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What are the best ways to play with my baby?

When playing with your infant, you have the exciting opportunity to not only keep him or her safe, but also use playing with toys to promote their learning. At this stage of development your baby begins to grab for everything in reach. Along with your baby’s hands and eyes, she relies heavily on her mouth as a tool to explore new things. This habit makes it a good idea to choose toys which are interesting to manipulate, made of nontoxic materials, and are too big to fit in your child’s mouth to avoid choking. Colorful blocks or rattles are great multisensory toys which will grab your baby’s attention and lead him to explore and learn.

It is important to buy safe toys for your infant, as many of them may end up in their mouth // source: wikimedia commons

Within this age range, your voice also becomes a powerful tool for engaging your baby in play. A little after four months, your baby may begin to understand how the visual movements of your mouth are related to the vocal sounds you make. And by 8 months, your baby begins to understand words out of their usual context. When you are playing with your child, take notice when she is looking at a toy and label it out loud for her. Speaking with your baby and maintaining eye contact during play makes their play time exciting and stimulating.

Sometimes putting a familiar toy right out of your child’s reach motivates him to move toward it and eventually begin crawling. Do not be discouraged, however, if your baby does not immediately move to retrieve the toy. If your baby is not developmentally ready, this task may be too difficult, resulting in frustration. Waiting until your baby is sitting independently and is developmentally ready will ensure that he gets the most enjoyment and use out of his toys.

When your child makes noise by holding and banging blocks, rattles, or pots in the kitchen, she is exploring and developing her fine motor skills. This is also an important step in learning how to use objects as she learns how playing with objects in different ways canproduce different and exciting sounds. As your baby begins to better understand these routines, setting aside playtime each day will allow them to regularly develop these new skills and spend fun time with you!

Supplementary Material

For additional information and resources, take a look at the following.

1. Looking for new and exciting ways to play with your baby? Here are some fun motor, sensory, communication, and feeding game and activity ideas from Pathways, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

2. Dr. Perri Klass writes “Let Kids Play” for the New York Times to talk about the importance of making time for playtime in your busy schedule. Check out the article here.

3. Check out these tips from the American Academy of Pediatric for buying safe toys for your baby

Mayes, L. C. & Cohen, D. J. (2002). The Yale Child Study Center Guide to Understanding Your Child: Healthy Development from Birth to Adolescence. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.


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