April 28, 2015

15+ Playtime Ideas for Babies

I am a former child care provider so obviously I love caring for and playing with kids (I even have them two at a time!) I love teaching and guiding them and watching them learn and discover their world through play (that's kinda my tagline). I will happily be the storyteller, the "it", the chaser, the climber, the restaurant patron or just the friend to any child who needs it etc.  I love setting up an activity and letting them have at it while I watch and observe instead of actively participate.

Despite all this and the massive cache of good play ideas in my head, sometimes I just cannot for the life of me think of what to do with the girls even though they're only awake for like 9 hours a day. All too often I find myself just putting them on the floor and laying out the same old toys. That's fine sometimes but babies like variety! And sometimes it seems like you've tried everything to make them happy and yet it's still two hours until bedtime and they're bored and miserable!

In a desperate attempt to stave off boredom (mine and theirs) I created a checklist of ideas to run down in case I hadn't done them yet. I did it with the big kids at school all the time, drawing ideas out of a boredom jar or pointing out games and toys they hadn't touched in weeks. Although many of these seem like common sense you'd be surprised how many you simply forget about when going through your day. It helps keep me sane and is a great go-to for CJ now that he is spending more time with them alone.

Feel free to print this list and hang it in your baby's play area. I'm telling you it can be a sanity saver when baby is fussy and you're like, "Oh! When was the last time we did this?!"


We read at least five books a day if not more. Baby doesn't have to sit and listen intently, just keep doing it. You can read anything you want - your own books, magazines and newspapers are fine. Of course I'd say you should read their books too, especially when they feel like snuggling up.  Set out board and cloth books for them to discover, flip through or chew on. Always have a book on hand for them to look at rather than just toys (cloth books are great for this) as they can chew on them.


Roll, toss or bounce one and have baby watch. Use a slide or a tube and roll balls down into a basket. Count them, talk about their shape, let baby touch and taste them. Use cups or bowls to swirl and shake them in, fill and dump into and cover with. Balance them on things. For movers have them chase, kick it or try to throw or catch it. Put a bunch of different types into an exploration box.

Play games

Even the youngest of babies can enjoy childhood favorites. Try to think beyond Peek-a-Boo and This Little Piggy (although those are great too). Sing ring-a-round the rosie while you spin holding baby, bounce baby on your knee singing nursery rhymes, play hide and seek with a toy, play hide and seek and surprise baby, cover your face or baby's with a blanket for a version of peek-a-boo, play row, row your boat and rock baby back and forth, make silly faces and sounds, pretend to be animals and act out their sounds, play "so big" (arms up, soooo biiiig!), "fly" baby up in the air (don't let go!)

Forget the "toys"

Put away all the toys and give baby household objects, loose parts and other playthings to explore instead. Some of our favorites have been gift boxes, clean yogurt cups, tissue and parchment paper, aluminum foil, , chubby marker tops, coffee cans and other recycled containers, bead necklaces, jingle bells, measuring cups, wash cloths, spoons, pots and pans, puzzle pieces, egg cartons and cotton balls, toilet paper tubes, and so on. Keep a close eye on this activity especially when they start mouthing everything - then you should only use things you have inspected and won't break or tear off and that are properly cleaned


Tummy time, pushups, pull-ups, rolling, bicycle kicks, arm circles, anything baby seems to enjoy. We loved this idea from CanDo kiddo: tape a piece of tissue paper to the couch and lay baby on her back in front of it and let her feet go wild while she kicks it listening to the sound it makes.  Do your own exercise and include baby ala SkinnyMom.



 Mirror Time

Set baby on belly or side in front of a mirror and watch as they admire themselves and make eye contact with you. Use a hand held mirror on the floor under them so they can try out looking down at themselves instead of up or over.




Blow Bubbles

Long before they can actually blow them themselves babies LOVE watching you blow them. It's like their first exposure to magic. My advice: invest in really good bubble solution and some really good wands or a bubble gun or machine. It can be frustrating as hell when you only get one bubble for every ten or so tries and baby didn't even see that one.

Exploration bins

Even young babies can explore a basket or bin set in front of them filled with novel items. Tissue paper, sponges, cut up toilet paper rolls, fabric swatches, cotton balls, handbells, etc. If you don't have loose parts hanging around the house fill the box with some balls, shakers, stacking cups or other small toys. Let them dump it out and fill it back up. When baby is older you can add tons of new things for a sensory experience.


Sing songs or act out fingerplays. I created a master list of kid's songs and posted it in our play area for when my brain is fried and I just can't remember any off hand. Put music on and lay on the floor and listen to it together or dance with or sing to baby. Make up your own songs to familiar melodies about baby or your lives. One of my favorite homemade songs: "It's time to take a rest, in your little nest, time to take a rest my darling, in your little nest." became our bedtime cue. If you play an instrument bring it out and play for baby to enjoy

Lights out play

Turn off the lights and use a flashlight to bring out some true wonder and fun with baby. Allow them to try to track the beam, highlight objects and describe them, hide it under a thin blanket and let them find it. Put some glow in the dark stars up on the wall and watch them stare at them and try to figure out what the heck they are. Play with a light switch and describe what's happening. Make a show of opening the curtains and letting the sunlight in.


Bring out new objects, familiar toys or a picture book to touch and manipulate objects while talking about you and baby see. Ask baby what they see and wait for them to respond then offer the answer. Narrate or "sportscast" what you and baby are doing with purpose. Tell a story and act it out or create sound effects. Use a puppet and try out different voices and sounds to catch baby's attention.


Mimic baby's sounds and facial expressions, follow their gaze and ask what they see, hear or smell. Just observe them for a little while keeping quiet. You'd be amazed what even the youngest have to say if you just stay quiet and listen.

Nake-Nake Time

Strip baby down to her birthday suit, lay down a blanket and some cloths in case she goes and let her have at it. Something magical happens when baby is totally unrestricted, when they are free to move and stretch and feel the air on their skin.  My girls both rolled over for the first time during nake-nake time!


Change of scenery

Go into the kitchen and cook or eat while babies watch, describing your actions and the objects you use while you dance and sing for them. Go into your bedroom and play with the pillows and blankets instead of toys. Walk around the house with baby and open doors or cabinets, touch curtains and tables, turn on and off lights. Hold baby in front of a window and just look out, especially when it's raining or snowing or too cold. Even just moving to the other side of the living room can do the trick sometimes.

Go outside

Lay a blanket out in the yard and let baby feel the breeze and the sun or go for a walk in the stroller. Drive to a big park and push baby on the swings. Walk to a small park and lay a blanket out there instead. Find a local waterfront and look for ducks. Take a nature hike if you have a decent stroller.



 Take a bath or a shower (not just to get clean or as part of bedtime routine)

Some babies love being in the water and will happily splash and play for half an hour. If you're luckier than I am and have a bathtub then get in with baby or hold them while you shower. Bonus, it may calm them enough to take an extra great nap.

"Receptacle" time

When all else fails I pop them into the jumper or exersaucer for a change of position and some exercise. Limit the time baby spends in these to about 20 min. a day max for proper physical development but also to keep the novelty of them.


Our Favorite Baby Toys

No matter how many ideas I come up with or alternative ways to keep these babies occupied (and learning and exploring) we still play with their toys every day. Our girls had some favorites as early as 3 months when they were able to bat at and push things on the floor. I can tell which ones they prefer and we get the most use out of too. Most of our toys were hand me downs or purchased second hand so a lot are discontinued but they're always upgrading them anyway. Here's some of the favorites in our house:

Noggin Sticks
These little guys are brilliant. They love banging them, flipping them over and looking at themselves, standing them up and knocking them down and of course shaking them and getting the color to change.

Stacking/Nesting Cups
So much fun. They can stack, nest, make a ball, bang together, drop things inside, roll them, and more. We take them everywhere with us.
Plastic Balls
So versatile and so much fun.
They love to chew on them, clang them together, pull on them and I can use them to link toys up on the play gym, over their high chairs, onto the carseat or stroller and more.
I don't know what it is about keys but they are obsessed with them.
Teething Rings 
They don't really use them when they're teething but they love to hold on to them and mouth them.

I hope you enjoy this list and find it helpful when you're wondering what on earth to do with your brand new tiny human!

What are you favorite ways to play with your baby?


No comments :