Get your game face on – play is the best way to boost your baby’s development on every level
Silly noises and faces might not seem that educational to you, but your baby learns loads from playing simple games.
The most important games are basic, everyday ones that allow you to share a moment of joy, discovery or connection. Discover your inner child and become your baby’s favourite play thing…
1. Throw and float
Lie your baby on his back, crumple some brightly coloured fabric into a ball, throw it into the air and let it float onto him. This game helps your baby’s visual tracking. Tell your baby what you are doing, too – that way, your baby is using his hearing, seeing and touching senses.
2. Pass the parcel
Try a basic version of the popular party game with your partner or mum. As your baby gets older, try pausing the music every so often. Your baby will get plenty of benefits from this old-school game.
‘Using both hands together helps cross-brain communication, which can improve writing, reading and problem-solving skills,’ says play and parenting expert Dr Amanda Gummer.
Stopping and starting the music also develops his listening skills, physical coordination and sense of self control.
Hide your face, wait for a few seconds, then reappear saying, ‘peek-a-boo!’ It’s a great game for newborns upwards. And will make you feel like a comic genius. This game helps your baby understand that when something (or someone) isn’t visible, it still exists – a concept called object permanence.
‘Children don’t fully grasp this concept until they’re at least 18 months, but peek-a-boo helps babies understand that although you might disappear, you’ll come back, which helps them become less clingy,’ says Dr Gummer.
It also helps to improve attention and concentration skills, as your baby has to wait for you to reappear.
4. The mirror game
Put a play mirror on the floor that you and your baby can look into while lying on your stomachs.
Stick your tongue out and make faces in the mirror so your baby can see you.
Stick your tongue out and make faces in the mirror
Try this once your baby has the strength to lift his head and shoulders up when lying on his tummy – usually around three months.
Not all babies enjoy ‘tummy time’, so playing with a mirror will distract him from the fact he’s on his front.
5. Making music
Shake an instrument or clap your hands in time to music. Vary the game to work for any age. Eventually your baby will be old enough to play with the instrument himself.
As well as setting your baby on the road to being a music virtuoso, there are plenty of other benefits to this game. Learning to find a rhythm is great for language development and even maths.
‘The combination of seeing the object and hearing the sound also teaches your baby cause and effect,’ says Gill Thomas, founder of baby music classes Jo Jingles.
Whether your baby’s already been given ‘his team’s’ shirt or not, he’ll love this first go at football. Play it when he’s learning to walk and you’re holding his hands as he walks into/kicks the ball.
Once he’s steady on his feet, he’ll develop the balance to kick, throw and chase too. The benefits include improved bone and cardiovascular health, and better coordination.
‘Ball games help your toddler’s coordination and gross motor skills – the first big movements he needs to learn before he can progress to more complex physical activities,’ says Dr Gummer.
He’ll be playing or Man Utd in no time.