Choose simple play objects for infants, the RIE™ Way


A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation a dad had with his baby in the diapering room. He was explaining to his daughter step by step what he was doing and what impressed me was that he seems be enjoying his time with his baby.

I never really realize how important it is to slow down, observe and enjoy my baby until I learn more about RIE parenting.

In my limited time, I manage to squeeze in time to read more about RIE and I start to learn to observe what my baby is doing, communicate to my baby, even though he may not understand me yet, slow down and give him my full attention.

RIE changes the way I choose play objects for my baby. Now we give Daniel simple play objects like plastic containers of varied sizes, ice-cream cover, round tin cover, cloth to play. There’s little need to buy toys as his play objects can be found easily at home.

“Entertaining kinds of toys (such as mobiles or later on, wind-up tour or battery-operated items) cause a passive infant to watch an active toy. This trains the child to expect to be amused and entertained and sets the scene for later TV watching.”

– Magder Gerber, Dear Parent

Why simple passive play objects help babies to be more active learner?

What a relief to know that we do not need to teach babies how to play. Naturally, they can play on their own with little interruption from parents. They learn best at their own pace.

Through play,

  • they learn cause and effect. Daniel realises that when he hits the metal tin cover with his hand, it makes a certain kind of sound.
  • they learn problem solving.
  • they learn to trial and error.
  • they learn to accept challenge and struggle.
  • they learn what interest them.

“If an adult refrains from swooping in to solve every little problem, your baby will learn to accept challenge and struggle as a necessary part of life and learning. As Magda said,”There is dignity in struggle. It gives our soul muscle.” Your baby can learn to try and try again and not to give up easily.”, quoted from “Baby Knows Best” by Deborah Carlisle Solomon


At about five month old, he starts to put things into his mouth. He bites his fingers, clothes, anything that he can hold and bring it to his mouth. Safety is an important consideration when choosing play objects for babies. It must not has removable parts that are too small to be swallowed. Some people use the hollow core of the toilet roll to test the safe size for baby’s play objects – anything that falls through the hole is kept away from babies. Play objects for babies should not be easily broken, have sharp edges, or anything that may suffocate or injure the babies.

Play objects for babies and toddlers

Deborah Carlisle Solomon in her book, Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE™ Way, listed some of the play objects suitable for babies and toddlers.

For pre-crawling babies:

  • Ice-cream lid
  • Hair curlers (plastic)
  • Manipulatives : links, rings, small cups, saucers (Plastic, metal or wood)
  • Napkins (plain cotton)

For crawling babies, add a few of these:

  • Balls of various sizes, textures, colours, of cloth or rubber
  • Bottles without cap (thoroughly cleaned)
  • Child size bowling pins
  • Bowls (metal and plastic)
  • Colanders (plastic)
  • Cups (plastic, wooden, or metal)
  • Dolls with clothes that snap or zip, to practise taking on and off
  • Stacking or nesting cups or boxes (Plastic or metal)
  • Stuffed animals (just a few)

For toddlers, add a few of these (don’t overwhelm with too many play objects):

  • Things to roll : Cars, trucks
  • Containers to collect things : buckets, bowls, purses
  • Jars or container with lids
  • Puzzles
  • Hats

I agree with Magda Gerber that the best play objects are those which allow infants to be as active and competent as possible at every stage of development. There’s little or no need to buy commercial toys. What do you think?

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