A Mom’s Guide to Baby Playtime

It’s a rare moment: My newborn is wide-eyed, content and looking at me expectantly. She looks like she’s ready to do something outside of her normal routine of eating, sleeping, and cuddling. Often household to-dos pull me away during this time of quiet. But this is my second kid, and I know that these precious baby days will pass by too fast. So I do my best to take advantage of this quality baby time.
But what’s there to actually do with a baby? Playtime with my four-year-old is loud, active and filled with toddler instructions on the “right” way to play.  With my daughter, I’m a bit at a loss of what to do. Her skills are limited, and I’m not quite imaginative enough to invent my own baby games.
A Mom's Guide to Baby Playtime | Twin Cities Moms Blog
To solve this dilemma, I headed to the library and found two great books: A Moving Child is a Learning Child by Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy and The Playskool Guide to Baby Play by Robin McClure. These resources offer a plethora of ideas of ways to play with babies. I’ve culled through the books and am excited to share my favorite activities.
When playing with your baby, be sure to watch him or her for cues of over stimulation. Crying, crankiness, looking away and turning their head are all signs that baby may be ready for a cuddle instead of another activity.

Baby playtime: 0-3 months 

Let’s go for a ride
This is a fun game that gets your baby’s legs moving. Lay your baby on his or her back and gently move their legs in a bicycle riding motion. Make the “bike ride” interesting by moving the baby’s legs fast and then slow, lifting their legs into the air or gently moving their legs to the left and then to the right. If your baby is gassy like mine, this game might even provide some relief for your baby!
A new twist on tummy time
My daughter hates tummy time. This alternate version of tummy time switches things up by having you lay your baby tummy-down on top of a soccer ball, kickball or exercise ball. (Make sure to play on a floor that is carpeted or padded.) Hold your baby securely and move him or her forward and backward in circles. Add a challenge by placing toys close to your baby to encourage him or her to swat at them. You can also set out an infant mirror to give your baby something fun to look at.

Baby playtime: 4-6 months

Hands meet feet
Help your baby discover his or her hands and feet. Take your baby’s right hand and right foot and gently bringing them together. Stretch the leg and the arm out gently and do the same actions for the left hand and foot. Then take your baby’s right arm and gently bring it across his or her body to touch the left arm. Then bring the left arm over to meet the right arm. Repeat with the legs. Make it even more fun by playing your favorite tunes and turning the exercises into a baby dance party!
Rhyme time
I love little kid rhymes, especially ones that have actions. Here are a couple of my favorite baby rhymes from the book A Moving Child is a Learning Child by Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy. They never fail to make me and my daughter smile!
    Zoom, zoom, zoom
    Zoom, zoom, zoom, (rock baby side to side)
    We’re going to the moon. (rock baby side to side)
    Do you want to take a trip? (bounce baby on your lap)
    Climb aboard my rocket ship! (bounce baby on your lap)    Zoom, zoom, zoom, (rock baby side to side)
    We’re going to the moon, (rock baby side to side)
    In 5-4-3-2-1 (bounce baby on your lap)
    BLAST OFF!! (lift baby into the air)
    I bounce you here
    I bounce you here, I bounce you there (bounce baby on your lap)
    I bounce you, bounce you everywhere (bounce baby in a circle)    I tickle you here, I tickle you there (tickle baby’s tummy & toes)
    I tickle you, tickle you everywhere (tickle baby everywhere)    I hug you here, I hug you there (hug baby twice)
    I hug you, hug you everywhere (hug baby while rocking in a circle)
Flashlight fun
I like playing with flashlights, and this game brings my baby in on the fun. Lie on a bed with your baby and turn off the lights. Create a flashlight performance by turning it on and off, circling it around the room, putting a spotlight on different objects in the room and just being silly.

Baby playtime: 7-9 months

Hands up
This game is a fun variation of Simon Says. Use a toy that makes music and show your baby how to raise his or her arms (or any other gesture) whenever they hear that sound. Once they’ve mastered this skill, show your baby how to start the music by themselves. When they turn on the music, respond by raising your hands like they did. Babies love this game of copycat!
The muffin man
At this age, babies love to take objects in and out of containers. Encourage this skill by giving your baby a muffin tin and small toys or balls. Help your baby sort and stack the objects within the muffin tin. Safety note: Don’t use any balls or toys that are small enough for baby to swallow or choke on.

Baby playtime: 10-12 months

Oatmeal dough
Although your baby is too young for Play Dough, you can still have fun with edible homemade dough. This recipe uses basic ingredients likely already in your cupboard and is super easy to make.
1 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup water Mix flour and oatmeal in a bowl and then gradually add water. Knead until mixed, adding dry or wet ingredients until desired texture is reached.
Once the dough is ready, show your baby how to play with it. Bring out your cookie cutters for an easy and fun way to make shapes with the dough.
Tunnel fun
Using a paper towel or wrapping roll, you can create hours of entertainment for your baby. Create a ball ramp by cutting the paper towel or wrapping paper tube in half lengthwise. Hold the trough at an angle and show your baby how to place small balls in the high end of the tunnel. Let him or her put the balls onto the trough by themselves and help them tilt the trough more or less to make the ball roll faster or slower. Once he or she gets the hang of rolling the ball down the slide, you can track where each ball finishes and see which ball rolls the longest distance.

Safety note: Don’t use any balls that are small enough for baby to swallow or choke on. 

It’s play time

What do you like to do with your baby? Share your ideas and favorite activities in the comments below. As always it’s not what you do that is important, but the quality of the time you spend with your baby. It’s time to have some fun!
Rachel Anderson
Rachel is one of those rare people who has never had a cup of coffee. She’s decided to start drinking coffee once she grows up. In the meantime, she gets her energy from the loves of her life: her husband of nearly 10 years, 6 year-old son, and 1 1/2 year-old daughter. She also loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the Thanksgiving holiday and the beauty of Minnesota. Rachel is a writer at heart and has built a career in corporate communications. The job closest to her heart is being a mom to her gregarious son and spirited baby girl. As a Christian, Rachel aims to give and receive grace every day.


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