Hey there and welcome to this episode. I am really excited to talk with you about three things that every parent needs to know about playing with your baby in a way that’s going to just kind of help them develop in the ways that they need to. These first three years are so important. So I have an amazing guest with me today, Autumn McKay.

She is the founder of Best Mom Ideas and she has just an amazing catalog of resources for you to check out. And so we’re going to talk about play but first I just wanted to say welcome Autumn, thank you so much for being on the show. Yeah, thanks for having me. Why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself and then we’ll dive right in.

All right,  so I have a teaching background. I taught in the classroom and online before I came a mom. Once I became a mom, I decided to stay at home with my kids, and I wanted to make that time intentional for me and my kids.  So I decided to use my teaching background and I came up with some activities to do with them and we learned colors and ABCs and a bunch of other things that they were interested in.

My husband saw how much fun we were having and how much the kids were learning and he encouraged me to write books for moms sharing the activities that we had done together and after much convincing, I finally did it and yeah, that’s where we are now. I love the book that I have that you’ve given me to look at the Ultimate One Year Activity book, and it’s got some great activities in here, and we’re going to talk about some of those. But first, tell us how old your kids are and tell us who’s sitting beside you on the floor. Just in case.  So, my biological kids are 10, 8 and 6, and then we’re also foster parents. So we currently have a 3 month old little girl.

Okay, so we can hear her little coos and noises. But if she cries, we’re just going to keep on going and  she can be a part of our conversation. So thank you. So we’re going to talk about these 3 things. I’m going to ask you 3 questions. And so here’s the 1st one.

How can parents create opportunities to learn? In these first three years, you know, kids are just in the first three years, they’re just making milestones, right?

How can parents help their child learn through this time?  So my biggest suggestion is  find what they’re curious in, which kids one to three are curious about everything because the world is so new to them. So discover what they’re curious about and take advantage of that. So my boys at that age, they were so into hot wheels.

So we learned to count using hot wheels. We learned to spell our name using hot wheels. We learned to trace shapes and  we will learn like how to use our pincer grasp to pick up the hot wheels. So I think just using what they are interested in really helps.  To foster that love of learning.  Yeah. Yeah, that’s really great because the hot wheels, of course, they even a 1 year old could be interested in holding it and just watching the wheels move and  mouthing it and putting it in their mouth.

They’re relatively  new,  but there’s lots of fun things to do. I remember. My son would put his tracks down the stairs and, you know, just watch them go flying down the stairs. And so they last quite a long time. That’s a really great to invest in.  So that’s 1 idea when it comes to, like, the milestones of learning to walk, what can parents do?

And what should they not do when it comes to those kinds of things? For learning to walk, you’re just really wanting to develop those big muscles, gross motor muscles. So like arms and legs and the core, but you can do it through a fun way. So one thing that we love to do is create like a cushion mountain out of your couch cushions and pillows around the house and, and put like their favorite toy on the top of the cushion mountain and then ask them to climb up and get it.

So they’re, they’re using their arms, they’re using their legs to get up that mountain. Just make sure it’s like not too tall where it’s, they could fall and get hurt.  Yeah. I love that idea because it’s just something that you, you have, you have a couch that has cushions, just take them off. I guess you could take your bed pillows off and do something.

Another thing that we all have probably being delivered to our house on a weekly basis are just boxes. Yes.  And that’s a perfect thing for a little toddler to just walk and push as they’re learning how to walk. Yes. Or even like kick a ball into the empty box. Yeah. Your book has lots of great activities that are no prep required.

So let’s talk a little bit about that, about how you identify those in your book. And what are some ways that you were thinking as you were creating these ideas for parents to do at home? Uh, so for me, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands, so I knew many other moms and my, with children and work and all the things, they don’t have a lot of time on their hands as well to make these extravagant activities.

So I wanted to provide a lot of no prep or low prep activities for them to just be able to pull from. And so the low prep activities are. Usually things that you can have ready to go in 1 to 2 minutes, or even just like, let’s do it right now. So I just wanted it to be easily accessible for parents to grab and do with their kids.

Right?  Do you feel like parents need to help their child do the things that they. We’ll be kind of doing naturally like we use those term gross motor skills in early childhood, but really what this is, it’s just the big, the big muscles, right? Yeah. The large motor stuff and then the hands and, and all of those.

Is this something that kids will do naturally, or is this something that we need to kind of be very intentional about? So I think it is a good idea to model doing it for your child so that they can see how to do it  and they can mimic you because there’s so many things that they copy you on, whether it’s like the good, your good habits or your bad habits, which oftentimes they copy the bad ones.

So I think it’s a good idea to like model how to do it properly so that they learn how to properly use those muscles, whether it’s the big muscles or the little muscles. And it’s a good way for you and your child to bond together. Well, that’s good.

Anything else to add to this idea of creating opportunities just in the everyday life? I don’t think so. There’s always like little opportunities that come about that you can like create learning experiences from. So I know when my kids, even now, when they were little, they love to be in the kitchen with me. Especially when I’m like cooking dinner, so like use that opportunity to  get them involved.

Just pull out all the Tupperware that you have and let them like match up lids to the containers or stack them all up in a tower or stir some water in a bowl or something like that.  Just getting one of the activities that you have in your book that I really love is building with the recycle bin, whatever, and I was thinking I recycle bin is kind of full of like  Coke syrup and stuff like that.

You know, you have to really kind of have the, the think ahead a little bit.  I need to rinse this out really well. I’m going to let my baby play with. Yes. Yes. But just that a little bit of advanced thinking can get you going to ideas like, you know, stacking up your recyclables and putting things inside of each other.

Even at the grocery store, buying the big marshmallows instead of the little marshmallows so that they can build towers with the marshmallows. That was a really fun idea. And saving those Amazon boxes and boxes that we have doing really fun things with them. You’ve got great activities just around cardboard and boxes. I’m pretty sure we all get so many boxes. Right? Yeah. Well, that’s great. Okay. Well, let’s look at the 2nd thing and that we need to know about teaching our child through play and that is…

How do you connect emotionally with your child as you’re sitting there doing these can be kind of quiet and sometimes a little tiny bit boring things with your one year old, two year old?

How can parents connect?  So I think the best way to connect is to give them your undivided attention. So like put your phone away and allow your child to feel valued and important by being that undivided attention. It also gives you the opportunity to learn about your child, learn what their strengths are, learn what their weaknesses are so that you can help them grow where they need to grow.

And by building that connection, by doing those activities together. You’re building trust with your child and building long lasting, healthy relationship. So I think, I think that’s really good.  Yeah, you bring up a really good point there about trust and I’ll just throw this little factoid out there. And that is that, you know, in the first two years of life, this development of trust, this reciprocal feeling of feeling safe and secure and loved by your primary caregivers affects your relationships.

When you’re in high school and your adulthood, and I just think it’s really important for us to keep that top of mind that they need to be able to trust that you’re going to give them what they need.  You know, my husband and I have this little habit of when we’re having a conversation and 1 of us picks up our phone and just like starts.

Responding to somebody, the other person will just stop talking, you know, until they, you know, we, we have, I have his attention, or he has mine, but a baby doesn’t know how to do that, or a toddler doesn’t know how to do that. And so, so I think that’s a really great point to try to put your phone down and, you know, it’s something that we all struggle with.

One of the things that I think about when I think about connecting emotionally with somebody, with whether they’re. 1. 5 years old or 40 years old  is, you know, we, we need to kind of match the emotion, right? You know, like, if your friend comes to you  feeling sad and we respond with this enthusiastic response, there’s a mismatch.

Right. So, I think it’s a really important thing for us to remember with young children, too, that we need to match their mood, match their cues and respond to them in a way that feels normal and authentic. No, I think that’s good advice. Yeah. What do you notice? Like when you, when you think about like, even this little three month old that’s laying with you there, how do you connect with her?

How do you know that she’s responding to you, what are the things you look for?  So for like feeding times, I make sure that she can see my eyes and I can see hers and she’s usually watching my face. And, and then when we’re like talking to each other, I say talking, when I’m talking to her and she’s staring at me,  I make sure that she can like see me and I’m not distracted by something else, mainly like m phone or something.

So, when she can see my eyes, then she can see my, like, my whole face. So, she’s watching my lips move, and she’s  trying to copy how my lips are moving, so that eventually she’ll be able to form words and things like that. Yeah, it seems like nothing’s happening, but actually there’s tons of language development and communication learning happening.

When she’s not saying or doing anything, right? Recognize. Yeah, that’s really good. So your nonverbal stuff really communicates emotional connection, right?  Yeah. So how about when she like, who’s at you? What what do you do in response?  I either smile or I copy her,  I just kind of carry on the conversation, right?

One of my favorite things to do is watch baby videos and my feed just gives it to me, right? Because it’s what I like to spend my time on is just all these baby videos all the time. And I watched one this morning and this baby was, she was standing there. So she was probably about, 18 months or so, but she was just  blabbering, but using all of the intonation and the hand gestures and the facial expressions  that, you know, as if she were talking in words that anyone could understand.

I think that it begins there with that babe in arms that’s watching you and, and they’re taking it all in and then they will begin to imitate it. And then eventually add some words that, that are decipherable to it.  So that’s really good. Okay. So I want to talk. Lastly, the third thing about is knowing how to play with your baby in a way that teaches them is I want to talk about screens and the use of video and those kinds of things with really young children.

And first of all, I would love to hear your perspective on that. And then I want to talk about Miss Rachel because she’s really is doing a thing with babies right now. 

So I’m a big believer from trial and error with our oldest that the longer you wait for screen time, the better the earlier you introduce it.

Then the more battles you often have to fight by when you take away the screen time. So with our second and third and our newest, we put off screens. It’s. Much as we can.  Yeah, it’s really hard when they are so much a part of our world. Yes  But I do think that it’s worth acknowledging and talking about Miss Rachel. She is a YouTube Phenomenon.

I took a look at her channel this morning and she has a lot of videos that are directed towards right at babies and, you know, I hear a lot of parents talking about how their babies are learning to talk and how to do all of these things by watching this Rachel and it just feels like a funny juxtaposition of how children learn.

So, I think it’s also noteworthy that her videos that are labeled for babies have about four and a half million views per year, and they’re about an hour long. So  that’s a lot of viewing and certainly no 12 month old is sitting there for an hour watching it, but I just wonder what is the draw and what are children really learning by listening to this delightful woman sing and engage with them.

Oh, I think like her intentions are good with what she’s creating, but I believe that nothing is as good as quality time with a parent or caregiver because children learn through their senses, especially young ages. But even as my oldest is 10. He still is learning through his senses. So by like touching your, your parent’s hand while they’re talking to you or feeling their touch or smelling their scent or hearing their words or watching their mouth, I think all of those things  are more powerful than watching Miss Rachel on YouTube.

I think the quality time that you  get with your child is beneficial because you build that emotional connection. But I also think that your child has better quality learning from you because you know your child best. I was just suggesting that instead of turning on Miss Rachel, maybe replace that time with reading to your child.

Like put them in your lap and read a book together or color a picture together or do one of the fun activities from my book.  And it’s okay if your child’s bored like that. But just the other day I was telling my husband, I was like, I don’t know of, like, my kids have created so many games, like, just because they’ve been bored.

So they’ve been able to problem solve and not be bored anymore. And they get to use, like, their creativity and stretch that creativity by being bored. Yeah. Yeah.  Yeah. And, you know, I think In defense of miss Rachel and her success, because I, you know, I handed off to her, you know, hats off. She’s has filled a niche for us.

But I think that probably the best response for parents and caregivers of really littles is to watch it together, sing along with her, do the dances with her. And then turn it off and continue to sing those songs, continue to do those dances, continue to do those letters and counting and all of those things that kids are picking up and just watch, because what she’s modeling is really good speech.

You know, she’s a speech person and an early childhood person, so she’s a great one to learn from and to emulate and to model because you see how much your baby loves her. So be like Miss Rachel!

A good idea is just the parents watch and learn how to play with their child, that way they can do those things with their child.  Yeah, that’s really good.

So as we wrap up this conversation about teaching your child, as you play with them, what would be a word of encouragement that you would have for parents as we wrap this up?  Something I’ve had to learn over the years is that we’re not going to get it all right all the time.

And that’s okay.  We just need to give ourselves some grace  when we do mess up. And we just need to try our best. The next time that we do it, we give our kids grace when they mess up, but we often forget. To give ourselves grace when we mess up. So we just need to give ourselves a break.  So true. And we need to remember that all throughout parenting.

Yes.  First year, but forever. Yeah. So grace. Well, thank you so much. I think that this is going to be so helpful for parents as they are just wondering, what do I do with this kid? And in all this.  in a day. So you’d get them giving them some great ideas. So how can people find you and how can people find your books?

Yeah. So you can find me on www.bestmomideas.com. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram under Best Mom Ideas. And then all of my books are on my website as well as on Amazon or Walmart or Barnes and Noble. But I do have a free gift for all of your listeners. Um, it’s called the ultimate mom saver activity guide or activity bundle, and it’s six free activities from one of my books and six free coloring pages from one of my husband’s books.

Great.  We will have all of those links in the show notes. I’m so thankful for you for being here with me. Thanks so much Autumn.