We’ve pulled together some simple games to play with your baby that will boost mind and muscle – and deepen the special connection between you…
1. Mirror moves
Your baby loves faces and movement, from the first few weeks. Let him look into a mirror and see his changing expressions and movements. He won’t realise it’s him in the mirror until he’s around 9 months old. At the moment, he’ll just enjoy a big baby face smiling back at him. Curiously, if you look on the internet, you’ll see talk of how babies shouldn’t look at mirrors until they’re 1 year old. This is a myth – looking at mirrors is an enjoyable learning experience. Just make sure that your baby can’t grab the mirror – or use a baby 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.
2. Feely fun
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. Hand them one at a time to your baby, so she can feel them, and no doubt put them in her mouth – so make sure you’re watching her carefully at all times. She’ll really enjoy exploring how the different objects feel.
3. Toys hiding in a saucepan
Choose a few of your baby’s favourite toys. Find a big saucepan. Put the toy in the saucepan so that your baby can’t see the toy. Ask her “Where’s it gone?” Then show your baby the insides of the saucepan, so she can see the toy. Tell her “There it is”. Then take the toy out of the saucepan and repeat with the same toy or one of the others. Although it’s simple and repetitive, this is exactly what your baby loves.
4. 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 her giggle.
5. Little dancer
Put your favourite song on, lie your baby on her back and gently move her arms or legs in time to the music. If she enjoys it, pick your baby up, and softly sway with the music while you’re cuddling her.
6. Scrunchy time
Give him scrunched-up paper to play with, but don’t use newspaper, as he’ll want to put it straight into her mouth. Make sure you watch him carefully while he’s playing with the paper, and don’t let him chew it. Babies love the rustling noise and texture of scrunched up paper.
7. Peek-a-boo animals
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!” to your baby. 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 Peek-A-Boo. Keep going for as long as you can – your baby will love you for it!
8. Rhymes with tickles
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. Giggle with her if she giggles.
9. Crazy faces
Although you may think your baby’s vision is very fuzzy, he will be able to make out your face and features from a 20-35cm distance. Let him study your face, then smile, stick out your tongue and raise your eyebrows. In time, he’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!
10. High and mighty
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 his eyes (keep the movement slow) and encourage him to move his head as you take the rattle in different directions.
11. Clap clap clap
Choose rhymes that help her to bring her hands together, such as If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands. Initially, you’ll need to help her bring her hands together but it won’t be long before she’ll want to try to do it herself.
12. Fly baby
Once your baby can hold his head steady (likely to be around 3-4 months), help pull him up to a sitting position. Lay him 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 him gently up to sitting); fly baby, fly baby, back you go (lower him back down).
13. Rattle and grab
From about 2 months, put a soft rattle into your baby’s hands – the noise will make her look at her hands. Place some toys within reach and others just out of reach while she’s on her tummy or back. Dangle a toy in front of her and praise her as she stretches out and tries to grab it.
14. Brush up
When your baby is nice and relaxed after bath time, run a clean make-up brush over his body, pointing out different parts of his body as you do, such as his hands, elbows, knees and tummy. Don’t be surprised when your baby starts to gurgle with pleasure.
15. Super Sledge
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 him start moving and crawling. Spread the cot blanket on the floor and lay him on it, on his 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.