When your baby starts crawling at 5.5 months, pulling herself up and cruising at 7 months, and climbing at 8 months, creating a safe play space for her to explore her abilities and push her limits becomes priority #1. (Wine quickly becomes priority #2.)
A little backstory: Paul and I are heavily influenced by the RIE parenting philosophy, which (among many other things) encourages parents to create an environment that is physically safe, allow time for uninterrupted play, and…
“have basic trust in the infant to be an initiator, to be an explorer eager to learn what he is ready for. Because of this trust, we provide the infant with only enough help necessary to allow the child to enjoy mastery of her own actions.” – Magda Gerber
(Read more on the RIE approach here.)
In summary: we strive to allow Maeve space (under a close, watchful eye) to test her limits and express herself physically, without us intervening unless she’s in serious danger. Which includes learning to fall safely. A lot. And that meant dreaming up the perfect playspace!
Our first basic need was a large comfortable, cushioned playmat, for Maevie to crawl on and fall on. Finding a completely non-toxic option was a big priority for us, so when we discovered the Pillobebe CorkiMat, and they generously offered us a mat to review, we were thrilled. The CorkiMat is made from certified organic bamboo and cork – all completely safe and natural. It is so luxurious, and soft, with handy (and adorable) removable covers that can be tossed in the washing machine which is incredibly convenient. Plus, it’s independently owned, and we love supporting indie businesses!
Maeve can take big spills onto her CorkiMat and come out completely unscathed. In fact, her new favorite game is to throw herself from her softplay climbing structure onto the mat, and land ungracefully onto the mat, over and over. I recommend it to everyone I know. It’s easily one of my favorite things we’ve gotten.
Speaking of her softplay climbing structure… this thing is amazing! Once we recognized Maeve’s instinct to climb, we really wanted to find something safe to practice on, that would work indoors. When I found the ECR4Kids Softzone Little Me Wall Climb & Slide on Wayfair.com, and it was absolutely perfect for our condo living room play area. Maeve took to it immediately, and explores every corner of it, continually finding new ways to make it more challenging for herself. It can be velcroed together in various configurations, which allows us to change it up for variety and to fit various spaces as needed. I always knew of Wayfair as a great home furnishing store online – but I hadn’t thought of it for baby until some creative googling lead me there. It was a great find!
Having such a mobile baby presents many challenges, not least of which is finding ways to use the bathroom or wash my face, or accomplish some other quick task that would prevent me from being able to keep an eye on Maeve to make sure she’s safe. We don’t have a gated-off area in which I could drop her and walk away (yet). Enter the Oribel PortaPlay: a foldable, convertible activity center that grows with your baby, evolving from a bouncer into an adjustable-height play table.
While I generally try to steer clear of using a constrictive device to hold Maeve for very long (or act as a babysitter), nor do I believe that babies need bouncers or jumpers to develop strength (plenty of time on the floor to explore builds that up just fine), it has been a lifesaver in the times that I need to ensure her safety for a few minutes at a time, while keeping her occupied and entertained. And I love that The PortaPlay is not a one-and-done gadget since we can replace the seat with the included tabletop, and use it for play for years to come. It’s sturdy enough for her to pull up on and cruise around, the toys attached are simple, analog, and beautiful, and when we need it out of the way, it folds up and slides under a bed, easy peasy.
These 3 items have helped us create a safe-yet-challenging, aesthetically appealing playspace for Maeve, and it is amazing to watch her use them to learn and grow. She’s moments away from walking now, which is going to open a whole new world in terms of baby-proofing and providing her engaging opportunities to play at home – but I’m up to the challenge!
Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links in this website are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. This helps cover overhead and keep the blog up and running – so, thanks for your support! I only endorse items in which I truly believe. Special thanks to Pillobebe, Wayfair and Oribel for providing me with their products for my fair, unbiased review.