Let’s play!

Children don't need a lot to keep them entertained. Here are some simple games that won't break the bank, tailored to suit each age!

AGE: 0-6 months

Game: Baby sit-ups

When she can hold her head up, lay her on her back on the floor and gently pull her into a sitting position by her hands, saying ‘boo!’ when she’s upright.

Why it’s great

She’ll enjoy interacting with you, and it’ll strengthen her back and neck muscles.

Game: Clapping/singing games

Pat-a-cake, Round and Round the Garden, etc – show her how to clap her hands at the end.

Why it’s great

It encourages her awareness of her hands and gives her an early lesson in language.

AGE: 6-12 months

Game: Row, Row, Row the Boat

Sit your baby on your lap and, holding her hands, rock her backwards and forwards as you sing.

Why it’s great

She’ll develop her sense of balance as you rock and bounce her on your lap, and will learn more about language.

Game: In the bag

Fill a bag (not a plastic carrier) with a variety of baby-safe items – a rattle, a soft toy, some building blocks etc. Let her empty the bag then fill it up again.

Why it’s great

It introduces her to simple concepts like ’empty’ and ‘full’, ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, and improves her hand-eye co-ordination as she handles different objects.

AGE: 12-18 months

Game: Hide and seek

Play by hiding under the bed sheets first thing in the morning, or behind the sofa when you’re playing in the house.

Why it’s great

She’ll begin to understand object constancy – the idea that just because she can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s no longer there.

Game: Tea party

Buy a pretend tea set and host a party in the garden for your little one’s dolls and teddies.

Why it’s great

Pouring ‘tea’ (or water) teaches her about volume and tests her co-ordination, and entertaining her teddies boosts her social skills.

Your child will use gestures, body language and facial expressions to communicate, and you may instinctively do the same back, matching your actions to simple sentences. This is an important stage, because your child is developing a growing understanding of what’s said to him.

AGE: 18 months+

Game: Treasure hunt

Go out for a walk round the park and get your tot to collect objects from a list – a big, smooth stone; a feather; a pine cone (you can also download treasure hunt lists from here).

Why it’s great

It helps her object recognition, gives her some physical exercise and picking things up improves her dexterity and gets her used to shapes and textures.

Game: Shopkeepers

Set up a ‘shop’ on the kitchen table with pieces of fruit and tins from the cupboard. Get your tot to be the shopkeeper and find what you want to ‘buy’.

Why it’s great

She’ll learn about social roles and what different foods look like, and handling tins and boxes improves her hand-eye co-ordination.

AGE: 18-24 months

Your child starts to become more sophisticated at communicating now, and can take turns in speaking and listening. He begins to use language to give information or to ask for something – or just to chat. His speech development may go in spurts. For example, it may stay the same for months, and then he may suddenly gain several new words in a few weeks.

Things to try together

Read a story, take time to discuss what’s happening. Point out details in the pictures and let your toddler do the same, even if it makes the reading longer.

Collect funny words, or make up nonsense ones (‘Burp’, ‘Super-duper’). A lot depends on the way you say them! Never mimic your child’s mispronunciations – research has shown that children find it quite insulting, and may think that you’re the stupid one for not being able to speak properly! (‘Not twain – TWAIN!’ for train.)

Play and sing with hand puppets or little dolls – playing games with ‘characters’ gives lots of vocabulary practice and enriches his imagination.

Introduce numbers and colours when you have the chance – pointing out a red bus or counting the stairs.

Use simple adjectives such as good, bad, nice, horrible, hot, cold.

AGE: 2-3 years

Your child will now start to enjoy expanding language, talk lots, and increasingly realise the power of words. He may issue commands, add a ‘please’ when reminded, use verbs fluently, and by three, he’ll start to get to grips with tenses including past, future and conditional. He’ll also use plurals and possessives, begin to grapple with pronouns (I, me, you) and may use ‘and’ to link sentences.

Things to try together

Listen to your child and give him enough time to finish what he’s saying, without jumping in to finish the sentence for him.

Create a speech-friendly environment – turn the radio or TV off, and don’t let a baby or older sibling always shout your child down.

Don’t correct grammar or mispronunciations. If you can tactfully repeat the word correctly yourself, your child will eventually pick it up.

Whispering games are fun and help your child form and express words.

If your child is going through the ‘Why?’ stage, try to answer his questions (even though it can be hard!). A short answer will do.

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