22 Baby Game Ideas for the First Year

There's nothing more fun or rewarding than playing with your baby, but baby games can actually be a big part of the way your little one learns and grows. Check out these 22 developmental and sensory games and activities you can play with your baby at home that can help your child develop new skills and explore his or her surroundings in the first year.

Baby Games: Birth to 6 Months

These game ideas can work well for your newborn baby until he or she is around 6 months old and sometimes beyond. Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates, so if a particular developmental game doesn’t work with your 3-month-old baby, it’s worth another try a few weeks or months later.

1. All smiles. Your baby may begin to smile at around 4 to 8 weeks. This will be a good time to play a smiling game: Simply get up nice and close and smile at your baby and wait for him or her to smile back. Try making faces and funny noises to get your baby to grin.

2. Copycat. For a fun developmental game with loads of potential bonding moments, just get close to your baby and try imitating his or her facial expressions and gestures. Before long, your baby could start mimicking you back. For example, try sticking your tongue out to see if he or she copies you.

3. Show and tell. As you hold a toy or a safe household object (like a brightly coloured tub or a wooden spoon), show your baby what you’re holding and talk about it. Describe its shape, colour and even its texture. Let your baby feel the object, especially if it’s an unusually textured item like a furry tennis ball or a squishy clean sponge. Games like this give your newborn plenty of the sensory stimulation he or she needs to develop cognitive and communication skills.

4. Clapping. When your baby’s in a happy mood, clap your hands and watch for his or her reaction. Then try gently clapping your baby’s own hands together while narrating what you’re doing. You could try clapping along in time with a rhyme or song. Eventually your baby will love getting your attention by making this sound without your help. Be patient though: The motor skills your baby needs for clapping are quite complex and could take some time for him or her to master.

5. Pedalling. Maybe after a nappy change or bath – or just before a soothing baby massage – while your baby’s lying on his or her back, pedal your infant’s legs like a bicycle. Besides being fun, this game can also help prevent wind or constipation by stimulating your infant’s digestive system.

6. Tickle games. Chant a classic tickle rhyme such as ‘This Little Piggy’ or ‘Round and Round the Garden’ as you touch your baby's toes, tummy or hand – culminating in a gentle tickle under the chin. As your baby gets to know this game, he or she will get excited in anticipation of the tickle to come.

7. Shake and rattle. Grab a rattle or a squeaky toy to attract your baby’s attention and shake (or squeeze) away. If you don’t have a rattle or squeaky toy, you could half-fill a jar or bottle with dried beans or rice. DIY baby games and toys like home-made rattles can add a personal flavour to play time; but do make sure the lid is secured tightly so none of the beans or rice can escape and present a choking hazard. Never let your child play with a home-made rattle or other toy unless you’re watching closely.

8. Tummy time. Practicing tummy time is an important way of strengthening the muscles your baby will need to eventually sit up and crawl. Lay your alert, fully awake baby tummy-down on a blanket and encourage him or her to look up at you by holding out toys, talking to him or her or even blowing bubbles. To start off with, it can help to lie down on your back with your baby on your tummy and chest, or place a rolled-up towel under your newborn’s armpits and chest for a little extra support. With tummy time it can also help to start with short sessions, working your way up to longer stints as your baby gets used to lying in this position.

9. Baby workout. All you need for this game is a play mat for your baby to lie on. Some have soft hoops arching over your child, allowing you to hang toys and rattles overhead. Place your little one on his back and let him or her reach out for toys suspended above the play mat or held in your hand. Together with tummy time, this is great for developing the coordination and muscle strength your baby will need to eventually roll over unassisted.

10. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Use a mirror to play this game with your baby. Hold it up so your baby can look at his or her own reflection. Babies love looking at themselves in the mirror. Encourage your baby to make faces by making faces yourself in the mirror.

11. Chitchat. Use every opportunity to talk to your baby and narrate as you go about your daily activities. Explain what you’re doing together or what you'll soon by doing – changing a nappy, getting dressed, going for a stroll, etc. Be as specific as you can. For example, while dressing your baby describe the clothes you’ve chosen, and how you're putting socks on one at a time, and so on. Your baby will start understanding speech long before learning to talk – and loves listening to your voice – so it’ll be a fun learning experience for your little one.

12. Fishing for fun. Attach one of your baby’s favourite toys to a long piece of ribbon or string. You can dangle the toy in your infant’s line of sight to get his or her attention during tummy time, for example. This game will help develop visual coordination, and your baby will love watching his or her favourite toy bounce around. Eventually your little one will also start to swat at it with a hand. Just be sure to put the string away and well out of reach when you two are not playing.

13. Read aloud. Just like talking to your baby, reading and looking at picture books together is a great way to promote language and cognitive development while bonding with your infant. Good choices include sturdy board books or textile books with big pictures and simple stories. Books that introduce different colours, shapes or animals are also great. As you turn the pages, describe what you're seeing on the page. If it’s an animal book, you could also make animal sounds and describe what the animal likes to do. The more fun it is for the both of you the better.

Activities for Babies: 6 to 12 Months

The following game ideas can work well for your baby from 6 months of age to around the time he or she is 1 year old:

14. Play ball. A ball is great for your baby to play with at nearly any age. In this game, all you have to do is roll a large, soft or light ball (like a beachball or a mini, squishy exercise ball) toward your infant sitting on the floor. Encourage your baby to reach for it. Sooner or later, your child may try to roll it back (although don’t be surprised if he or she just grabs it and/or tries to bite it at first).

15. Bubble blowing. For this game, have your baby sit in your lap – or anywhere else safe and comfortable, like on a play mat, or in a baby swing or highchair – and blow bubbles. Just make sure none go into your little one’s eyes. Saying words like ‘pop’ and ‘all gone’ when the bubbles burst can help develop speech and comprehension. Besides that, your baby will love the magic of the bubbles, following them with his or her eyes and maybe even trying to catch them.

16. Crawling obstacle course. Once your baby reaches the crawling stage, it could be fun to create an obstacle course to play with in the living room. You can use couch cushions, pillows, oversized cuddly toys and other soft, safe objects for this game. As well as being fun, this can improve your child’s strength and stability on all fours. Once you’ve shown your baby what to do, encourage him or her to crawl to you from the other end of the course by enticing him with a favourite toy. Any way your child crawls over to you is fine – whether it’s under, over or around the obstacles – the key to activities like this is that your infant is moving and having fun.

17. Puppet theatre. Entertain your baby boy or girl with a finger puppet show. For this game, you could buy puppets or just make them yourself with a pair of old gloves and a non-toxic marker pen, for example. Or get really creative with felt and arts and crafts. Your baby will love watching the show unfold.

18. Peek-a-boo. It’s one of the easiest and most fun-filled games to play with your baby. All you need to do is cover and uncover your eyes or face and say peek-a-boo. If your baby’s in the right mood, he or she will laugh and giggle as if it were the funniest thing on earth. For variety, you can play different versions of the game: For example, after changing a nappy you might play peek-a-boo through your baby’s legs. Alternatively, you could hide and then uncover your face with a piece of clothing. Or you might try pulling different faces and making funny sounds each time you show your face. The possibilities are endless!

Activities for 6 month old babies

19. Hide and seek. There are a few different ways you can vary this game so it’s suitable for your baby. Basically, it ends up being like playing peek-a-boo with your whole body. Try hiding behind a door or a big chair or using a large sheet or blanket to hide behind, and quickly reveal yourself to your astonished and delighted baby.

20. Stacking towers. Gather some empty, clean containers such as shoe boxes, milk cartons and cereal boxes—anything that is light and rectangular in shape can work well as a fun, stackable toy. Build a tower or a fort with your baby, and then let him or her knock it all down. Keep in mind, your baby may not be able to stack blocks or other objects without help until later – perhaps when he or she is around 18 months old – but don’t worry, your baby will enjoy the destruction just as much as helping you with the building.

21. Action songs. Singing a song or reciting a rhyme with actions like ‘One Potato, Two Potato’, ‘Incy-Wincy Spider’ or ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ is a wonderful, easy activity for interacting with your baby. In time, your baby will learn the actions and eventually the words too – then you’ll be able to sing along together.

22. Packing up. The older your child becomes, the more he or she will love to explore and empty out drawers, shelves, baskets and other storage areas. Because of this, it’s a good idea to double-check the baby-proofing of your home: Always secure any furniture that might topple over to the wall and remove any unsafe objects from low shelves or baskets. To make this form of play and exploration safe, give your baby a box or basket filled with safe toys such as blocks, stuffed animals, rattles, stacking cups, etc. Let your baby explore the items and pull them out one by one (or dump out the contents of the container yourself). Then, help your little one put the items back into the container. Not only does this help introduce the idea of tidying up after fun and games, it’s enjoyable as your baby gets to play with and touch various objects and choose how long to spend with each. Use the opportunity to describe when the container is empty or full and describe each item as your baby takes it out or puts it back in.

The Bottom Line

Playing with your baby can be a lot of fun, create special bonding moments, and an educational and developmental opportunity for him or her. No matter which game you choose to play today, your baby will love the time spent together, and perhaps you can try something else from this list tomorrow! You may also find that playing together becomes a highlight of your day too and something you really look forward to. Have fun!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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