New Baby Games
With myriad choices in the stores today, it's easy to forget that some of the best games for you and baby are the ones where you are playing age-appropriate games together. But where do you start? The easiest way to look at the new games you can create on your own is to match them to specific time frames in baby's development. As you'll see, much of game-appropriateness is determined by baby's cognitive development.
Zero to Three Months
Most of the games you play in the first three months of baby's development are going to be the kind that you create yourself, since baby has no idea what fun really is at the moment. For some babies, being rocked is one of the best early playtimes they can share with their parents; however, for others, there needs to be more entertainment.
These little ones are all about their basic senses — especially sight and sound. They respond best to being held and danced with, having a private music festival with you in your living room, and watching a “light show” with a flashlight or a “baby planetarium” that flashes stars across their heavenly little bedroom ceiling. Keep it simple at this stage, and you'll have a peaceful, appreciative little child.
Don't inundate your baby with lots of toys and games — and don't expect to fill every quiet moment with giggles or smiles. Babies need some downtime just as much as adults do. An overstimulated baby will have difficulty staying on a good sleep schedule and may be more colicky than babies who have more periods of rest.
Four to Six Months
Your baby is bound to be a little more active now, so entertainment can be more physical (i.e., tactile or mouth-based). There's nothing a four- to six-month-old loves more than to explore the wonders of his own mouth, so have lots of clean teething toys around. You can also garner some giggles with tickle games, bubble blowing (outside or in the tub, which is probably the best place to play!) or playing “baby airplane” by holding baby up in the air, and pretending baby can fly.
Seven to Nine Months
Motor skill development, as well as crawling, can lead to some interesting places for baby to explore. While this can be a fun time, it can also be a dangerous one, so keep your eyes on baby at all times! Fun games for the seven- to nine-month set can include “Scavenger Hunt,” where you place favorite toys a foot or so away from baby and encourage baby to crawl to retrieve it; “Bang and Clatter,” a musical game using kitchen pans and wooden spoons (a timeless game!) and “Play Ball,” where you glide a small ball across the floor and watch baby learn how to play over time. Soon, your little one will be an old pro at motor skill games!
You can learn traditional rhymes and games, or you can purchase state-of-the-art stimulators, such as flash cards that come in black, red, and white and feature very simple shapes for baby to stare at. Or try videos featuring the faces of other babies or animated characters, CDs with funny songs for babies, or simple computer games for babies.
Ten to Twelve Months
Now that baby is likely to be holding on to tables and chairs and taking steps, it's time to start making play more interesting. Now is a good time to play with finger puppets or do a story time featuring short, simple-concept books that appeal to baby's sense of rhythm, sound, sight, and touch. Books that make animal sounds or that feature furry creatures are often favorites of babies close to one year old.