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Playtime & Toys

12 Baby Games for New Parents

Let the baby giggles begin!

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So you’ve got your feeding pattern down, know what to expect with naps, and can hold your baby like a pro. You have some confidence and you are ready for more. While there’s plenty more that will come your way, it’s never too early to start playing. Here are 12 baby games that double as great learning activities for babies under 12 months old:

1. Copy-cat. Once your baby starts vocalizing, it’s a great time to have “conversations.” Even if she only says “caw-caw,” then you say it back in a different tone. It may seem silly, but this game is a great way to interact with your baby and show her that what she has to say matters to you. Try to make eye contact as you play. Even better: This early vocalization is how babies learn to talk, so when you “converse” with them, you help them develop both social and mental skills.

2. Hide the ball. This game is best for older babies who can sit but can’t crawl yet. One of the things babies are learning is object permanence. By taking a ball and hiding it behind your back and letting baby choose with hand has the ball, they are learning that the ball exists, even when it is out of sight. Delight, laughter, and gummy smiles will ensue.

3. Freeze dance. Press play on a fun song and start rocking out. Then stop. Let the baby start to ask for the music. Then play, dance, and stop it and freeze again. When it comes to baby games, remember that babies delight in the thrill of anticipation. The bonus is that it teaches them to value movement and how being active can be fun.

4. Fun with textures. Babies like to feel different textures, and this can also help enhance their fine motor skills. What to do: Cut up pieces of fabric and cardboard and paper and all different objects. Let baby feel them and hold them between her fingers. Make them rather large and sit with baby while she explores.

5. Rattler. Take a baby rattle and shake it until baby looks. Once you have the hang of that, start moving the rattle around so she needs to turn her head in the direction again and again. This easy, interactive game helps baby start to develop her neck muscles and also helps with hearing.

6. ‘Catch’ the ball. Okay, so baby can’t quite play catch yet. But she can roll a ball back and forth with mommy or daddy. She can explore different kinds of balls made of fabric, plastic, and rubber. She may just hold and explore them at first, but as she grows, there will be plenty of rolling and new ways to coordinate.

7. Point it out. As you read to baby, ask him to point to the things he sees. “Do you see the ball? Where is the chicken? Is there a sun?” Depending on age, he may or may not be able to respond, but this gets him used to the concept of interactive reading.

8. Pony, pony. Children love interacting with mom and dad, cuddles, and rhymes or songs. Combine these three by sitting on a cushy couch and bouncing baby on your lap to a song like “Pony, pony trot to town, pony, pony don’t fall down!” When you say “down,” let baby drops between your knees as you hold her. It’s a perfect interactive game, full of anticipation and fun.

9. Stuffie peek-a-boo. You can change up the classic baby game when your child can sit unassisted. Have her sit facing the couch and you hide behind it with a variety of stuffed toys. Pop them up and yell “Peek-a-boo!” Babies love the anticipation of this and the more they do it, the more likely they are to start to call for certain animals by name, thus developing their vocabulary.

10. Pop the cheeks. Babies think it is hilarious when you puff your cheeks and “pop” them. Each time make a different noise. Whoosh! Zoom! Brrr! Then have baby blow her cheeks up and see what she does. It’s a great interaction and helps her grow her baby “vocabulary,” too.

11. Clap along songs. Sing a song all the way through with the words. Then replace one word with a clap. Do it again and again and get baby clapping along. This helps him learn rhythm and will make him think since it’s a little tricky.

12. Baby yoga games. Once baby is mobile, it’s a great time to introduce her to “yoga.” This is off the mat, loud animal yoga. Be an elephant and make a trunk with your arms. Be a monkey and goal post your arms. Be pig and snort. All these animals will get baby giggling, moving, and enjoying all she can do with her voice and with her body.