Best Games to Play with Your Baby
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Let's talk about play with babies! The happy coincidence is playing with your baby just happens to be an important physical and emotional development. But, what kind of play is good for babies? I'm give you lots of play ideas!
Play is quality family time, even for young babies. Spending relaxed time together shows baby that they are valued and loved. And it's such a good way of getting parents and caregivers engaged and interacting with your baby.
It gives both you and your baby a chance to engage with each other through various modes of communication, to exchange ideas and creativity, to relax and be physically and emotionally close and in the same moment together.
Supporting babies to lead interactions on their terms can instill a small but valuable sense of control and confidence in a strange new world. Play is an introduction to positive parenting.
You will learn best games to play with baby, so that you have many ways to engage with your baby through play.
I recommend letting baby initiate and steer playtime. When baby gets to lead, it encourages imagination, creative and conceptual thinking.
Supporting babies to make their judgments and choices shows trust and confidence, which is a great stepping stone towards developing their self-trust and self-confidence (something we focus on greatly at The Parenting Alchemy).
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Play is a Positive Experience for Babies
Research shows that playing with your baby enhances their development. It creates opportunities for playful, loving exchanges – giggles, tickles, and shared moments of joy, which forming a robust and affectionate attachment.
- Playing with your baby is actually more developmentally in the first months and even years than education or social mixing.
- You can help your baby build a strong healthy body, not just muscles but also memory, vocal, and visual skills. Grips, rolls, crawls, and steps all move forward through play.
- Freedom of expression comes through play, and in this way, the child and parent get to witness little personalities, preferences, and special skills emerging.
Positive experiences are created through play; if you can make mealtimes, traveling, and household duties playful, it will make life easier and more enjoyable for the whole family.
Some of The Best Games to Play with Baby
Here are a few examples of some of the best games to play with baby, but remember to go with the flow, allow baby to take the lead when safe and appropriate to do so, and let your unique games develop.
Enjoy seeing the world from a new perspective as you join your little one’s adventures!
- Funny faces - this can start right from the early days. As a baby grows they may begin to copying your faces, which is delightful.
- Dance routines - enjoy little dance routines with your baby. Just simply put on your favorite happy music and dance with your baby.
- Swinging and ‘flying’ - with a baby that has core development and head control, try sitting up, placing baby on your shins, then carefully rolling onto your back, lifting baby into the air while balancing on your shins.
- Pretending to blast off on a rocket ship and go to the moon is a fun one, too - don’t forget the countdown!
Peek-a-Boo, Hide and Retrieve Games
- Classic peek-a-boo - a brilliant game, just using hands is excellent for older babies. Still, more reassuring semi-transparent colored playsilks (like these) are better for younger babies or as a starter. Peek-a-boo is a great way of teaching baby that things and people come, go, and return.
- Peek-a-boo with toys - rattles or noisy toys are a good idea – moving them in and out of sight while baby can still hear the noise mimics a parent popping out of sight but remaining within earshot.
- Hide and seek - older babies love finding their favorite people, toys, or household items. Keep it comfortable to start with! Hiding a toy, cloth, or wipe on baby’s or parent’s head is a convenient and fun starter.
Touch and Massage Games
- Baby massage - massage can be playful, especially if combined with music – try turning ‘this little piggy’ into a gentle foot massage. Even soft touches and strokes of the toes and soles of the feet activate the baby’s feet’ reflexology points.
- Steal a kiss - try a twist of peek-a-boo by adding in a surprise kiss on the cheek or nose.
- Tickle monster - let the gurgles and giggles commence when the tickle monster is on the hunt!
Remove and Replace Games
- Tip and tidy - slightly different from hide and seek, this is about discovery and organization. Enjoy emptying boxes of toys, baskets of balls, drawers of clothes, just to look and feel with them and put them back again. Simple joys!
Back and Forth and Up and Down Games
- Drop, roll, and catch - watching how things come and go is fantastic for babies. They know nothing of physics, so this is pure magic.
- Try moving a ball back and forth, juggling, catching, and dropping floaty leaves, feathers and balloons.
Mirror and Reflection Games
Wave to the baby! - reflections are fascinating to babies. Even though they don’t understand that they are looking at themselves for several months, they still enjoy watching, waving, and chatting to the baby in the mirror!
Once baby is older, you can put an exciting dot or sticker on their nose to see if they know who the baby is – if they do they’ll reach for their nose rather than the mirror!
Musical and Sound Games
- Singing – nursery rhymes, pop songs, chants, whatever your jam is, let baby join in.
- Chatting – easy-peasy, just chat along to your baby whenever you can talk about anything and everything, and if baby is too young to respond, just pretend they have, they’ll appreciate you keeping the conversational flow going on their behalf.
- Reading – you can’t beat it.
- Call and response – for older babies, try singing the same nursery rhymes then missing parts out to see if baby can fill in for you.
- Sensory survival play - a survival foil blanket is an excellent way for young babies to experiment with movement, sound, and vision all at once, but the immediate sound created from baby’s every movement is particularly intriguing.
- Echo play – introduce your baby to the exciting world of echoes; you can do this by talking, singing, or making noise as you move your head into and out of a tub. As baby grows older, they may have a go themselves, which is very cute.
- Pot and pan band – get some of your old pans out with a wooden spoon and let baby play at being a little drummer.
Under and Over, On Top and Below; Inside and Outside Games
- Crazy cups and containers - use cups, boxes, or baskets to place toys or household objects within, on top of, or hidden below and allow baby to figure out what happened and what to do. If you have large containers, this is a great one for balancing too.
- Treasure chest – make a special container filled with surprises for baby to investigate and keep changing the contents to keep baby interested.
- Blanket den – make a little blanket den to snuggle under; you can add a color-changing torch to make this even more fun.
- Texture touches - fill a box or basket with little fabric samples, all different colors and textures, and let baby explore all the other feelings.
- Water bowl bonanza - fill some bowls with water in different forms – warm, cold, sparkling, semi-frozen slush, and ice. Let baby splash around and enjoy some aqua play.
- Color mixing sensory bottle – make a homemade sensory bottle for your little one to enjoy, all you need is some water, oil, food coloring, and glue.
- Rainstick – make a rain stick out of some garden twigs, dried rice, and a poster tube.
Messy Play and Arty Games
- Play-dough – buy it in or make it yourself, younger babies will enjoy the unusual texture, older babies can get creative with the help of siblings or caregivers.
- Rainbow rice – use food coloring to make different colored rice, then play with color mixing in a tray or bottle.
- Cornflour gloop – somewhere between a solid and a liquid, playing with this strange stuff is addictive.
- Salt dough handprint – fun to make with baby and a beautiful keepsake.
- Sticker montage – foam stickers are a great way to let baby play with space, color, and shapes.
- Painting pocket – use cling film or a plastic pocket or wallet to make baby’s first paintings without the paint having to get anywhere near those little hands. Baby will love watching the colors mix and move.
- Smell the roses – babies can enjoy the sensory experience of sniffing a range of garden flowers and herbs, do take care to make sure all the plants you show to baby are safe though.
- Forest bathing – even a short walk in the woods can be relaxing, rewarding, and restorative for baby and parents. See how many different types of trees you can find. Watch and feel the different leaves and bark.
- Harvest – try growing your fruit and veg, even if it’s just a pot of tomatoes. Older babies will be able to see where their food is coming from and help with the harvest.
- Early signing fun – early signs like milk, waving, and clapping can be great fun for the whole family to get involved with and allow baby to start communicating with you earlier too.
- Chores with chuckles – older babies love to help. The key here is to remember that the purpose is to play, though! Let baby help with household duties like putting the laundry away but do expect it to end up in a heap on the floor! Just let baby enjoy being part of the process.
- Stacking toys – blocks are a classic, but anything will do
- Birthing ball bouncing – brush off that old birthing ball, baby will love bouncing and rolling around on it, with your help of course. Older babies might enjoy pushing it around too.
Balance boards – there are a range of wobble or sliding boards and cushions available to purchase, or you can make your own
Sorting, Matching, and Categorizing games
- Shape sorting – you can get specialist toys for this or make a homemade version out of an old box and household objects.
- Color matching – older babies can sort colored household items into matching colored containers or onto matching colored cards.
Finally, just follow – simply following baby to make sure they are safe as they freely explore and play at their leisure is one of the best options!
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas to get playful. You are now all set to get creative, open your imagination, and follow baby’s lead.
P.S. There's a lot more ways to be a better parent at The Parenting Alchemy.