Why do I ask parents in my classes not to play with the toys?

RIE Parents-Infant Guidance classes are a unique opportunity to slow down. For ninety minutes you get to do nothing. Or is it really nothing? Because of so much going on, we learn to slow down, observe, connect with our children and really see what they are doing.

Sometimes our busy minds make it challenging for us not to constantly have something to do. Or maybe we have learned that playing with babies is what we should be doing all the time and without it, we are not fulfilling our parenting responsibilities. While playing with our baby can be a very pleasant activity for the baby and the parent, today I want to emphasize the importance of time for sensitive observation and independent play. So, I gently ask parents not to play with the toys while we observe children and this is WHY:

  • When babies are very young – laying on the blanket on their backs and maybe not doing much, it is tempting to pick up the ball and throw it in the air or spin a toy around… Well, I understand this urge, and let’s see this from the baby’s perspective: everything is new, the world is new, the room is new, the surface that they are laying on is new, the people around them are new, the body sensations are new. So the baby doesn’t need additional stimulation. When he is ready, he will reach out to the toys and start exploring them. Right now, he is busy processing all the information from around the world.
  • The mobile baby on the blanket might be focused on his movements. This baby is exploring new positions, new moves, learning about how to reach, how to turn, and how to go forward or backward. Those are important pieces of knowledge and skills that he is focused on – he doesn’t need someone to roll a ball or car to him; he doesn’t need additional entertainment.
  • When the baby begins actively exploring toys and items in the room, he learns about the properties of the objects – material, size, weight, texture, the force of gravity when he drops it and other laws of physics. When we choose to roll the car or throw the ball in the air, we might be distracting our child from important discoveries.
  • When the young toddler brings us a toy – it is a great opportunity to share that moment: look at the toy together, maybe name the color, shape, texture or size. Just don’t rush through the process – we don’t have to quickly start teaching and modeling how to use the toy “properly” – save this discovery for the child.
  • An older toddler might bring it to you with the intention for you to use it in his way. He might serve you a coffee or meal. Of course, you want to respond and take a bite or sip. Just make sure to allow the child to lead the scenario. If you have a suggestion or idea, wait before introducing it and accept the fact that your child might not use your suggestion and instead choose to do it his way. We don’t have to bombard our toddler with multiple directions: “Now feed the doll, the doll is hungry. Give the doll to Susie. Susie wants the doll. Ah, where is the bus, go get the bus. Put the doll into the bus. Now pull the bus by the rob. Oh, no wait, the doll fell off from the bus. Put her back into the bus.” Let’s try to minimize the talking and instead do more sensitive observations.

Sensitive observation — when you sit comfortably, when you bring your thoughts to the present moment, when you are not going through your “to do list”, when you are ready to watch what your child is doing rather than having an agenda to teach him something.

Sensitive observation helps you:

1. Learn about your child, how he moves, what he likes and dislikes, how he discovers and explores.
2. Create a special connection with your child. Children always know where our attention is; they know when we are present vs. when we try to multitask.
3. Send your child a message that what he is doing is important and valuable to us.

Email me or call for more information about RIE® Parent-Infant Guidance™ Classes.

Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!


Teacher Kira

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Parent-Infant Guidance™

Visit us at www.RIEpasadena.org or contact Melissa Coyne at melissa.coyne@rie.org

or call me (626) 241-2419 to learn more.

Facilitated by a RIE® Associate, small groups of parents and babies come together in a relaxing, infant-friendly environment to make friends and enjoy learning together.


What will you and your child learn in RIE class ? Children move, explore, discover, play and learn.


Tips and ideas how you can build connection and cooperation with young children in your family.

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