How I fit learning into my baby’s day | as a working mom of 2 under 2

infant development product recommendations

Wow. This whole 2 under 2 thing is no joke.

The constant to-do list, never ending laundry piles, dishes that “can wait”, and A WHOLE lot of noise in our house make it, honestly, hard to get anything done.

I LOVE being a mom. Matter of fact, it’s my favorite role in addition to being a wife and OT. I also LOVE helping other moms. It brings me so much joy to share my knowledge of infant development with others and I LOVE to watch my new baby learn equally to that of my first. 

The hard part, though, is that I find myself having a difficult time fitting structured play into my newborns day. I know it seems crazy, but even just a small 30 minute window where I can just focus on playing with her seems impossible some days. 

This is something I didn’t expect before having 2 under 2, and I found myself being a little hard on myself at times. Wondering if she was meeting her milestones well, or if I was doing “enough” with her.

With my first, I would carve out these beautiful moments of developmental play each day. Setting up his play area and pulling out every developmental toy I had to encourage his learning, like motor skills, language, social skills and more. I never had to wonder if he was on track, because I was tracking (very closely actually!!). 

With my second, like I mentioned earlier, it’s totally different. I ask myself questions, not only about her milestone acquisitions, but also asking myself  “when is the last time I sat down on the floor and really played with her?”.

This provoked some thought for me and I have been reflecting on this for the past week or so. 

This is the conclusion I have come to.

Development, learning, and play happens everywhere. For my baby and your baby. 

This is why I am a huge fan of the Toki Mat, because it’s super portable, easy to assemble, washable, waterproof, and can be taken literally anywhere!

Even though I am not sitting down with my newborn each day and spending lots of structured play time with her, I am providing small bouts of learning throughout her day and that goes a long way. 

We all learn just from going about our normal, daily activities and our babies are the same. 

Here are some ways I fit play and learning into my baby’s day, seamlessly with no stress because of our busy schedule. 

First - we take play on the go with our Toki Mat. Inside, outside, anytime. 

James, my toddler LOVES being outside and with spring coming, I do too! We love to set up Bekah (my newborn) on her Toki Mat and let her enjoy the sunshine and spring temperatures while her brother plays outside. The Toki Mat is SO easy to fold up, place in the carrying bag, and take along anywhere we go! It’s super compact design really allows us to take it along easily with very little hassle. They really thought of it all when creating the Toki Mat because it really is perfect for taking on the go. Taking her Toki mat with us allows us to have a seamless transition from using the Toki Mat inside on her play space, to anywhere outside! With taking play on the go, we can still prioritize tummy time, hand skills, visual tracking and more no matter where we are! Save on the Toki Mat by using this link!

Taking play on the go, and getting outside also is a great sensory experience for her. As she takes in her big world little by little by processing all the sights, sounds, and textures around - she is learning so much. I love watching the wind blow in her hair (yes! She has a ton!) because I know that feels nice to her and she gets to experience this new, tactile sensation on her skin. What a fabulous sensory experience! I also love when the birds are chirping around us, or I can hear the noises of the street because this is stimulating curiosity and senses for her that she has not been exposed to ever before. This type of learning teaches her about her new world that she will one day understand more.

Another way we fit play into our busy day is involving her brother (19 months currently) in play with us. I am not going to lie, sometimes this is a complete disaster. I try to teach him “gentle hands” or “easy” but that doesn’t always work because he is a wild boy at heart! 

But, having a designated space on her Toki Mat that we can all enjoy does make things a lot easier to keep him controlled and keep the baby’s environment safe. 

I usually have Bekah’s Toki Mat set up in her room with her A-frame play gym and high contrast toys and rattles all around. While using the Toki Mat, we can all play together because it is large enough for us all to fit on the Toki mat. With the Toki mat’s foam design, it’s SO comfortable and the material is easy to clean. Because, especially when my toddler is involved, messes are going to happen… 🙃You can simply remove the cover and toss in the wash and it’s good as new! I just recently washed the cover after our newborn spit up on it, and it was so easy to remove the cover from the Toki mat, wash and then reassemble. This is a game changer because the play mats we used with James, our toddler, are ruined and were never able to recover!

While playing with Bekah, I will rotate her into tummy time and encourage James, our toddler, to talk to her or shake toys in front of her. Ensuring these toys are FAR AWAY from her face (even though she can only see 8-12 inches! Safety is best in this situation!). He loves playing with her at times and will call her name and smile while speaking to her. I love watching him learn about her because this also teaches him so much. It’s a wonderful learning experience for both kids. James loves being involved on her Toki mat because he is comfortable due to the cozy design, and Bekah is too!  

During our time together on her Toki mat, Bekah also learns so many things. She works on head control through tummy time, midline play while on her side and back, visual skills as she views high contrast toys at a close distance, and social skills and name recognition as she listens to us speak to her and hears her name when it is called. 

Even though this time is a bit chaotic, I wouldn’t change it for the world! 

Another way we fit learning & play in this busy season of life is just simply talking and reading to our baby.

My toddler LOVES books, so it’s a great way to involve both babies. We will sit together with Bekah in our lap and read the stories together. Even though she isn’t sure what is going on exactly, she is an active participant in the task as she hears the words being read and views the pages (what she can see at least). Speaking, reading, and making eye contact with your baby are amazing ways to create strong bonds with your baby and encourage early language development. Starting these things as early as possible is GREAT for early literacy acquisition to support future childhood milestones. 

I recently read an article about how early literacy activities completed with babies and children lead to improved literacy and emotional regulation as adolescents. I desire my kids to understand and regulate their emotions, enjoy reading and learning, and have good social skills so they will desire to play & get along with others. Try reading to your baby and speaking to them while making contact! These little tasks go a long way! `

Another way we fit play into our baby’s day is completing various tummy time and play positions throughout our day. 

Tummy time is a necessity for your baby's development from birth to crawling age. Tummy time allows for early motor development like head control, upper body strength, and trunk strength needed for rolling, crawling, walking, and other complex motor skills your child will perform later in life. 

Tummy time can be arduous at times, but completing on the go outside makes things so much more enjoyable. Getting your baby outside to play is amazing and you may see a shift in their tummy time tolerance just by changing the scenery. While using the Toki mat, Bekah also enjoys longer periods of tummy time because of the soft, foam design. Once she is tired of holding her head up, she can simply lay her head down on the soft mat and she’s comfortable and content. The Toki mat being easy to wash (after being taken outside, or let’s be honest, the baby spits on it) is an added bonus. Plus this Toki mat is waterproof, so play can be prioritized anywhere. 

Don’t have the chance to get outside for tummy time? No problem! You can also change up the toys you use during tummy time, or change the room where your baby is completing tummy time. 

Tummy time can also be completed on elevated surfaces, like a tummy time wedge. This is a good alternative if they become tired or upset while completing tummy time directly on the floor. Once your baby has had enough tummy time on the Toki mat all together, try having your baby complete tummy time on your chest or legs. This will help your baby lift their head more and bear weight on their little arms with help, making this positioning a lot more manageable. Before long your baby will be enjoying tummy time with a strong head control, but it takes time, patience, and practice!

I’ve included a guide below on tummy time for you to reference.

Tummy time isn’t the only play position you should prioritize! Plat positions like side lying, back play, and upright reclined positions are wonderful ways to encourage visual skills, midline orientation, body strength, and prevent “flat head” in babies birth to 4 months.

The last way to fit learning into your baby’s day is just having your baby simply observe their big world. Being a participant in everyday life and activities will teach them so many things. From hearing you communicate with your spouse and other children, they will learn skills relating to attention, social skills, language, and more.

At the end of the day, play and learning can happen anywhere and that's the beauty of childhood. Our Toki Mat is a HUGE part of play inside our home and outside! Your baby learns through so many interactions, experiences, and exposure to things in their big big world. And you are a huge part of that!

Thanks for reading!

Brooke, OTR/L

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