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Activities for babies and children
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March 9, 2022

Baby playtime activity ideas: 7 games to stimulate development from 0 to 12 months

Playing is more than just fun! 

It helps your baby to develop their motor skills and intelligence as they grow. That's why it's so important they are stimulated with the right age appropriate activities and games. Read on to discover the best play activities for babies from 0 to 12 months old! 

How to stimulate a newborn baby with simple and fun games 

The importance of play in stimulating an infant's cognitive development has been common knowledge for some time. We know that the first three years of a child’s life are crucial for the evolution of about 80% of neural connections in the brain. 

"A child's brain is designed to learn through play. When we play with a child, they go into learning mode: all their senses are focused on the activity. Through play, children are able to think and act with intelligence and maturity beyond their years, because play expands the mind like no other activity can," writes Alvaro Bilbao in his book “The child’s brain explained to parents”. 

Today we focus on playtime games and activities suitable for babies up to 12 months old. You will see that these are all very simple and fun games to do with your baby!

Baby games from 0 3 months 

It won't be long before your baby starts expressing curiosity for the world around them. A baby begins exploring almost immediately, from the very first month of life. 

They don’t know how to use their fingers to grasp objects yet and are unable to see colours clearly. This is why they seem to be attracted by brightly coloured objects, especially if they make noise or move. 

Start with soft toys so they can experiment picking up and holding them. You can also use sensory toys, which make a noise when you shake them and will offer your baby with both auditory and tactile stimulation.  

Rattles are a must for a baby game; you will see how their little eyes light up with delight as they wonder what the new noise is. 

As we have already mentioned, infants love to watch moving objects, which is why they adore colourful animal musical cot mobiles that rotate above their crib, cot or playmat. 

Another simple idea to make tummy time more fun is to place a mirror in front of your baby and play with their reflection. Your baby will try to lift their head to look at themselves. This is a great option for how to entertain a 3 month old. 

How to create play activities for babies: 5 games for 3 to 12 month olds 

The playtime activities listed below will help promote specific abilities essential for a baby’s development: visual, linguistic, motor, cognitive and spatial orientation skills. 

1. Encourage your baby to follow an object with their gaze 

A very simple game to stimulate a baby's visual and motor skills is to encourage them to follow the movement of an object with their eyes.

Use a toy to capture their attention, such as a rattle, and move it in front of them, alternating up and down and left and right. You’ll see that they will also move their little hands and attempt to grab it. 

2. Have a conversation using baby sounds 

This is a very simple yet effective game for enhancing a baby's language. 

Listen carefully to the sounds your baby makes and repeat them to your infant - exactly as they sound, creating a sort of dialogue. Gradually add new sounds so that your baby can copy. You could also make up a song with them. 

3. Play Peekaboo with toys 

This is similar to the traditional game “Peekaboo” when mummy hides behind her own hands. However, instead of the mum hiding, toys are hidden under a blanket and then magically reappear with a “Peekaboo”. 

Making objects disappear helps a baby to understand the concept of the object permanence (just because I can't see something, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist).  

4. Use a Musical Mobile 

A musical mobile on the cot or the playmat is important for stimulating a baby's optical sensors and for encouraging them to experiment with moving towards something. 

When choosing your musical mobile, you should always bear in mind that infants of such a young age still only have limited visual capacity: they can only distinguish between strong colour contrasts, such as black and white or red and yellow or blue and yellow. In addition, they cannot see distant objects, so the musical mobile should always be placed a maximum of 45 cm from their little faces. 

Gently touch or shake the little toys on the mobile so they sway and capture their attention; they will look at them enthralled and try to move closer to see them better as well as touch them. 

5. Buy a baby play mat 

A large play mat for baby is an essential newborn item: it provides a safe and comfortable space where they can begin to explore the world around them. This is the place where they will start to play, move around, and have fun on their own. 

There are many types of play mats for babies, they offer lots of different sensory experiences including sounds, textures, and sights while they are playing. Let's take a look at the most common ones: 

  • Baby Gym Mat: this is a mat which features a series of dangling toys, such as mirrors, rattles, and squeakers, to enhance their senses. It usually combines an arch (where the toys are hung) with a playmat.
  • Activity Play Mat: this has pockets and rings where a baby's toys can be placed to stimulate a baby’s senses, in addition to the bright colours and shapes on the mat itself (usually drawings, numbers, animals). 
  • Puzzle Foam Play Mat: these are soft puzzle foam pieces which join together. Usually there is a letter or number inside each square which a baby loves taking out and putting back in. 

6. Make a Montessori Gobbi mobile 

If you like to try your hand at DIY, you'll find this Montessori game fun too. Take 5 balls made of unbreakable material, such as fabric or foam, and cover them with coloured fabric, such as cloth or wool, so that they are each a different bright colour. Hang them with some string on a rod. 

The final result will be a sort of do-it-yourself mobile, which your baby can use to learn the difference in size and colour and to understand movement by watching the dangling balls. 

7. Make a posting and sorting box 

This game is ideal for babies who have learned how to grasp objects and are able to sit up unaided. 

Simply, get a cardboard box and make holes on one side, such as circles or squares, of different sized holes. Then encourage your baby to try to post and drop their toys inside the holes, thus helping them to understand that different toys fit in different holes. 

 

Around 7 to 8 months, more complex playtime activities, such as manipulation and cause-effect games, can be introduced. Find out more by reading the article by Dr Chiara Dellatomasina and Dr Elisa Riboni, experts in children's cognitive development! 

 

 

The information contained in this Site is for informational purposes only and in no way replaces a diagnosis or treatment plan by a Doctor. You should always seek advice from your doctor and/or medical specialists. 

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