First of all, I’ll add that each toy has a different design and usage for different ages, safety and development so every child is unique and will eventually be able to do things when they are able to. I’ve just compiled some of the toys we have used that they enjoy just in case anyone ever wondered if they were worth trying.
Games to play with your baby under three months
For the first three months, your baby isn’t able to do much more than observe their surroundings as vision is still blurry so they see bright, boldly patterned items best. I heard black and white is great as the colours contrast. As your baby grows, they’ll enjoy toys that engage their other senses as well which is why so many toys are designed to promote interaction in a variety of ways, such as, squeaking or crinkling noise, have a nubby texture and be soft and cuddly. Infants tend to like mouth toys and textured ones can help relieve teething pain.
Put on a CD and help your baby clap hands, clap feet, bicycle his legs. Show your baby how you clap hands, wriggle fingers, twirl, and bob up and down.
Lie your baby safely on their back. Tap the bottom of your baby’s feet gently in time to a song that you are singing for example Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
A lovely sensory game for very young children, this game involves scrunching up some very light material (chiffon scarves are perfect) and throwing it up into the air, letting it open out and drift gently down onto the baby lying on his back. Try throwing more than one scarf at the same time. As the baby develops, he will start reaching out for the scarf as it approaches.
Looking in the Mirror
Hold your baby in front of a mirror so they can explore what they look like.
Hang colourful, and black and white things, things that move, and things that make noise over your baby’s cot. Tie securely and don’t use anything small that could be a choking hazard.
Babies learn by watching. Take your baby outside and hold them where they can see things moving – streamers, trees, washing on the line.
Let your baby follow things with their eyes – move your face, a rattle, or a coloured toy in front of them. Play aeroplanes with your hands – fly through the air and land on your baby’s tummy!
3 – 6 months
Sing and help your baby do action songs: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Incy Wincy Spider, Put a Spot Over Here, Round and Round the Garden etc.
Exploring and touching
Give your baby safe objects from around the house to explore the shapes and textures – plastic things from the kitchen, pots and pans, paper, empty tins with lids, velvet, fur, lace, towelling, cardboard, fine sandpaper etc.
Make a book
Make a ‘feely book’ by gluing textured objects onto squares of cardboard – punch two holes in the side of each square and make them into a book by securing with string or shower curtain rings – easy to take out with you!
Use rice, pasta or a bell to fill a plastic container – make sure the container is well sealed. Shake to your baby’s side or behind baby and see if they can find it.
Looking and Movement
Lay your baby down on a rug. Hold a toy to your baby’s side and fly it over their head and land on the other side so your baby can follow the toy with their eyes.
Toys to try
They may love up to a year
- Unbreakable mirrors
- Floor gyms
- Activity boards.
- Linking Rings
These rings from Bright Starts are easy to keep in a purse or diaper bag for a quick playtime.
- Activity Gym
Arched gyms can be used early and are one of the first toys for 3-month-old babies. The soft blanket base ensures a clean, safe place for your baby to play while the hanging toys give your baby something to look at and reach for.
While you may not think of a blanket as a toy, it is an important plaything for babies. Whether you want to play peek-a-boo or hide a toy, blankets help children develop the idea that things continue to exist even when out of sight.
6 – 9 months
Hide a toy in one room of the house and carry your baby from room to room saying ‘Where’s teddy’ and telling them what rooms you are looking in.
Roll the ball
Roll a soft, brightly coloured ball to your baby and teach them how to stop it and push it back to you.
Hang rattles or similar noise-making toys where your baby can kick them, or put socks with securely attached bells ob your baby’s feet so they make noise when they move their feet.
Noise and Movement
Fill empty plastic bottles that will roll with small/colourful/noisy things eg. bells, scrunched coloured paper, small stones. Secure lids tightly.
9 – 12 months
Music from the kitchen
Make fun instruments from up-turned pots and pans with wooden spoons, or two saucepan lids for cymbals. Use your instruments to explore different concepts such as loud and soft, fast and slow.
A great summer activity! Fill a low, wide container with a few centimetres of water and place it on the ground. Float small objects such as flowers or corks in the water and let your baby reach and splash. Always supervise children when playing with water.
Using elastic, tie small soft toys to the top of your baby’s high-chair. Show them how you drop the toys and pull them back up again.
Sit your baby on your lap and read stories with simple action words and pictures. Stories with repetitive phrases are fun, like ‘Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man!’.
Hide and Seek
Show your baby a toy, then hide it under a towel or small blanket and help them find it.
Take your baby into the back yard or to the park. Let your baby feel different surfaces, let them sit and crawl on the grass, feel stones and leaves with supervision – some objects can look like a tasty treat!
A baby is fascinated by cause and effect and will enjoy any toy that responds to their actions and makes use of newly acquired motor skills. They’ll love toys that allow them to hit a ball with a hammer as well as toys with buttons that cause music to play or characters to pop up.
They are too young to actually learn ABC’s but will still enjoy interacting with these toys and being exposed to language, my children have all been read to and have all loved it. Just being with you is enough.
They learn hand eye co-ordination from about 12 months old. Fine motor skills are the small, fine tuned movements we use to participate in more complex activities like writing, using silverware, and stacking blocks. Your child’s ability to interact in block play shows off these relatively new fine motor skills.
Toys to try from a year old:
- Stacking rings
- Nesting cups or boxes
- Push- or pull-toys that make noise or have pieces that pop up or move
- Balls through holes
- Simple, sturdy musical instruments like tambourines, drums, or maracas
- Shape sorters
- Puzzles with four or five pieces
- Rubber ducks or toy boats for bathtime
5 Home made ideas
Activity 1: Sensory play with everyday objects
Pick some interesting objects that you have to hand – ones with interesting and varying colours, textures, sounds – and then show them to baby.
Remember safety first and only chose safe items that you are happy for your child to touch and potentially put in their mouth, throw around, etc.
Activity 2: Sensory fun painting – with safe and edible baby paint.
The “paint” is yoghurt which is edible and safe (although, of course check ingredients and make a decision about whether the product is safe for your child). We used:
- Natural plain yoghurt as the paint. If you want to make colours you could add natural colouring by mixing in crushed up fruits (e.g. raspberries, blueberries), or food colouring if you don’t mind baby tasting it.
- A large piece of cardboard or something to protect the floor like a plastic sheet or old sheet. It also makes it easy to clean up because you can just wipe it off after.
- Paper to paint on.
Activity 3: Colour matching activity idea
Activity 4: Turn off the lights (and then put some other lights on!)
Project lights onto the ceiling and walls, it really captivates attention.
Create this at home with:
- fairy lights
- a torch
- a mirror ball light
- any light up toys, lamps or equipment you have
Activity 9: Tray play, or treasure basket
Put together a tray or basket of toys, objects, materials, and let baby explore. Read more about the theory behind Treasure Baskets and the what, why and how, here, and what some of the psychological theory and literature says about why Treasure Baskets might be useful things to use with babies. This is just about thinking about how to present toys to baby and mixing it up a bit.
As a new parent, it can be difficult to know what to do with your baby – what ‘games’ are appropriate at what age, what activities will help stimulate and develop your baby at an age-appropriate rate.
Honestly, between feeding and sleeping you probably hadn’t even considered ‘playing’!
But don’t stress – playing with your baby is probably something you’re doing anyway! It is fun for both of you and a great way to bond.
Click this link for professional advice on all different stages