You’re exhausted. You’re keeping a list of infant care with how many feedings you’re doing and how many diapers you’ve changed. And now your pediatrician is asking you about infant play?
You’re pretty sure they can’t do much other than eat and sleep yet, so how, exactly, are you supposed to play with your infant? We can help with that. We’ve got tips and tricks on age-appropriate ways to play with even the tiniest babies to help their development. You’ve got this!
Why is Infant Play So Critical?
They can’t do much yet aside from eating and sleeping, so can babies even gain anything from play? The short answer is, “Yes!” During your child’s first year, development through playing is one of their most important tasks. In this case, infant play is infant care. That is how essential it is.
When your baby is awake, they observe and participate in the world, so everything is a potential learning environment. By talking or singing to them, even during diaper changes or other infant care, you are helping to build a foundation.
5 Ways to Play with Your Infants from Newborn to 1-Year-Old:
- Show and Tell
- What’s That Smell
- Bubble’s Up
- Let’s Make Music
- Organizer Extraordinaire
- Show and Tell – From zero to three months, your baby is developing hand-eye coordination. You can assist them with this with a fun, easy game of show and tell. Select a rattle, a favorite stuffed animal, or a board book. Show it to them when they are awake, alert, and responsive. Once they have taken notice of the item, slowly move it from side to side so that they can track it with their eyes.
That’s it! You are helping them learn to track their vision. Try this out even when doing basic infant care, such as changing diapers. Keep a special toy on the changing table just for this game!
4- to 6-Month-Old Babies
- What’s That Smell? – You can save this for when your baby is fussing at dinnertime and you need to quickly divert them while in the kitchen or anytime you have a moment. Go over to your spice rack, select a warm scent like cinnamon, and rub it on your hand. Hold it up to your baby’s nose for them to sniff but keep it away from their eyes or mouth.
Watch their reaction; if they like it, try more intoxicating smells like vanilla, peppermint, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and any other spices and herbs you have on hand. This form of infant play helps your baby make connections between scents and items as you dictate what you are doing!
- Bubbles Up!– Bubbles are a quick way to cheer up any sad baby. By the time they are four to six months old, they can track items at a distance, so it is the perfect time to introduce them to the age-old infant play of bubbles! Your infant learns to track items by watching them float away, strengthening this ability. They are also learning about cause and effect, something they’ll experience when batting the bubbles with their hands!
7- to 9-Month-Old Babies
- Let’s Make Music! –It is a human’s natural instinct to make music, and your baby is no different. Let your infant play with a wooden spoon and an upside-down mixing bowl. Present them with another bowl and watch them test the different sounds, trying different rhythms. Your child will experiment with sounds as you add bowls or pots, lids, and different spoons. All this is learning about cause and effect and where they fit in with the world around them!
10-Month-Old to 1-Year-Old Babies
- Organizer Extraordinaire –Your baby has developed some dexterity by this point, and they love to fill things and take things out of containers. Give them a shoe box or another box that is easy to open and a collection of objects to put in the box and take out. Demonstrate it for them and then allow them the opportunity to do so. Another way to play this game is to use a large washbasin, gather measuring cups, and allow them to pour something, such as water, cornmeal, or sand, from one to the other.
No matter how you decide to play with your infant, time spent with them will lay the foundation for their future development. Spend time talking to them, narrating everything you do, and they will pick up on it!
At The Breakie Bunch Learning Center, we have programs from Infancy to Preschool, as well as Before and After School programs. We recognize the importance of infant play and welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your infant care needs!