Your baby loves to play, and she loves playing with you, mom and dad! But play is not just play. It actually helps babies in their development. Fun and learning together -- that’s hard to beat!
Here are some ideas to get the most of your playtime with your little one, starting when she’s just a newborn. If you have older kids, these activities will provide teaching and bonding opportunities for the whole family. Ready to play? Here are some play ideas grouped according to your baby’s age.
0 to 3 months While your baby might be sleeping most of the time during the early months, you can – and should – take advantage of her waking moments.
1. Sing and Sway Stimulate your baby’s sense of balance and introduce her to as many words as possible by singing and swaying. Start with simple nursery rhymes that you know -- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star will do -- and sway gently side to side to the music’s rhythm, making sure to support your baby’s neck and back. Once you’re comfy, personalize it with your baby’s name!
2. ‘Round and ‘Round the Haystack While your baby’s on her back during a diaper change or after a bath, hold your baby’s thighs, with your thumb under her knees. Gently move her legs around while reciting the rhyme, “’Round and ‘round the haystack, goes the little mouse. One step, two steps, in his little house!” Repeat and move baby’s hips to the opposite direction. This will help strengthen your baby’s legs while also introducing a rhyme that she will soon recognize from repetition.
3. Tinkling Bell Help develop your baby’s listening skills by tinkling a small bell near her. Make it a game by not showing her where the bell is and making her look around for where the sound is coming from. So, ring it by her right ear, left ear and above her if she’s on her back.
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3 to 6 months Now the fun begins! After mostly just sleeping, baby is now more awake and melting your heart with coos and smiles when she sees you. It’s now time to play more interactive and social games with her.
4. Puppet Show Using small animal stuffed toys, you can sing “Old McDonald Had A Farm” to your baby. Be sure to get into your inner cow and pig as you “mooo” and “oink” while making the corresponding toys dance about!
5. Let’s Talk It’s such a delight to watch young babies try out their vocal chords. Encourage your little one by copying the sounds she is making and asking questions. Simple questions like “What happened?” and “Where did you go with Papa?” can unlock a stream of babbling that you would be thrilled to capture on video.
6. Hand Spiders You don’t need expensive mobiles to practice your baby’s visual tracking skills. Just hold up your hand over your child and move your fingers any which way. You can make your hands creep, bounce and walk on her tummy for a gentle tickling game. For added fun, make shadows with your hands and watch your baby marvel at the shapes that you’re making.
6 to 9 months Your six-to-nine month old baby is now more sociable. She enjoys being with the people that she loves. She’s also more aware of her surroundings and loves looking around. As she is now more active, she will enjoy more lively games.
7. Cheering Squad While your baby is sitting up, spell out her name and move her arms up as you chant like a cheerleader. Your older child will enjoy this game as well. So get ready to be boisterous with your “Rah rah rah!”
8. Peek-A-Boo Variations According to clinical psychologist Jean Piaget, babies grasp object permanence -- or the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot see it -- around eight months. Other than the usual peek-a-boo, also come up with different variations of the game. Using a thin, almost see-through scarf, cover your head with it and teach your child to pull it. You can also hide a toy under a lampin making sure that she can see you doing it, and then ask her to find it.
9. Row, Row, Row Your Boat If your child can already sit up on her own, make her face you as you sit with your legs astride. Holding her hands, sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as you bend forward and backward together. This will strengthen her back muscles and introduce her to pretend play too.
10. Crawl and Hide Hide and seek at this age will happen not while standing up but on all fours. Hide behind a bed or a chair and call out to your baby. Wait for her to find you and surprise her when she’s near. Take turns!
11. Roll That Ball Balls are great toys that your baby will play with from infancy to toddlerhood. Sit with your child on the floor and show her how to push the ball away to make it roll. You can also hold her up and show her how to kick it. It’s a great game that she will want to play over and over.
12. Sock Basketball To practice your child’s hand-eye coordination, get some clean socks rolled into balls and an empty laundry basket. Show your baby how to shoot the “ball” into the basket. This is great practice if she’s a beginning walker. But you can also hold her up to shoot some socks in if she’s not walking yet.
You don’t need to buy a lot of toys to enjoy playing with your baby. One word of advice is to not overthink it. Why? Because the more you play, the more you’ll be confident in making up your own little games that will stimulate your child and target specific skills you want to strengthen. Play and have fun with your baby as time flies so fast!