Let’s play: the first six months

Babies instinctively use all their senses to explore the world around them, and there are lots of things that you as parents can do to encourage them.

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.

Floor play is really important for babies during their first six months as they learn how to reach for favourite toys and roll over. Make sure that when they’re lying on a playmat, or in a cot or in a buggy, babies have interesting things to look at and touch. 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 rattles where they can hit them or kick them helps babies learn about cause and effect.

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’s 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.

Tummy time’s also really important in the first six months. It might take a while for your baby to get used to it, but it’s great for strengthening neck, back and arm muscles ready for learning to sit up and crawl. Put your baby down on a soft mat or blanket so they can stretch out and kick their legs. 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.

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.

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Page last reviewed: 16-10-2017

Next review due: 16-10-2020