Here are some great ideas for play development that suits each stage of your¬†child’s development from birth to three years…

Newborn baby asleep0-3 months

What she can do:

Your newborn baby develops fast, emotionally and physically, communicating with smiles from around six weeks old and starting to coo and gurgle back when you talk to her. She gradually gains control over her body, starting with the head and neck from around four weeks old and uncurling her body, arms and legs.

Useful toys

  • ¬† Floor gym
  • ¬† First cot book with black and white patterns/shapes
  • ¬† Toys that make a noise when touched or kicked
  • ¬† Bright, musical mobile

Fun play activities

  • Talk and sing to your baby with your face at around 25cms away (she can’t focus beyond this). Give her turns in responding with noises and
    movements
  • Let your baby kick naked for a few minutes each day, so she can exercise freely and explore her hands and feet
  • Hold different items in front of your baby’s face for a minute or so to help her learn about different colours, patterns and shapes
  • Introduce fun tickling rhymes like ‘Round and round the garden’ and ‘This little piggy’ at changing
    time

Baby playing on the mat3-6 months

What she can do:

Your baby is realising she has hands (and feet), reaching out and exploring things with them. She’s getting stronger and more inquisitive and may be able to sit up, supported safely with cushions, so she can see what’s going on around her. She may start rolling over now, firstly from front to back, so don’t leave her alone on a high surface!

Useful toys

  • ¬† Sturdy board books with simple, clear pictures and strong, contrasting colours
  • ¬† Toys of different shapes, sizes, colours, textures and noises
  • ¬† Play mat to explore on the floor
  • ¬† Rattles, chewable toys and safe objects for her to munch on

Fun play activities

  • Place your baby on her tummy to play occasionally to strengthen her neck and back
    muscles
  • As your baby’s neck and back become stronger, sit your baby up and move toys across her line of vision so she can follow their¬†movement
  • Play at gently pulling your baby up into a sitting position, using the ‘Row, row, row your boat’¬†rhyme
  • Sort out a box with safe items of different textures, shapes and sizes to explore
    together

Toddler playing with a bucket6-12 months

What she can do:

This is a time of fast physical development when your baby may start sitting up unaided, followed soon afterwards by crawling. A few babies even walk before their first birthday, though first steps can occur much later. Mentally, your baby now knows what she likes (and doesn’t like), that she can make things happen, such as dropping a toy from the highchair and is becoming much more ‘talkative’ when playing and interacting with you and other familiar people.

Useful toys

  • ¬† Stacking beakers, rings or building blocks
  • ¬† Safe everyday objects such as wooden spoons, pans and lids
  • ¬† A ball for passing, rolling, throwing and dropping/picking up games
  • ¬† ‘Cause and effect’ toys with buttons and knobs to press and turn

Fun play activities

  • Play ‘Peek a Boo’ and other hide and seek games, for example, try hiding toys under a teacloth or mug, then looking for them¬†together
  • Give her raisins and small pieces of fruit to improve hand-eye co-ordination and practise the pincer grip (using her thumb and index¬†finger)
  • Sing nursery rhymes with actions (‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, and ‘The¬†Wheels On The Bus’) so she can copy¬†you
  • Play mirror games – point to different parts of her face, pull faces¬†and see if she copies you!
  • Clear out a lower kitchen cupboard so she can enjoy emptying stuff from it without
    danger

Toddler playing with toys on the floor1-2 years

What she can do:

Walking and talking will be the most significant developments during this year and these important new-found abilities open up masses of play possibilities. Your child will now start showing a definite preference for using her right or left hand and, although she’ll play a little on her own, you’re still her most valued playmate as well as her best teacher.

Useful toys

  • ¬† A more complex shape sorter
  • ¬† Simple construction blocks such as Lego Duplo
  • ¬† Push along toys with wheels such as trucks and cars
  • ¬† Picture books on a theme, eg The Farm, Going Shopping
  • ¬† Chunky crayons and a scribbling pad

Fun play activities

  • Have fun with physical action songs such as ‘Ring a Ring of Roses’, ‘Incy Wincy Spider’, ‘Simon¬†Says’ and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’
  • Enjoy messy play with finger paints, homemade pastry,¬†water and sand to explore different textures and¬†shapes
  • Make a hand puppet out of an old sock, give it an identity and name and use a silly voice to tell your own stories!
  • Stimulate her imagination by making teddy come to life – include him in everyday activities such as mealtimes, walks and¬†bedtime

Toddler reading a book2-3 years

What she can do:

Your child’s understanding and enjoyment of the world around her now speeds up as her physical skills mature and she’s able to tell you what she needs and desires – two year olds may speak as many as 200 words while understanding many more! This is also the age of the ‘terrible twos’ (though it may have already started) as she tries to assert her will over everyone else’s so you’ll need plenty of strategies for heading off trouble – distraction being one of the best!

Useful toys

  • Make-believe toys such as a play phone, farm, plastic tea set, toy¬†tools
  • Large shape picture puzzles/jigsaws
  • Books with a more complex plot and identifiable¬†characters
  • More physically demanding ride-on toys such as a first trike or¬†tractor

Fun play activities

  • Provide old adult clothes, hats, gloves and shoes for dressing up and make-believe games
  • Have fun constructing safe indoor and outdoor dens with chairs, blankets and boxes
  • Get creative with arty stuff – glue, paper, stars, glitter and crayons all come into their own now!
  • Take a paper bag out on walks and collect ‘treasure’ such as fallen leaves or small stones. Take them home, look at them together and talk about¬†them
  • Give your child plenty of fresh air to burn off excess energy and build on her physical agility with regular trips to the park/playground.

Don’t forget!

Your child may develop skills sooner or later than in any of the age guidelines above but if you’re worried about any aspect of your child’s development, talk to your health visitor in the first instance.

… And remember to play safely. Always be on the look out for small objects that could choke, physical dangers such as sharp objects and trapping hazards, and always heed age warnings on toys!