Ways to Play with Your Baby

My niece Emma is nearing the official age of adulthood, but one of my favorite memories of her will always be the time we spent playing with a basket of scarves. We would spend hours taking each scarf out, squishing them up in our hands, throwing them up in the air, and, of course, playing “Peek-a-boo!”

I wasn’t a children’s librarian yet (18 years ago!), so I only had a vague knowledge about children and play (namely, that it was good for them). I just knew that it was the best way to get a cascade of giggles and smiles from my niece, and I wasn’t giving that up for anything.

Like privacy, liberty, and the freedom of expression, playing is a human right. No, really! On the surface it might seem ridiculous to lump making a LEGO pirate ship or using a scarf to play peek-a-boo with having access to clean water, but “The Right to Play” is important enough to be codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article #24).

In fact, play is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises its members to discuss how to support play with parents at every check-up, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYP) has literally thousands of research reports about the efficacy of play in things like building empathy and developing symbolic thought.

5 Easy Games To Play With Your Baby

While these lofty goals sound fantastic, you might be wondering how exactly you can “play” with a baby? After all, babies are blobs! OK, of course they aren’t blobs, but they also aren’t intellectually ready to engage in a pretend Star Wars battle or line up all of the trains for a theoretical cross-country trip in your living room.

The good news is that “playing” for a babies can be something as simple as giving them a fuzzy mitten to touch, or singing a song as you change their diapers. The “play” enters these easy activities because it involves your special attention and a fun and lively spirit.

  1. Looking at and Tracking Objects. Find a colorful object that your baby can see. Move that object from side to side so that your baby’s eyes can track it.
  2. BOOOM: Build it Up – Knock It Down! Sit your baby in your lap, then build up blocks or cups in front of you. Then knock them down, saying “BOOM!” Your baby will begin to anticipate the BOOMs, and eventually be able to help you build and knock down.
  3. Give & Take. When your baby is old enough to grasp objects, practice giving her an object and then ask her to give it back. “I’m giving you a cup. Can you give the cup back to me?”
  4. Knowing & Naming. Go around the room and point out everything you see by name. “And this is Baxter, our doggie, and here are the hooks where we keep our coats, and…”
  5. Pull a Toy. Put a toy out of your baby’s reach on a scarf or towel. See if he can pull it closer.

The most important thing to keep in mind while you are interacting with your baby is to have fun. Listen for the giggles, and know that 18 years will pass before you know it!

Categories: Little Ones