Babies instinctively use all of their senses to explore the world around them. They love to play and interact with their family, helping them to develop their social, intellectual, language and problem-solving skills.
In the very early days, while babies’ eyesight is still developing, they love black and white toys and board books with simple shapes and pictures. You can help your baby begin to co-ordinate their head and eye movements, by encouraging them to keep watching a toy as you slowly move it in front of them. You can find out more about your baby’s eyesight here.
Floor play and tummy time are really important for babies during their first six months as they learn how to reach for their favourite toys and roll over.
Tummy time helps babies to strengthen their back, neck and shoulders. A small rolled up towel under the chest will provide support, helping to raise them up off the floor. You can gradually increase the amount of time your baby spends on their tummy as they get more confident. Babies must always be supervised when having tummy time, and should be placed onto their back if they fall asleep.
Noisy toys, bright colours and flashing lights will all attract a baby’s attention, but don’t feel you have to spend a fortune – babies are just as fascinated with everyday objects like wooden spoons, shiny fabric or a crinkly shower puff.
Try moving their toys just out of reach occasionally to encourage them to move, stretch and balance. Hanging mobiles or placing rattles where they can hit them or kick them helps babies learn about cause and effect too.
When your baby’s head gets stronger, help them to sit up while playing, supporting them with your legs or with cushions. Try covering their legs with a piece of light, soft material which they’ll enjoy kicking off. As they get older, babies start to enjoy making noises with objects – give them spoons and pans or plastic tubs to bang together.
Bathtime is also a great opportunity for playing, and splashing about helps babies learn to use their arms and legs. As they get older, they’ll also enjoy pouring water between different containers, and exploring cups, sponges and bath books.
Sometimes babies get a bit overwhelmed if there is too much stimulation. Give them a break by just holding them or singing quietly to them. If they look really tired, put them down for a nap.
Remember, all babies develop at different rates, so don’t be alarmed if other babies of a similar age are doing things that your baby isn’t yet doing. If you have any concerns, talk to your health visitor.
Babbling, playing and laughing with your baby is great for your own wellbeing too – it helps you to develop a loving bond with your little one. Find out more about looking after and supporting your own wellbeing here.