Games for babies and toddlers
Babies grow up in the blink of an eye. The first 24 months are crucial. You can support their development on all levels: physical, intellectual, and psychological. This is the phase where they gain consciousness of their own bodies, through movement and play. And it doesn’t take much to keep them stimulated. All you need are objects that are readily available at home and some quality time.
What can be done in the first 6 months?
- Throw a bunch of different coloured pencils into a large, thick, see-through plastic bag that won’t break and can be sealed tightly. Place the bag just within reach of your baby. While they’re lying on their stomach, reaching out to touch the bag will strengthen both their arm muscles and neck muscles, as well as being hugely beneficial for sensory development. And at the same time, it’ll help you introduce them to colours.
- Gently rub your baby’s body and arms with different fabrics and have them smell different scents. You can strengthen their neural connections by caressing their skin with silk, wool, cotton, and fluffy fabrics. Introduce them to different scents like orange, vanilla, and lavender.
- When your baby is able to make sounds, record them and play them back to him/her. Observe how they react to their own sounds.
- If it stimulates them, record different sounds around the house, like the ringtone of a phone, or music. This exercise will help them distinguish sounds, which will enable them to differentiate different words later on. When the same sounds and word patterns are repeated for babies, they memorise them. The next time they hear the sounds, it will be familiar.
- While your baby is lying on their stomach, take two wooden spoons and tap them together to lure the baby to scoot towards you. Increase the sound as they get nearer. In their fifth and sixth months, as your baby is sitting you can give them the wooden spoons to make noise with. Make sure you supervise their play. Hearing different rhythms and tones will improve their neural connections.
- Place a toy in front of your baby and then hide it. After hiding it, ask “I wonder where it’s gone?” and ask “Is it over here, over there?” as you search for it. Watch the baby’s reactions. Watch their development every time you play this game. Will their eyes dart over to the place you hid the toy, or will they try to scoot over there?
Games for babies aged 6-12 months
- Musical toys always grab their attention. Put the toy in different parts of the room and turn up the sound. Then ask where the music is coming from. Will they try to find it? If they scoot towards it, change its position to different spots in the room and ask again. If they’re able to crawl, then place it somewhere they can reach. These kinds of activities are great for developing cause-effect relationships and increasing their spatial awareness.
- You can start playing with puppets during these months. When you hide them behind your back, do they look for them? Now hide it on top of the baby’s head, behind them, or under a pillow, take it out again and talk with it. Then put it in the baby’s hands and see what they do. Repeat this game from time to time until they try to imitate you. It’s a great game for establishing neural connections.
- To improve your baby’s climbing ability, create a climbing area by gradually putting more and more large pillows on top of one another (first 2 then 3 etc). Put a toy on top of the “ultimate peak” for them to climb and try to reach it. Always supervise your child climbing. It’s a game that helps the development of basic motor skills, facilitating walking later on.
- 9-10 months is the time to start developing their understanding of inside and outside. Put a toy in a bucket or bag. Then help them take it out. Say the words “in” and “out.” You can repeat this game as many times as you like.
- Get a bunch of different age-appropriate rings or hoops of different sizes and, if possible, different colours. Arrange them in order from smallest to largest and then vice versa. As you arrange them according to size and colour, explain what you’re doing. Put them on the baby’s fingers or let him/her hold them and throw them, then retrieve them. This is important for conceptual development.
- Help your baby familiarise him/herself with their environment. As you enter a room together, stop to name the room and explain its function. The next time, stop at a piece of furniture and explain its features, introduce sounds. Encourage your baby to repeat the sounds you introduce if they can. After they’re 10 months old, memory-related connections can be established, and these kinds of activities can be very useful.
Games for toddlers aged 12-18 months
- Read books that’ll grab their attention. Let them look at the pictures. Introduce objects and shapes from the pictures. Later, after you’ve shown them, ask, “Where’s this, where’s that?” After they reach 16 months old, they’ll start to learn more words and it’s important to support that. Make sock puppets or balloon models and invent stories using the puppets. This will help develop their creativity and vocabulary.
- After the 16 month mark, you can start playing with puzzles and blocks, which will help improve their math and science skills.
- From 18 months on, memory cards and matching cards are important to match shapes, objects, and concepts. By combining the objects in the cards and by creating a story, you help expand their vocabulary.
Games for toddlers aged 18-24 months
- Play the “guess what” game: “Hmmm… I’m looking around, and I spy something red! Any guesses for what it might be?”
- You can play counting games based on observations such as, “Let’s look at the sky, how many clouds can you count? What do you think that cloud looks like?” And so on.
- Dance to music and move about. While dancing, stop the music randomly. Tell your child to stop too. When they’ve stopped, start it up again, then stop again. Repeat this over and over again. This improves their listening and their self-control skills.
- Take a torch and follow the shadows together in a darkened room. Make different shapes with your hand, then have them make different shapes with their hands. Let them follow their own shadows. Ask whose shadow is whose. Turn on the light, let the shadows disappear, then turn it off again. Repeat over and over again. These kinds of activities contribute to their cognitive development.
- Put toys or objects of different size and texture inside a bag. Ask your child to put his or her hand inside without looking and just touch an object and guess what it is without removing it. Let them try to guess all the objects in the bag and remove them one by one. This is an ideal game for learning how to follow instructions, problem solving skills and sensory awareness.
- Cut up different fruit on a plate with your toddler. Use the pieces to highlight features of your face or emphasise emotions. For example, place round slices of kiwi over your eyes. Make lip from an orange slice. Cut grapes to make teeth, an ear out of apples, and so on. When your child does the same, laugh or express surprise. While exploring colours, shapes, different tastes, they’ll develop imitation skills and understand the range of different emotions.
- Use large cardboard boxes to make tunnels. If you want, place something on the end of the tunnel or close it up so they have to try to open it. If you make the last box in the tunnel out of a small box, your toddler will have to stretch his or her body to get through, which will help them develop spatial perception. This game is also useful for developing motor skills and coordination.