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First Year

Playing With Your Baby

Ways to play
The first six years of life are the most important for healthy brain development

The first six years of life are the most important for healthy brain development

Learn how playing with your baby can help with his physical, Cognitive (how your baby thinks), language, social and emotional development in the first year of life.

0 – 2 months
Babies like to:

  • Look up and see your face, smile and coo
  • Listen to your voice and musical sounds
  • Be held, rocked, cuddled and massaged
  • Lift their head when lying on their tummies
  • Be placed in different positions so they can look at different things
  • Follow a moving object with their eyes

You can:

  • Talk and sing to your baby when changing, bathing, feeding and dressing
  • Hold baby close to your face and smile and talk to your baby
  • Allow your baby to spend time on his tummy when he is awake once the cord has fallen off
  • Hug and hold your baby close
  • Hang a mobile over your baby’s crib
One month
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Likes to move his arms and legs around. Allowing clothes and blankets to be loose enough to enable movement
Placing your baby in a safe place to play e.g., crib
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can focus on objects 8-12 inches away Holding your baby close to your face
Putting interesting shapes/patterns around the crib that are black and white
Language Can hear voices and sounds and can turn to a familiar voice Talking and singing to your baby
Playing music
Reading to your baby (lets your baby use all of his senses)
Social/emotional Cries to tell you he needs something Trying different ways to soothe your baby such as rocking, talking softly, stroking, cuddling and singing/humming
Understanding that your baby cannot be spoiled by being picked up when he cries

2 – 4 months
Babies like to:

  • Play and hold objects with two hands
  • Reach out and grasp objects
  • Turn their head to your voice and make a variety of sounds and coos
  • Laugh and smile at you
  • Lift their head and support themselves on their forearms when lying on their tummies

You can:

  • Give your baby toys that are safe to chew and shake
  • Repeat your baby’s actions and talk back to her
  • Follow your baby’s lead of play and recognize when your baby does not want to play anymore
  • Wait for your baby to respond and react to your baby by smiling, laughing and praising
  • Give your baby supervised time playing on the floor on his tummy
Two months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical May begin to try to lift her head when lying on her stomach  Placing your baby on stomach and back during playtime – “tummy-time
May hold an object for a few moments
Putting a toy in front of your baby, such as a rattle.
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can follow movement with her eyes Putting a mobile above the crib
Moving a rattle from one side of your baby’s head to the other
Language Gurgles and coos when spoken to and turns head at sounds close by Repeating sounds your baby makes
Playing soft music
Social/emotional Smiles at people and is soothed by a gentle, familiar voice Smiling at your baby when you see her
Soothing your baby by talking softly and repeating words and phrases


Three months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Puts things in his mouth  Giving your baby soft toys that are safe to mouth. Do not give your baby soft vinyl toys that contain the chemical DINP. Visit Health Canada for toy safety information.
May swipe at dangling toys
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Likes simple games Playing games like “shake the rattle” or rings
Language Begins to make “ooh” and “aah” sounds and squeal Copying your baby’s sounds
Looking at and talking about picture books
Social/emotional Smiles in response to caregivers face Holding your baby closely and securely
Enjoys playing with other people and may cry when playing stops

4 – 6 months
Babies like to:

  • Hear familiar voices, make a variety of sounds and babbling noises and listen to music
  • Kick and use their legs
  • Look in the direction of a new sound and respond to their name
  • Sit with support
  • Roll from back to stomach and stomach to back

You can:

  • Let your baby see and touch your face and play peek-a-boo
  • Repeat your baby’s talk and speak to your baby often (repeating words and stories helps develop your baby's memory)
  • Provide safe and chewable objects for play like blocks and colourful textured toys
  • Play music, use songs and rhymes in gentle tones
  • Place your baby on her tummy and encourage your baby to roll
  • Change your baby’s position often throughout the day
  • Read to your baby every day
Four months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical May support herself on her forearms when lying on her stomach and may roll from back to side Putting a mat on the floor for playing
Can hold her head steady when supported in a sitting position Placing toys a few inches out of your baby’s reach
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can turn her head from side to side to follow a toy Moving toys from one side to the other side of your baby’s head (e.g. a bright, soft ball)
Language Will babble to herself and to others Talking to your baby and explaining what you are doing
Bringing your baby closer to family activities so she can hear conversations
Social/emotional Gets scared by loud/angry voices Not using loud/angry voices around your baby
Responds to your soothing
Can recognize her mother Using a mirror and pointing out baby and mother


Five months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Rolls from stomach to back Encouraging your baby to reach for things
Enjoys rocking on his tummy and kicking his legs Giving your baby a safe place to move around
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can see objects far away Taking your baby for walks outside and pointing out new things
Putting your baby in places where he can see what is going on around him
Language Reacts to music and other sounds by cooing Singing songs and nursery rhymes such as, Humpty Dumpty, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Social/emotional Looks and vocalizes when his name is said Using your baby’s name
Smiles at himself in the mirror Putting your baby in front of a mirror
Enjoys exploring adult features

6 - 8 months
Babies like to:

  • Sit alone and use their hands for balance or sit with assistance
  • Stand on your lap with help; get on hands and knees and rock
  • Combine sounds with actions and babble, saying “mama”, “dada” and “nana”
  • Throw, wave and bang toys together
  • Begin to crawl and pull up on furniture
  • Play with objects that are easy to hold and of different shapes, textures and colours
  • Sit with you for family meals

You can:

  • Provide objects of different colours and textures.  Encourage your baby to use both hands
  • Sing action songs like “pat-a-cake” and imitate sounds
  • Place your baby on his tummy and encourage your baby to push up and reach for toys
  • Put toys out of reach and encourage your baby to move towards them
  • Provide quiet time by hugging, holding, talking, singing and reading to your baby
Six months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Can sit with support for a short time Sitting your baby in an infant seat or supported with pillows with your supervision so she can see things all around her
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can play with a single toy for a short time Giving your baby different toys to play with (e.g. board or cloth books, activity centre)
Enjoys banging, splashing, reaching and grabbing for things (e.g. hanging toys, soft cuddly toys)
Language Says dada and mama non-specifically Pointing out who mama and dada are
Social/emotional Can tell she is separate from mother Pointing to baby and mother in the mirror
Wants to be picked up when she stretches out her arms


Seven months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Can stand on your lap with support and may sit by himself Providing a safe place for your baby to practise sitting
Helping your baby go from sitting to standing on your lap
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can pick up a toy and move it from one hand to the other Encouraging your baby to pick up and pass toys (e.g. blocks)
Likes playing with his feet and pulling on his ears and hair
Language Tries to imitate sounds Imitating different sounds for your baby
Repeating nursery rhymes
Reading story books
Social/emotional May show fear with previously accepted situations Reassuring your baby and keeping her close by
Enjoys playing peek-a-boo games

8 -10 months
Babies like to:

  • Crawl and move around furniture
  • Sit without support for a few minutes
  • Bang toys together and use actions to get your attention
  • Empty a container full of toys, pick up the toys and replace them in the container
  • Use thumb and finger to pick up small, soft table foods
  • Continue to babble different sounds like “dada” and “mama”

You can:

  • Offer your baby objects to bang and stack, like soft blocks
  • Give big containers to hold smaller objects
  • Play games with your baby like peek-a-boo
  • Give your baby a variety of small objects to pick up
  • Allow your baby to crawl and explore
  • Let your baby lead the play
Eight months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Begins to crawl and may pull himself to stand Providing a safe crawling space
Dressing your baby in comfortable clothes
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Will overcome an obstacle to get an object Hiding a toy halfway under a blanket and watching to see what your baby does
Language Makes babbling sounds that are like real words Using simple words to help him go from babbling to talking
Letting your baby take part in adult conversations
Social/emotional May not let you go out of his sight without crying.  This is called “separation anxiety” and will resolve itself over the next few months. Letting your baby stay close to you
May play alone for two to three minutes Easing baby into new situations

Nine months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical May stand for a short time holding onto things and drop or throw objects Giving your baby sturdy things to pull herself up with
Encouraging your baby to pass, reach and hold toys like blocks and balls
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Understands what “no” means Saying “no” to your baby when appropriate and redirecting her attention to another activity
Enjoys dropping objects and watching you pick them up
Language Recognizes some words Naming objects
Repeating words
Social/emotional May show fear at going to bed and being left alone Having a night time routine
Enjoys finger feeding herself and is better at drinking from a cup Giving your baby a toy or stuffed animal to cuddle
Leaving a night light on

10 - 12 months
Babies like to:

  • Pull themselves to stand up using furniture
  • Walk with one hand held or alone
  • Drink from a cup
  • Repeat an action that gets a reaction, like knocking over blocks or clapping hands
  • Start games like hiding (peek-a-boo) or clapping (pat-a-cake)
  • Turn pages and point to pictures in books
  • Follow simple directions like “Get the ball”
  • Bend over and pick up objects from the floor

You can:

  • Repeat your baby’s talk, sing songs and rhymes and praise your baby for following directions
  • Read picture books to your baby with lots of colours and images
  • Provide toys that develop hand skills like noisemakers, wheeled toys and picture books
  • Encourage your baby’s sense of touch by offering objects of different textures
  • Teach your baby about feelings by naming them, for example – “Are you happy?”
  • Include your baby in family routines like eating at the dinner table
Ten months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical Makes stepping movements when held Holding your baby in a standing position for short periods of time
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Tries to imitate scribble Providing large, non-toxic crayons to scribble with
Language Imitates speech sounds Imitating sounds for your baby
Social/emotional Tries to please you by showing off new skills Recognizing your baby’s new skills and providing chances to practise them


Eleven months

Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical May be walking or cruising by holding onto furniture Giving your baby a safe place to move around
Covering the sharp corners of furniture or removing the furniture
May like turning pages in a book Showing your baby how to use toys in new ways (e.g. household items – spoons, pans)

Cognitive (how your baby thinks)

Is thinking of new ways to play with toys

Reading story books and linking words with pictures


Says mama and dada when looking at mother or father and may also say a few other words

Encouraging your baby to take part in the routine (e.g. getting ready for bed)


May start taking part in routines

Encouraging your baby to take part in the routine (i.e. getting ready for bed)


Twelve months
Development Your baby: You can help by:
Physical May stand alone for a moment and use a pincer grip to pick up small objects Providing a safe place to practise standing
Giving your baby appropriate finger foods
Cognitive (how your baby thinks) Can guide a toy manually and shows an understanding of colour and size Giving your baby push or pull toys and toys of different colours and sizes (e.g. cars, trains)
Enjoys putting and taking objects in and out of a container
Language Understands short instructions and lets you know what he wants by making combination sounds Asking your baby to do simple things
Responding to your baby’s requests
Social/emotional Explores the world enthusiastically Providing a safe place to explore

For more information:

Region of Peel — Public Health   
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216
To speak with a Public Health Nurse

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Revised: Friday February 17 2023

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