Games to Play in Your Baby's First Year

These games are fun -- and your baby learns from them too!

Introduction

Almost as soon as your baby's born, you're eager for the day when the two of you can play together. Playing isn't just a way for your baby to pass the time -- it's the way he learns how his body and the world work. Fortunately, playtime with a 6-month-old doesn't require much. Your baby's favorite toy is you: Each time you bring your face close to him and whisper "Boom!" to your infant's delight, you're playing a baby game. Even something as simple as a bath is an opportunity for fun and games. ("This is the way we wash our ears... ")

Likewise, switching a light on and off is magic to a young baby (though it's a game Mom may only be able to take for so long!). A lot of these games come to us naturally. The most important thing is the give-and-take interaction with your child. So make up songs about tiny toes, dance your baby around the house, and just have fun.

Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities
Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities

Birth to 3 Months

The Changing Game

This is a great activity for when you're changing your baby or dressing him -- it will calm fussiness and may become a ritual you both look forward to. Say, "What a cute nose, nose, nose," and plant a kiss on baby's little nose. Next, say, "What a cute tummy, tummy, tummy," and kiss baby's belly, and so on for each body part.

Variation: Touch baby in different spots and make a funny sound, like "boop." Watch him react with delight.

Follow That Rattle

This game can be played with the youngest babies and will strengthen their eyesight. Take toy keys or a rattle and dangle it above your baby's face so he can see it. Then move it slowly across his line of vision and watch him track it.

Variation: Stimulate his hearing by shaking the rattle on either side of his face to see if he moves his eyes or turns his head in the right direction.

Up and Down Seesaw

You can play this game as soon as your baby can hold his head up. Lay him on your lap, facing you, or on the couch or on the floor, and gently pull him up to a sitting position by his hands or from his back, saying, "Up baby goes!" Then return him to the floor, saying, "Down baby goes!"

Baby Aerobics

Even an infant's little muscles can use pumping! Here's a fun baby workout: As she lies on a playmat, lift and lower your baby's arms; then move her arms and legs in and out in a cycling motion.

Next: 3 to 6 Months

3 to 6 Months

Where's Your Nose?

This classic name-the-body-parts game makes use of a baby's desire at this age to grab your ears and nose: Put your baby's hand on your eye and say "eye." Bring her hand to your ear and say "ear," and so on. Then ask, "Where is baby's ear?" and show her by placing her hand on her own ear and saying, "Here it is!"

Reach for Me

Hold your baby's favorite rattle just out of reach and shake it to encourage him to grab it. Once he grabs it, hold it up a little higher. Continue for as long as it holds his interest.

Fly the Friendly Skies

Hold your baby firmly underneath her chest and belly, along your arm. "Fly" her around the room as you make the "vroom" of an airplane, or squeal "Wheee!" and watch her eyes widen in wonder!

Next: 6 to 9 Months

6 to 9 Months

Boom Ball

Drop a ball into a plastic container (or use your baby's favorite fill-and-spill toy), and when the ball hits the bottom, cry out "boom!" Then let baby try. Say "boom" when he succeeds.

Tug-of-War

Give your baby one end of a sock while you hold the other. Gently pull the sock toward you. Show him how to pull his end. Pretend that he's so strong that he pulls you over!

Creepy Crawlers

Babies love being tickled, and this finger play also teaches them animal names and sounds. Creep your fingers up baby's arm, singing, "Here comes the doggie, here comes the doggie, woof, woof, woof," and tickle under his arm. Next, "Here comes the cat, meow, meow." Continue with other animals and their sounds.

Pony Ride

Sit your baby on your lap, bouncing her to this tune: "Ride yourself to market, ride yourself to Lynn. Just be careful that you don't fall in!" Widen your legs on the last line so you can dip baby down between them.

9 to 12 Months

Hide and Peek

Hide a toy behind a couch or chair while your baby is watching. Encourage her to find the toy; if she has trouble, point to where it is or move her hand near the spot. Keep playing until she easily finds the toy.

The Great Chase

Get down on your hands and knees with your little crawler and creep after her, saying, "I'm going to get you!" Pretend she's too quick for you to catch; then, when you finally reach her, squeal "Got you!" with hugs and kisses.

Variation: Let her chase you. Set up an obstacle course of pillows or cushions for her to crawl over.

Finger-Food Fun

Set out banana slices or Cheerios and eat one, saying, "Mommy is eating this banana -- yum, yum, yum." Then help your baby pick up a banana piece and say, "Emily is eating a banana -- yum, yum, yum." Next, have your baby feed you... yum, yum, yum. She'll especially love this part.

Next: Classic Games

Classic Games

This Little Piggy

Moms and dads love to squeeze baby's cute little toes, and baby loves all the buildup to the "whee, whee, whee, all the way home!"

Horsey

This game only gets better as your little cowboy grows and can keep his balance and get into the action.

Peekaboo

Hiding your face behind your hands or under a napkin and peeking out again is not only fun -- it teaches your baby that people or things still exist even when he can't see them.

Patty-Cake

This game requires coordination on baby's part, so she won't be able to play it until the end of the first year or beyond.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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