Fun Ways for Babies and Toddlers to Learn and Play

Fun Ways for Babies and Toddlers to Learn and Play

When we think of play, learning isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, your baby or toddler is actually constantly learning and developing skills through play. Yes, luckily, play is great for your child’s development, and since they will naturally want to play, it simply becomes a question of finding the best toys and types of play to suit your child’s age and development. To that end, we’ve put together a few suggestions to get you started.

Remember that children can develop and learn at different speeds, so don’t worry if your child’s learning doesn’t exactly fit the below timeline, it is intended as a guide only. Every child is different, and that’s the beauty of watching them grow!

Children of this age range will require adult supervision for play. We also advise always checking the age recommendation and any safety information on toys before giving them to your child.

 

0-1 Months                     4-6 Months                     10-12 Months                  2-3 Years

2-3 Months                     7-9 Months                     1-2 Years

 

0-1 Months

Baby Image

In the first few months of life your baby is constantly learning, after all, everything is new. As it turns out, your face is the best entertainment out there for an infant! At first, she can only see a few inches (around 9-15”), but filling her vision with the faces of those around her (and pulling some funny faces) is a great way to keep her amused.

Best Years Zebra Rattle

In fact, research shows that your baby can make sense of your face even before she can make out simpler shapes.

Your new arrival is also very good at registering high contrast colours, so try to choose toys that feature strong contrasts. She will also be good at grabbing (this is called the Palmer Grasp Reflex), and so easily grabbable toys will come in handy.

 

2-3 Months

Family Image

Your child will slowly start to hone his fine motor skills, and begin to develop his muscles. A great way to help your baby with this process is to give him lots of opportunities to interact with objects, such as things that can be dangled above for him to swipe at. 

My First Puppet Image

Mobiles are great for swiping at, but make sure these are removed once he can pull himself up! Repetitive motions will also be especially fun for him at this point.

You could try encouraging your baby to follow a soft toy with his eyes by moving it slowly back and forth above him. These kinds of early play experiences are a great way for your child to develop and practice hand-eye coordination. Colourful, interactive and noise making toys, such as puppets, can also encourage your baby to interact and move in ways that help those all-important muscles along.

 

4-6 Months

Lamaze Mini Teether Image

As your child gets that little bit older you’ll find she’s also getting all the more curious. Her world is a big place full of new, exciting things to discover and explore. As a result, your baby will use all of her senses to find out about her surroundings, so toys that are textured or that make noises are bound to be all the rage. A textured cloth book is a fun way for her to explore via touch and sight.

Her curiosity will mean that she will want to put everything in her mouth, so try to provide her with lots of nice, safe teethers and other suitable toys that won’t present a choking hazard.

Halilit Cage Bell Image

It’s around this age, also, that your baby will begin to develop an awareness of cause and effect (which is important for communication), and certain types of playing will help her to realise that she has an impact on the world around her. Musical instruments are a fantastic way to introduce her to cause and effect, as she hits and shakes things to create a sound. Encourage her to use both arms for these activities to help her develop her muscles and coordination. 

 

  

7-9 Months

Baby's First Book Image

Around this stage your child will become mobile, crawling around and, more than likely, getting into everything. At about this age you may also notice that your baby begins to be able to pick things up with his index finger and thumb (the pincer grasp), making his expeditions around the house all the more exciting (and more than likely messy). 

Crawling Baby Image

As your little adventurer boldly wreaks havoc around your home, you might want to consider creating a baby-safe space for him to explore, filled with things to safely drop and bang on.

Your baby may also begin to understand a few basic words, and so now is a good time to introduce simple books and toys featuring animals to help develop his early language skills (which is important even before he starts to talk). Speaking to him in full sentences whenever possible will also help along those language skills.

 

10-12 Months

Fisher Price Storybook Rhymes Image

Somewhere around this stage you’ll be wondering where your baby’s first year has gone, hasn’t it just flown by? But while it may seem like no time at all to you, your child will have learned and developed a huge number of skills by this point, preparing her for all the years ahead.

In the last couple of months of her first year your baby will be starting to fine tune her sense of balance and her fine motor skills. 

V-Tech Toy Phone

 She will be learning and gathering information at an incredible rate, and so lots of new and interesting stimulus is a definite must.

Singing songs like The Wheels on the Bus and nursery rhymes with her will help along those fundamental language skills that are so important early on. Playing simple games where an object is momentarily hidden behind something or in a box will teach her that objects are still there, even when she can no longer see them (object permanence), and is sure to cause some giggles of joy when she rediscovers something that was hidden.

Around the 1 year mark she’ll have fun imitating the things she sees around her (especially you), and so toy phones and keys may become a popular choice for your child, as she begins to learn about the mysterious adult world.

 

1-2 Years

Playing with Sand ImageAs your baby becomes a toddler, his curiosity will continue to fuel a lot of his play. During this stage, lots of nice (slightly messy) play with sand and water and simple painting activities is a fantastic way to nurture your child’s creativity, while also helping to develop his fine motor skills. Building blocks, such as Mega Blocks, offer similar benefits (and are great for encouraging concentration), with much less mess, and so they’re perfect for a rainy day indoors. Toys that boost perceptual skills, such as stacking rings, can also offer your child a new challenge to get stuck into.

Bigjigs Shape Sorter ImageTentative first steps will slowly transform into a more confident walk, so pull along and push along toys are a fun way for your child to play while showing off his impressive new skill.

Around the 18-month mark, try introducing him to some simple puzzles, such as shape sorters and jigsaws with just a few, large pieces. This will help to develop problem solving skills as well as hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Your little learner will be taking in as much of the world around him as possible. Simple activities like jumping in puddles (don’t forget the wellies!!!), or kicking up leaves is a fantastic way for him to explore and learn.

 

2-3 Years

Peppa Pig Soft Toy ImageHer imagination is the limit! At this age, your child will likely enjoy imaginative play, which can include anything from a tea party to role play and dressing up. It can also include her creating stories and a world around her toys (a puppet show with a story can be a good example of this). Character toys, animal toys and toys based on her favourite TV shows will also offer lots of imaginative opportunities.

Imaginative play has been linked to nurturing the development of empathy—as children become aware of different view-points than their own—as well as communication and problem-solving skills. It’s also tons of fun.Duplo Number Train Image

Around this age you could start to introduce her to letters and some basic counting, ready for when she starts school. Begin with something simple, like the letters in her name, or counting the number of buttons when you’re getting her dressed, you could even make a game of it. This type of learning play is more about making letters and numbers familiar to her, rather than perfecting her English and maths skills before school even begins, so don’t worry if your toddler isn’t exactly a savant yet.

 

Keep it Fun!

Finally, keep it fun! As much as anything else, tailoring play activities to your child’s likes and developing interests is an important aspect of keeping them engaged in what they’re doing, and so also a part of their learning.

If you’re looking for lots of fun ideas to help your little ones’ learning and development along, why not pop into our Toy Department, or take a peek at our baby and toddler toys online for a little play inspiration? 

Posted by Elena Woolley
15th June 2017

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