Playing with your baby helps them learn. And guess what? Their favourite thing to play with is you!
Play gives your baby the opportunity to use their senses to explore their world in a safe and fun way. Through play your baby’s brain and body develop and learn new skills.
Your baby is learning through ordinary moments with you throughout the day. These are opportunities to help your baby learn about themselves and the world in which they live.
How do babies play?
Babies play in many ways. Making eye contact, smiling, touching different objects, feeling textures and making exciting sounds all count as play. As your baby starts using their hands and they become more mobile, they will begin to explore the world around them more independently.
Remember that play time is a great opportunity for your baby to experience a variety of positions and to move freely within a safe play space. This can include lying on their tummy or sitting on a play mat.
As your baby gets older they will want to move. They will enjoy crawling under chairs and will begin to pull themselves up to stand at low tables or the couch. Check out Ngala’s tips for creating a safe play space for your baby.
How do I play with my baby?
Playing with your baby is all about spending time face to face and talking together. When your baby is engaged and having fun, they are learning. As you talk about what they are doing, they are learning what words mean, which lays the foundation for their first spoken words.
You don’t need expensive toys to help your baby learn about the world, just look around your house for safe objects for your baby to explore. This could be a scarf to play peek-a-boo or a well-sealed home-made shaker made from a bottle filled with rice.
As your baby becomes more mobile, they will love exploring items in the kitchen like plastic containers and safe utensils (spatula or wooden spoon). Discover other homemade toys ideas that you can enjoy with your baby.
Sharing books with your baby is another great way to play. Check out our article all about the best way to share books with your baby. Remember, your baby learns through repetition, so they will enjoy the same objects, toys, books and activities over and over again.
Fun with food
As your baby begins to eat solid foods, this is a great time for fun and exploration. Mealtimes are all about letting your baby explore through touch, taste and smell in a relaxed and fun way. Remember, initially they will only get a little bit in their mouth, but the important thing is that they’re having fun!
Great ideas for fun with food are:
- Yoghurt finger painting
- Stewed fruit and steamed vegie finger foods
- Allowing your baby to suck food from their own fingers
- Putting food in a fresh food feeder
- Offering foods with a variety of flavours and textures
Crawling and exploring
Once your baby starts to move they won’t want to stop! Playtime for older babies is all about being active and learning to sit, roll, crawl and discover the world around them.
Giving your baby the freedom to move helps them develop their physical skills, learn how to use their hands together to manipulate objects, and explore a variety of textures in a safe way.
Here are some great ways you can encourage your child to move and explore:
- Put your baby’s favourite toys slightly out of reach to encourage them to move
- Use large cardboard boxes to make tunnels for your crawling baby
- Pile cushions on top of one another to make a simple obstacle course
- Hide interesting objects such as scarves, shakers and textured balls inside tissue boxes
- Let your baby explore their reflection in the mirror
Remember that play time is all about getting down on the floor with your baby and having fun together!
Want to know more?
The Raising Children Network – Babies play and learning
Talkable – Play with your baby today