All you need to play with your baby is you. It's all about interacting with your baby to bond, giggle, cuddle and learn. This is the kind of loving, playful interaction that will help all the parts of your baby's brain connect and grow, and spur those little muscles to develop and strengthen.
We've pulled together some simple games that will boost mind and muscle and deepen the special connection between you. There's no need to play them all day, every day – your baby will only get overwhelmed and cranky. Just find a moment when your baby's alert and calm and take a few moments to enjoy one of these games together...
Here are 15 great games to play with your baby from birth to 6 months
1. Have a dance
Put your favourite song on, lie your baby on her back and gently move their arms or legs in time to the music. If they enjoy it, pick your baby up, and softly sway with the music while you’re cuddling them.
2. Do the mirror show
Your baby loves faces and movement, from the first few weeks. Let them look into a mirror and see their changing expressions and movements. They won’t realise it’s them in the mirror until they're around 9 months old. At the moment, they'll just enjoy a big baby face smiling back at him. Just make sure that your baby can’t grab the mirror – or use a baby-safe mirror. Some baby mirrors stand on their own and can be great fun when you’re giving your baby time to play on his tummy.
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3. Feel some toys
Find a selection of objects that have different textures, such as a baby cloth book, a bath toy, a smooth ball, a clean hair roller, a baby brush. Give them one at a time to your baby, so they can feel them, and no doubt put them in their mouth – so make sure you’re watching carefully at all times. Your baby will really enjoy exploring how the different objects feel.
4. Play saucepan peekaboo
A simple game that will elicit wide grins and infectious giggles, which is basically peek-a-boo with a saucepan! Get a couple of your baby's bright and colourful toys, and a medium sized saucepan. Pop your baby in a bouncy chair or highchair so they have a good view, then show them one of the toys. Next, pop the saucepan over the toy so that the toy is now hidden from view and say "Where's it gone?" and give your best 'puzzled' face. You may see your baby mimic you. Then do the big reveal, lifting up the saucepan and declaring, "There it is!" Cue big smiles. Then pop the saucepan over it and play again, and again... After a few goes, deftly swap the toy over and reveal a different toy under the saucepan: in your baby's eyes, you're a magician.
5. Make silly faces
Although you may think your baby’s vision is very fuzzy, they will be able to make out your face and features from a 20-35cm distance. Let your baby study your face, then smile, stick out your tongue and raise your eyebrows. In time, they'll try to copy you. Babies as young as 3 weeks can sometimes imitate you when you stick out your tongue. Once you’ve reached the end of your repertoire, repeat for about 5 minutes – or until your face aches!
6. Scrunch paper
Give your baby scrunched-up paper to play with, but don’t use newspaper, as they'll want to put it straight into her mouth and it'll go all soggy. Make sure you watch him carefully while they're playing with the paper, and don’t let them chew it. Babies love the rustling noise and texture of scrunched up paper.
7. Play animal peekaboo
This is peek-a-boo with a difference. Find one of your baby’s favourite soft toys. Look straight at your baby, hiding the toy behind your back. Then swiftly bring the toy out, saying "Peek-a-boo!" Then swiftly hide the toy again behind your back, or under something. Look surprised and ask your baby, "Where’s it gone?" Then bring the toy back out for another peekaboo. Keep going for as long as you can – your baby will love you for it!
8. Clap, clap, clap
Choose rhymes that help your baby to bring their hands together, such as If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands. Initially, you’ll need to help your baby clap but it won’t be long before they'll want to try to do it all by themselves.
9. Rhyme and tickle
Sing rhymes to your baby that have tickles attached, such as Round And Round The Garden and This Little Piggy. This will stimulate your baby’s different senses. Do giggle along, too
10. Make a big face
Cut out a large photo of someone’s face from a magazine, or from a photo you’ve taken. Stick it in a place where your baby can easily see it, but not grab it. You can also stick it on card, and put a lolly stick at the bottom of the photo, then hold the face up over yours. Move it to and fro and see if you can make your baby giggle.
12. Pull and sit
Once your baby can hold their head steady (likely to be around 3 to 4 months), play this little game to pull them up to a sitting position. Lay them on his back and, to the tune of Run Rabbit Run, sing, "Fly baby, fly baby, fly, fly, fly" x 2 (hold your baby's hands and bring them together, then out to touch the floor); "Fly baby, fly baby, reach the sky" (pull your baby gently up to sitting); "Fly baby, fly baby, back you go" (lower your baby back down).
11. Dangle the rattle
Hold a rattle above your baby’s head and move it slowly from side to side. Watch as your baby will try to follow it with their eyes (keep the movement slow) and encourage them to move their head as you take the rattle in different directions.
13. Brush up
When your baby is nice and relaxed after bathtime, run a clean make-up brush over their body, pointing out different parts of their body as you do, such as hands, elbows, knees and tummy. Don’t be surprised when your baby starts to gurgle with pleasure.
14. Rattle and grab
From about 2 months, put a soft rattle into your baby’s hands – the noise will make her look at their hands. Place some toys within reach and others just out of reach while they're on her tummy or back. Dangle a toy in front of your baby and heap on the praise as they stretch out and try to grab it.
15. Go sledging
Your baby will love this game – and it gives you a bit of a workout, too! At first it may just seem like a fun game, but long-term this helps with the beginnings of moving and crawling. Spread the cot blanket on the floor and lay your baby on it, on their tummy, with hands out in front or to the side. Then all you need to do is grasp the two front corners of the blanket and very gently pull your baby around the room.