Congratulations, Mama! You’ve welcomed the cutest, smartest, sweetest blob to ever exist. They’re perfect. But, like, what do you do with them all day? Once your precious one blossoms into a 12 month old baby, it becomes a lot easier to entertain her. In a nursery full of toys or a yard full of leaves, your little monster will lead the way in finding fun. But when your infant can’t even hold their own head up yet, coming up with stimulation beyond feedings can feel almost impossible (and maybe even unnecessary). Now is a crucial time in your mini-me’s life, however, making educational and fun activities for infants all the more important to conjure. It’s not hard, though — even clumpy, indistinguishable ceiling shadows are entertainment when you’re only a few months old.
Activities for Infants 0-3 Months Old
Not only are bike rides a fun activity to connect with your infant and give their little limbs some exercise, they’re also great for moving out gas that might be causing your precious little baby to fuss. With your baby on their backs, hold their feet and gently move their legs in circles, like they’re riding a bike. Since talking to your tiny human helps encourage speech, try “guided tours.” What would they see if they rode their bike around your hometown? What would they see cruising around NYC or Paris? Even if you haven’t visited a place, you still have a good idea of what you might see in some of the bigger, more popular cities. Even if you’re wrong, unless you’re giving guided tours in front of Alex Trebec, no one will call you out.
If you shake their rattle on the left side of their heads, will they turn their heads? It might take a while, but playing around with location sounds is a great activity you can do anywhere, any time. You can even do it during tummy time.
Another important milestone to start working on early on in an infant and baby’s life is name recognition. You may notice your young baby is turning towards you when you speak, but that is because they recognize the sound of your voice. Start referring to your child by their name early on and by 5 to 7 months they will realize the name refers to themselves.
Just like your baby will learn to follow sounds, they also need to exercise their eyes and learn to track movement. To begin with, that might be as simple as their bright purple turtle rattle moving from side-to-side while only a few inches from their face. Over time, their eyesight will improve and so will their ability to track. Soon enough, they’ll be watching you scurry out of the room. (And probably fussing about it.)
Other tips to help with tracking:
— Hold a simple toy about nine inches away from your baby’s eyes.
— Wait until your baby’s eyes lock on the object in their line of vision. If they need some help locating the object, shake it slightly. — Once they are locked and loaded, slowly move the object left and right and watch as your baby tracks the object. Don’t move the toy too quickly or too far on each side lest they lose their focus.
Dance parties can go two ways. First, never underestimate your own ability to entertain your baby with a silly dance. You can spend hours getting chores done while your baby watches from their swing… as long as you put on some music and occasionally flail a little dramatically. Second, you should try dancing with your precious baby. There will come a time soon (so soon!) where the cuddles will be limited and your clingy baby will be a spirited, independent toddler who squirms from being held outside of bedtime. Scoop them up, put on some music and bop along. They’ll appreciate the movement and, if you keep clothes to a minimum, the skin-to-skin contact will help solidify your bond.
Our good friend supplied us with this activity idea when we were still in the hospital. A brightly colored helium-filled balloon tied loosely to your infant’s ankle offers limitless fun. Each time your baby kicks, the balloon will bounce and flutter. Eventually, they’ll figure out the cause and effect and will constantly kick their legs.
Activities for Babies 3-6 Months Old
More Object Tracking
As previously mentioned, this activity never gets old for your infant. She’ll go from tracking her favorite Minnie Mouse figurine to watching you to anticipating your cat’s landing spot mid-leap. Tracking can come with tears when they start noticing you leave. But, you’ll experience so many proud moments in return.
Suck at shadow puppets? Girl, same. The good news with this activity is that your infant has no frame of reference for what a dog-shaped shadow or a duck-shaped shadow looks like. It’s all just a matter of seeing two contrasting colors: black and white. You can also try the opposite, by moving a flashlight’s beam across the ceiling in the dark. Yep, it’s more tracking, but it’s just a new way to do it.
Has your LO seen his reflection yet? From an early age, our baby loved looking at herself on the phone in selfie-mode. At 14 months, she still smiles, waves and says “hiiiii” to the baby in the camera. Another old school and less techie option is to use a little thing called a mirror. Montessori-inspired bedrooms often hang a full-length mirror horizontally down by the baseboards. Grandma might keep a secure compact with a mirror near her chair for a quick distraction mid-meltdown.
Have you ever given your baby a massage? Baby sleep and feeding experts both recommend the use of massage. We already know how important touch is to the bonding process. But, there’s more to it than that. A gentle tummy or lower back rub can help get things “moving,” if you catch the drift. If you’ve ever had a massage, you know how relaxing it is, too. Hunt down some baby-safe massage oil and spend a few minutes before bedtime giving them a massage. You’ll be surprised how much quicker they fall asleep.
Flying (And Other Exercises)
“Flying” isn’t as scary as it sounds. it’s just means playing on your back, putting your baby on your shins and gently lifting them. Make sure to keep hold of their hands or keep a hand on their lower back in case they get squirmy. What other exercises can you do with your babe? A quick search on Pinterest or YouTube will send you in a giant spiral of cute workout plans where baby serves as the weight. This doesn’t have to be used in a push to exercise — it’s just another fun way to move and play with baby.
Your baby’s world is probably pretty limited in terms of texture. But, starting them early on feeling different textures will go a long way later. Feeling fabrics and such may not seem like fun to you, but for your infant the activity will be something akin to mind-blowing. Take your super soft baby brush and gently run it over their skin. When you or your partner dive into your first project post-birth, let your little sweetie rub at a piece of sandpaper. With a ton of supervision, you could even try letting them experiment with slime or moon sand.
Activities for Babies 6-9 Months Old
Start early when trying to instill trust in your infant by playing peek-a-boo. It sounds crazy, but every time you pull a blanket over your head and then whip it off, you’re teaching her that Mama always comes back. Bonus: Each reveal will bring a new round of giggles. We don’t know about you, but nothing makes our day better than the sound of giggles.
The Grand Mimicker
Your baby loves you so much! He especially loves to watch you move and listen to you make sounds. Now is the perfect time to start teaching them all the cute stuff you loved to see other babies do when you met a stranger’s kid. Every time we peaked into her bassinet or crib, we said “hi!” Now, that’s her favorite thing to say. When he’s being a little louder than you’d like or hitting that one note that sounds like nails on a chalkboard, distract him with your Batman impersonation or by howling at the moon. Wave, give high-fives or teach them an E.T. impression. (Touch fingers and say, “ouch.”)
Your baby probably already has one of those hollow, slightly squishy o-balls that she loves to fling across the room. But there are other ways to use it, too. Fill the ball with scraps of colorful fabric and let him practice his pincer grab when he pulls each one out.
Clapping not only teaches hand-eye coordination, it also teaches your child patterns and expectation. Patty Cake, for instance, has a pattern and a rhythm, but when it’s time to “throw it in the pan” and tickle your infant, it won’t be long before she’s raising her arms in anticipation.
You’re probably already reading to them, right? Previously, this might have looked like laying beside each other in bed or on the floor while you held the book and read. By this age, though, your baby will start to want to do things on their own. Board books, fabric books, bath books or those indestructible books are perfect for any baby. Let them hold the book and work together to turn the pages. Leave truly sturdy-but-safe books in their play area so they can tote them around with them. The earlier you expose them to the fun of books, the more they’ll love them later.
Activities for Babies 9-12 Months Old
More and more infant and child health professionals are suggesting going straight from the bottle to a cup. If you treasure a clean house and stain-free clothes, this will sound like a nightmare. While little babies aren’t supposed to have a ton of water, it is the best thing to practice with when using cups. Give your baby a cup with an inch or two of water in it. Most likely, it will end up on them and not in their bellies, but it exposes them to tools they’ll need in a few months.
Vision, motor skills, and hearing activities are all very important for babies but you can’t neglect their sense of smell. Try introducing them to new smells by pouring spices or potpourri into empty salt shakers and holding them up to their curious little noses. Watch them giggle as they find a smell they gravitate towards most.
Stacking Cups Activity
Yep. More cups. This time, try using those boldly colored stacking cups for a fun activity with your infant. They can be used to make tower or practice “in” and “out” when you nestle them together. Most cups also come numbered, so you can practice counting.
Infant Puzzles and Shape Sorters
Puzzles teach pincer grab, hand-eye coordination, and patience. Take note, though: Make sure the pieces involved are big enough that they won’t get lodged in baby’s mouth or throat.
Finger Painting In A Bag
Infants love to squish things. Next time you need a few minutes of peace, squirt some finger paint into some gallon-sized baggies and use painter’s tape to close the seal and secure them to the floor or table. While baby smooshes the colors together in the bags, you might have time to answer emails, do the dishes or just paint your nails. You can also turn this activity into a holiday present. Toss in a mini canvas and let them create artwork for the grands.
With some Ziploc bags, craft supplies, oil, and other basic supplies, you can make multiple colorful sensory bags your baby will love to explore, squish with her hand. This is a way to teach kids about colors and textures. This simple DIY instructional video will help for those looking to make them at home.
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