Playing with your baby

You are your child’s first teacher. Children learn through movement and play, they imitate your sounds and actions and they enjoy a loving touch . Being active helps them develop their movement skills, a strong heart, muscles and bones and social skills so help your baby move and play everyday.

Playing with your baby

Mum Monika and her 11 month old baby Svara are playing with a ball together. They take turns in talking and passing the ball to one another and its clear how Monika responds naturally to Svara's physical cues for what she wants to do next.

Read the transcript for 'Playing with your baby'

Expert commentary

Read the transcript for 'Playing with your baby- expert commentary'

The videos above are also available to watch in Polish, Chinese and Urdu on the NHS Health Scotland YouTube channel.

Play ideas

At 3-4 months

This is the time when mums and dads can really get to know their baby. It’s very important to chat to her as much as possible. Although she doesn’t understand what you’re saying, she can hear the patterns of your speech and is learning how to communicate. It’s important to have ‘face-to-face’ time with your baby to help these social and communication skills develop. She’s also learning that if she responds to attention she’ll get more of it!

From about 3 months, she can hold things and she will soon start to develop hand-eye coordination – that means she can hold something like a rattle and look at it too. Here are some play ideas:

  • dangle an object in front of her face, from about 8 weeks you should see her follow it with her eyes
  • sing songs and see if she joins in with her own baby noises
  • experiment with different noises and see which she likes best
  • read, sing and tell her stories – enjoy ‘rhyme time’ together or look for vocal singalong groups.

At 9-10 months

By now, babies are very interested in toys that have some sound and movement. They can use their fingers and hands to open little doors or to push things along. Show your baby what to do, and enjoyment and curiosity will make her copy you.

For lots more ideas to help your baby develop, visit the Play Talk Read website.

Have fun!

Check that play things are safe and can’t be swallowed. Your baby will enjoy handing you items, and taking them from you as you hand them back. Playing with your baby is great fun – for her and for you – and it’s a useful way to see how she is developing too.

Ideas for games

Babies enjoy finger games and hand games, such as ‘Round and Round the Garden’, and ‘This Little Piggy’. They learn to look forward to the tickly bit at the end! Your baby may take your hand and make you do it again when you’ve stopped.

Clapping games help your baby’s coordination skills. Help your baby to make music by singing and give her banging and rattling toys to join in with.

Play ‘peep-bo’ and ‘boo’, and watch the delight as your baby learns that, although you’re hiding, you’re still there.

Watch how your baby starts games. For example, babies learn that dropping a toy from a high chair means you pick it up . . . and, if they do it again, you pick it up again, and again, and again!

Your health visitor can help you with some ideas for games if you don’t know any, or if you have forgotten them. It’s a good idea to switch off the television to reduce background noise when you’re playing – and this is also true when you’re reading to your child.

Building a ‘busy box’

When your baby is 9 to 10 months old, you can put together a ‘busy box’ full of everyday items with different shapes and textures for you to play with together. Talk about the things you’re playing with, describe them and say what your baby’s doing with them – ‘Yes, you’re touching that and it’s all rough on that side, and this side’s smooth. . . .’

Here are some suggestions for your box – you can keep changing the items so there’s always something new to study and enjoy:

  • empty cotton reels
  • small plastic bottles (throw tops away)
  • scraps of different textured fabrics
  • spoons
  • doll’s cup and saucer
  • wooden bricks
  • egg cartons
  • ball
  • crackly paper.
Last Updated: 20 November 2015
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