baby games for bonding and development52 Play ideas – baby games and activities for the first year

The first year with your new baby will be one of the quickest. So much to learn, enjoy and remember and then before you know it you’re celebrating their first birthday. Below are some fun ideas to play baby games and bond with your little one throughout their first year.



Turn on some gentle music and start swaying. Cuddling your baby allows you to smell each other’s scents releasing oxytocin (the love hormone) which aids the bonding process. The to and fro movement will make her feel safe.


Although a new baby’s sense of touch is fully developed by birth, newborns have a highly sensitive skin. Softly drag several soft textures such as silk, satin, a feather boa, blanket and plush toy over your loved one’s abdomen, arms, legs and feet. Your baby will love listening to your voice as you describe the fluffy duck tickling her tummy.


Develop gross motor, abdomen strength and auditory skills by laying baby on her back and gently pedalling her knees to her chest and stretching her legs out again as though she is riding a bike. Add a little fun by singing the “pushbike” song. Lots of facial expressions and eye contact is sure to entertain her.


At this stage babies can only see approximately 20-30cm in front of them and prefer black and white prints. Invest in a board book with contrasting colours and let bub be swept away by the rhythm of language. It is never too early to start reading.


Sensory bags with contrasting colours and various textures are a fabulous accessory to tummy time. Babies at this age can become transfixed on the pattern but as a bub grows she can enjoy distinguishing between colours and exploring several fabrics.

1st MONTH:


Your 1 month old is beginning to become aware of her fingers and toes. So games such as “This Little Piggy”, “Round and Round the Garden” and counting each finger and toe, helps with body awareness. Around 6 weeks you may even be rewarded with a heart warming smile for your efforts.


Babies can now track objects with their eyes. Grab a noisy toy like a rattle, shake it and move it around slowly.


Your little one may have started to coo, hum, goo, grunt and gurgle to get your attention. Develop her communication skills by responding to her face-to-face. She is bound to want to keep discovering her vocal range with your encouragement and interest.

2nd MONTH:


Take your baby outdoors and allow her to watch the leaves dancing in the breeze or the washing on the line flapping in the wind. Lay her on a mat or in a portable cot.


Bub won’t be able to pick up items yet but will love using her sensitive tongue, lips and mouth to explore toys you can place on her hand like the Gummee Glove. She will be able to distinguish between hard and soft.


Although they won’t be able to recognise themselves, babies are tickled pink by their own reflections.


Between now and four months, little ones will start to see colour more clearly – especially primary colours. Purchase or make a pin wheel and watch your baby be enchanted by the whirling colours.

3rd MONTH:


A play mat becomes convenient during the third month as baby begins to swipe at all sorts of interesting objects above her; developing her hand and eye coordination.


Collect a bunch of house hold items that make noise when manipulated, for instance tin foil, baking paper, rattle, squeaking toy, salt shaker and rice in a plastic bottle. Allow baby to explore each material and its sound.


Propping your baby’s chest slightly with a feeding pillow or rolled up towel will allow your loved one to view the world from a whole new perspective and use her arms and hands without the restriction of her body weight. Lay fresh herbs in a tray for bub to investigate their smell and texture.


Getting out is beneficial for both of you. Go for a stroll with your baby and describe everything you see. Let her absorb her world through smell and touch. Her bank of sounds will improve the more you attempt to communicate with her.


By now your baby is beginning to look in the direction of sound and recognise her name. Move around the room and call, “(baby’s name), can you find me?” Continue to call baby’s name until she looks at you. Reward her with cheers and smiles, “You found Mummy/Daddy/Grandma!” Expect some irresistible smiles!

4th MONTH:


Using an inflatable beach or exercise ball, or cylinder roll, hold baby firmly around the rib cage and rock her back and forth and from side to side on the ball to improve her body coordination and strength. To add an extra element of fun, pop a toy on the floor and ask her to grab it as she rolls forward.


Another great activity for gross motor development is laying your baby on her back slightly propped up by using a pillow facing you. Grasping her hands and wrists, gently pull her arms towards you lifting her body up to a seated position, and then slowly lower her body down again. Watch that she can maintain her head position (don’t let it drop backwards). Sing “We’re going up, we’re going up, as high as we can go…We’re going down, we’re going way down low. Up, up, up, up, up, up, up…down, down, down, down”.


Continue to develop your baby’s sight by creating a light path with a torch that baby can visually follow.

5th MONTH:


Who doesn’t love bubbles? Not only can they help baby with visually focusing on smaller objects and track moving things, they also assist your baby to anticipate repeated actions. Bubbles are a brilliant sensorial experience.


Use a child’s watering can or a milk container with holes in the bottom to create a joyful sensory experience with water for your baby. Spray her feet, this will encourage her to kick and splash.

6th MONTH:


Your baby loves to chat and take turns; mimicking everyday communication. She is beginning to make simple sounds such as ‘ba’ and ‘ma’. Copy her sounds and introduce animal noises. Using pictures, toys or puppets will enhance your play and allow your baby to make deeper connections between the animal and their corresponding sound. Your baby will be watching your mouth intently so help her out and over exaggerate your words.


Little ones can now reach out and grasp objects with two hands and pass the item from one hand to another. Grab a ball and pass it between the two of you.


Create rich learning experiences and engage the senses by making a treasure basket for your baby to explore. Add items such as crochet balls, a pine cone, a wooden spoon, a silk scarf, a wooden egg and cup, a rattle, pumice stone, a whisk, a large shell, an avocado stone and a bean bag. A variety of items permits your baby to study colour, texture and several properties of objects.


By now your baby is beginning to recognise new and old faces with their corresponding names. Design a simple photo album which includes all of the special people in baby’s life. Cuddle up and read it together.

7th MONTH:


Everyday your baby is expanding her memory and object permanence (understanding that an object is still there despite not be able to see it). Show your baby a toy and hide it inside a nesting cube, letterbox, cup or plastic container. Place the container inside a larger container and pass it to baby to find the special item. Increase the number of boxes to increase the challenge.


Using a tissue or wipes box fill it with several pieces of fabric of various textures. Your baby will love pulling out all of the treasures and dumping them on the floor over and over again-all whilst strengthening her fine and gross motor skills.


These are a fabulous little toy for this age group. Your baby is required to place the ball in the hole at the top and the pull the draw to retrieve the ball. Perfect for objects permanence, fine and gross motor development and hand and eye coordination.

8th MONTH:


Your baby loves repetition so action songs where she can anticipate what will happen next are ideal, for instance, “Around, Around the Garden”, “This Little Piggy”, “Pat a Cake, Pat a Cake”, “A Ring-a-Ring-a Rosie”.


The idea that objects have a purpose is beginning to emerge in your baby’s mind. She will find enjoyment in twisting, hitting, shaking, poking, squeezing and rolling items. Collect a large assortment of house hold items and toys and let her explore to her little heart is content. One of our faves is the Grimms Grasping Beads.


Lay on your back, place your little one on your shins and gently bring your knees to your chest signing, “Up in the air I fly, Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoooooom, zooooom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom”, as you move baby back and forward and from side to side through the air.

9th MONTH:


By now your baby is discovering how objects relate to one another. A wooden egg and cup help improve hand-eye coordination, using both hands simultaneously and wrist development.


Around the 9-10 month mark your baby will be initiating passing games. Grab a ball or balloon ball and sit on the floor and roll the ball to her. She will giggle as she stops the ball and rolls it back.


It is still early to be stacking blocks but some babies at this age start to randomly stack rings ono a stick. This activity assists with hand-eye coordination, concentration, gross and fine motor development and using both hands to complete a task.


You may notice your loved one is drawn to objects and toys that have wheels, levers and doors. This is because she is curious as to how objects work as she now has an understanding of cause and effect.


Grab some pipe cleaners and poke them into the holes of a strainer. Allow your baby to pull the pipe cleaners out. This activity will support the development of the important pincer grip which is essential for feeding, writing and dressing.


Clapping and waving are two social skills that your baby is learning. Incorporate them into a game of “If You’re Happy and You Know it”.

10th MONTH:


Your baby loves creating noise and discovering how items work. Drag out some wooden spoons, pots, pans and lids. Your little one will have a ball creating her own orchestra!


Nature offers so many magical sensory experiences. Get outside and let your baby explore the grass, rocks, bark, leaves and stones.


If your loved one is on the move, create a little obstacle playground for her. Include items she needs to climb over, crawl through, move under and around. This will improve her gross motor skills and balance. A Wobbel Board is a fabulous investment now.


Wooden rainbow blocks are a magnificent toy for all ages and development skills. Your baby can explore colour, texture, noise, ease aching gums and in a few months even stack them.


Mix up some edible paint. There are plenty of recipes out there, so select one that suits your needs. Lay out a large piece of paper and let baby loose. This is a fabulous kinaesthetic experience which also builds strength in large and small muscles, allows for experimentation with cause and effect and colour play.


Cook up a packet of spaghetti, pop your baby and the cool cooked spaghetti in the bath and watch her delight in the slippery, stringy substance.


An oldie, but a goodie. Encourage movement by chasing your baby around the house or outside. If she is crawling, get on all fours and scamper after her, if she is walking pretend you are a large creature and waddle after her. Make sure there is a tickle once you catch her; it’s guaranteed to get her giggling.


Place some balls in a muffin tray – 1 ball per area. Encourage your little one to remove the balls one at a time and then replace them. This activity supports early mathematical thinking of spatial awareness and 1 to 1 correspondence which is beneficial for counting a collection of items.


Although your little one won’t be able to independently stack blocks for a few months, she will love knocking down your creations.

11th MONTH:


Right now you will feel like you are constantly packing away and your baby is forever pulling things out. Make a game of it. Grab a box and fill it with toys (baby can help) and then tip them all out again.


Using a soft ball like a balloon ball, swing baby so that she kicks the ball.


Fill a container up with rice and add cups, funnels and other toys to their play space. Your baby will develop her fine motor, problem solving and life skills of pouring and scooping all through her natural curiosity.


As your child grows, bath play becomes a fun playground for learning. Grab a collection of items that float and sink and let baby investigate.


Fill plastic bottles with all sorts of stimulating sensory experiences.

Here’s some ideas:
• colour theme – red rice, red pom poms, red sequins, red ribbon
• water and glitter
• water, food colouring and detergent
• water, food colouring and oil
• fairy lights

Download your 52 Weeks of Play to print.


Yay! You’ve made it! Congratulations! The next 12 months brings so many wonderful play opportunities for you. As your precious little one will be on the move and want to go, go, go we suggest investigating in these fabulous pieces that will grow with your child for the next five years for their special birthday gift which can also be passed down to their siblings or own children.

Here’s our Top Picks:

first birthday presents

Wishbone Bike: No need for training wheels with this awesome bike.  Start off as a 3 in 1 and then change it into a balance bike when your little one is ready.  Want to take a look? See how our Herdsters all rode a bike before they were 3-no training wheels.

Wishbone Flip: Save space in your home with this rocker, rider and push toy. So handy!

Wobbel Board: So many fabulous activities with this product we don’t know where to start!

Outdoor Beanbag: jumping and climbing all over this guy is so fun

Snail Shape Sorter: this little guy is a pull/push toy and a shape sorter.  He’ll be your loved one’s greatest companion whilst she is learning to crawl and walk.

Grimms Rainbow: this gorgeous wooden rainbow will delight your loved one for many years to come.

Grimms Horse: another of our push/pull toys, the wooden texture of this beauty is captivating.

All children develop at different rates. The activities outlined are only a guide. If you have any concerns about your child’s development seek professional advice.

These baby games and activities are designed so you are present with your baby and nurture a loving bond. Safety is primary concern. Never leave a baby alone with water, small items or choking hazards.

For amazing baby gifts or 1st birthday gifts check out our amazing gifts at Sweet Elephants.