Play and games are important for baby's development and bonding.

Baby will enjoy interactive games – especially with people they know and trust. This is because they now know who’s familiar and who’s not. 

Sharing attention

Baby is ready to share attention which means looking at things together with parents and hearing them talk about what they’re doing, while they do it.

Baby will take their cue from their parents' voices and faces to decide if what they’re looking at is interesting. If parents use exaggerated facial expressions and voices, they’ll engage their baby’s attention more easily.

Suitable play activities for sharing attention could be:

  • putting 3 or 4 safe items in a container to explore together, however (unlike the adult), baby will probably want to mouth everything
  • enjoying the outside together – this might be sitting on the grass, or going to the park or shops, and either being carried or riding in a buggy.

More play ideas and activities

Cause-and-effect testing

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)

Receptive language

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.

Strengthening relationships

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.