Sam Flatman, an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play, shares some of the best playtime activities for babies to boost healthy growth and development.
Playtime is not only a fun way for you to bond with your baby, but it is an essential way to stimulate baby growth and development. During your baby’s first year, play time activities will be fairly simple, but this doesn’t make them any less valuable. Playtime will boost physical development, help your baby to make sense of the world around them and spark their imagination through pretend play. These ten baby playtime activities are great for healthy growth.
Physical and Motor Skill Development
1. Stretching Muscles
You can start this activity with babies right away! Lie your baby on their back and move their legs in a circular motion as if they are riding a bicycle. Stretch them out and gently bring your baby’s toes to their nose. This will help with lower body flexibility, though not all baby’s toes will reach, so don’t force them. Be gentle and keep the pressure light whilst guiding your baby’s movements.
2. Tummy Time
Tummy time is essential to help babies learn to push and eventually to crawl. Lay your baby on their belly, making sure they are comfortable. Your baby will begin to raise their head, stretching out their neck and back muscles. If your little one isn’t keen, try laying next to them on your tummy, or even lying on your back and putting them tummy to tummy with you. Make sure to fit in some tummy time everyday, just 5 – 10 minutes will be enough.
3. Counting Fingers and Toes
Counting fingers and toes is a great way to get your baby engaged and giggling! There are plenty of fun rhymes you can sing while doing this, like ‘This Little Piggy Went to Market’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive.’ Though your baby won’t be counting any time soon, this activity will get the wheels in motion by helping them to relate number with fingers.
Your baby will be fascinated by your voice, facial expressions and movements. Eventually they will begin to try and copy you. Sit face to face with your baby and encourage them to interact in this way. This the first step to communicating and socialising. Try showing different emotions with your facial expressions – happy, sad, crazy, confused – and remember to just have fun.
Cognitive Development and Understanding
5. Singing Songs
Don’t feel silly, singing songs is one of the best ways to encourage your child’s language development! Simple songs work best as children love the repetition. The more you sing, the more likely your baby is to try and mimic the sound of your voice. They’ll be speaking in no time.
6. Sensory Play
Babies will naturally want to touch things and experiment with feeling different textures. Collect materials from around the house for them to play with, but make sure they are washable! Let your baby explore a variety of textures such as soft, fuzzy rugs, beaded or embroidered clothing and velvet cushions. Sensory play is important for children because it supports cognitive growth by building nerve connections. This in turn improves a child’s ability to complete more complex tasks.
7. Read a book
Many new parents think that babies are too young to read books to, but that’s not the case. You can start telling stories to your baby no matter how young, even when they are still in the womb. Though your infant won’t understand the words, they will enjoy the sound of your voice and be engaged by colorful illustrations, pop-outs or even textured books.
Babies love to look at themselves. Looking into a mirror helps your baby learn how to focus, track images and to experiment with facial expressions and movement. Babies also enjoy seeing other people’s faces in the mirror, so share the mirror space with them and invite their older siblings along to play too. This is a great way to build up social interaction.
Imaginative Play and Creative Thinking
9. Play with Puppets
Though pretend play is something that we really start to see develop in toddlers, you can encourage creative thought in newborns too. Finger puppets and hand puppets are a great place to start. Stage your own show and put on voices for the puppets, you could even have a conversation with a sock fox yourself!
10. Edible Finger Painting
We all know that babies love to get those fingers, toes and just about everything else into their mouth, so if you want to try finger painting with your baby make sure to use edible paints! Using crushed berries and other food can work well. If you want a wider variety of colours, try using cornstarch or yoghurt mixed with food colouring. Let your baby get messy! Help them to stick their fingers in the colours and press them gently against the paper. They will soon get the hang of it.
It’s Time to Play
Playing with your baby is as simple as trying new things and having fun with them. Vary your activities, experiment and find out what suits you and your baby best.
Author Bio: Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.