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Stages of play

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Suggestions for playthings and games you can play with your baby at each stage of development

The simplest way to enrich a child's play experience is to play along with them. Playing with your child helps her develop the skills she needs to socialise and play with other children and is an important part of learning about relationships and emotions.

Games and playing are also an important way of helping with her speech development; play helps children to learn to talk and to understand what is being said to them.

The way children play and the games and playthings they want to play with changes considerably as they grow. Here are some suggestions for playthings and games you can play with your baby at each stage of development.

0 to 3 months

What she can do:

Listen, observe, begin to recognise people, objects and places, smile and coo, kick, wriggle, turn head and try to roll.

Playthings:

Colourful, tinkling mobiles to watch and listen to; baby gym in the cot; pictures or postcards in the cot or pram to look at; music boxes; music on the radio or TV, mirrors, a rug to kick on, jangly toys to touch with the hands or feet.

What you can do:

Carry her around and talk to her about her surroundings or anything else; sing to her; lie her where she can see things happening - trees, people, moving objects, other children.

Give her exercise sessions with no clothes or nappy and let her simply kick and move freely for a while.

3 to 6 months

What she can do:

Reach, begin to grasp, chew, put things in her mouth, roll, squirm, follow objects with her eyes.

Playthings:

Rattles and safe objects she can chew on. Toys with different textures – rubber and plastic items, clothes with different textures – furry teddy bears, woolly blankets, cotton squares.

Always make sure items are safe for baby to put in her mouth as that's where most things will end up. Different shapes – balls, boards cubes, rubbery toys that can change shape.

What you can do:

Let her sit with a tray of different objects in front of her. Vary the toys, add a new one and take another away.

Put items just out of reach so she has to wriggle and reach for them. Find some safe household items for her to bang or chew – safe wooden and plastic utensils, crinkly kitchen (baking) paper (not foil or plastic).

6 to 12 months

What she can do:

Make sounds and communicate, recognise people, learn that people go away and come back again.

She can wriggle and crawl, pull herself up, reach, grasp and pick up small objects passing them from one hand to the other. She can give and take objects and has increased hand control and eye/hand coordination. She understands the use of different items.

Playthings:

Other people are her favourite playthings, but she also loves teddies, dolls, soft cuddly animals and simple games such as peek-a-boo.

Safe, stable furniture to hold onto, warm rugs and carpets to move about on; push along toys.

She'll probably enjoy games where she can put things together or put things into and out of (stacking beakers, plastic boxes, saucepans, bricks). She'll enjoy simple ball rolling games, colourful books with bright images or photographs of things and people she recognises.

What you can do:

Talk and listen to her; take her out and about where she can see other people (shops, toddler groups, friend’s houses).

Play games with her. If you can't always be there to supervise you may consider a playpen which is fine as long as she recognises it as a play area and not a punishment area where she’s deposited so she can't get up to mischief.

Your baby will be learning every day through exploring so allow her to make mess and don't just use baby talk with her.

Tell her about her surroundings, talk her through your everyday routines and respond to her baby noises as though you are having a conversation. Babies can get frustrated that they can’t speak the words they know in their minds.

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