Uneven floor surfaces can easily upend baby, for example.
Despite the name, they're not going to help your child walk sooner. That's not the purpose of these devices. Mum's with really active babies swear by them. One PlayPennies mother, whose son was later diagnosed as hyperactive, said it was simply an absolutely necessity to help keep him entertained.
The entertainment value comes from the usually largish tray around the baby, with lots for the baby to do. In addition, the wheels on the walker mean that baby can push themselves in the direction they want to go. Again, if you've got a particularly independent and strong minded baby, then this will definitely suit them.
Ah, a baby cage! But isn't that something that's handy for the parents rather than an entertainment device for the baby?
Not all babies will see them as a 'prison'. Some babies like to have the security of knowing what is their 'own' space. Plus, if it isn't possible to have your baby rolling or crawling about without you being there every second (older children's toys, open fires, cables etc) then they're great for allowing them to learn to explore on their own.
We had one, and my son loved it. As long as I didn't close the door on him! Put in the middle of the room it meant he could traverse the entire living room, long before he started to take independent steps. I have to admit that in those early days, I would often put him on the outside so he could charge around the living room to his heart's content, while I sat inside safely drinking a nice, welcome, cup of tea.
What was your baby's favourite mode of entertainment before he or she could crawl?