Activities, Education/Development

Baby play activities to do with your child at home (6 – 18 months)

Are you looking for ideas for activities for your baby? Look no further! Here are 10 great activities which are full of sensory exploration for your child. They will also help develop your child’s thinking and motor skills.

1. Make a discovery box.

Babies love things that shine, make a noise and move! You can easily make a little discovery (treasure) box full of objects you find around the house. You can fill it with objects which they can explore – with their hands, eyes and ears. For example – a mini windmill used in the garden, or some tinsel you used this christmas on your tree. Try to fill the box with as many different objects that you can find – big, small, hard texture, soft texture etc.. You can put ANYTHING in the box, as long as it is child friendly and not a danger hazard for your child. Make sure the hard objects are cleaned before hand as most likely your child will want to explore them with their mouth!

This kind of play is called Heuristic Play, coined by child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid, and it simply means the discovery of the properties of objects. Experts say the ideal age for these is from when your baby can sit up to around 18 months. These boxes are wonderful for your child’s sensory skills, fine motor skills and thinking skills.
It is important to allow your child to play and explore, without interrupting or showing them what to do with the objects.

2. Tissue box Fun

This is another simple activity but most children love it! Have you noticed that children love to pull all the tissues out of the box?! This is the same concept but we will replace the tissues with material. Find an old tissue box or an empty baby wipe packet and fill it up with different fabrics, preferably different shapes and colours. Let your child have fun by pulling the different materials out one by one. This exploratory play activity is great for promoting your child’s creativity and curiosity. It is also good for them to explore and play with different textures, developing their fine and gross motor skills.

3. Sorting and Stacking

Sorting and stacking is a wonderful activity for babies as they think about size, colour and shapes which really helps in developing their thinking skills as well as their motor skills. You can buy stacking blocks or different sorting activities from most baby shops but If you want to save your money, you can easily put together objects you find at home for your baby to play with. You can find different sized bowls from the kitchen which they can stack up, line up and sort into different colours. You could also give different sized boxes (children LOVE boxes!) which your child will have fun exploring. This activity is very good for promoting creative and imaginative play.

4. Mirror Play

Tiny tots have so much fun with this one! Take a mirror and/or anything that is shiny and gives a reflection. Show your child their face in the mirror and show them how to pull funny faces in the mirror. They will be surprised and intrigued with the little person imitating them the other side! This activity is good for heightening your child’s senses. It makes them use their thinking skills as they question the child looking back at them and pulling the same funny faces. It also promotes creativity as they are inventing games as they play.

5. Posting game

A lot of children at this age like to experiment with hiding objects in something and then finding them again. This is called the “enveloping” stage.
For this activity you can take any object of which you can cut two holes in – one at the top and one lower down on the side. Something like a rectangular box is good. Make it so it has the post box effect – You post at the top and retrieve from the bottom.
After you have cut the holes, you can take a number of objects of which your baby can “post” in the top of the box. They then have to explore and find a way to get them out (the hole in the side). Most babies love to repeat this game as they are starting to learn about ‘cause and effect’.

6. Creative play bottle

You will have to make this for your little one but it is super easy and very quick to make. Heres how you do it:
1. Take an empty plastic bottle and fill it with 3/4 water.
2. Take some oil, preferably baby oil as it is clear and fill the remaining space of the bottle with it.
3. Take glitter, sequins, beads, buttons (or anything similar to these that you can find) and add them to the bottle.
4. You can add a few drops of food colouring if you like to brighten it up.
5. Put the lid on and make sure it is very TIGHT.
6. Shake the bottle and give it to your child.
Your child will have endless fun playing and rolling this bottle around. They will be able to see the contents move about in the water which is very fascinating for a little one. This is another activity that develops your child’s thinking skills as well as their gross motor skills (rolling, shaking).

7. Bubble Play

Every child loves bubbles! This is a great activity to play with your child. They can have endless fun blowing the bubbles and catching them (well trying!). By trying to blow the bubbles, your child is using particular muscles in their face which will also be used when they start talking, therefore the practice is good. When your child goes to catch the bubbles they are developing both their fine and gross motor skills.

8. Colour bucket/basket/box

This activity is quite similar to the discovery box because it is a basket full of different objects. One thing differs however, the objects inside the basket are all one colour. This is a wonderful activity to use to work on your babies sensory skills. For example – if you choose the colour red (a good primary colour to start with) you can add:
• A red apple
• A red handkerchief
• Red juice
• A red block
• Red socks
• A red ball
All of these objects differ in size and texture which is great for your child’s exploration and they are subconsciously learning about the colour red through this fun basket.
You can do this with all of the primary colours and then move onto baskets which hold objects of the same shape so your child can alternate between colours and shapes. This is also a great foundation for maths.

9. Rainsticks/Shakers

You can make either one of these for your child. They are fantastic to play with and they are good for your child to explore different sounds. Your child can again experiment with cause and effect – you shake it, a sound comes.
For a rainstick:
• You need a long cardboard tube. A kitchen roll tube is good. If you can’t find one of these, you can stick some loo roll tubes together.
• Then you can decorate the outside of the tube. You can stick fun paper on it or even get your little one to help you paint it.
• Once the tube is decorated, you need to seal one end by taping it up. Make sure it is completely secure so no grains can slip through or your child’s little fingers can’t easily break it.
• Take a cup of any of the following: dhal, rice, beans (raw) – You can mix them all together if you want.
• Add the grains to the tube and seal the top in the same way you did the bottom.
You can make a shaker in the exact same way as the rainstick. The only thing that will change is what you put the grains in. You can choose a box or a hollow ball for your child to shake.

10. Finger Painting

Once your child can sit up and begins to explore their world, they can do this activity. It is fun for your child as they get to be creative and they have a chance to explore colours and textures. Make sure you buy child friendly, non toxic paint so that if their little fingers happen to go in their mouths, no damage can be done.
Let your child have fun with dipping their little fingers in the gewy paint and spreading them all over the paper. You can also do hand and foot prints with your child which is also really fun. They might giggle at the cold temperature of the paint.

There are lots of activities that you can do with your little of which you can create yourself, with little effort and little expenditure. Children at this age just want to explore anything and everything and it is our job as parents to encourage this exploration with offering them the correct, age appropriate, FUN activities to do so.

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