Developmentally Appropriate Play for Babies

Looking for ways to help your baby develop from the comfort of your own home? Here are some fun, developmentally appropriate learning activities that you can do with your baby that will also double as quality bonding time.

Developmentally Appropriate Play for Babies
AgeVisual playAuditory playTactile playKinetic play
Birth-1 monthGaze at baby at close range

Hang colorful toys (high contrast) 8-10 inches in front of baby’s face

Hang mobile with black- and-white patterns above baby

Talk and sing to baby

Play CD with lullabies or other soft music for baby

Have ticking clock or other rhythmic noises nearby

Hold, caress, and cuddle baby

Swaddle baby Keep baby warm

Rock baby in a rocking chair

Pat baby on the back

Let baby ride in a stroller for walks

“Wear” baby in an infant carrier

2-3 monthsMake room bright with high contrast pictures

Hold brightly colored toys in front of baby and slowly move them up, down, right, left, and in a circle

Take baby to various rooms while completing chores

Smile at baby

Talk to baby

Laugh when baby laughs

Involve baby in family gatherings and activities

Shake rattles for baby

Expose baby to various sounds in the home (e.g., dishwasher, vacuum) and outside of the home (e.g., cash register, honking car)

Caress baby during baths and while changing clothes

Give baby a massage

Comb baby’s hair with a soft brush

Help baby touch different textures (e.g., soft stuffed animal, smooth tabletop)

Use infant swing and/or bouncer

Place baby on tummy for tummy time

Move baby’s extremities in swimming motions

Utilize toy bars and infant play mats

4-6 monthsPlace baby in front of baby-safe mirror

Provide baby with brightly colored toys that can be grasped

Talk to baby; mimic sounds baby makes

Call baby by name

Crinkle different papers by baby’s ear

Help baby grip and shake rattles

Give baby toys of various textures

Allow baby to splash in bath

Place baby on a soft, furry rug

Bounce baby in lap while holding in standing position

Support baby in sitting position

Place baby on floor to roll over, crawl, and sit

6-9 monthsGive baby toys that have moveable parts and make noise

Place baby in front of a baby-safe mirror

Play peekaboo with baby

Make funny faces at baby; mimic the faces baby makes

Repeat simple words such

as “dada,” “mama,” and “hi”

Name body parts, foods, people, and colors when playing with baby

Narrate to baby what you are doing

Use “no” only when necessary

Give simple commands

Show baby how to clap hands

Let baby touch fabrics of various textures with hands and feet

Let baby manipulate foods of various textures

Help baby “catch” running water and pour water out of cups

Encourage baby to “swim” in a bathtub or shallow pool

Give baby a wad of sticky tape to manipulate

Help baby stand upright

and bounce

Say “up” when lifting baby up and “down” when putting baby down

Place toys out of baby’s reach to encourage baby to move to get them

Play pat-a-cake

Dance with baby in your arms

9-12 monthsShow baby pictures in books

Take baby to places where there are animals, people, and a variety of objects (e.g., zoo, shopping mall)

Help baby roll a ball

Help baby build a short tower out of blocks

Read nursery rhymes and simple books to baby

Point to body parts and name them

Imitate sounds of animals

Give finger foods of various textures to baby

Let baby squash food

Let baby play with cold and warm objects; call them “cold” and “warm”

Let baby feel a breeze (e.g., fan blowing)

Provide large push-pull toys for baby

Place furniture in a circle around baby to encourage cruising

Help baby practice walking



Sources: Zero to Three ( and Wong et al. (2006). Maternal Child Nursing Care.          


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