Young children love putting things in and dumping them out of containers! This type of play can help your baby develop fine motor skills like picking up and letting go, as well as hand-eye coordination and basic, early math skills related to size and space.
The skills your child needs for container play emerge at around 12-months-old. Although younger children may take things out of a container, they may not yet have developed the ability to actually let things go, so it doesn’t always become an in-and-out game until around a year old.
You can encourage this play with your almost 12-month-old by sitting next to them with a container and tossing objects into the container. Adding sound effects often helps; toss a ball of socks into a laundry basket and say “whoosh!” as you toss it. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! Let your baby dump the basket or take the socks out as often as they want. Toss them in again. Hand one sock to your baby and point to the basket or container. Eventually they will copy you!
You don’t have to buy fancy containers for this type of play. You can use:
- Laundry baskets
- Shoe boxes
- Empty tissue boxes
- Storage bins
- You can use shape sorter toys, but don’t worry -it’s okay to take the sorting top off for younger children.
For safety, remember that if your child is still mouthing objects do not use anything small enough to swallow. Balls of socks, other smaller containers, stuffed animals, and teething rings will all work! As children grow out of putting things in their mouth you can use things like ping pong balls, pompoms, barrettes, buttons, etc.