Focus on: ribbon rings
One of our homemade ribbon rings was the first sensory toy we introduced to Zack. Being baby #2, we already had a sense of what sensory toys we'd enjoy playing with the most with him. At only 3 weeks old, our ribbon ring went everywhere with us. In those first few weeks, when everything is so up in the air, and you're still spending so much time recovering and getting to know the new baby in your arms, it's hard to even contemplate playing with your baby. We found that after that first month, it became a bit easier. Having a ribbon ring on the bedside table or in a changing bag meant that it was always on hand whenever a playful mood seemed to take him.
When he'd wake in the middle of the night for feeds, he'd often either struggle with colic or be wide awake, wanting to play! We found that due to his reflux too, it was helpful to keep him upright after feeds, so keeping him awake for a little while was always more ideal.
Ribbon rings are SO versatile, and they can continue to be used as your little ones grow - our eldest is nearly 3 and a half and he still loves playing with his. I often get asked if you can start sensory play as early as a few weeks old, and the answer is: 100% YES!
By giving your baby lots of interesting things to look at, you're helping develop their curiosity, attention span, memory and nervous system development. The concentration and effort they expend 'playing' with their sensory toys will tire them out too, win-win!
The colourful ribbons on our ribbon rings are perfect to encourage concentration and strengthen eye muscles. Babies love a variety of colours but can only see shades of black, white and grey in the early days, as well as light, shapes and movement. Their focus will usually be on whoever is holding them in those early weeks, as they can only focus about 8-12 inches from their own face, so getting a ribbon ring right in front of their face will be perfect. I used to move the ring from side to side in front of Zack, making 'whoosh' noises to further draw attention to the ring. I'd also softly 'wipe' the ribbon ring across his face and head, which would make him blink and shiver, almost in disbelief!
At 2 months old, babies can start to focus their eyes - meaning you can use toys just like the ribbon ring to help encourage the tracking motion of their eyes. Wave the ring from side to side and watch them track it as you move it, allow pauses to encourage that focus. By doing this you're helping your baby practice this vital skill, but also strengthening those muscles bit by bit.
By 4 months old, your baby may have an element of depth perception - they can start to notice how far away something is from them. You can expect lots of reaching out for things as they also start to get a bit more control over their arms. Keep waving the ribbon ring in front of them and encourage lots of reaching and grabbing as they begin to hone these motor skills, you can move the ring closer to them and then further away too. Your little one will absolutely love it!
Babies can typically see the whole spectrum of colours by 5 months old, which I've always found fascinating. We really noticed when both the boys started to see the colour red - they would spend hours looking at our red curtains, which were normally right behind our rocking chair. You can start to talk to them about the colours that they are seeing, encouraging them to reach out to different things and start to learn textures too.
As your little ones gets even older, they'll be able to pick up the ribbon ring themselves (no doubt learning to throw it too!) and wave it around, making lots of nice shapes and blurs of colour too. Even naming colours as they get older, and maybe introducing the ribbon ring to a younger sibling if they should be so lucky… ribbon rings are an absolute treat!
Other ideas for the ribbon ring:
Hang the ribbon ring from an activity arch (on a playmat for example), or pram hood, encouraging them to reach for it, but also encouraging them to use their legs and feet too
Play hide and seek with the ribbon ring as your little one gets older, you can hide it under blankets, cushions or even a foil blanket
Put the ribbon ring inside a see-through container and encourage them to shake it around - watching the colours fly and dance around is really fun!
Top tip: make sure you're taking care of your ribbon ring by routinely checking the knots to ensure they are tight. If the ribbons start to fray at the bottom then re-cut them, with serrated scissors should you have them. You may also gently wash the ribbons with hot soapy water if needed. If the wooden rings chip or split, discard then.
Lauren, Joey & Zack x