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Promote Your Baby’s Development Through Play

January 12, 2023

Bringing home a new baby can be wonderful, beautiful, and overwhelming. Once you settle into a routine, there is so much opportunity to engage and play with your baby that can help promote overall development and learning. Sifting through websites can provide information overload and leave you feeling stressed about your baby’s development. We are here to support you and provide assurance that the most important thing you can do is nurture your relationship with your baby. If you find yourself having some extra time and energy, here are some ideas, compiled by pediatric occupational therapists, to navigate play with confidence through your baby’s first year.

In months 0-3, babies learn to lift their heads, push up on their arms during tummy time, reach for toys, bring their hands to the mouth, and turn toward sounds. As they are learning to organize their body in response to the environment, here are some meaningful playtime ideas:

  • Read, sing, and talk to baby – Use your best facial expressions 
  • Provide access to colorful or noisy toys – Place toys in reach and provide opportunities to move head towards noisy toys
  • Make music together – Clap baby’s hands together to the beat of a song
  • Tummy time – On a play mat or on parent’s chest

In months 4-9, your baby is learning new things every day and telling you more about them with babbling! You may start seeing more purposeful movement, such as rolling, sitting, and crawling. If an item is placed in their hand, you will notice a strong grasp, and as they approach the later months, the baby will be able to use their hands more purposefully to manipulate and explore objects. Here are some ways to keep your busy baby engaged:

  • Introduce safe messy play – touching and interacting with various textures, like water and grass, is wonderful for sensory development. Toys with a variety of textures can be a great introduction to messy play if your baby is hesitant to get messy.
  • Board books – these are often much easier for independent page-turning 
  • Put-in and take-out games – using a box or basket, provide opportunities for your baby to grab and release toys for fine motor and hand-eye coordination development

During months 10-12, your baby won’t seem much like a baby anymore. Babies demonstrate more controlled and purposeful gross and fine motor movement at this age. They are very interested in exploring their environment and may use furniture to pull up and stand or even take a few steps. They may use their fingers to pick up small objects and continue exploring them with their hands and mouth.  Here are a few purposeful play activities for your almost 1-year-old:

  • Pretend play games – get creative with kitchen items or bathtime toys to play pretend
  • Sing with them: sing interactive songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Humpty Dumpty,” or “Patty Cake”
  • Get creative: color with large crayons or markers on a big sheet of paper or cardboard
  • Make a mess: play safely with water tables and finger paint. Even letting them get messy at mealtimes is great!

If you are curious about your child’s play skills or want to know more about sensory-motor development, there are several ways to get a hold of us.  Contact Connect Pediatric Therapy at 402-413-1356 to schedule a free consultation. Sign up for our email newsletter to learn how pediatric occupational therapy can help your children.

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