Playing with babies 3-12 months
Baby play: why it’s important
Play is essential for your baby’s overall development, learning and wellbeing.
Through play, your baby learns about the world around them, as they explore and figure out how things work. For example, when your baby shakes a rattle, it shows them that they can make things happen.
Active play that gets your baby moving strengthens muscles and builds gross motor skills and fine motor skills. And any play that involves looking at each other, talking, singing and reading is great for helping your baby learn about emotions, language and communication.
Playing with your child sends a simple message – you’re important to me. Play strengthens your relationship with your child. And a strong relationship with you is essential to development, because it gives your baby the confidence to keep exploring and learning.
What to expect from baby play
Babies enjoy playing with people – touching faces and listening to voices.
Babies love moving their arms and legs and they’ll reach out to touch everything – toys, pets and brothers and sisters! In fact, play becomes more active as your baby grows. Your baby might start pulling out drawers, dropping cereal onto the floor, and pushing any button she can find.
Sometimes your baby wants to be in charge when they are playing and likes you to follow their lead. Other times your baby might want to try something on their own. It’s good to encourage your baby to take the lead in play, but you’ll need to take control if play puts them in danger or at risk of injury.
Your baby isn’t aware of danger so dangerous things can look like fun to them. Now’s the time to think about making your home a safer place for a baby on the move.
Baby play ideas and baby games
The best toy for your baby is you, and the best baby game is playing with you. This means that baby play is simple.
Here are some fun play ideas for you and your baby:
- Blow raspberries, poke out your tongue, make faces or try a game of peekaboo. Babies love faces, so these are all good ways to play with your baby.
- Make some noise together. Sing all kinds of songs, both loud and soft, and fast and slow. You can hit pots and pans loudly or shake rattles or bells.
- Make a safe place in your home that encourages movement and play. This lets your baby practise skills like sitting up, crawling, pulling up, cruising and walking.
- Give your baby different things to touch – smooth-skinned apples, rough toy blocks or a cold ice cube. Babies also love touching different parts of your face, and having you touch theirs.
- Sing simple nursery rhymes like ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’. Your baby will also enjoy hearing nursery rhymes and traditional songs from your own culture and language. Rhymes or songs that involve actions or touch are particularly enjoyable for babies.
- Have a ‘conversation’ with your baby. Talk or make other sounds, and wait for them to respond – your baby might surprise you with how much they have to say!
- Read with your baby. Reading together can be a special time with your baby, even if your baby wants to read the same story over and over again. Hearing the same story many times is a way for your baby to learn about language.
Play is about having fun. Your baby will use special baby cues to tell you whether they want to keep playing or when they are tired and wants quiet time.