bond with baby

Let's Play

Play Activities Chart for the First Year

As a summary, below is a guide to play activities that encourage and promote babies' development during the first year. Further information about babies' physical, cognitive, language and social/emotional development is provided in the section Development and Learning.

While the Play Activities Chart is intended to be a general guide to age related activities, if you have any concerns about your baby's health and development you need to consult the advice of paediatric medical professionals.

Baby’s Age Activities Developmental areas being promoted
0 - 2 months

Playing with Baby begins with your sensitivity using 'Baby Talk', singing, smiling facial gestures, use of touch, rhythmical movement and gentle dancing.

Gradually introduce the Songs, Rhymes and Music.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional, language

Begin reading stories to Baby.

Introduce Baby to her surroundings around home (indoors and outdoors).

Go out walking with her, take her on outings.

Cognitive, social/emotional, language

Mobiles and overhead-gym.

Encouraging free movement of legs kicking, arms reaching out, and opening of clenched fist to grasp your finger.

Introduced lightweight rattles/objects of different textures to touch as she begins to open her fist.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional

'Tummy time' can be introduced from birth in short bursts (e.g. 30 seconds). Make sure you are down at face level encouraging Baby’s effort. A small towel rolled under Baby’s armpits will provide some support to begin.

Do not leave Baby alone during tummy time.

Another idea for tummy time is to give Baby a massage.

To read more about tummy time and about babies’ physical development see Development and Learning → Physical Development.

Baby on Tummy

2 - 3 months

Songs, Rhymes and Music ... build on tickly/hand clapping songs and rhymes. Extend on all other 0 - 2 months activities.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional, language

Play ‘back-and-forth’ games with Baby using hanging objects from over-head gym (e.g. as Baby hits out at toy, bat it back to him, praise his efforts).

Rattles and toys of different sounds/textures for grasping, kicking.

Further encourage Baby during 'tummy playtime' - place a toy in front of him to focus on. With arm strength developing he will begin to reach out for the toy. By 3 months he may be enjoying up to 15 minutes on tummy as he looks around.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional

'Look at me in the mirror’ – play games with Baby at the mirror. Encourage her cooing/talking sounds. Read more about this in Development and Learning → Language and Speech Development.

Cognitive, social/emotional, language

3 - 4 months

Songs, Rhymes and Music ... include knee-jogging/giddy-up songs and rhymes (see Video Demonstration). Extend on 2 - 3 month activities plus ...

Provide opportunity for Baby to discover/create her own fun e.g. as she discovers her feet can meet her mouth. Encourage and praise her efforts.

Bath-time fun with floating toys and splashing develop.

Roly-poly game. As you hold Baby, put her on her tummy over an inflatable ball (e.g. ‘swiss’ exercise ball) and continue holding her, gently roll her backward and forward, talk reassuringly/sing a song.

Extend on the type of rattles for Baby to grip and shake.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional, language
Mother with Baby on Knee

Approaching the fourth month peek-a-boo games can be introduced (as seen on the Video Demonstration).

Cognitive, social/emotional

4 - 6 months

Songs, Rhymes and Music ... with Baby enjoying a trot/giddy-up dance with you. Extend on 3-4 months activities ... Baby's really becoming part of the fun with playful games.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional, language

When on his tummy encourage motor skills by placing toys just out of Baby’s reach. He will make an effort to stretch out to the toy. Praise his efforts.

If Baby is showing signs of starting to crawl, toys that roll will encourage his crawling as he 'chases' them.

Roll a small ball to Baby to play ‘catch’. He may begin to pull himself over from a sitting position ... ensure he is safe.

When in a supported sitting position on the floor make sure toys are within distance for him to reach and grasp. He may begin to pull himself over from sitting position…ensure he is safe.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional
Baby with Ball

Hand puppets for playful games and singing with Baby to encourage laughter and squeals of delight (see Parenting Videos video demonstration).

Baby is beginning to show social 'play with me' skills when in a group of babies.

Cognitive, social/emotional, language
Four Babies Playing

6 - 8 months

Songs, Rhymes and Music ... will be in full use

Singing, dancing, clapping, knee-jogging and adding sound makers to the fun e.g. hand bells to shake.

Depending on strength, Baby could be starting to 'bop' to music as he stands with your support.

Picture books made out of fabric, plastic/vinyl and thick cardboard can be part of Baby’s play items on the floor for him to reach out to, crawl to and sit to look at and ‘read’. Some books also have mirror type 'pages' for Baby to see himself and 'press me' buttons for sound effects (see Video Demonstrations → Choosing Story Books and Reading to Baby).

Language, cognitive, social/emotional, physical
Baby on Floor

Further encourage Baby’s motor strength of sitting, crawling and standing with support.

Toys that can be pushed/rolled will encourage crawling.

Toys of graduating size e.g. nesting cups, plastic quoits/rings can be used for stacking.

Skills to open/close and put things in/out of boxes and containers are beginning to develop.

Demonstrate how to ‘build’ using small boxes, blocks etc and watch them fall.

Baby sitting and banging e.g. metal spoon on saucepan lid adds to the fun.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional
Baby with Cups

Father with Baby

Encourage Baby’s pincer grip (thumb to index finger) using small knobs on toys/play items.

Large sized wooden puzzles that have knobs on the pieces can be introduced.

Physical, cognitive

Peek-a-boo games using toys e.g. put a puppet in the box ‘to hide’ or cover it with a scarf - 'where’s it gone – oh, peek-a-boo, here it is'. Baby will learn through your demonstration to play the game. Object permanence is also beginning to develop (discussed in Development and Learning → Cognitive Development).

Language, cognitive, social/emotional

8 -10 months

Songs and Rhymes

Extending on the 6-8 month activities plus

If she is pulling herself up and standing at furniture, Baby could 'bop' self-supported to music. Soft play items can be placed on low table/lounge to hold Baby's interest.

Large push toys e.g. a trolley, will encourage her walking and manoeuvring skills (indoors and outdoors).

Baby’s physical capabilities and understanding of simple instructions enables her to help you carry out simple tasks e.g. ‘Let’s put the toys away’. By encouraging Baby’s involvement she learns about caring for the toys and cooperation with others. Such tasks also build on her self-help/independence skills. This begins with your guidance through encouragement and demonstration.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional, language
Baby and Toys

Object permanence is further developing. Songs such as 'Two little fish' will begin having meaning as Baby sees the 'fish' hide ... and then back they come.

Baby’s knowledge and skill of pointing at objects can be encouraged during story reading e.g. where’s the dog? Outdoors will also provide lots of opportunities for this e.g. where’s the bird? Language skills can also be incorporated as Baby imitates animal sounds e.g woof barks the dog.

Language, cognitive, social/emotional
Baby and Golden Retriever

10-12 months

Songs, Rhymes and Music

Extending on the 8-10 month activities plus

During this stage some babies begin to walk independently, others will be practising at their balance and coordination by pulling up to the ‘stand’ position and may be taking a few steps. Some babies may be testing their climbing skills as they want to explore further. Ensure the environment (indoors and outdoors) is set up for safe exploration.

Crawling through play tunnels/large boxes not only encourages large motor skills but is encouraging her independence and confidence.

Large crayons to draw on cardboard boxes and large pieces of paper (supervise Baby putting these in mouth).

Baby’s sense of rhythm to music and songs is becoming more coordinated using sound makers e.g. maracas.

Imitation of action to songs such as stretching arms up, making a ‘diamond in the sky’ with fingers as you sing Twinkle Twinkle.

Physical, cognitive, social/emotional

Baby with Rattle

Babble vocalising continues and producing single words of one syllable is beginning e.g. ‘car’, ‘plane’, ‘dog’. Continue to encourage speech through talking, using songs, rhymes and stories.

Language, Social/emotional

Guide Baby’s social skills and emotional wellbeing during playtime. While in the company of other babies and children she learns about tolerance, sharing and kindness, which need to be practiced throughout the early childhood years.

Guide her cooperative behaviour – prepare her for the end of one part of the day, ready for the next, distract her when grumpiness sets in e.g. Oh, look at this … Wow. Praise her efforts and always continue to encourage her learning.

Social/emotional, cognitive, language
Babies Playing