Grow Through Play


Play and Learn

Looking for a special way to spend time with your child? You’ll find lots of interesting play and learn ideas here—simply select your child’s age from the ranges below. 

Most “play and learn” activities I suggest use materials you probably already have at home. And along with step-by-step instructions, we highlight the learning skills your child will be developing while having fun with you!

BIRTH TO 3 MONTHS

Mouth Music


Bet you didn't know you had a whole music machine right in your mouth! Your baby loves to hear a variety of noises, and your mouth is just the instrument necessary to make a perfect symphony.

Materials

  • Your mouth, tongue, teeth, and lips

Instructions

  • Hold your baby in your lap, facing you so he can see your face clearly.
  • Begin making noises with your mouth, such as 
    * Kissing and smooching 
    * Clicking your tongue 
    * Making raspberries with your tongue 
    * Blowing your lips like a motorboat 
    * Growling, squealing, gurgling, cooing 
    * Whistling, singing, humming 
    * Making animal sounds, such as a duck, dog, cat, horse, cow, pig, chicken, rooster, monkey, snake, bird, donkey, or wolf

    Tummy Talk

    Your baby begins learning speech and language long before he utters his first word. Besides talking to your baby, try a little Tummy Talk. It makes speech and language a sensory experience.

    Materials

    • Your mouth
    • Soft blanket

    Instructions

    • Remove your baby's clothes (nappy optional) and place him on a blanket, on his back
    • Kneel down beside your baby, chat for a mument, and gently rub his tummy.
    • Now it's time for Tummy Talk. Press your face and lips onto your baby's tummy, and talk, sing, recite a nursery rhyme, or just make up funny words. Vary the pitch and loudness of your voice as you speak.
    • Add a few kisses each time you finish your words.
    • Sit up and smile at your baby after each Tummy Talk. Your baby should be giggling while you play and anticipating the next ticklish chat.

    Baby Massage

    Your baby begins to respond to touch immediately after birth. The first welcome your baby receives is the tactile comfort of your touch as you hold him. Provide your baby with a Baby Massage so he can delight in the pleasure of your soothing hands.

    Materials

    • Blanket or towel
    • Baby lotion

    Instructions

    • Spread a blanket or a towel on a soft carpet.
    • Place your naked baby on the blanket, on his tummy.
    • Pour a little baby oil into your hands and rub your hands together to warm up the oil.
    • Gently massage your baby from his neck to his shoulders, down his arms to his hands, down his back to his buttocks, down his legs, and to his feet. Use a gentle touch, not too firm and not too light.
    • Turn your baby over on his back and repeat, using more oil.

    3 TO 6 MONTHS

    Touch 'n' Tell

    Your baby’s environment offers a lot of stimulation for her five senses. Provide your baby with a rich variety of interesting things to explore, and she’ll have a great time with her hands and mouth.

    Materials

    • Variety of favourite foods
    • Highchair
    • Plastic floor covering

    Instructions

    • Prepare a number of interesting foods for your baby to touch, taste, and smell —in very small amounts—such as fruit flavored gelatin, yogurt, banana, O-shaped cereal, oatmeal, spaghetti, and so on.
    • Spread a plastic floor covering in the kitchen, and place the highchair on the covering.
    • Seat your baby in the highchair and place one food item on the tray.
    • Let your baby play with the food for a few minutes, exploring it with her hands and mouth.
    • Remove the food and offer a second item for exploration.
    • Watch your baby’s expression as she examines each new food. Make sure to name and descote each item as you place it in front of your baby.

    Play Puppet

    As your baby’s vision improves, he can see objects more clearly at greater distances. To work on his focusing and tracking skills, keep a Play Puppet “handy” for feeding, changing, or play time.

    Materials

    • Clean white sock
    • Permanent felt-tip markers

    Instructions

    • Buy a pair of white socks, large enough to fit over your hands.
    • Use permanent felt-tip markers to draw eyes, eyebrows, noses, and ears on the socks’ toes. Outline the heels to create mouths, and draw red tongues inside the folds.
    • Place your baby in your lap, on the changing table, or in his infant seat.
    • Slip one puppet onto your hand and entertain your baby with songs, rhymes, or simple conversation. Slip the second puppet onto your other hand for two-handed fun.

    Upsy-Daisy

    Your baby will soon lose two reflexes she had at birth—the grasp reflex and the baby-doll reflex (she opens her eyes when she sits up)—as she gains more control over her movements. While she still has them, play Upsy-Daisy to take advantage of these reflexes!

    Materials

    • Soft, unslippery surface
    • Your hands

    Instructions

    • Lay your baby on a soft, unslippery surface, such as a carpet.
    • Sit at her feet, facing her.
    • Place your thumbs in your baby’s palms and let her grasp them. As she does, wrap your fingers around the backs of her hands.
    • Slowly pull your baby to a sitting position and say, “Upsy-Daisy” as you go.
    • After your baby’s had a mument to see your happy face and enjoy the game, lay her back down and play again.

    6 TO 9 MONTHS

    At the Zoo

    As your baby begins to talk, she loves making sounds. So take an imaginary trip to the zoo and learn about animals while you increase your baby’s listening and language skills.

    Materials

    • Stuffed animals or large pictures of animals
    • Infant seat
    • Your voice

    Instructions

    • Collect a variety of stuffed animals or large pictures of animals.
    • Seat your baby in her infant seat and sit facing her.
    • Hold up an animal or picture next to your face, so your baby can see your mouth, then make the animal’s sound.
    • Give your baby a chance to imitate the sound, then repeat the sound.
    • Hold up the next animal or picture and make the appropriate sound.
    • Repeat for all the animals or pictures.
    • Hold up the animals or pictures again, this time pausing a mument before making the animal sounds, so your baby can anticipate them.

    Pony Rides

    As your baby increases her neck strength and head control, you can take her on some gentle pony rides. Choose a favourite nursery rhyme, or sing the ones below.

    Materials

    • Your knee
    • Small, soft blanket or towel

    Instructions

    • Lay a small, soft blanket or towel over your knee, for your baby's comfort.
    • Seat your baby on your knee, facing you, and hold her arms for support.
    • As you recite a rhyme, gently bounce your baby up and down.
    • Repeat the rhyme several times before moving on to another. Following are some rhymes to try:

      Humpty Dumpty 
      Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
      Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
      All the king's horses and all the king's men,
      Couldn't put Humpty together again.

      To Market, to Market 
      To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
      Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
      To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
      Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

      One, Two, Bounce My Shoe
      One, two, bounce my shoe;
      Three, four, tap the floor;
      Five, six, give a kick;
      Seven, eight, legs stand straight;
      Nine, ten, start again.

    Open and Close

    For several months after your baby is born, she has a reflex to grasp objects in her palm, but she has trouble letting go. Here’s a game to help her gain further control of her hands and her grasp reflex.

    Materials

    • Medium-size toys easily grasped in your baby’s hands, such as rattles, stuffed animals, teething rings, blocks, and so on
    • Table or highchair

    Instructions

    • Collect a variety of graspable toys that fit in your baby’s hands.
    • Seat your baby in your lap next to the table or in her highchair.
    • Place a toy near your baby, so she has to reach a little to grasp it.
    • Encourage her to take the toy.
    • After she has grasped the toy and enjoyed it for a mument, gently peel open her fingers and remove the toy.
    • Place it back on the table.
    • While your baby’s hands are free, sing the following song as you open, shut, then clap your baby’s hands. 
      Open, Close Them 
      Open, close them, open, close them, 
      Give a little clap! 
      Open, close them, open close them, 
      Put them in your lap!



      9 TO 12 MONTHS OLD

      Box-in-a-Box

      Part Jack-in-the-Box, part Guess-What’s-Inside, this game will keep baby guessing—and giggling. Be sure you have something special at the end of the game to make the wait worthwhile!

      Materials

      • Variety of boxes in different sizes, nesting one inside another
      • Toy or treat

      Instructions

      • Collect a variety of boxes that will nest one inside another. Try to get very large boxes and very small boxes, as well as everything in between.
      • Place a special toy or treat in the smallest box for your baby to discover at the end of the game. Close the small box and place it in the next larger box; close the outside box.
      • Continue until you’ve nested all the boxes inside each other, ending with the giant box.
      • Bring your baby into the room and show her the box.
      • Ask her, “What’s inside?” and help her open the box.
      • When your baby sees the next box, say, “Another box!” Lift that box out of the bigger box and ask your baby to open it.
      • Continue until you get to the smallest box, then let your baby open up the surprise!

      Spaghetti Worms

      Babies love gross stuff; they love to touch, squish, and eat anything that has an interesting texture. Here’s a fun way to let your baby enjoy her senses while she gets some good nutrition!

      Materials

      • Cooked spaghetti, room temperature
      • Highchair and tray

      Instructions

      • Seat your baby in her highchair and secure the tray.
      • Drop a handful of room-temperature spaghetti onto the tray (no sauce).
      • Let your baby explore the spaghetti. She may try to pick them up, pinch them, squish them, smash them, pound them, grasp them, and finally put them in her mouth.
      • If she starts to throw the spaghetti, redirect her to dropping them on the tray.

      Fingers, Toes, Hair, Nose

      To acquaint your baby further with her body parts, play this simple singing game. It will keep your baby on her toes, while she tries to find her nose! And you can create more lyrics for more body parts.

      Materials

      • Floor or infant seat
      • Your voice

      Instructions

      • Seat your baby on the floor or in her infant seat, and sit facing her.
      • Sing the following song, and move your baby’s finger to the appropriate body parts. 
        Put Your Finger in the Air 
        Put your finger in the air, in the air,
        Put your finger in the air, in the air,
        Put your finger in the air, then put it in your hair,
        Put your finger in your hair, in your hair.
        Put your finger on your nose, on your nose,
        Put your finger on your nose, on your nose,
        Put your finger on your nose, then put it on your toes,
        Put your finger on your toes, on your toes.
        (repeat with arm/leg, cheeks/chin, lip/hips, neck/back, then)
        Put your finger on your finger, on your finger,
        Put your finger on your finger, on your finger,
        Put your finger on your finger, and then in your lap, 
        At the end of the song, give a clap!


      12-18 MONTHS OLD

      Heart People

      Materials

      • Construction paper in red, white, and pink
      • Glue or paste

      Instructions

      • Using red, white, and pink construction paper, trace and cut hearts, ranging in size from two to six inches.
      • Glue the hearts together in different combinations to form heart people, using large hearts for heads and bodies, smaller ones for arms, legs, and so on.

      • Baby's House

        It’s time to move your baby to his own little home-within-a-home, so he can get a sense of his budding independence. The house will soon turn into a fort, a cave, even a space ship, as your baby’s imagination grows!

        Materials

        • Card table or other small table, or large cardboard box
        • Sheet, blanket, or other covering
        • Large floor space
        • Flashlight

        Instructions

        • Set up a card table in the middle of a large floor area.
        • Cover the table with a sheet or blanket to form a house.
        • Fold back a corner to make a door.
        • Go inside and bring your baby with you.
        • Close the corner door and enjoy your new space.
        • When baby feels comfortable, leave him to enjoy his house by himself.
        • Give him a flashlight if his new house is a little dark.
         can also try making heart animals.

      Strike up the Band

      Your baby enjoys exploring new sounds, and he especially likes making noises. Here's an opportunity for him to join his first band—and he can play all the instruments!

      Materials

      • Noise-making items from the kitchen: aluminum or tin pie pans, pots and pans, plastic bowls, wooden spoons, basting brushes, whisk, empty oatmeal or cereal boxes, empty milk cartons, spoons, plastic cups, and jars of seeds or beans
      • Kitchen floor

      Instructions

      • Collect a number of noise-making items from the kitchen and place them on the floor.
      • Seat your baby in the middle of the kitchen instruments and let him explore their properties.
      • Teach your baby how to make a variety of sounds—pound, tap, beat, shake, rattle, even roll.
      • After your baby has some fun with the instruments, turn on some music and teach him how to keep rhythm.

      18-24 MONTHS OLD


      Animal Pancakes


      Encourage your little chef to be a part of the process!

      Materials

      • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      • 2 tablespoons sugar
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 3/4 teaspoon salt
      • 3 tablespoons salad oil
      • 1 1/3 cups milk
      • 1 egg, slightly beaten
      • Chocolate chips or blueberries (optional)

      Instructions

      • In a large bowl, with fork, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; add salad oil, milk, and egg, and stir just until the flour mixture is moistened.
      • Preheat an electric griddle or a skillet; grease lightly with salad oil.
      • Use a spoon to drop the batter into the pan to make animal shapes. A bunny needs only a round shape for the head and two long shapes for ears (and maybe chocolate chips or blueberries for eyes). Try to make a mouse with an oval body, smaller drops for the head, ears, and feet, and a long thin tail. A turtle can be one big spoonful of batter surrounded by six smaller drops. Try a cat, bird, giraffe, elephant—use your imagination!

      Edible Necklace

      Materials

      • Shoestring licorice
      • Cereal or crackers with holes in the middle

      Instructions

      • Tie a knot at one end of a piece of shoestring licorice (or a plain piece of string).
      • Show your grandchild how to thread cereal or crackers with holes in them on the string, and then tie both ends together into a knot.
      • The end result will amuse your grandchild for quite some time.
      • In the grocery store, he can eat one piece each time you put something in the cart; in the car, he can eat one piece each time he sees a dog or a red car.

      Nature Bracelet

      Materials

      • Masking tape
      • Scissors

      Instructions

      • Before going outdoors with your child, wrap a piece of masking tape to his wrist, sticky side up. As you explore, help him attach colourful leaves, flowers, and other interesting discoveries to his bracelet.
      • When done, use scissors to snip off the nature bracelet.
      • Display on a bulletin board, shelf, or wall.

      Growing Plants

      Materials

      • Seeds
      • Shallow dish of water
      • Planters
      • Potting soil

      Instructions

      • Your grandchild will be fascinated to see how plants grow from seeds or cuttings.
      • Soak seeds from an orange, apple, grapefruit, lemon, or lime in water for a day or two.
      • Fill several planters with potting soil and place three or four seeds in each one about half an inch deep. Water the seeds, place the pots in a sunny spot, and watch for the green shoots to grow.
      • You can try planting seeds in a pattern or shape: a letter, number, square, or circle.

      Body Tracing

      Materials

      • Drawing paper
      • Crayons, coloured pencils, or washable markers
      • Water colours
      • Glitter glue or poster paint (optional)

      Instructions

      • Have your grandchild stand on the paper while you trace around his feet. Use another sheet of paper and have him trace your feet. Compare sizes.
      • Place your grandchildamp;quot;s hands on the paper and trace around them. Have him do the same for you, then compare the tracings.
      • Colour in the traced hands and feet. If you like, use water colours, glitter glue, or poster paint to add rings and polish to the fingers and toes.


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