Becca Smith joined the PlayBoard team as a Playworker in October 2019 following her degree in Youth and Community Work with Practical Theology. Ahead of Parenting Week Becca has shared her experiences of play as a new parent, having welcomed baby Ollie in May of this year.

Becoming a parent has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my life. If I had to describe what being a parent feels like, I would have to say it is almost like being on a rollercoaster full of ups and downs, twists and turns. You can go from giggles to tantrums, and cuddles to crying all in the space of an hour, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I became a mummy to my little boy Ollie in May of this year. Having a baby during lockdown made things look a lot different. I couldn’t have a baby shower, or have visitors at the hospital, or even to my house when we got home. Covid-19 also meant there were no mother and tots groups, no baby sensory, and very limited socialising with other mums and their babies. All of these things are so good for aiding the development of children so I have had to try and make up for some of those things myself.

Before I became a mummy I knew how important play was for a child’s development. First and foremost, play should be fun, but it is also vital for a child to learn new skills that they will need as they grow. It is key to help them build relationships, teach them to overcome difficulties, to give them confidence, and to learn from others.

When you think of a child playing, your mind automatically thinks of children playing in the park, or a toddler sitting playing with toys, or children playing with a ball together, but it’s important to remember that play isn’t defined by age – play is for all ages, and is especially important in those early months of life. Since Ollie was only a couple of days old I sang to him and read him stories which helped him develop focusing skills and recognise my voice.

I know in those early days it just feels like your baby is in a cycle of eating and sleeping but I always wanted to make sure I tried to include play as part of his daily routine. I found it easiest to try and include play just after he had had his nappy changed. This is when I would sing “round and round the garden” to him, or sing him nursery rhymes. The more I talk to him, the more he now tries to communicate back.

As Ollie got a little bigger I introduced soft toys, and rattles. By introducing toys in this way, it developed his hand eye coordination, and he began trying to grab the toys I was holding and ultimately led to him taking the toys off me.

It can be so easy to sit and hug your new baby, but it’s also important to give them the freedom to lie down and learn how to play by themselves. Ollie really enjoys lying on his play mat. It was by giving him the space to lie down that he learnt how to roll over, and now I can’t turn my back for more than two minutes and he has rolled off the mat.

Tummy time is also so important for babies, it was a great way to help Ollie build up the strength in his neck so he could hold his head up and play with the toys in front of him. Ollie has a water mat that he can lie on and he focuses on the toys moving around in the water and he has now learnt to hit the mat and the toys will move, which he loves!

Play is such a good way to build a relationship with your new baby. Ollie smiled for the first time when I was singing nursery rhymes to him and he started giggling when I was blowing raspberries on his belly. Seeing your baby smile at you, or giggle for the first time is something that every mummy loves to see and hear.

I think Covid-19 has made things quite difficult for new mummies. It feels like your child is missing out on those extra things like mother and tots, and baby sensory, but there is no one more equipped to play with your baby than you. A child just needs a loving adult to spend time talking to them, singing to them, reading them stories and playing with toys with them. All of these things will help develop language skills, physical strength, social skills, and ultimately ensure your baby is having fun, because that’s the main objective of play!

Becca Smith

PlayBoard - Play For Parents Guide - 2019

Play For Parents Guide