Infant Play Time Ideas & Activities: Newborns to Twelve Months

From the moment, we first hold a newborn in our arms, we are left enchanted by their innocence and warming giggles. Playing, cuddling and caressing with our young ones become our favorite activity. As days’ progress, the little one’s crawl into the age of toddlerhood before finally walking with hand-in-finger and exploring their world of perception.  It’s the phase of development we all look forward to and by expressing the required affection, attention and care – we can help this gradual progression.

Roni Cohen, the co-author of the famous Let’s Play and Learn Together, says:

Playing and connecting with our babies gets their brain development going.”

But how to know which activities or games should you play and organize to help the mental and physical development of your baby?

After all the perfect synergy is only achieved when the play time activities resonate with the mental and physical development of an infant. This article aims to explore the answer.

For Infants Who Are 0-3 Months Old

Infant Play Time Ideas

Playing with kids – It’s never too early to start

Before you start off, you should set some reasonable milestones which are well within the grasping capacity of the bay learner.

Setting Milestones in Relation to Motor Skills

Your baby should be able to push up on arms in a prone position.

Your baby should be able to lift the head up while resting in a prone position.

Your baby should be able to lift arms and legs when in a playful mood.

Your baby should be able to open and close the fist

Setting Milestones in Relation to Sensory Skills

Young infants should be able to reach out for an object held above them.

Young infants should be able to visually track side to side movement of an object.

Young infants should be able to move their heads in response to a visual or auditory stimulus.

Your baby should be able to achieve these milestones by the age of 3 months and to help them out you can plan and organize following activities.

Games for Developing Motor and Sensory Skills

Let’s dance and clap: Turn on a playful music and dance in front of the baby, moving from side to side. Make sure that you are standing or sitting close to the baby from where they can see you. In intervals, hold the hand of your baby and make them clap together. This would help in the development of motor skills and auditory sense while your side to side movement will also improve the visual tracking of your young one.

Want a sensation: Take off the vest of your baby and gently rub different soft items against the tummy. It could be a silk scarf, a boa or a small stuffed toy – whatever you have.  Encourage them to hold each item before and after rubbing it against their tummy. This would develop touch sensitivity and help in establishing sensory memory.

Toys, Got to Catch’em All: For this you will need plenty of small toys, one which are large enough to be spotted and identified by the baby and small enough to be held in their fists. Jet plane the toys close to them and when they try to grab it, immediately move it slightly above them. The toys should be positioned so as the baby can easily reach them by extending their arms. But make them work. This will work out their muscles and improve their hand-eye coordination.

For Infants Who are 4-6 Months Old

Infant Play Time Ideas

They are eager, more excited and animated and a little bit sharper

These are the motor and sensory milestones you should set for the next three months:

Setting Milestones in Relation to Motor Skills

Young infants should be able to support themselves with their hands while in a sitting position.

Young infants should be able to wiggle and switch from prone position to supine position and vice versa.

Young infants should be able to shift their weights onto the legs, while standing with a support.

Young infants should be able to move an object from one to another and successfully grasp it.

Setting Milestones in Relation to Sensory Skills

Your baby should be able to express dissatisfaction by any gesture when feeling tired or hungry.

Young infants should start exploring the objects held in their hands more deeply.

Your baby should start associating with certain sounds and touch.

To achieve these milestones, you can plan for different activities and games which are discussed in the following sub-section.

Games for Developing Motor and Sensory Skills

Hello, I am Winnie the Pooh: Well, this game is basically about making different voices to communicate with your child through a toy phone. Start off with your normal voice and communicate with the infant as a parent. Switch over and communicate in another voice. This would help the baby to establish voice recognition as well as teach them how to interact and communicate. Even if the voice on the other end is nothing more than babbling, reply to the baby.

Drop and Bounce: Take ball of different sizes and different colors and let your baby hold them one by one. Now take each of those balls and let them drop on the floor, while your baby sits and watch the balls bouncing. Place the ball around them and encourage them to extend for the multicolored balls. Doesn’t matter if its behind them, at their sides or in front of them – you need to encourage their movement from side to side even if it means they fall back on the soft surface. This will help to develop their balance and build a sense of movement.

Find Uncle Daffy: This could be any toy that your baby has grown fondness for over these months.  Show them the toy and then close them in a box. Close that box into a larger box and so on. You could also use something else for storing the toy, but make sure it’s not a polythene bag. Unpack the toy in front of your baby and just when they reach out for it, pack it bag immediately. Now place the box in front of your baby and ask them to find it.  This game develops sense of object permanence and also develops the explorations skill.

For Infants Who are 7-12 Months Old

Infant Play Time Ideas

They are more active than ever, having increased curiosity to interact with the surrounding world and in the last months before they enter the age of toddlerhood.

As such the motor and sensory milestones for your baby should be as follows:

Setting Milestones in Relation to Motor Skills

Your baby should be able to sit without any support and reach for objects without falling.

Your baby should be able to visually track objects while sitting.

Your baby should be able to walk against a support

Your baby should start clapping hands

Your baby should be able to release objects in the direction they are looking at (misfiring is allowed).

Setting Milestones in Relation to Sensory Skills

Young infants should be able to focus on near and far objects and can reach them by partial crawling.

Your baby should start enjoying listening to sounds and give some response in case the sound is turned off.

Your baby should be able to explore toys with hand and mouth.

Games for Developing Motor and Sensory Skills

Clap Your Hands: Turn on the music or a nursery rhyme like “Clap Your Hands” and repeat the words while clapping your own hands. Encourage the baby to imitate your movements.  This will improve the motor and imitation skills.

Shake it well: Make your baby sit and shake a rice-filled bottle (fill it with any other non-harmful rattling particles) in front of them. Now hand over the bottle and encourage the baby to repeat the same action. This will develop in understanding the principle of cause and effect, while the rigorous shaking will help them to keep their balance without falling off.

Throw and Catch: Get a light weight ball which your baby can easily lift and throw. Start by throwing the ball in their direction. Let them crawl towards it, if the ball goes a little further and ask them to throw it back to you. This would develop hand-eye coordination and improve focus on moving objects.

Remember, all infants develop at their own speed; therefore, you should not force the issue. Rather support them, encourage them and slowly help them build their understanding of their environment.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options 2017.


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