Games to play with your baby (under 12 months)
Your baby will develop at an amazing rate in her first year. At times, she may seem to acquire new skills overnight. It won't be long before your wriggling, helpless baby works out how to roll over, sit, crawl, stand and walk. The games below will help you encourage your baby to make the most of her new abilities as she discovers them. You should both have a lot of fun along the way.
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Which games are best for babies under three months?
Your baby loves having the chance to watch your face, and this game will help sharpen her visual skills too. Hold your baby close, as she can focus best on objects about 20cm to 35cm from her face. When she's gazing into your eyes, slowly poke your tongue out. Do this every 20 seconds or so. It may take about a minute but you should soon notice that she's sticking her tiny tongue back out at you. She'll try to imitate other facial expressions too, such as a big smile or wide open mouth.
Once your baby is a little older, play "This Little Piggy" or "Round and Round the Garden" with her feet or hands. Hold her on your lap and gently uncurl her toes or fingers as you sing. Repeat the song a couple of times until she starts to giggle in excited anticipation of the tickle at the end. Simple, repetitive rhymes are great for improving your baby's memory skills.
Roll and stretch
Your baby will soon be able to raise her head up for a second or two when lying on her tummy. If she's happy in this position, roll a brightly coloured ball across her line of vision, about 60cm from her body. To begin with she'll probably concentrate on watching the ball, but she’ll soon try to stretch towards it. This will help strengthen her neck, arm and leg muscles. Always give her lots of praise and finish the game, and give her a cuddle as soon as she starts to get frustrated.
Which games are best for babies under six months?
Attach a small soft toy to a brightly coloured ribbon. Dangle it in front of your baby and make it sway. When she reaches out and tries to touch or grab it, give her lots of praise. This will help her practise her hand-eye coordination. Choosing a squeaky toy may give your baby an extra reason to grab at it. Always be careful to keep the ribbon out of your baby's reach when she's unsupervised.
Have a conversation together! Your baby loves interacting with you. As she becomes more vocal, you can encourage her to understand and try to form words by responding to her coos, gurgles and grunts. Sit facing your baby and repeat the sounds she makes, for example when she says "aahh" you say "aahh" in return. Encourage her to mimic you too. You can also have fun with different words and sounds, for example try stretching the sounds out. Instead of "bah" say "baaaaaah". Or even add a new sound to a familiar one, for example "ooh-baaaah".
Most babies are fascinated by bubbles. Sit your baby in a bouncy chair or car seat and blow bubbles around her. See how she follows the bubbles with her eyes as they float down. Blow bubbles when she's outside in her buggy too. If she catches one, she'll see and feel it pop as she touches it, which will help her learn about cause and effect. Remember to clean her hands afterwards so she doesn't get soapy water in her eyes.
Which games are best for babies under nine months?
Make some simple finger puppets by cutting the fingers off old gloves. Give each one ears, eyes and a mouth either by gluing on pieces of felt or simply drawing them on with a felt-tip pen. Show your baby how you can make them sing, dance, tickle and kiss. She'll love watching them come alive, and pretending that the puppets are real will help develop her imagination.
In and out
Your baby loves emptying everything including drawers, bags and wallets. Turn this into a game you can both play. Fill a large plastic container or bowl with safe, interesting objects, such as blocks, small soft toys, rattles and measuring cups. Help your baby pick up the container and turn it upside down, then fill the container up again together. Handling different objects will help her learn about size, shape and weight. It's also a great way to introduce concepts such as big and small, empty and full.
If your baby's on the move, build a miniature obstacle course out of cushions. Stay at ground level and peep out at her from behind them, or use a toy to encourage her to climb over them. This fun game will help develop her body strength, balance and coordination.
Which games are best for babies under 12 months?
Your baby doesn't need to be walking to have fun with a football. Place a lightweight, medium-sized ball in front of you and hold your baby firmly under her arms. Pick her up and swing her forward so her legs or feet make contact with the ball. By doing this you can help her kick it across the floor. Swinging her legs helps your baby strengthen her tummy and leg muscles, and prepares her for playing football for real when she's older!
Gather together a collection of old cereal boxes, lightweight books, plastic bowls, yoghurt pots and baby blocks. Then work with your baby to build a tower. Once it's up and ready, take it in turns to knock it down. Your baby will love watching it tumble. She's learning about sizes and shapes as well as cause and effect with this simple game.
Your baby loves imitating you. If she sees you busy brushing your hair or wiping your face she'll try to copy what you're doing. Turn this instinct into a fun game by doing things like slapping your thigh, putting your hands on your head and blowing out your cheeks. Invent a silly song to go with your actions, and she'll learn new words too. Learning to imitate is one of the first steps towards imaginative play. For more ideas of fun games to play with your baby at every stage of her development, check out our baby games page.