One of the questions often asked by our customers is “will wearing ScratchSleeves affect my child’s ability to play?” – the great news is that they don’t make much difference at all. The mitts of ScratchSleeves are specially designed to be large enough for children to use their hands naturally, but without being so large or bulky that they get in the way. With a bit of practice most children will be able to play happily! We recently made a short film with 18 month old Zack to demonstrate the ease with which a child can play wearing ScratchSleeves. He had never worn ScratchSleeves before which shows how quickly children can adapt to them.
What toys, then, are going to be suitable for their age range, eczema friendly AND easy to play with for little ones just starting to wear ScratchSleeves?
Birth to 6 months
Initially newborns have very blurry eyesight, tending to rely on smell to find their food source and struggling to focus on more than stark black and white contrasts. After the first few weeks they love faces and bright colours. They aren’t really mobile besides rolling and their hands and feet are a constant source of amazement to them, especially when they work out they are actually attached to them! Typically they like reaching for, batting and grabbing at whatever is in range which is why playmats are so ideal. As every parent finds out, anything that isn’t tied up or down will end up going straight in their mouths once they work out how to use their hands properly!
Ideal toys therefore for this age range are things which they can grab for, make noise with, shake about and suck on. Rattles, teething rings, soft balls, unbreakable mirrors and fabric books are all ideal and easily managed with ScratchSleeves. In addition things that move, make noise and light up are great mental stimulation which is why cot mobiles are so popular.
Typically eczema won’t appear until around the 3 month mark. If it does it’s worth being aware that certain fibres may trigger it more. Itchy woollen carpets are also a dust haven so putting down a clean cotton blanket is probably wise.
6 months to 1 year
And they’re off! Rolling, sitting, bum shuffling, crawling, cruising on the furniture and pulling themselves up to standing. They have started to grasp certain words, seek out things which aren’t immediately within reach and understand how to take things in and out of open containers.
As their imagination develops they are drawn to pretend play – plastic phones, dolls, chunky vehicles with wheels, building blocks and plastic stacking toys are winners with most children of this age. Push and pull toys, things to crawl over and large balls all help them strengthen developing muscles.
By now most little ones are walking steadily and starting to climb the stairs as well as chasing, hiding and enjoying physically active games. They start to have an understanding of what you’re saying to them, experimenting with words themselves and getting steadily more manually dexterous.
The creative play is still developing and even though they won’t yet really play TOGETHER they enjoy the company of other children and will play side by side. Great toys for this age include:
Anything creative but chunky and grippable – large crayons, big sheets of paper, basic stamps (for example potato printing), thick handled paint brushes and non-toxic washable paints.
Items for pretend play – toy tills, dolls pushchairs, dress up clothes, glove puppets, plastic toolboxes and medical kits. A small wooden toy cooker occupied my toddler for hours at a time as he fiddled with the dials, clanked pot lids on and off, stirred with gusto, open and closed the oven door and emptied out all my spices!!
Large puzzles, large shapes to fit into corresponding holes, pegboards, toys with moving parts like lights, knobs, switches, compartments, hooks, buttons and lids all engage their brain and help mental development as well as encouraging problem solving skills.
They enjoy listening to the same stories over and over and the repetition (which may drive you mad) stimulates their brain still further. It’s the same with music so this is a great age to have nursery rhymes and lullabies playing in the car or in their room at nap times.
With the developing ear for music and repetitive sounds tambourines, maracas, triangles, basic xylophones and saucepans to drum on with wooden spoons all start to appeal too.
In terms of physical activity, running after and kicking balls, exploring slides, swings and roundabouts and crawling through or under things really take off now. The local soft play centre is heaven for them. Our advice is to take a flask of strong coffee…and possibly some noise cancelling headphones!!
Of course hand eye coordination is hugely important which accelerates around the 2-3 year mark. Once they reach this stage it’s worth sitting with them to play with hama beads or smaller lego to help them develop their fine motor skills. We would suggest removing ScratchSleeves to play once they reach this stage. Up until then, however, they can literally wear them around the clock and enjoy all the toys listed above unimpeded.