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Playing with your baby

3-12 months

Babies find out about the world, and their place in it, through play and exploration. Play is fun, but it’s also vital for your baby’s learning, development and wellbeing. Here are fun, stimulating and safe baby play ideas and baby games for you and your baby to try together.

You can read this article in a selection of languages other than English.

What to expect from baby play

For babies, play means you. Your face, touch and voice are your baby’s most exciting and interesting playthings, and your loving relationship with your baby is the foundation of her learning and development.

Babies love moving their arms and legs and they’ll reach out to touch everything – toys, pets and brothers and sisters!

When babies shake a rattle it shows them that they can make things happen. This makes them keen to see what else they can do.

As your baby grows, play becomes more active. Your baby might start pulling out drawers, dropping cereal onto the floor, pushing any button he can find and putting toys where they don’t belong. This is how he figures out how things work.

Sometimes your child wants to be in charge when she’s playing and likes you to follow her lead. It’s fine to encourage her to take the lead, but you’ll need to take control if the play puts her in danger or at risk of injury.

Baby play ideas and baby games

The best toy for your baby is you, and the best baby game is playing with you. This means that baby play is simple – it involves looking at each other, gently touching, talking, singing and responding to your baby.

Here are some fun play ideas for you and your baby:

  • Blow raspberries, poke out your tongue and make faces. Because babies love faces, these are all good ways to play with babies.
  • Make some noise together. Sing all kinds of songs, both loud and soft, and fast and slow. You can hit pots and pans loudly and softly, and make animal sounds and faces.
  • Move about. Choose or make a safe place in your home that encourages your baby to explore and practise sitting up, crawling, pulling up, cruising and walking.
  • Play simple games. Babies love games like pat-a-cake and peekaboo. They also love touching different parts of your face, and having you touch theirs. These baby games can help your baby learn about turn-taking, and they also encourage moving.
  • Read with your baby. Reading together can be a special time with your baby, even if your baby wants to read the same story over and over again. Hearing the same story is a way your baby learns about language.
  • Follow your baby’s lead. This just means following your baby’s attention and interests when you’re playing with him.
Dangerous things look like fun to a baby. Now’s the time to think about making your home a safer place for a baby on the move. You could also check out our Home Safety interactive guide.

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Last updated or reviewed
18-03-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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