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Educational play with your baby

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Real mum's tip


"Maxwell is a really alert baby and has always enjoyed rattles, activity cubes and things with lights and sounds. And so when I bought him a drum his face lit up! I think it gives him independence."

Mums' Choice member Louise Rogers, mum to Maxwell, seven months

Your baby has an inquiring mind, she's ready to discover the world, and between six and 12 months her skills and abilities begin their rapid development. You can help encourage this by playing games that will help to stimulate her senses.

Games with baby from six months

  • Come and get it - shake a box with a toy inside, making it rattle, then place the box a couple of metres away from her. Her curiosity to find what's inside will motivate her to reach for the box and open it.
  • Build a tower - encourage her to pile blocks one on top of the other. This is quite a challenge - she needs to concentrate, co-ordinating hand and eye movements.
  • I do it, you do it - gently bang two wooden blocks together; she'll try it too, with your encouragement. By imitating you, your baby learns new skills and boosts her self-esteem.
  • Mirror play - even though your baby can't recognise her own image in the mirror, she'll have fun looking, especially if she catches sight of your reflection too.
  • Cause and effect - she's gradually realising she can influence her surroundings. That's why she pulls at a rug to get hold of the toy she wants.
  • Water play - at bathtime she'll love filling beakers with water then pouring them out. This is the first stage of learning about volume and the way liquids behave.
  • Peek-a-boo - this develops your baby's attention skills as she tries to anticipate your appearance.

Laughing and teasing

At around 12 months, she'll start to be creative with her abilities. Don't be surprised if she holds out a toy for you, pulls it away as you lean forward to take it, then bursts out laughing! This teasing is a sign of her growing self-confidence, her increased understanding of cause and effect, and her developing humour. Your laughter makes it even more enjoyable for her.

Learning good behaviour

Games give your baby the opportunity to learn about getting on with others, although she still has a lot to learn. For example, if she snatches a toy from another child and the other child starts to cry, she will probably stare at the other child with curiosity - she is unable to make the connection between her taking the toy and the other child's tears (this will happen at around 20 months). Respond calmly but firmly. Take the toy from her, telling her quietly but clearly that she shouldn't take things from another child like that, and return the toy to the original owner.

Which toys are best?

  • Toys with pieces fitting into each other, such as nesting beakers, shape sorters, wooden jigsaws.
  • Large plastic construction blocks, small wooden blocks, rings that stack on a pillar, stacking cubes.
  • Soft balls of different sizes and textures.
  • Water toys.
  • Dolls with removable clothes, cuddly toys.
  • Push-along and musical wind-up toys, toy drum and sticks.
  • Picture books, alphabet play mats, chunky crayons and paper.

Toys to help them look and learn