From the age of 6 months, your baby is almost daily becoming more responsive, more interactive, more agile with their hands, and more interested in the world around them. And playing and connecting with them really turbo-charges all that growth and development.
We’ve pulled together some simple games that will boost mind and muscle and keep your baby happy, alert and entertained. Some games are short and sweet; others will last a little longer. Some need a bit of prep; others you can launch into straightaway. All of them are great fun – and should have you both giggling happily together…
Important note: always make sure you’re with your baby and watching at all times while they play.
Here are 20 great activities to play with your baby between the ages of 6 months and 12 months
1. Let it rip
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Paper (lots!)
This game is all about tearing: gather together lots of different paper materials – newspaper, magazine pages, tissues, kitchen paper, thin card – and show your baby how to scrunch and rip them. (It’s fun for grown-ups, too!) Younger babies may end up simply cramming the paper into their mouth rather than tearing it -– in which case, stop and move on to another game.
2. Fill a treasure basket
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Basket, toys or (babysafe) household objects
Babies love using their hands to explore different shapes and materials, so fill an open basket with a small collection of objects. Think about how each object feels – smooth, soft, textured, hard, furry – and how heavy it us, and aim for a good variety. Good suggestions include a wooden spoon, a shell, a plastic spatula, a small soft toy, a pine cone, a wooden or plastic bangle. Give the basket to your baby and they’ll keep themselves very busy taking the objects in and out, looking at them and sorting them. Keep the basket near to hand for daily play, and change the contents regularly.
3. Make a bubble bottle
Prep time: 5 mins | Materials: Plastic bottle, washing-up liquid, food colouring, sticky tape
Find an empty plastic bottle and fill it about one-third full of water. Add a few drops of washing-up liquid and a few drops of food colouring. Twist the lid on tightly and tape around it to make it more secure. Give the bottle to your baby, showing them how shaking the bottle makes coloured bubbles. Encourage your baby to shake the bottle, too, and/or roll it along the floor and watch the water move. You can make several different bubble bottles – each with a different colour. And you could also try making one with an additional a drop or two of oil – for a more lava lamp effect.
4. Reach and grab
Prep time: None | Materials: Toy
Your baby should now be reaching out for objects, and this game encourages them to grab. Pop your baby on the floor on their tummy, then place a toy on the carpet just out of their reach. If they want it, they’ll have to move for it! If your baby gets frustrated after a few tries, though, do move the toy more within her reach.
5. Bring in a loo roll tube friend
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Loo roll tube, scissors, felt-tip pen
This is a super-quick idea for a baby activity, shared with us by mum Sophie Jordan. Even better, it also helps hone their fine motor skills. Sophie tells us, “I draw different faces on the loo rolls, then trim the top with scissors. My son loves to look at the different faces but also pull each piece off, so that acts as a sensory toy!’
6. Create a fluffy playpit
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Soft toys
For this sensory-play experience, you’ll need a large container or box or a playring your baby can sit inside – or you could use a baby support seat. Collect up a whole bunch of soft toys and heap them all around your baby, so that they can easily grab and feel each one. What’s lovely about this is that, though each toy will be soft and cuddly, each one will also have a different feel – from fluffy to furry to textured to smooth – for your baby’s hands to touch and explore.
7. Make a tugging lid
Prep time: 10 mins | Materials: Plastic lid, scissors, ribbons/string
Find a biggish plastic lid (maybe a family-size yoghurt pot or even a spare Tupperware lid) and poke a few holes through it with scissors. Thread ribbons (or string) of different colours, textures and lengths through each hole and knot each end so that the ribbons can’t be pulled out. Give the Tugging Lid to your baby and they’ll spend ages grasping the ribbons and trying to pull them through the lid on each side – and probably waving the lid around and chewing it, too.
8. Serve up some sensory spaghetti
Prep time: 30 mins | Materials: Spaghetti, food colouring, sandwich bags, tray
Cooked spaghetti has a wonderfully slippery texture and, as you can see from Arco is in our pic, shared by his mum and MadeForMums superuser Amy, babies find it fascinating to grab and dangle and tangle and wiggle. You can keep the spaghetti plain or follow our simple instructions to turn it all sorts of rainbow colours. Put a big dollop in a tray or bowl and let your baby get their hands right in.
9. Bring on the highchair water tray
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Milk-bottle tops
Put your baby in their highchair and then pour about 1cm (no more) of water onto the try. Let your baby touch and splash the water. Then add some milk bottle tops. Your baby will enjoy watching them glide across the surface of the water (a bit like air hockey discs). Encourage your baby to pick up the bottle tops: it’s trickier than you’d think as the slightest touch can make them glide away from your grasp.
10. Let loose with the bottom drawer
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Plastic containers, Cheerios
If your baby can sit up well, turn a low drawer in your kitchen into a play drawer. Empty out the pots and pans and refill it with empty Tupperware containers and lids that your baby can grab and stack and fit inside each other. Then throw in some Cheerios or (similar cereal shapes). Your baby can now work on their hand-eye coordination and pincer-grip skills as they pick up the cereal shapes and put them in a container, take them out again, and so on.
11. Go through the tunnel
Prep time: 1 min | Materials: Cardboard box, blanket, toy
This is an extension of the ‘Reach and grab’ game, above, that, this time, encourages crawling. Take a large cardboard box, open it out and place it on 1 side on a soft blanket on the floor. Place your baby on their tummy at 1 of the open ends and put a toy on the floor of the box, slightly out of their reach. Encourage your baby to stretch to reach the toy. Over time, as your baby gets more mobile, you can place the toy further and further away until, eventually, your baby is crawling right through the tunnel.
12. Bring the paddling pool inside
Prep time: 10 mins | Materials: Splashmat, paddling pool, bath toys
Put a big splashmat on the floor – a shower curtain is ideal – and then set up a paddling pool in your sitting room. You don’t need to put much water in it but do make sure it’s warm. Then throw in some bath toys and let the fun commence. It’s basically bathtime done earlier in the day – but babies love it.
13. Unfurl a sensory umbrella
Prep time: 45 mins | Materials: Umbrella, CDs, ribbon, paper chains, string, cushions
If you have a big golf umbrella, you can turn it into a little sensory playground: lie it on its side on the floor and tie some old CDs, paper chains and/or ribbons to the spokes so that they dangle down. Put some cushions under the umbrella and lie your baby – and yourself – down for some chilled-out time watching the CDs spin in the light and tapping the paper chains and ribbons to make them turn and jiggle.
14. Do the Wheelbarrow
Prep time: None | Materials: None
This baby-friendly take on that classic playground game is a brilliant way to rev your baby’s arm, shoulder and neck muscles up for crawling. Place your baby on all fours and and then take hold of them round the hips and life their legs off the ground. Put a toy a little distance away and encourage your baby to move forwards on their arms to get to it. You can see a great demo of this on the Baby Exercises and Activities App’s YouTube channel.
15. Play Pompom Drop
Prep time: 5 mins | Materials: Kitchen roll tube, pompoms, masking tape
Tape a kitchen roll tube to a wall with masking tape, making sure it’s low enough for your child to reach the top. Put some pompoms in a box and show your baby how to pick up a pompom, pop it down the top of the tube and watch it appear – ta da! at the bottom.
16. Pop the peas in
Prep time: 5 mins (plus defrosting time) | Materials: Frozen peas, plate, muffin tray
Defrost some frozen peas. Put a few handfuls on a plastic plate. Place a muffin baking tin by the plate and encourage your baby to put the peas in the different muffin wells.
17. Rise to the top of the world
Carefully lift your baby up onto your shoulders, keeping a tight hold of their thighs and bottom – and keeping well away from lampshades and low doorways. They’ll love viewing the world from a different angle.
18. Get drumming
Prep time: 1 min | Materials: Saucepans and wooden spoon
Once your baby is able to sit up, set up an array of turned-over saucepans, give your child a wooden spoon and let the rumpus begin!
19. Hide Teddy in a box
Prep time: 2 mins | Materials: Teddy, cardboard boxes
Place 2 or 3 small cardboard boxes on the floor and then, with your baby watching ‘hide’ Teddy in one of them. Ask “Where’s Teddy?” and then open the box and say, “There he is!” Repeat a few times more, encouraging your baby to open the box where Teddy’s hiding. Once your baby gets the hang of the game, you can try moving the boxes once Teddy’s hidden and seeing if your baby can still find the right box.
20. Point and squirt
Prep time: None | Materials: Squirty bath toy or water pistol
This is a great bathtime activity game – and it’ll work well in an inside paddling pool(see above), too. All you do is point fill a squirty bath toy or cheap water pistol with water, hold it near one of your baby’s body parts, telling them what you’re pointing at (“That’s your tummy!”), then squirt that body part with the water. Then choose a different body part and repeat. In time, your baby will start wanting to join in with the squirting or even ask you to squirt a certain area of their body.
Pics: Getty Images