How to Play With Your Baby: Games for 0-12 Months Old Babies

Can you believe that the key to healthy, thriving, socially-apt children and adults is a healthy amount of time spent playing as babies?

That’s right. As stressed as you might be about selecting preschool teachers and curriculums for your baby, spending more time playing games and make-believe is just as important (if not more) to child development.

Playing is major way for your children to develop socially, emotionally, cognitively and physically. As your baby plays with you and interacts with objects and the world around her, all five senses required for physical perception are triggered, developed and deepened.

Your baby can learn swiftly and sweetly by simply exploring – crawling, smelling, touching, pushing – or you can play games that trigger particular stages of growth, focusing on the following:

  • Increase sensory perception
  • Teach communication
  • Increase motor skills
  • Improve feeding
  • Health brain development
  • Use of imagination

What types of play are good for my baby?

During the year of life, your little one is highly susceptible to cognitive, social and behavioral development. The first 0-12 months are a critical time for you to play hands-on with your baby, introducing concepts of people, places, objects, symbols and self.

As you play with your baby, you can help introduce the world in a loving and constructive way that will making growing into an adolescent smooth and natural.

Let’s look at some of the best games to play during the critical developmental stages in your baby’s first year.

games that are good for your baby

Best baby games to play in the first year

Games for Babies 0-3 Months Old

The first three months are all about bonding and spending time on the tummy to build muscles for upcoming physical growth and milestones, such as reaching, rolling, sitting, crawling and eventually, walking.

1. Tummy Time

Spending time on the tummy is critical at this stage, and it is recommended to play on the tum for at least an hour a day. Strengthening the stomach is not easy work (as most adults know), but it is critical for babies to begin early so they can stay up to speed with consequent motor and physical developments.

Try these games to keep your baby engaged while boosting the tummy:

  • Face to face. Lay down on your tum, face-to-face with your baby, making facial expressions to keep your baby engaged.
  • Clap and sing. While your baby is laying on the tummy, clap your baby’s hands together and sing.
  • Break up the hour. Instead of spending 30-60 minutes on the floor doing tummy time, practice for just a few minutes at a time, changing directions so your baby can learn to turn his head both ways.

2. Sensory Games

During 0-3 months, your baby is taking in the physical world for the first time, so it is important to introduce sounds, visuals, scents and touch to get all five senses working well.

Try these games to increase sensory perception:

  • Touch and tickle. Touch and tickle to make your baby giggle.
  • Play positions. Play with your baby sitting up, laying down, bouncing or holding hands to give multiple orientation perspectives.
  • Love and fuss. Kiss and touch your baby on the feet, forehead and hands while you smile, whisper or giggle to encourage your baby to react to your inputs.
  • Play mirror. Now is the time to start introducing your baby to herself. Place a mirror on the wall, and tap on the reflection of your baby while saying her name. Overtime, your baby will learn that it is her in the mirror.
  • Touch time. Make sure to hold, touch and pick up your baby as much as possible. Skin-to-skin contact is important from you and any caretakers.
  • Play beep. As you touch different parts of your baby’s body to see a response, you can say “beep” to increase anticipation and reaction.

3. Communication Games

Responding to, talking to, and giving your baby all the attention in these first three months helps establish a sense of security that is essential to proper bonding and development.

Try these games to start communicating and let your baby know you’re there to take care:

  • Face-to-face. Give your baby as much face-to-face time as possible, touching, kissing, blowing and smiling.
  • Talk it through. Narrate your actives out loud to your baby – getting dressed, cleaning, getting ready, etc.
  • Sing-song. Use a high-pitched sing-song voice to keep your baby’s attention and peak interest in what it is you are are saying.

talking to your baby

4. Feeding Games

The earliest months are the time to introduce different scents and aromas to learn what your baby wants to eat and drink.

  • Swish and sniff. One at a time, pass scents such as flowers or spices under your baby’s nose to see what type of reaction comes naturally.

Baby Games to Play 4-6 Months Old

Months 4-6 will show advanced changes in motor skills and perceived awareness in your baby. Tummy time is still important, but now it might also be time to start sitting and teething.

1. Motor Games

Now that your baby has some tummy power, he can start to roll over and even sit up.

Try these games to take the next tummy time steps:

  • Toy rolls. Place toys on either side of your baby to encourage him to roll each way.
  • Magic carpet. As your baby lays on the tummy, drag the blanket around the room.
  • Chew toys. During tummy time, introduce toys that are safe for baby to explore with mouth and tongue.
  • Sing-alongs. Practice singing and encouraging your baby to sing along while laying or rolling around in tummy time.

2. Sensory Games

The next phase of sensory perception involves learning the different types, levels and textures of each available element.

Try these games to increase sensory perception:

  • Add multiple layers of blankets so your baby can explore the different textures while working out the tummy.
  • Ball time. Play with a ball so your baby can learn the many things a ball can do. Roll the ball, bounce it, drop it, toss it up and catch it, etc.
  • Help your baby sit, stand and stay in new positions to increase balance and widen range of motion.

baby's first steps

3. Communication Games

As you communicate with your baby in months 4-6, you can practice ways to keep them engaged while you make sounds, read and talk.

Try these games to stimulate communication:

  • Make exaggerated facial expressions while you talk. This helps your baby learn subtle facial cues for clues of tone and sentiment during expression. For example, a surprise statement is accompanied by raised eyebrows.
  • Sing songs and read rhymes that are easy to listen to and follow as a child.
  • Play peek-a-boo to increase sensory perception while keeping your baby entertained during tummy time.
  • Play with toys that make sounds so your baby can understand the reaction of squeezing a toy and the toy making a sound.
  • Read to your baby or flip through picture books while describing what is happening in the illustration.

Games to Play with Babies 7-9 Months Old

Crawling is here or around the corner, meaning your baby is about start exploring and playing on her own. Keep a close eye on your baby at all times during this stage of development. Let her explore while introducing objects and ideas to further stimulate growth and understanding.

1. Motor Games

Your baby is growing strong during months 7-9, crawling or close to crawling and developing a sense of use of his hands and fingers.

Try these games for enhanced motor skills and crawling:

  • Place toys around your baby so he has to move to get each one.
  • Have your baby toss toys into an empty box.
  • Start to read and play while in tummy time.
  • Raise a rattle over your baby’s head during tummy time so she pushes up toward the noise, increasing strength.
  • Show baby how to hold multiple toys at once, increasing strength and mobility of fingers.

2. Sensory Games

During this stage, your baby is acutely tuned in to every move and sound you make. Take special care to demonstrate optimal and safe behavior.

Try these games to increase sensory perception:

  • Use slow motions to show calmness and excited motion such as fast clapping to show excitement and energy.
  • Play with light and shadows, making shadow puppets and plays.
  • Take walks with your baby in a carrier or backpack.
  • Keep touching, kissing and encouraging skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • Introduce toys and materials of many colors, shapes, textures and size.
  • Supervise as baby reaches for toys to explore.

sensory games to play with baby

3. Communication Games

It’s babbling time for your baby now, meaning he might try to communicate with you via sounds and what will sounds like attempts at words.

Try these games to encourage communication:

  • Play pretend phone with baby with your hand or an object such as a banana.
  • As you walk, narrate the setting and name objects that you pass.
  • Read picture books and short stories. As your baby point to pictures, you can help describe them, identifying the world, together.
  • Narrate all that you do, as you get dressed, work, walk, clean, change, etc.
  • Play music that matches the mood of the activity (calm during nap time, upbeat during playtime).

Baby Games for 10-12 Months Old

It’s time to baby-proof the house as your little one is likely crawling, climbing, pulling and possibly spouting iterations of mama or dada. This is an exciting time for your child’s development and an important time to provide prompts for further exploring and development.

1. Motor Games

It’s all about crawling and climbing now, and next, your baby will be on to walking.

Try these games to foster motor skills:

  • Have baby crawl to you during tummy time.
  • Roll a ball for baby to crawl to.
  • Read with baby during tummy time.
  • Allow toy riding if baby is walking.
  • Play music that you can dance and sway to
  • Rock baby at different paces
  • Stack blocks and build easy shapes
  • Supervise as your baby pushes and pulls objects

2. Sensory Games

As your baby is exploring hands-on (or mouth-on), sensory perception is high.

Try these sensory games:

  • Keep playing peek-a-boo!
  • Begin introducing new textures in activities such as eating and cleaning
  • Let your baby look at her reflection in mirror and practice naming body parts

3. Communication Games

Your baby is on her way to talking, sputtering sounds that you’ll desperately want to hear as real words, but that you’ll likely need to work on refining.

Try these games to deepen communication skills:

  • Finish the babbling word. As your baby tries to utter his first words, let him finish his attempt and then finish and repeat the word back to him. For example, if he says “ma-“ you can look at him and say back “mom” or “mama” while pointing to yourself and nodding your head.
  • Always respond to your baby to encourage two-way communication.
  • Practice waving hi and goodbye when saying hello and goodbye to friends or new people.
  • As baby starts to point, say the name of the object being point to.
  • Sing together! This bonding ritual will never fade, and you can finally start to sing together as your baby rounds out her first year. Pick songs that are easy to sing together.

Are you ready to play games with your baby? We recommend getting started today and following our posts to play the best and most beneficial games as your baby grows and develops through these formative months and years.

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