Play is essential for babies and children; from the moment they are born they learn, process, experiment, and bond through play, and so finding ways to support and encourage your child to play helps them reach their full potential. Play looks different as the months and years go by, and in the initial 0-6 months the idea of play can be a little overwhelming for parents- so we’ve compiled some simple and enjoyable activities for babies from 0-6 months that will help them begin to explore their world, strengthen their bonds with you and develop physically and cognitively.
Activities 0-3 months
The first three months of a baby’s life are precious beyond measure- your baby is bonding with you and the rest of their family, constantly learning about the bright, noisy, and busy world they’ve come into, and beginning to form connections and develop pathways for all the growth that is to come.
Because of this, although it seems that they don’t do all that much besides eat, sleep and poop, in fact, they are changing rapidly and already taking everything in, so being conscious about how you speak to them and the sorts of activities you do with them, assists their development and helps strengthen your bond together.
Activities for this age group should be focused on making a connection, exposing babies to plenty of language, and only short periods of active stimulation due to their sensitive systems. Here are some activities that incorporate these elements:
- Simply talk to your baby! This is how they learn and build connections – make eye contact, tell them your name and their name, what you’re doing, and about their family
- Read books- you can never start too young! The more language they’re exposed to the more language they’ll develop, and they love snuggling in and listening to the lull of your voice
- Make tummy time fun by getting down on the ground with your baby and making noises and faces to entertain and encourage them
- After a bath or before getting dressed in the morning, use a baby-safe oil to gently massage your baby’s limbs, back and tummy while singing and talking to explain what you’re doing
- Place baby in a safe spot on a mat outside- babies this age are enthralled by changing light, moving leaves and all the outside sounds!
Activities for babies 3-6 months
Over these months, your baby will become more active, discovering that they can roll and hold their head up, grasp objects, and begin to smile and laugh. They are also beginning to imitate you and make those adorable cooing noises, and can recognise familiar faces.
Although your baby still needs plenty of sleep and downtime, they can handle more stimulation and are keen to explore their world, so offering play that lets them explore sound, textures, movement and different elements will be beneficial for this age group.
Here are some activities for a baby that help with fine and gross motor skills, language comprehension, and cognitive processes:
- Place your baby in a safe spot where they can see you, and talk to them as you go about your own activities - they will enjoy watching you and learn through your language
- Fix an unbreakable mirror at head-height and sit your baby in front of it, and see what they make of the strange baby floating in front of them!
- Children and babies love water play- try putting a container of water (with or without some colourful plastic toys) in front of your baby and let them splash and make a mess!
- Exploring textures is fascinating for babies, so give them safe fabric, leaves, kitchen utensils or interesting objects to feel and compare
- Babies also love noise, so try making a rattle for them to hold and shake (rice or dried beans in a small tin works well)
- Sing songs and action nursery rhymes to your baby, making eye contact and hand movements so their eyes can begin to follow along
Remember that what babies of this age need most of all are love and connection, and this you can provide simply through your presence; spend time with your baby giving them your focused attention, speak to them and follow their cues. As they begin to show their unique personality you’ll soon get to know what works for your baby, and stick with the activities that keep them healthy and happy going forward.
Find out how a child care centre can help with a new born baby whether you've recently had one or are expecting one.
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