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Play Guide for Babies 0-12 Months

Play Guide for Babies 0-12 Months

Play is a really important part of your child’s life and builds the foundation for not only their physical development but also emotional and social development.  Independent play time is really valuable and important to build into your child’s day.  And its not just your child that will benefit – it’s also great for mum or dad as it gives you a moment to recharge (or clean; but I prefer recharge).  

Here are just some examples of how kids learn and develop through play:

  • Balance & Coordination
  • Imagination and creativity
  • Emotional development
  • Social skills
  • Strength
  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Language
  • Counting
  • Problem solving
  • Reflexes
  • Body awareness
  • Spatial awareness
  • Cause & effect
  • Visual development

PLAY helps to build their confidence and gives them a way to feel safe and at ease and a way to be calm.

There are so many books and online resources, not to mention information available from your maternal health nurse.  After the birth of my first child, this was one of the subjects that I became really interested in.   Montessori approach to learning was incredible to learn about.  Fascinating actually.  And you know, on the other hand, this is not something so revolutionary - it is the way we have all developed and learnt since time began.  The major differences now versus ‘the old world’ is more technology, and for a lot of households there is less ‘free play’ time for various reasons. I also think we feel under pressure to give our kids everything and for them not to miss out on anything. I think we forget (or feel guilty about) that keeping is simple is often the best way.  Unstructured play is gold for kids.

So, in the spirit of simplicity, we have created a simple play guide for different age groups. There are so many things that can go into this, we all live different lives, so build on it. Make it your own. But the most important thing to remember is to keep it simple, safe and joyful!  Let them go at their own pace and parents - enjoy the ride!


Play Guide for Babies Aged 0-1 Months

What to expect at this age

Sleeping, feeding and lots of cuddles are most important. Play will be limited as sleeping is the main priority (and adjusting to this bright new world.)  Baby is very weak with limited control over most of its body and most importantly it's still adjusting to this very different world. Soft, bright, gentle, musical toys are the main priority.  And sensory play like baby massage.  Touch and closeness are very important, especially from mum.

What will they be doing at this age

In the first weeks, baby is all about reflexes. The neck is floppy and needs a lot of support and if pulled up by the arms the head will fall back.  The key reflexes at work are: sucking, protective gag, grasp and startle.     Baby will only be able to see 30cm in front of it, but will be sensitive to light & of course sound. Within a few days eye contact and simple facial gestures should begin.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Social & Emotional

  • A mobile
  • A wind chime
  • Baby massage
  • Bouncer with hanging toys
  • Bright toy to track with eyes
  • Bright woollen toys on mat by their side to turn their head                      
  • Cuddles and a chat as a key bonding time
  • Different sounds (eg from an app or toy)
  • Face play particularly during close contact activities such as feeding & bathing
  • Limb exercises (bicycling legs, hand to foot touching),
  • Music listening
  • Play mat and play gym with bright toys
  • Vocalisations particularly during close contact activities such as feeding & bathing; talking time


Play Guide for Babies Aged 1-2 Months

What to expect at this age

It's time to start baby developing more physical skills - very slowly and gently.  Make sure that you are having good chats to the baby - you may even get a smile around 6 weeks. He should start kicking this month and his eye sight will be much better. He will be trying to swipe at the toys on the bouncer and play mat and kicking randomly. He can get overwhelmed very quickly so take things slowly and when baby looks like he's had enough, give him a break.

What will they be doing at this age

Limbs will be quite jerky; development of control of the fingers and hands may start to show through.  Head will still lag behind when baby is pulled up by the arms. Reflex walking movement when held up. Head will turn when touched on the cheek and towards light;   and eyes may be able to follow an object which is moved slowly. Noises may startle and initiate a cry.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Senses, Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills

  • Books/reading (short stories or picture books)
  • Bright, soft toys
  • Play mat exercises - eg slow and gentle side turns
  • Swings or bouncers with mobiles
  • Toys with different patterns
  • Toys with different textures
  • Toys with easy to hold pieces


Play Guide for Babies Aged 2-3 Months

What to expect at this age

Baby is so much more interested in the things around her now - she is so much more alert and interested.  She can watch the trees rustling outside, watch and take an interest with toys in her cot. And giggles!!  When the smiles and coo's are coming at you all day long it's the most beautiful thing.  She is much stronger now too and her developing body needs attention to develop.

What will they be doing at this age

Some babies may be able to hold their heads up on tummy position but not all.  Eyes continue to develop and defensive blinking should be established.  Facial expressions, head movement and interest when talked to or near will be increasingly more prominent. Baby should be responsive to attention when crying e.g. should stop crying when picked up or spoken to.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Senses, Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Social & Emotional Connections

  • Gentle arm pull ups for head control
  • Medicine ball or towel for tummy time
  • Music & singing
  • Small, easy to grab toys
  • Soft book
  • Soft musical toys - e.g. With string or music box
  • Tactile touch games -material waved overhead or played with
  • Toys that attach to hands or feet with a chime
  • Toys that make noises when hit
  • Tummy time with game (shapes, sounds, mirror)


Play Guide for Babies Aged 3-4 Months

What to expect at this age

Be expressive in your story telling to help in communication development.  And make time to have 'chats' with baby when she is chatting to you - imitate her sounds and take turns at 'talking' so that she starts learning the art of conversation.  This is also the time to help baby with hand-eye coordination.  She may also be more comfortable on her tummy - pushing up using her arms and looking around. She will be actively playing in her baby gym now and with her toys. You should be slowly trying to teach the rolling movements.  She is becoming aware of her own body - she will start playing with hands and fingers and will have more control of her movements. Toys which have sounds when hit or touched will be much appreciated.  Baby will be much more interactive this month - with laughter and first 'language' coming through.

What will they be doing at this age

Arms and legs will be waving and kicking.  The head will be strong and steady when pulled up by the arms. Most babies will be comfortable on their tummies and will hold their head up. Visual interest will be high and alert, moving to follow faces and sounds. Will be trying to grab / clasp toys with both hands, although will be very uncoordinated. Will start demonstrating excitement and anticipation for feeding, people, play and bath time.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Senses, Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Cognition, Language & Communication

  • Activity bar for pram/car seat
  • Bubbles
  • Flying/airplane game
  • Hard book with animals, different sounds, textures and noises
  • Looking out or being in the garden
  • Loops/rings with different textures e.g. Sensory loop links
  • Music toys
  • Play mat with different textures toys that make crinkly or chime sound
  • Rattle to hold (move it towards and away form his face so he learns)
  • Reading lullabies and nursery rhymes
  • Rolling from stomach to back / back to stomach
  • Touch & explore toys


Play Guide for Babies Aged 4-5 Months

What to expect at this age

Noise, sound and movement all start to come together now - rattling things, crinkling things.  You should see favourite toys starting to emerge.  Rolling one way may begin now, and baby should be able to hold head up when pulled up by the arms.  He will be voicing his opinions - be alter to his cues.  Toys start heading into the mouth and he will start to understand the mirror and be interested.   He will start using toys and reaching for them and may start to understand names i.e. attaching names to people, toys.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.

What will they be doing at this age

Baby will react immediately to voices and sounds and will be increasingly vocal.  Strength in the limbs and the upper body in particular will be changing considerably as baby starts to prepare for sitting. Grasping, reaching and more controlled movement is developing.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Social & Emotional Connections, Language & Communication

  • Articulate a sensory experience for a baby - touch, sight, sound, smell, taste 
  • Climbing on mummy or daddy for a more physical tummy time
  • Cloth books
  • Playing horses - put baby on knee and gallop gently
  • Prop up baby in a sitting position for gentle play (when ready)
  • Soft ball with chime inside
  • Talking & singing toys
  • Teething ring
  • The name it game – eg in the bath, name each bit you are going to wash so baby starts to learn body words
  • Toys that squeak when grasped


Play Guide for Babies Aged 5-6 Months

What to expect at this age

Start of more independent play - for short spurts, talking and active play with the feet.  Lots of chewing as the teething process starts. She will be communicating more with you, toys and people around her. Time to start introducing the concept object permanence -through games like peek a boo.  Some babies will start to pull up in a wonky standing position and be able to sit with some help. She is also getting much better - via body language -of letting you know what she wants and doesn't want.

What will they be doing at this age

Will be taking a greater interest in and trying to sit and ask to be seated.  Rolling will be developing in earnest now - front to back. Will be starting to bounce when in supported standing position.  Downward reflex  - legs extend if rapidly lowered.  Some may be putting arms out to balance when tilted. By 6 months baby may be able to manipulate toy with both hands.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Language & Communication, Cognitive, Social & Emotional Connections

  • Activity station
  • Baby swing
  • Balance games - on knees going left/right; forward/back
  • Blocks & shapes with different textures
  • Chewy toys
  • Comforter
  • Movement games on tummy - e.g. With ball, moving place to place
  • Peek a boo games
  • Picture/word books
  • Problem solving games, e.g. Sorting / pull-out toys
  • Sensory ball pit
  • Sensory balls
  • Spend time sharing with your baby on the play mat - trading toys, sharing, talking
  • Touch/feel books
  • Words books with recorded nursery rhymes


Play Guide for Babies Aged 6-12 Months

What to expect at this age

This is the period when your little one really starts to become a proper little person. They are starting to ‘talk’ in their own little way, communicate and socialise with people, start exploring the world around them for themselves; get well and truly into this eating business, and find their strength and balance.  (But always keeping a close eye on mum!) Language development really starts here, when they start to babble and then voice words like mama or dada. Towards the end of this period you will notice that they start to grasp the concept of ‘choice’ and being able to say no and also understand basic commands.

What will they be doing at this age

There is lot more physical strength in this age group which equals more exploring and more physical play. They will have greater head control, fine motor skills will improve considerably, sit first with support and then on their own. They will be considerably more aware of their surroundings, and people and things in them. As such they will respond to voices, reach for their toys and other objects around them.  This is the time when they start to crawl, and some will even be pulling themselves up on furniture and people.  Most babies don’t walk until after 12 months but some do. They will be a lot more interactive in games such as peekaboo and playing ball ie rolling back and forward.  And as they get into 9-12months they will start to enjoy toys that move or that allow them to stand and play.

Key areas of development using PLAY

Gross Motor Skills, Fine Motor Skills, Language & Communication, Cause & Effect, Eye – Hand Coordination, Balance & Strength, Problem Solving

  • Ball games
  • Colourful books,
  • Dancing to music
  • Jack in the box
  • Musical instruments
  • Metal Pot Lids
  • Rocking toys
  • Singing
  • Slides
  • Soft balls and balloons
  • Stacking toys
  • Standing and walking toys
  • Take out / put in toys
  • Toy telephone


CLICK HERE to read the Play Guide for Toddler 1-3 Years Old

CLICK HERE to read the Play Guide for Kids under 3-6 Years Old


Great Gifts and Toys For Babies 0-12 Months

Kido O - Activity Board

Introducing the new, 21st century Activity Board! Sound, light and vibration effects are triggered by baby's touch and modulated by their actions. Bright colours and interesting shapes hold your child's attention, and an integrated handle makes it easy to grab and go.

Kido O - Activity Board

Nobodinoz Magic Moon Musical Cushion

Let your baby sleep by the moonlight thanks to this musical cushions that will soothe them a sweet lullaby. A true journey invitation to the Land of dreams.

Nobodinoz Magic Moon Musical Cushion

Eguchi Wooden Music Box

This is a very beautiful wooden music box, with leather strap for hanging.  It can also lie flat.  Plays Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Beautifully designs and the tune is memorising. 

Eguchi Wooden Music Box


ZAZU Plush Comforter Heartbeat and White Noise Baby Toy

COMFORTS & SOOTHES YOUR LITTLE ONE BY MIMICKING A MUM’S HEARTBEAT or simply plays white noise (has 4 different setting including music.)

I bought the doggy – Dex – for my little one when we were going through a very unsettled period.  My favourite part is that it switches on by itself when she starts to cry. I have loved this. I have other ‘shushers’ and this one was definitely my favourite.  I also liked that I could choose how loud it is.  When she is away from home, rather than taking the whole animal, I just take out the sound module/machine and just have that with us. It's really convenient.

Zazu is a range of three animal soothers that calm babies with a range of sounds and melodies. Super soft to touch, very cuddly.

ZAZU Plush Comforter Heartbeat and White Noise Baby Toy  Dex the Dog

Nobodinoz Star and Moon Pram Chain

Pram time just got even better thanks to this playful pram activity chain.
The chain includes two activity toys: crinkle paper and rattle, as well as a teether ring in untreated maple wood. All of them can be taken off in order for your baby to get to grips with them. Elastic, the pram chain adapts to your needs! It can be hung above your stroller.

Nobodinoz Star and Moon Pram Chain


Nana Huchy Baby Rattle - Mini Eddie Emu

This range of little Aussie rattlers will have you going gaga!  So cute I you'll be shake, rattle and the baby will be rolling!!  This tiny little Emu buddy will delight and sooth your little one and be a mate for years.  Other animals available.

Nana Huchy Baby Rattle - Mini Eddie Emu

Hape Toys - Rotating Music Box

The Hape Rotating Music Box is ideal for infants and older. 

A soothing and gentle toy for your kids to experience music in a fun way, . This toy helps with your childs development of spatial intelligence and movement.

 Hape Toys  Rotating Music Box

Happy Little People Baby Activity Cards

Helping little ones play, learn and grow.

52 creative games for baby's first year of life. 

The Happy Little People Card Deck contains 52 development-promoting games & activities for baby's first year of life. 

Meaningful, development-promoting and bonding activities to enhance baby's awake time.

Happy Little People Baby Activity Cards 


Mini Lolo Natural Rubber Teething And Bath Toys - Pipa the Echidna

Mini Lolo is an independently owned Australian business that designs and creates 100% natural rubber eco teething and bath toys.  Lola Dragon also available.

Mini Lolo Natural Rubber Teething And Bath Toys  Pipa the Echidna



Solvej Baby And Toddler Swing

Various colours available.

This Solvej swing is an attractive baby swing for the home environment, skilfully crafted with top quality materials. The timeless and natural design makes this swing blend nicely into any environment, modern - old, indoors - outdoors.


Solvej Baby And Toddler Swing Kowhai Yellow


Children's Book - The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Beautiful board big with the story that has been read and loved by millions.  

 Children's Book The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Hape Toys - Penguin Musical Wobbler

The Hape Penguin Musical Wobbler will delight your little one with its soothing tinkling sounds and funny waddle. This highly entertaining penguin helps with development of spatial intelligence and movement.

Hape Toys  Penguin Musical Wobbler


For More Ideas see:

Gift Ideas for Newborn

Gift Ideas for 1 Year Old