Play and games are important for baby's development and bonding.
Their refined hand-eye coordination, combined with their growing curiosity, will see babies picking up objects and having fun experimenting with them. They’ll be looking, mouthing, shaking, banging, dropping and throwing anything they find.
They also become interested in the details of toys at this time, for example, the labels on toys or clothes.
And they’re getting more and more interested in what they can do with the objects around them. This is called cause-and-effect testing.
Suitable play activities for cause-and-effect testing could be:
- playing with things that roll, which encourages baby to move
- taking turns with a ball (when baby can sit and the ball can be rolled between parents and baby: ‘Leo’s turn, Dad’s turn’.
- hiding and finding toys – a version of ‘peekaboo’ using a cloth to cover items, with parents acting very surprised when they reappear
- hiding teddy behind a box or a chair and bringing it out so baby can see.
Vicky Ellison's top 5 play tips
Vicky Ellison's Top 5 Play Tips | #TakiKōrero (transcript)
If you were to choose your top five play tips, what would they be Vic?
What would they be?
Be patient that would be one.
That's something I have learnt, I wasn't always great on the patience but you learn that actually
I'm the big person, I'm an adult and that's a child and they're learning about emotional stability.
So I've got to model emotional calm to them. So being patient when things are irritating.
Use patience, have you're own little strategy if it, if you find yourself, you know starting
to grind your teeth that was always a good sign to me that I'm losing the plot
I'll start to grind my teeth.
So what am I going to do?
I might do some physical activity,
I might do a few star jumps get myself a little bit calmer.
Play, I think, get involved, but don't take over.
That's a hard one for a lot of parents that are really keen, come on, you know, we'll
do this and the child's wanting to do it their 4 year old way,
but Dad wants to do it his 34 year old way
and again you might lose the opportunity for some cool time together
by trying to be the boss of the game, okay?
So take a step back, let them do it their way and let them lead I think that's a good
thing, you put the question to them.
What shall we do with this?
Where do you think this should go?
How do you think we can do that?
You throw the questions to them.
Rather than 'oh look at me, look we're going to make this into a, you know, massive tower.
You know what's going to happen there, especially with the toddlers.
What am I going to do?
I am going to push your tower over.
So let them lead, 'Wow look how good you did that, look how big, look how long'.
Give them some words to describe.
Three, jobs, can be play.
I'm big on jobs in my house and any little kid can whakapai te whare time.
We've finished playing with the toys now come and help tidy up.
That's all part of it, it's not like I'm done here and I've gone.
Hoki mai, we're going to put the toys back.
Last one, look at their moods.
Morning, full of energy?
Let's go to the beach, let's have a run, let's play tackles on the mattress.
Let's do some reading, let's do some quiet waiata, let's the change the tempo of the child
Baby will be copying sounds they hear, and enjoy having their sounds copied too. They’ll begin to understand words they hear more often – maybe their name, ‘mum’, ‘dad’, siblings’ names or even pets’ names.
Suitable play activities for building ‘receptive’ (‘understanding’) language vocabulary could be:
- looking at board books together, pointing to and naming what they can see in the pictures, and making the noises that might go with them
- looking at family photos and pointing to and naming whānau members.
Video calling through Zoom or Messenger are other ways that parents can help baby make connections with whānau, especially those who aren’t able to visit regularly.
During this period, many babies will be on the move, crawling away from the security of their parents to explore on their own but still checking often to make sure the familiar faces are still around and close by if needed. Play is a great way for parents and their kids to have fun together and strengthen their relationship.
Suitable play activities for strengthening relationships could be:
- using care moments like nappy changing to sing songs and rhymes – this ensures regularity, and may offer a distraction for a wriggly person not keen on being changed
- regularly singing songs and rhymes that have actions, like ‘Round and round the garden’ or ‘This little piggy went to market’.
These types of rhymes help baby learn about what’s coming next. Through repetition, the pathways in the brain get stronger and more efficient – so much so that a baby may start to laugh before the punchline ‘tickle’, having already anticipated the end.
Balancing stimulation with breaks
Children need stimulation, but as with many things, moderation is key. So, watching for signs that baby has had enough and needs a break is also important.