mom playing with her baby on a toki mats play mat
child-development

How to Play With Your Baby: 6-12 Months

June 13, 2022

Just a few short months ago, your baby was just a helpless newborn who did little more than eat, sleep, and poop. Although the days may have felt like an eternity at the time, your little one has grown so much in the blink of an eye. Now, at 6 to 12 months old, your baby has entered a delightful age where they’re growing and developing at an incredible pace. They’re alert and interactive, and you are now able to truly play with them. Although play time in the first 6 months of your baby’s life may have felt one-sided, their personality is now beginning to shine. Your baby learns the most from playing with you, and they have begun to show a strong attachment to you as their primary caregiver. Although they probably won’t say their first words with intent until about 12 months of age, they’re still able to communicate their preferences nonverbally. During this magical period of development, they’ll begin to respond to their name, understand simple verbal commands, learn to sit independently, develop their pincer grasp, crawl, cruise, and even walk. While your baby mostly laid on their backs in the first few months, they now prefer to spend most of their time on their stomach, sitting up, or even on their feet. Your little explorer is highly curious and constantly learning through you, so playing together is the best way to encourage their development. Here are some age-appropriate ways to play with your little one that are not only entertaining for them, but will help them develop their cognitive and motor skills.

PLAY PEEKABOO

When you think of playing a game with a baby, peekaboo is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a classic game that has been around forever and can somehow always draw a smile out of every baby. At around 8 months old, your baby will begin to grasp the concept of object permanence. It’s an important milestone in your baby’s brain development and it involves understanding that items and people still exist even when you can’t see or hear them. The game is simple: hide your face behind your hands or a blanket, then reappear, and say, “Peekaboo!” It may not seem like much to adults, but it delights babies to no end. It’s cute at first, but when you’re doing it for the thirty-sixth time and beginning to tire? Use their favorite toys! Hide a toy under a blanket, and show them how it reappears when you remove the blanket. And when that gets old too? Just remind yourself that playing this silly little game helps their brain understand object permanence, and it makes your little one happy!

PLAY WITH STACKING TOYS

In the world of baby toys, you’d think that the most expensive ones that light up and make noise would be the biggest hit with your baby. Nope. Simple, open-ended toys are the way to go, and some of the most classic ones are stacking toys. You can’t go wrong with a stacking toy because not only do babies love it, it’s also highly educational. Whether you choose stacking rings, nesting cups, or stacking shapes on a puzzle, learning to stack objects can be crucial for your baby’s development. It helps their fine motor skills, problem solving skills, gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and more. Stacking toys are a great learning tool to build these skills, and they’re fun for your little one. Simply demonstrate the movements to your child and let them observe and learn. Then, let them get acquainted with the toys and see your baby improves their skills as they grow.

START WITH SIMPLE PUZZLES

Puzzles are one of those toys that can truly grow with your child because they vary in difficulty to be age-appropriate. They’re particularly important for toddler development, and are an excellent tool for developing a wide variety of skills that benefit your child over their lifetime. However, before your little one will be doing complex jigsaw puzzles, they’ll start with simple one-piece puzzles with knobs for easy grasping. These beginner puzzles are perfect for babies older than 6 months, and with your help, your child will eventually be able to complete the task at hand. Although your baby will probably be more focused on mouthing the puzzle pieces (and that’s okay!), you can let them explore the pieces and guide them through it. By doing these puzzles together, you have a great opportunity to help your little one build their cognitive, fine motor, and language skills. Use words like turn and flip to coach your baby to fit the pieces in place, and they’ll eventually be able to work through the problem independently.

READ, THEN READ SOME MORE!

If you’ve been reading books to your little one from birth, you’re already off to a great start. Even though your baby is still too young to do the reading themselves, hearing you read to them is a great way to boost their language skills at any age. Now that your baby is a little older, they are more engaged in the books and colors on the pages, and may even begin to try and turn the pages! At this age, your child can enjoy board books with bright colors, touch-and-feel, or lift-the-flap pages. Because many books for 6-12 month olds are tactile and highly interactive, they’re not only entertaining for your baby, but also foster an early love for reading. 

GET MESSY WITH SENSORY PLAY

Sensory play comes in all shapes and forms, and it can be as easy as letting them explore food on their high chair. At 6 months old, your baby has started eating solid food. Whether you’re giving them purees or following baby-led weaning, letting them explore their food with their hands is perfect for sensory play. Contrary to what we’ve been told before, letting your baby play with their food gives them a chance to explore different flavors and textures at their own pace.

Another way to incorporate sensory activities into your baby’s playtime is to make your own play-dough or finger paint. Since your little one is at an age where they want to put everything in their mouth, making your own taste-safe versions is a way to enjoy safe sensory play. There are many recipes out there that you can use with ingredients you already have in your pantry. Simply sit your baby down on their waterproof play mat or their high chair, give them the homemade play-dough or finger paint, and let them get messy. It’s incredibly fun and beneficial for them, as sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways. This type of play supports cognitive growth, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language development, problem solving skills, and so much more!

baby and toddler laying on a toki mats play mat

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How to Play With Your Baby: 6-12 Months

About the Author: Alice

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