As a new parent, it can be difficult to know what to do with your baby—what ‘games’ are appropriate at what age, what activities will help stimulate and develop your baby at an age-appropriate rate.
Honestly, between feeding and sleeping you probably hadn’t even considered ‘playing’!
But don’t stress—playing with your baby is probably something you’re doing anyway! It is fun for both of you and a great way to bond.
We’ve asked Playgroup Australia to assist us with a list of low-cost activities for each stage of your baby’s development.
Games to play with your baby under three months
Put on a CD and help your baby clap hands, clap feet, bicycle his legs. Show your baby how you clap hands, wriggle fingers, twirl, and bob up and down.
Lie your baby safely on their back. Tap the bottom of your baby’s feet gently in time to a song that you are singing for example Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Looking in the Mirror
Hold your baby in front of a mirror so they can explore what they look like.
Babies learn by watching. Take your baby outside and hold them where they can see things moving – streamers, trees, washing on the line.
Let your baby follow things with their eyes—move your face, a rattle, or a coloured toy in front of them. Play aeroplanes with your hands—fly through the air and land on your baby’s tummy!
3 – 6 months
Sing and help your baby do action songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Incy Wincy Spider, Put a Spot Over Here, Round and Round the Garden etc.
Exploring and touching
Give your baby safe objects from around the house to explore the shapes and textures—plastic things from the kitchen, pots and pans, paper, empty tins with lids, velvet, fur, towelling, cardboard, fine sandpaper etc.
Make a book
Make a ‘feely book’ by gluing textured objects onto squares of cardboard—punch two holes in the side of each square and make them into a book by securing with string or shower curtain rings—easy to take out with you!
Use rice, pasta or a bell to fill a plastic container—make sure the container is well sealed. Shake to your baby’s side or behind baby and see if they can find it.
Looking and Movement
Lay your baby down on a rug. Hold a toy to your baby’s side and fly it over their head and land on the other side so your baby can follow the toy with their eyes.
6 – 9 months
Shakers for baby to hold
Fill and tightly seal small, light-weight containers with rice for your baby to hold and shake (make sure that containers are large enough to not be a choking hazard—think larger than a ‘cheerio’ sausage).
Milk Carton Blocks
Use milk cartons to make blocks for your baby. Draw or stick pictures of objects such as animals on the sides. Talk to your baby about the pictures as they play with the blocks.
Hide a toy in one room of the house and carry your baby from room to room saying ‘Where’s teddy’ and telling them what rooms you are looking in.
Roll the ball
Roll a soft, brightly coloured ball to your baby and teach them how to stop it and push it back to you.
Hang rattles or similar noise-making toys where your baby can kick them, or put socks with securely attached bells to your baby’s feet so they make noise when they move their feet.
Noise and Movement
Fill empty plastic bottles that will roll with small/colourful/noisy things eg. bells, scrunched coloured paper, small stones. Secure lids tightly.
9 – 12 months
Music from the kitchen
Make fun instruments from up-turned pots and pans with wooden spoons, or two saucepan lids for cymbals. Use your instruments to explore different concepts such as loud and soft, fast and slow.
A great summer activity! Fill a low, wide container with a few centimetres of water and place it on the ground. Float small objects such as flowers or corks in the water and let your baby reach and splash. Always supervise children when playing with water.
Using elastic, tie small soft toys to the top of your baby’s high-chair. Show them how you drop the toys and pull them back up again.
Sit your baby on your lap and read stories with simple action words and pictures. Stories with repetitive phrases are fun, like ‘Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man!’.
Hide and Seek
Show your baby a toy, then hide it under a towel or small blanket and help them find it.
Take your baby into the back yard or to the park. Let your baby feel different surfaces, let them sit and crawl on the grass, feel stones and leaves with supervision as some objects can look like a tasty treat!